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Window Geometry

QWidget provides several functions that deal with a widget's geometry. Some of these functions operate on the pure client area (i.e. the window excluding the window frame), others include the window frame. The differentiation is done in a way that covers the most common usage transparently.

Note that the distinction only matters for decorated top-level widgets. For all child widgets, the frame geometry is equal to the widget's client geometry.

This diagram shows most of the functions in use:

Geometry diagram


X11 Peculiarities

On X11, a window does not have a frame until the window manager decorates it. This happens asynchronously at some point in time after calling QWidget::show() and the first paint event the window receives, or it does not happen at all. Bear in mind that X11 is policy-free (others call it flexible). Thus you cannot make any safe assumption about the decoration frame your window will get. Basic rule: There's always one user who uses a window manager that breaks your assumption, and who will complain to you.

Furthermore, a toolkit cannot simply place windows on the screen. All Qt can do is to send certain hints to the window manager. The window manager, a separate process, may either obey, ignore or misunderstand them. Due to the partially unclear Inter-Client Communication Conventions Manual (ICCCM), window placement is handled quite differently in existing window managers.

X11 provides no standard or easy way to get the frame geometry once the window is decorated. Qt solves this problem with nifty heuristics and clever code that works on a wide range of window managers that exist today. Don't be surprised if you find one where QWidget::frameGeometry() returns wrong results though.

Nor does X11 provide a way to maximize a window. QWidget::showMaximized() has to emulate the feature. Its result depends on the result of QWidget::frameGeometry() and the capability of the window manager to do proper window placement, neither of which can be guaranteed.

Restoring a Window's Geometry

Since version 4.2, Qt provides functions that saves and restores a window's geometry and state for you. QWidget::saveGeometry() saves the window geometry and maximized/fullscreen state, while QWidget::restoreGeometry() restores it. The restore function also checks if the restored geometry is outside the available screen geometry, and modifies it as appropriate if it is.

The rest of this document describes how to save and restore the geometry using the geometry properties. On Windows, this is basically storing the result of QWidget::geometry() and calling QWidget::setGeometry() in the next session before calling show(). On X11, this won't work because an invisible window doesn't have a frame yet. The window manager will decorate the window later. When this happens, the window shifts towards the bottom/right corner of the screen depending on the size of the decoration frame. Although X provides a way to avoid this shift, most window managers fail to implement this feature.

A workaround is to call setGeometry() after show(). This has the two disadvantages that the widget appears at a wrong place for a millisecond (results in flashing) and that currently only every second window manager gets it right. A safer solution is to store both pos() and size() and to restore the geometry using QWidget::resize() and move() before calling show(), as demonstrated in the following code snippets (from the Application example):

 void MainWindow::readSettings()
     QSettings settings("Trolltech", "Application Example");
     QPoint pos = settings.value("pos", QPoint(200, 200)).toPoint();
     QSize size = settings.value("size", QSize(400, 400)).toSize();

 void MainWindow::writeSettings()
     QSettings settings("Trolltech", "Application Example");
     settings.setValue("pos", pos());
     settings.setValue("size", size());

This method works on Windows, Mac OS X, and most X11 window managers.

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Qt 4.3.5