AppStream 0.7 specification and library released

By Matthias • Debian, English, Freedesktop, General, KDE, OpenSUSE • 16 Jul 2014

appstream-logoToday I am very happy to announce the release of AppStream 0.7, the second-largest release (judging by commit number) after 0.6. AppStream 0.7 brings many new features for the specification, adds lots of good stuff to libappstream, introduces a new libappstream-qt library for Qt developers and, as always, fixes some bugs.

Unfortunately we broke the API/ABI of libappstream, so please adjust your code accordingly. Apart from that, any other changes are backwards-compatible. So, here is an overview of what’s new in AppStream 0.7:

Specification changes

Distributors may now specify a new <languages/> tag in their distribution XML, providing information about the languages a component supports and the completion-percentage for the language. This allows software-centers to apply smart filtering on applications to highlight the ones which are available in the users native language.

A new addon component type was added to represent software which is designed to be used together with a specific other application (think of a Firefox addon or GNOME-Shell extension). Software-center applications can group the addons together with their main application to provide an easy way for users to install additional functionality for existing applications.

The <provides/> tag gained a new dbus item-type to expose D-Bus interface names the component provides to the outside world. This means in future it will be possible to search for components providing a specific dbus service:

$ appstream-index what-provides dbus org.freedesktop.PackageKit.desktop system

(if you are using the cli tool)

A <developer_name/> tag was added to the generic component definition to define the name of the component developer in a human-readable form. Possible values are, for example “The KDE Community”, “GNOME Developers” or even the developer’s full name. This value can be (optionally) translated and will be displayed in software-centers.

An <update_contact/> tag was added to the specification, to provide a convenient way for distributors to reach upstream to talk about changes made to their metadata or issues with the latest software update. This tag was already used by some projects before, and has now been added to the official specification.

Timestamps in <release/> tags must now be UNIX epochs, YYYYMMDD is no longer valid (fortunately, everyone is already using UNIX epochs).

Last but not least, the <pkgname/> tag is now allowed multiple times per component. We still recommend to create metapackages according to the contents the upstream metadata describes and place the file there. However, in some cases defining one component to be in multiple packages is a short way to make metadata available correctly without excessive package-tuning (which can become difficult if a <provides/> tag needs to be satisfied).

As small sidenote: The multiarch path in /usr/share/appdata is now deprecated, because we think that we can live without it (by shipping -data packages per library and using smarter AppStream metadata generators which take advantage of the ability to define multiple <pkgname/> tags)

Documentation updates

In general, the documentation of the specification has been reworked to be easier to understand and to include less duplication of information. We now use excessive crosslinking to show you the information you need in order to write metadata for your upstream project, or to implement a metadata generator for your distribution.

Because the specification needs to define the allowed tags completely and contain as much information as possible, it is not very easy to digest for upstream authors who just want some metadata shipped quickly. In order to help them, we now have “Quickstart pages” in the documentation, which are rich of examples and contain the most important subset of information you need to write a good metadata file. These quickstart guides already exist for desktop-applications and addons, more will follow in future.

We also have an explicit section dealing with the question “How do I translate upstream metadata?” now.

More changes to the docs are planned for the next point releases. You can find the full project documentation at Freedesktop.

AppStream GObject library and tools

The libappstream library also received lots of changes. The most important one: We switched from using LGPL-3+ to LGPL-2.1+. People who know me know that I love the v3 license family of GPL licenses – I like it for tivoization protection, it’s explicit compatibility with some important other licenses and cosmetic details, like entities not loosing their right to use the software forever after a license violation. However, a LGPL-3+ library does not mix well with projects licensed under other open source licenses, mainly GPL-2-only projects. I want libappstream to be used by anyone without forcing the project to change its license. For some reason, using the library from proprietary code is easier than using it from a GPL-2-only open source project. The license change was also a popular request of people wanting to use the library, so I made the switch with 0.7. If you want to know more about the LGPL-3 issues, I recommend reading this blogpost by Nikos (GnuTLS).

On the code-side, libappstream received a large pile of bugfixes and some internal restructuring. This makes the cache builder about 5% faster (depending on your system and the amount of metadata which needs to be processed) and prepares for future changes (e.g. I plan to obsolete PackageKit’s desktop-file-database in the long term).

The library also brings back support for legacy AppData files, which it can now read. However, appstream-validate will not validate these files (and kindly ask you to migrate to the new format).

The appstream-index tool received some changes, making it’s command-line interface a bit more modern. It is also possible now to place the Xapian cache at arbitrary locations, which is a nice feature for developers.

Additionally, the testsuite got improved and should now work on systems which do not have metadata installed.

Of course, libappstream also implements all features of the new 0.7 specification.

With the 0.7 release, some symbols were removed which have been deprecated for a few releases, most notably as_component_get/set_idname, as_database_find_components_by_str, as_component_get/set_homepage and the “pkgname” property of AsComponent (which is now a string array and called “pkgnames”). API level was bumped to 1.

Appstream-Qt

A Qt library to access AppStream data has been added. So if you want to use AppStream metadata in your Qt application, you can easily do that now without touching any GLib/GObject based code!

Special thanks to Sune Vuorela for his nice rework of the Qt library!

And that’s it with the changes for now! Thanks to everyone who helped making 0.7 ready, being it feedback, contributions to the documentation, translation or coding. You can get the release tarballs at Freedesktop. Have fun!

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One Response

  1. Pingback: News: AppStream 0.7 veröffentlicht « LinuxLife Blog

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