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Georges Basile Stavracas Neto: Adventures with portals

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This week (November 8th – 12th) is the Endless Orange Week, a program where the entire Endless team engages in projects designed to grow our collective learning related to our skills, work and mission.

My project for this program was improving XDG portals.


This process is repeated every time an application wants to screencast. It’s a robust series of steps, and has served us well so far, but having to select a monitor or window every time can be a frustrating experience.

For some use cases, this process is problematic. Take Steam’s recent introduction of PipeWire-based Remote Play: the whole purpose of this feature is to allow playing remotely, potentially without physical access to your computer. Evidently, in this case, showing a dialog to select a monitor is not going to work if the person is probably not in front of the machine.

This is where my new proposal to the ScreenCast portal comes in.

The mechanism proposed there is composed of two new properties: (Sleepy a persist mode, where applications can tell the portal that they want to restore this screencast session later; and (ii) a restore token to restore a previous screencast session.

In summary, when configuring (step 2) a screencast session, applications can tell the portal “hey, I’d like to restore this session later”; in this case, after you select a monitor or window and start the stream (step 3), the portal will give the app what I called a restore token. Applications should store this token however they want (ideally using the platform’s preferred preferences systems, such as GSettings for GNOME).

Applications that have a restore token should use them when configuring the screencast session (step 2). The portal will receive this token, and try to restore the previous session’s windows and monitors. If that fails, e.g. when you changed monitors or the windows is not open, the selection dialog is presented again. From the application’s perpective, it doesn’t know (nor does it matter) if the previous session is restored or not, as the application will receive a list of streams and PipeWire nodes regardless of what it happens.

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