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Desktop file specification extension


Introduction

This is DES-EMA, the Extension for Menus and Actions of the freedesktop.org Desktop Entry Specification (DES).

This specification aims to define a common format for user actions, allowing creators to share their actions between compliant desktop environments. This also covers how actions may be organized in a hierarchy of menus, submenus, and so on. It explains how actions and menus should be described in .desktop files, how and where these .desktop files are to be searched for, and how the final hierarchy should be built.

This specification doesn't explicitly handle the « level-zero » case (but see the appendix A for a proposition about that).

Such an extension, targeting action items in file manager context menu, has been widely discussed in KDE, freedesktop.org and Thunar lists.

This is version 0.15 of our draft, updated on 2010, November 23rd (see ChangeLog below).

Desktop file

Desktop file format

This specification relies on the common syntax defined in DES. We are just reminding here the reader of some main points.

  • Files are UTF-8 encoded.
  • All keys and values are case sensitive.
  • The [Desktop Entry] group must be the first group of the file.
  • Boolean values must be "true" or "false".
  • Strings, in strings lists, are semicolon-separated; the list itself ends with a semicolon.

Please note that, in all tables below, Req=YES just means that the value is required to define a valid action (resp. menu, resp. profile). A management UI is free to handle invalid actions (resp. menus, resp. profiles), and in fact that might even be needed in order to be able to fix invalid items, and make them valid...

Desktop file identifiant

In the rest of this specification, when a desktop file needs to be identified, we are using the basename of the file, without the extension, calling this a desktop_file_id.

Desktop files search path

.desktop files are searched for in "XDG_DATA_DIRS/file-manager/actions" directories, as defined in freedesktop.org XDG specifications.

When building the whole hierarchy of the menus and actions to be displayed in the file manager context menu, the implementation should ensure that all used desktop_file_ids are unique. In the case where two .desktop files have the same desktop_file_id, then the first found should take precedence.

Managed objects

Actions and profiles

This specification essentially defines how actions are to be described in .desktop files in order to be displayed in a file manager context menu, and available as selectable items to be executed by the user.

An action might be defined as a group of several elements:

  • the displayable part: label, tooltip, icon
  • conditions which have to be met in order the item be actually displayed in the context menu; these conditions are checked against the current file manager selection; these might be mimetypes, scheme, etc.
  • the command to be executed, and its parameters.

As a user might want have the very same action (same label, same icon, and so on) execute a different command depending of the current environment at runtime, we define that an action is built on one to several profiles, where each profile is defined by:

  • conditions which have to be met in order the item be actually displayed in the context menu; these conditions are checked against the current file manager selection; these might be mimetypes, scheme, etc.
  • the command to be executed, and its parameters.

Menus

This specification also defines how these actions may be gathered and ordered in menus, and submenus, and so on.

A menu is defined by:

  • its displayable part: label, tooltip, icon
  • conditions which are to be met in order the menu, and recursively all of its subitems, be actuelly displayed in the file manager context menu
  • the ordered list of the items in the menu.

Conditions

As we are dealing with three level of objects (menus, actions, profiles), it appears that whether a condition must be defined at one of these levels is rather an arbitrary decision.

We so say that conditions may appear in any of these levels:

  • When a condition appears in a menu definition, the result of its evaluation recursively applies to all included items. If the condition is not met, then neither the menu nor any of its subitems will be displayed.
  • When a condition appears in an action definition, the result of its evaluation applies to all its profiles. If the condition is not met, then the action will not be candidate; the profiles will even not be considered.

Action definition

An action must be entirely defined in one .desktop file. The action is identified by the desktop_file_id in which it is defined.

Only valid actions are displayed in the file manager context menu.

To be valid, an action must have a non-empty name, and at least one profile must be found valid at runtime.

As stated above, an action may embed its own conditions. If these conditions are not met at runtime, then profiles are not even considered.

An action is primarily defined in the [Desktop Entry] group, which has following keys:

Key Description Value type Req ?
Type This define this .desktop file as an Action definition.
Defaults to "Action".
string no
Name The label of the action, as it should appear in the context menu.
Parameters may appear in Name value, and will be substituted at runtime.
localestring YES
Tooltip The tooltip associated with the item in the context menu.
Parameters may appear in Tooltip value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to empty.
localestring no
Icon The name of a themed icon, or the path to an icon.
Parameters may appear in Icon value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to empty.
localestring no
Description A free description of the action, which may be used in the management UI, in a Web page, and so on.
Defaults to empty.
localestring no
SuggestedShortcut A shortcut suggested for the action.
Please note that this might be only a suggestion as the shortcut may be already reserved for another use. Implementation should not override an already existing shortcut to define this one.
The format may look like "<Control>a" or "<Shift><Alt>F1".
Defaults to empty.
string no
Enabled Whether the item is candidate to be displayed in the context menu.
A user might define many actions or menus, and choose to only enable some of them from time to time.
Defaults to "true".
boolean no
Hidden From DES: Hidden should have been called Deleted. It means the user deleted (at his level) something that was present (at an upper level, e.g. in the system dirs). It's strictly equivalent to the .desktop file not existing at all, as far as that user is concerned. This can also be used to "uninstall" existing files (e.g. due to a renaming) - by letting make install install a file with Hidden=true in it.
Defaults to "false".
boolean no
TargetContext Whether the item targets the file manager context menu.
This means that the action will be candidate if defined conditions met the current selection.
Defaults to "true".
boolean no
TargetLocation Whether the item targets a location menu, if the file manager supports this.
This means that the action will be candidate if defined conditions met the current location.
Defaults to "false".
boolean no
TargetToolbar Whether the item targets the toolbar, if the file manager supports this.
Note that, in order to keep a nice and stable UI, the file manager may reserve toolbar actions to those only targeting the current folder.
Defaults to "false".
boolean no
ToolbarLabel The label to be displayed in the toolbar, if it is not the same that those displayed in context menu.
Parameters may appear in ToolbarLabel value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to Name value.
localestring no
Profiles

The ordered list of the profiles attached to this action.
Each element of this strings list may be:

  • a profile_id, i.e. the id of a profile, as an ASCII string
  • a command to be executed, if the string is enclosed between square brackets ('['...']').
So, "Profiles" key has a dynamic value: if an element of the string list is enclosed between square brackets ('['...']'), it is considered as a command, optionally with parameters and arguments, and so will be subject to an evaluation at runtime. If the standard output of the command is a valid strings list, then it is substituted to the bracketed element. It the command doesn't exist or cannot be executed, the bracketed element is just ignored.

After reading, and maybe evaluation of dynamic elements, profiles identified by the "Profiles" value, but not found in this .desktop file, are just ignored.

It is up to the implementation to decide whether profiles found in this .desktop file, but not identified in this list, should or not be attached to the action.
It could be for example an acceptable fallback to append these « orphan » profiles at the end of the list of profiles.
Another choice might also be:

  • at runtime, only attach to the action profiles which are listed in this "Profiles" key
  • while a management UI may load all profiles found in the .desktop file.
strings list YES

Profile definition

Profile is identified by its profile_id, as an ASCII string.

Each profile defined in the "Profiles" key, whether statically by its profile_id identifiant, or as the result of an evaluated command, must be defined in a [X-Action-Profile profile_id] group.

When several profiles are defined for an action, only the first valid profile whose conditions are met at runtime is selected to be made available in the context menu.

Defining several profiles let so the user have an ordered OR-ed set of conditions, i.e. have one action be available if one set of conditions is met, OR this same action, though most probably with a slightly different command, be available if another set of conditions is met, and so on.

In order to be valid, a profile must at least have an executable command.

Key Description Value type Req ?
Name The name of the profile; this name is not displayed in the context menu, and should just be thought as a convenience for the management UI. It may also be seen as a good place for a description of what the profile exactly does.
Defaults to empty.
localestring no
Exec From DES: command to execute, possibly with arguments
Parameters may appear in Exec value, and will be substituted at runtime.
string YES
Path The working directory the program should be started in.
Parameters may appear in Path value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to base directory of the current selection, which happens to be the value of "%d" parameter.
string no
ExecutionMode Execution mode of the program.
This may be choosen between following values:
  • Normal: Starts as a standard graphical user interface
  • Terminal: Starts the preferred terminal of the graphical environment, and runs the command in it
  • Embedded: Makes use of a special feature of the file manager which allows a terminal to be ran inside of it; an acceptable fallback is Terminal
  • DisplayOutput: The ran terminal may be closed at end of the command, but standard streams (stdout, stderr) should be collected and displayed; an acceptable fallback is Terminal
Defaults to "Normal".
string no
StartupNotify From DES: if "true", it is KNOWN that the application will send a "remove" message when started with the DESKTOP_STARTUP_ID environment variable set. If "false", it is KNOWN that the application does not work with startup notification at all (does not shown any window, breaks even when using StartupWMClass, etc.). If absent, a reasonable handling is up to implementations (assuming false, using StartupWMClass, etc.). (See the Startup Notification Protocol Specification for more details).
Only relevant when ExecutionMode=Normal.
Defaults to "false".
boolean no
StartupWMClass From DES: if specified, it is known that the application will map at least one window with the given string as its WM class or WM name hint (see the Startup Notification Protocol Specification for more details).
Only relevant when ExecutionMode=Normal.
Defaults to empty.
string no
ExecuteAs The user the command must be ran as. The user may be identified by its numeric UID or by its login.
The implementation should ignore a profile defining a non-existing UID or login as a value for the ExecuteAs key.
The implementation might require the presence of a well-configured subsystem (e.g. sudo).
Defaults to empty: the command will be executed as the current user.
string no

Menu definition

Just as an action, a menu has label, tooltip, icon.

But, where an action is intended to eventually execute a command, a menu is just a way of gathering some subitems, actions or menus, in an ordered list.

In order to be valid, a menu must have a non-empty name, and include at least one valid subitem.

It is the responsability of the implementation to ensure that the displayed menus are relevant, i.e. not empty, with no separator at the begin or the end of the menu, with no double separator, etc.

As stated above, a menu may embed its own conditions. If these conditions are not met at runtime, then subitems are not even considered.

The menu is so defined as a particular case of a .desktop file, identified by its desktop_file_id, whose the [Desktop Entry] section has following keys:

Key Description Value type Req ?
Type This define this .desktop file as a Menu definition.
Must be equal to "Menu".
string YES
Name The label of the menu, as it should appear in the context menu.
Parameters may appear in Name value, and will be substituted at runtime.
localestring YES
Tooltip The tooltip associated with the submenu in the context menu.
Parameters may appear in Tooltip value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to empty.
localestring no
Icon The name of a themed icon, or the path to an icon, to be associated to the submenu.
Parameters may appear in Icon value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to empty.
localestring no
Description A free description of the menu, which may be used in the management UI, in a Web page, and so on.
Defaults to empty.
localestring no
SuggestedShortcut A shortcut suggested for the menu.
Please note that this might be only a suggestion as the shortcut may be already reserved for another use. Implementation should not override an already existing shortcut to define this one.
The format may look like "<Control>a" or "<Shift><Alt>F1".
Defaults to empty.
string no
Enabled Whether the item is candidate to be displayed in the context menu.
A user might define many actions or menus, and choose to only enable some of them from time to time.
Defaults to "true".
boolean no
Hidden From DES: Hidden should have been called Deleted. It means the user deleted (at his level) something that was present (at an upper level, e.g. in the system dirs). It's strictly equivalent to the .desktop file not existing at all, as far as that user is concerned. This can also be used to "uninstall" existing files (e.g. due to a renaming) - by letting make install install a file with Hidden=true in it.
Defaults to "false".
boolean no
ItemsList

The ordered list of the subitems (actions or menus) attached to this menu.
Each element of this strings list may be:

  • the id of an action or a menu,
  • a command to be executed, if the string is enclosed between square brackets ('['...']').
So, "ItemsList" key has a dynamic value: if an element of the string list is enclosed between square brackets ('['...']'), it is considered as a command, optionally with parameters and arguments, and so will be subject to an evaluation at runtime. If the standard output of the command is a valid strings list, then it is substituted to the bracketed element. It the command doesn't exist or cannot be executed, the bracketed element is just ignored.

The keyword SEPARATOR is a special case of desktop_file_id. It may be used to define a separator in the menu.

Actions or menus identified here as a subitem of a menu should not be redisplayed elsewhere.

Actions or menus not identified here, or not identified as subitems of a menu or of a submenu, should not be ignored by the implementation; instead of that, the implementation should display these « orphan » items, most probably at the level zero of the hierarchy (though in a unspecified order).

strings list YES

Conditions

As a remainder of that has been said above, each one of the following conditions may appear in a menu, an action or a profile.

Conditions are AND-ed, that is all specified conditions which appear in a menu, an action or a profile must be met in order the item be considered as a candidate.

When a condition is defined as a string list, elements of the list are considered as OR-ed (but for Capabilities).
When an element of the string list is negated, it must be considered as an AND condition.

Example:

The line « MimeTypes = image/*; video/*; » must be readen as « condition is met if each file in the current selection has a mimetype of "image/*" or of "video/*" »

And the line « MimeTypes = image/*; video/*; !image/bmp » must be readen as « condition is met if each file in the current selection has a mimetype of "image/*" or of "video/*", but must not have the "image/bmp" mimetype ».

Key Description Value type Req ?
OnlyShowIn,
NotShowIn
From DES: a list of strings identifying the environments that should display/not display a given desktop entry. Only one of these keys, either OnlyShowIn or NotShowIn, may appear in a group (for possible values see the Desktop Menu Specification).
Defaults to show anywhere.
strings list no
TryExec Fromn DES: path to an executable file on disk used to determine if some program is actually installed. If the path is not an absolute path, the file is looked up in the $PATH environment variable. If the file is not found or is not executable, this condition evals to false.
Parameters may appear in TryExec value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to successful.
string no
ShowIfRegistered The well-known name of a DBus service.
The item will be candidate if the named service is registered on session DBus at runtime.
Parameters may appear in ShowIfRegistered value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to successful.
Comment: This is the equivalent of KDE "X-KDE-ShowIfRunning" key.
string no
ShowIfTrue A command which, when executed, should output a string on stdout.
The item will be candidate if the outputed string is equal to "true".
Parameters may appear in ShowIfTrue value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Example: [ -r %d/.svn/entries ] && echo "true"
Defaults to successful.
Comment: This is the equivalent of KDE "X-KDE-ShowIfDBusCall" key, extended to any command able to output a string.
string no
ShowIfRunning The name of a process.
The item will be candidate if the process name is found in memory at runtime.
Parameters may appear in ShowIfRunning value, and will be substituted at runtime.
Defaults to successful.
string no
MimeTypes From DES: the MIME type(s) supported by this application.
Each mimetype may be fully specified (e.g. "audio/mpeg;"), or as a group (e.g. "image/*;").
Mimetypes may be negated (e.g. "audio/*; !audio/mpeg;").
Some of well-known mimetypes include:
  • "all/all": matches all items
  • "all/allfiles": matches only files
  • "inode/directory": matches only directories
'*' character is accepted as a wildcard in only two cases:
  • when used alone as in "*;", i.e. when used as a group wildcard without subgroup,
  • when used as the subgroup wildcard, after the '/' character, as in "image/*".
Defaults to "*;", which happends to be exactly equivalent to "all/all" or to "all/*".
Comment: This is the equivalent of "ServiceTypes", "X-KDE-ServiceTypes", "ExcludeServiceTypes" KDE and "MimeType" freedesktop keys.
strings list no
Basenames List of basenames the selection should match in order this profile be selected.
'*' character is accepted as a wildcard.
Basenames may be negated (e.g. "*; !*.h;").
Defaults to "*;".
strings list no
Matchcase Whether the above Basenames is case sensitive.
Defaults to "true".
boolean no
SelectionCount Whether this profile may be selected depending of the count of the selection.
This is a string of the form "{'<'|'='|'>'} number".
Examples of valid strings are: "=0", "> 1", "< 10".
Defaults to ">0".
string no
Schemes The list of schemes the selection must satisfy in order the item be selected.
Exemples of well-known schemes are:
  • "file"
  • "sftp"
  • "smb"
  • "http"
Schemes may be negated, e.g. "!http;".
Defaults to "*;".
Comment: This is the equivalent of "X-KDE-Protocol" and "X-KDE-Protocols" KDE keys.
strings list no
Folders A list of paths the current base directory must be in in order the item be selected.
A folder path may be negated (e.g. "/data; !/data/resources/secret;").
'*' character is accepted as a wildcard, replacing any level(s) of subdirectory (e.g. "/music; /video; !*/secret;").
Also note that a terminating '/*' is always implied by the definition of this key.
Last, note that different implementations today widely consider that, for a directory point of view, having no selection is roughly the same that selecting the currently opened folder. If this makes a difference for your action, then SelectionCount is for you. Defaults to "/".
strings list no
Capabilities A list of capabilities each item of the selection must satisfy in order the item be candidate.
Capabilities may be negated.
Please note that each element of the specified list must be considered as ANDed, i.e. if we have "Capabilities=Readable;Writable;!Local", then each element of the selection must be both readable AND writable AND not local.
Capabilities have to be choosen between following predefined ones:
  • "Owner": current user is the owner of selected items
  • "Readable": selected items are readable by user (probably more usefull when negated)
  • "Writable": selected items are writable by user
  • "Executable": selected items are executable by user
  • "Local": selected items are local
Defaults to an empty list (do not care of capabilities).
Comment: This is the equivalent of "X-KDE-Require" KDE key.
strings list no

Parameters

Parameters expansion

Whenever parameters are said to be accepted, they will be replaced at run-time.

It should be noted by the implementation that items, actions or menus, which were considered valid at load time, may become invalid after parameters expansion, due, for example, to a label becoming empty.

Also, this specification doesn't make any assumption about whether a parameter is relevant in a given situation, or secure, or may be used several times, or so. It instead considers that this sort of check is up to the action creator.

The implementation should take care of correctly shell-escape the substituted values, so that it should not be needed for the action creator to use any sort of quotes to handle spaces in filenames.

Multiple execution

The action creator may want its command be executed once, giving it the list of selected items as argument.

Or the action creator may want its command be repeated for each selected item, giving to each execution a different item as argument.

Actually, the command defined in the Exec key will be executed once, or repeated for each selected item, depending of the form of arguments.

Though some parameters are not sensible to the count of the selection (e.g. "%c", the selection count itself), most have two declensions:

  • a "singular" one, e.g. "%b", the basename of the selected item
  • a "plural" one, e.g. "%B", a space-separated list of the basenames of selected items

When the selection is empty or contains only one element, and from this topic point of view, these two forms are exactly equivalent.

When the selection contains more than one item:

  • if the first relevant parameter found in the Exec key is of a singular form, then the implementation should consider that the command is only able to deal with one item at a time, and thus that it has to be ran one time for each selected item;
  • contrarily, if the first relevant parameter found is of the plural form, then the implementation should consider that the command is able to deal with a list of items, and thus the command should be executed only once;
  • if all found parameters are « irrelevant », then the default is to consider that the command should be executed only once.

Example:

Say the current folder is /data, and the current selection contains the three files pierre, paul and jacques.

If the Exec key is "echo %b", then the following commands will be run:
"echo pierre"
"echo paul"
"echo jacques"

If the Exec key is "echo %B", then the following command will be run:
"echo pierre paul jacques"

If the Exec key is "echo %b %B", then the following commands will be run:
"echo pierre pierre paul jacques"
"echo paul pierre paul jacques"
"echo jacques pierre paul jacques"

If the Exec key is "echo %B %b", then the following commands will be run:
"echo pierre paul jacques pierre"
The basename used is those of the first item of the selected items list as provided by the file manager. There is only a small chance that it would be those of the first visually selected item, and there is contrarily great chances that it would not be predictable at all.

Even if the choosen parameter is the same for all selected items, the behavior is the identical.
If the Exec key is "echo %d %B", then the following commands will be run:
"echo /data pierre paul jacques"
"echo /data pierre paul jacques"
"echo /data pierre paul jacques"
which obviously doesn't make many sense.

As the last three examples show up, action creator should avoid to mix singular and plural forms, unless they know what they are doing, whether it doesn't make sense or this may lead to unwaited results.

Nonetheless, mixing singular and plural forms, though we warn against, is not an error. As a counter example, there may be some situations where a command-line of the form "echo %B %d" would be useful. In that case, the following command would be run:
"echo pierre paul jacques /data"
It is left as an exercize for the reader to find a use case.

The word "first" in the following table makes so reference to the case where the singular form parameter is used in a plural form command. We recall one more time that which is the "first" element is not specified, and, most probably, rather unpredictable.

Parameter Description Said form
%b (first) basename singular
%B space-separated list of basenames plural
%c count of selected items irrelevant
%d (first) base directory singular
%D space-separated list of base directory of each selected items plural
%f (first) file name singular
%F space-separated list of selected file names plural
%h hostname of the (first) URI irrelevant
%m mimetype of the (first) selected item singular
%M space-separated list of the mimetypes of the selected items plural
%n username of the (first) URI irrelevant
%o no-op operator which forces a singular form of execution when specified as first parameter,
ignored else
singular
%O no-op operator which forces a plural form of execution when specified as first parameter,
ignored else
plural
%p port number of the (first) URI irrelevant
%s scheme of the (first) URI irrelevant
%u (first) URI singular
%U space-separated list of selected URIs plural
%w (first) basename without the extension singular
%W space-separated list of basenames without their extension plural
%x (first) extension singular
%X space-separated list of extensions plural
%% the « % » character irrelevant

Building the whole hierarchy

The processus described here is only a sort of meta-algorythm, whose only goal is to better specify how the menus and actions should be layouted in the final hierarchy.

The implementor might take advantage of preparing once the whole hierarchy of the menus and actions:

  • to minimize the time spent in the parsing of all files;
  • to identify and eliminate duplicate desktop_file_ids,
  • to eliminate invalid menus and actions.

  1. as described in Desktop files search path chapter, scan relevant directories, eliminating duplicate desktop_file_ids and invalid .desktop files; implentation so obtains a flat list of menus or actions;
     
  2. recursively build the hierarchy; this merely consists in the build of the hierarchy as a tree of menus and actions, where each desktop_file_id addressed as the subitem of a menu consumes this same id from the flat list
    • if the level-zero order (which is not specified here, but see Appendix A for a proposal) is defined by the implementation, then each desktop_file_id addressed in the level zero consumes this same id from the flat list;
    • else, if might be reasonable to start with an empty tree;

     
  3. at the end, implementation stays with:
    • the output tree with some menus at the root;
    • some actions, left in the input flat list because they were not addressed by any menu; these left actions should be added to the level zero of the hierarchy (though in a unspecified order)
    • some menus, left in the input flat list because their subitems were not found; as these menus happen to be empty, they must be considered as invalid.

After this built phase, the resultant tree only contains valid (before runtime parameters expansion) menus and actions.

So, menus or actions may appear at the level zero of the whole hierarchy for only two reasons:

  1. because they are explicitly addressed by the level-zero configuration, if the implementation defines it; this may concern menus and actions;
  2. because these items were not adressed by any menu (but this may only concern actions).

Appendix A. The level-zero case

Though not strictly an action or a menu definition, the level-zero issue might be easily solved by this specification. The implementation is free to implement it or not.

Ordering the elements which have to be displayed at the level-zero of the file manager context menu is just a particular case of a menu definition.

An implementation might define a level-zero.directory file, which would contain the ordered list of level zero items identified by their desktop_file_id.

The [Desktop Entry] section of this level-zero.directory file would so have only one of the following keys:

Key Description Value type Req ?
ItemsList Same signification as above
strings list no

The level-zero.directory file may be searched for in XDG_DATA_DIRS/file-manager/actions. The first one found would be used.

Not finding a level-zero.directory file should not prevent actions or menus to be displayed. Instead, they just would be displayed in an unspecified, implementation-dependant, order.

The name "level-zero.directory" is choosen to not risk any collision with regular .desktop files.

The KDE way

KDE defines the "X-KDE-Submenu" key. This key defines the label of a submenu the current action(s) should be included in. Order of the actions in this submenu is defined by the "Actions" key, though this might be altered by the "X-KDE-Priority" key. When several .desktop files define the same submenu, actions are merged.

What are the advantages of this solution ?

  • It exists, and is widely used in KDE ServiceMenus.
  • This is a down-to-top, self-contained, approach where each action says in which submenu it whishes to be included in.

What are the inconvenients of this solution ?

  • It lacks of an Icon key associated to the submenu; though this certainly be added, the risk exists that several submenus with same label actually define different icons.
  • It lacks of a Tooltip key associated to the submenu (though... idem as above)
  • When several .desktop files define the same submenu (i.e. the same label), a merge operation is done so that all actions are included in the same submenu. The order of the actions after such a merge operation is not defined.
  • There is no way to define the global order of the actions, when all .desktop files have been dealt with.
  • As the menu is adressed at the action-level, one has to modifiy each action when he wants to reorganize his menus.
  • Whether there is any menu or not, there is no way to define order of level-zero elements.

An alternate way

As the menu may be seen as just a particular case of action, it appears logically that its definition may directly be derived from the action definition.

What are the advantages (over the KDE way) of using this definition ?

  • User/sysadmin has full control on the order of the displayed items, and on the content of the submenus.
  • Defining menus outside of the actions is a conceptual advantage; this let creators of actions do their work without having to wonder in which menu the action should go.
  • There is no way for an action creator to decide himself if its action is Important or should be displayed at the TopLevel.
  • Associated with ad-hoc conditions, we are able to define conditional menus, thus optimizing the building of the whole contextual menu.
  • This is not XML ;-)

What are the inconvenients ?

  • As a top-to-down approach, just dropping a new .desktop file somewhere is not enough to get advantage of this; not referenced actions or submenus will just be displayed anywhere in the contextual menu.

Appendix C. An example of an action

In the following example, we define an "Open terminal here" action, which has three profiles. These profiles are thought to be able to open a suitable terminal in most situations. They are ordered, and so only the first profile whose conditions are met at runtime will be used in the file manager context menu.

    [Desktop Entry]
    Name = Open terminal here
    Tooltip = Open a new terminal here
    Icon = terminal
    Profiles = on_folder; on_file; on_desktop;

    [X-Action-Profile on_folder]
    Name = open a terminal on the current folder or on the selected folder
    MimeTypes = inode/directory;
    # note that this means strictly less than 2, as the equal sign is part of the DES syntax
    SelectionCount = < 2
    Exec = gnome-terminal --working-directory=%d

    [X-Action-Profile on_file]
    Name = open a terminal in the folder which contains selected items
    MimeTypes = all/allfiles;
    Exec = gnome-terminal --working-directory=$(echo %D | cut -d' ' -f1)

    [X-Action-Profile on_desktop]
    Name = open a terminal of the desktop
    Schemes = x-nautilus-desktop;
    Exec = gnome-terminal --working-directory=~/Desktop
  

Note that this is only an example of how an action may be defined in a .desktop file. It has not been deeply tested, and there is most probably more efficient ways of opening a terminal somewhere...

Appendix D. An example of a menu

Say for the example that the action defined in previous appendix is saved as ~/.local/share/file-manager/actions/open-terminal.desktop file.

et define a menu which will embed this action. We will so create a second .desktop file, with following content:

    [Desktop Entry]
    Type = Menu
    Name = Terminal menu
    Tooltip = Some actions on terminals
    Icon = terminal-group
    ItemsList = open-terminal;
  

This may be saved, e.g. as ~/.local/share/file-manager/actions/menu-terminal.desktop file.

References

Contributors

  • Jonas Bähr
  • David Faure
  • Ted Gould
  • Hong Jen Yee « PCMan »
  • Michael Pyne
  • Liam R. E. Quin
  • Pierre Wieser

ChangeLog

Version Date Changes
0.1-draft 2009-12-07 Creation
0.2-draft 2009-12-17 - Move syntax considerations to a new "Desktop file" section.
- Add "Managed objects" section.
- Add "Defining menus" section.
- Deal with level zero items.
- Define a separate "Conditions" section.
- Remove "Rationales" section, moving comments to the corresponding key description.
- Remove Type key
- Remove all X-Action- prefix of the key names.
- Add needed keys in order to provider equivalent functionalities to KDE service menus.
- Current and extensions keys have been merged in the same table.
0.3-draft 2009-12-23 - No more talk about « extending », but rather of « deriving ».
- Replace « fds » acronym with « DES ».
- More clearly notice what this specification specifies, and what it doesn't specify.
- Move the « level-zero » case to a specific appendix, as not a main part of this specification.
- Move rationales about the menu description to a specific appendix.
- Comment key is renamed as Tooltip in menu and action definitions.
- Add Description, SuggestedShortcut keys to menu and action definitions.
- Add Path, StartupNotify, StartupWMClass, ForEach keys to profile definition.
- Remove SelectionCount key.
- Define available parameters.
- Create Contributors chapter.
- Create References chapter.
0.4-draft 2010-01-07 - Remove ToolbarSameLabel action property.
- Add ExecuteAs profile property.
- Restore SelectionCount condition.
- Add myself as a contributor.
- Add a link to ChangeLog.
- Fix some links.
0.5-draft 2010-01-28 - Setup a default value for Path parameter.
- Update Contributors.
0.6-draft 2010-02-03 - Add Type key for distinguishing Actions from Menus.
- Specifies what to do with present, but not listed, profiles.
- Specifies defaults for TryExec, ShowIfRegistered, ShowIfTrue, ShowIfRunning, MimeTypes, SelectionCount, Schemes, Capabilities keys.
0.7-draft 2010-03-01 - Remove Minimized and Maximized from available ExecutionMode modes.
- Remove ForEach key
- Profiles and ItemsList become dynamic
- Remove GetItemsList key
- Change SelectionCount default from "*" to ">0"
- Folders elements may be negated
- Specify how to read a Conditions string list which contains both positive and negated elements
0.8-draft 2010-03-18 - Update the Profile and ItemsList keys description, describing their dynamic behavior.
- Update the Path key description, removing the word 'first'.
- Set the ItemsList key as requested.
- Specify the use of wildcards in MimeTypes, Basenames and Folders keys.
- The Folders key value is now defined as a list of paths.
- Update the Folders key description, describing SelectionCount-based behavior.
- More precisely describes parameters expansion against multiple selection.
- Create Appendix C with an example of an action.
- Specify the format of the SuggestedShortcut key.
- Change to ExtensionAction and ExtensionMenu the type of actions and menus.
0.9-draft 2010-03-25 - Define the TargetLocation key.
0.10-draft 2010-03-29 - Hidden and NoDisplay keys are moved to Desktop Entry group.
0.11-draft 2010-04-15 - Change back the Type of actions (resp. menus) to "Action" (resp. "Menu").
- Change the keyword "_SEPARATOR_" to "SEPARATOR".
- Add Appendix D with an example of a menu.
- Rename the "NoDisplay" keyword to "Enabled".
0.12-draft 2010-06-15 - Replace the "Same as DES" words by the exact relevant excerpt from DES, for Hidden, Exec, StartupNotify, StartupWMClass, OnlyShowIn/NotShowIn and TryExec keys.
- Change the Capabilities" default value from "*;" to the empty list.
- Specify that the Capabilities" conditions are ANDed.
0.13-draft 2010-08-04 - Slightly rewrite introduction.
- Improve consistency of the specification by replace « protocol » with « scheme », and « program » with « command ».
- Restates in relevant chapters that actions and menus may have their own set of conditions.
- Add a Building the whole hierarchy new chapter.
- Add %m and %M parameters.
- Better specify which parameters can be used to determine between « singular » and « plural » forms, and define the default behavior when only « irrelevant » parameters are found.
- States which value must be used in parameter expansions in the case of a singular form.
- The condition defined by the TryExec key evaluates to false if the specified file is not found or is not executable, instead of the entry being ignored.
0.14-draft 2010-08-05 - Remove the (non-sense) states added in the previous version, about the value to be used in parameter expansions in the case of a singular form.
- Introduce more clearly the multiple execution algorythm.
0.15-draft 2010-11-23 - Add %o and %O parameters.