Boxed Types

A “boxed type” is a generic wrapper mechanism for arbitrary C structures. The only thing the type system needs to know about the structures is how to copy them (a GBoxedCopyFunc) and how to free them (a GBoxedFreeFunc)—beyond that they are treated as opaque chunks of memory.

Boxed types are useful for simple value-holder structures like rectangles or points. They can also be used for wrapping structures defined in non-GObject based libraries. They allow arbitrary structures to be handled in a uniform way, allowing uniform copying (or referencing) and freeing (or unreferencing) of them, and uniform representation of the type of the contained structure. In turn, this allows any type which can be boxed to be set as the data in a GValue, which allows for polymorphic handling of a much wider range of data types, and hence usage of such types as GObject property values.

All boxed types inherit from the G_TYPE_BOXED fundamental type.

It is very important to note that boxed types are not deeply inheritable: you cannot register a boxed type that inherits from another boxed type. This means you cannot create your own custom, parallel type hierarchy and map it to GType using boxed types. If you want to have deeply inheritable types without using GObject, you will need to use GTypeInstance.

Registering a new boxed type

The recommended way to register a new boxed type is to use the G_DEFINE_BOXED_TYPE() macro:

// In the header

#define EXAMPLE_TYPE_RECTANGLE (example_rectangle_get_type())

typedef struct {
  double x, y;
  double width, height;
} ExampleRectangle;

example_rectangle_get_type (void);

ExampleRectangle *
example_rectangle_copy (ExampleRectangle *r);

example_rectangle_free (ExampleRectangle *r);

// In the source
G_DEFINE_BOXED_TYPE (ExampleRectangle, example_rectangle,

Just like G_DEFINE_TYPE and G_DEFINE_INTERFACE_TYPE, the G_DEFINE_BOXED_TYPE macro will provide the definition of the get_type() function, which will call g_boxed_type_register_static() with the given type name as well as the GBoxedCopyFunc and GBoxedFreeFunc functions.

Using boxed types

Object properties

In order to use a boxed type with GObject properties you will need to register the property using g_param_spec_boxed(), e.g.

obj_props[PROP_BOUNDS] =
  g_param_spec_boxed ("bounds", NULL, NULL,

In the set_property implementation you can use g_value_get_boxed() to retrieve a pointer to the boxed type:

switch (prop_id)
  // ...
    example_object_set_bounds (self, g_value_get_boxed (value));
  // ...

Similarly, you can use g_value_set_boxed() in the implementation of the get_property virtual function:

switch (prop_id)
  // ...
    g_value_set_boxed (self, &self->bounds);
  // ...

Reference counting

Boxed types are designed so that reference counted types can be boxed. Use the type’s ‘ref’ function as the GBoxedCopyFunc, and its ‘unref’ function as the GBoxedFreeFunc. For example, for GBytes, the GBoxedCopyFunc is g_bytes_ref(), and the GBoxedFreeFunc is g_bytes_unref().