Commandline Option Parser

The GOption commandline parser is intended to be a simpler replacement for the popt library. It supports short and long commandline options, as shown in the following example:

testtreemodel -r 1 --max-size 20 --rand --display=:1.0 -vb -- file1 file2

The example demonstrates a number of features of the GOption commandline parser:

  • Options can be single letters, prefixed by a single dash.
  • Multiple short options can be grouped behind a single dash.
  • Long options are prefixed by two consecutive dashes.
  • Options can have an extra argument, which can be a number, a string or a filename. For long options, the extra argument can be appended with an equals sign after the option name, which is useful if the extra argument starts with a dash, which would otherwise cause it to be interpreted as another option.
  • Non-option arguments are returned to the application as rest arguments.
  • An argument consisting solely of two dashes turns off further parsing, any remaining arguments (even those starting with a dash) are returned to the application as rest arguments.

Another important feature of GOption is that it can automatically generate nicely formatted help output. Unless it is explicitly turned off with g_option_context_set_help_enabled(), GOption will recognize the --help, -?, --help-all and --help-groupname options (where groupname is the name of a GOptionGroup) and write a text similar to the one shown in the following example to stdout.

  testtreemodel [OPTION...] - test tree model performance

Help Options:
  -h, --help               Show help options
  --help-all               Show all help options
  --help-gtk               Show GTK Options

Application Options:
  -r, --repeats=N          Average over N repetitions
  -m, --max-size=M         Test up to 2^M items
  --display=DISPLAY        X display to use
  -v, --verbose            Be verbose
 -b, --beep               Beep when done
 --rand                   Randomize the data

GOption groups options in GOptionGroups, which makes it easy to incorporate options from multiple sources. The intended use for this is to let applications collect option groups from the libraries it uses, add them to their GOptionContext, and parse all options by a single call to g_option_context_parse().

If an option is declared to be of type string or filename, GOption takes care of converting it to the right encoding; strings are returned in UTF-8, filenames are returned in the GLib filename encoding. Note that this only works if setlocale() has been called before g_option_context_parse()

Here is a complete example of setting up GOption to parse the example commandline above and produce the example help output.

static gint repeats = 2;
static gint max_size = 8;
static gboolean verbose = FALSE;
static gboolean beep = FALSE;
static gboolean randomize = FALSE;

static GOptionEntry entries[] =
  { "repeats", 'r', 0, G_OPTION_ARG_INT, &repeats, "Average over N repetitions", "N" },
  { "max-size", 'm', 0, G_OPTION_ARG_INT, &max_size, "Test up to 2^M items", "M" },
  { "verbose", 'v', 0, G_OPTION_ARG_NONE, &verbose, "Be verbose", NULL },
  { "beep", 'b', 0, G_OPTION_ARG_NONE, &beep, "Beep when done", NULL },
  { "rand", 0, 0, G_OPTION_ARG_NONE, &randomize, "Randomize the data", NULL },

main (int argc, char *argv[])
  GError *error = NULL;
  GOptionContext *context;

  context = g_option_context_new ("- test tree model performance");
  g_option_context_add_main_entries (context, entries, GETTEXT_PACKAGE);
  g_option_context_add_group (context, gtk_get_option_group (TRUE));
  if (!g_option_context_parse (context, &argc, &argv, &error))
      g_print ("option parsing failed: %s\n", error->message);
      exit (1);



On UNIX systems, the argv that is passed to main() has no particular encoding, even to the extent that different parts of it may have different encodings. In general, normal arguments and flags will be in the current locale and filenames should be considered to be opaque byte strings. Proper use of G_OPTION_ARG_FILENAME vs G_OPTION_ARG_STRING is therefore important.

Note that on Windows, filenames do have an encoding, but using GOptionContext with the argv as passed to main() will result in a program that can only accept commandline arguments with characters from the system codepage.This can cause problems when attempting to deal with filenames containing Unicode characters that fall outside of the codepage.

A solution to this is to use g_win32_get_command_line() and g_option_context_parse_strv() which will properly handle full Unicode filenames. If you are using GApplication, this is done automatically for you.

The following example shows how you can use GOptionContext directly in order to correctly deal with Unicode filenames on Windows:

main (int argc, char **argv)
  GError *error = NULL;
  GOptionContext *context;
  gchar **args;

#ifdef G_OS_WIN32
  args = g_win32_get_command_line ();
  args = g_strdupv (argv);

  // set up context

  if (!g_option_context_parse_strv (context, &args, &error))
      // error happened


  g_strfreev (args);