Skip to content

Building Plugins

Xournal++ provides a basic Lua Plugin interface. Plugins can be added without building Xournal++ from source. Their primary use is to add user-specific functionality, shortcuts, make calls to external programs, define user-specific export functions and the like.

In general the Lua Plugin interface is still in an early stage and will be expanded over time.

In order to use Lua Plugins make sure you have Lua (version >=5.3) installed on your device.

Plugin manager

Plugins must be activated or deactivated in the Plugin manager (from menu Plugin > Plugin manager). The Plugin manager lists the installation folder, description, author and version for each plugin. Only activated plugins will be listed in the menubar and only those can be run. The other plugins are safely excluded. Note that a restart of Xournal++ is required to change the activation of a plugin.

Installation folder

Plugins shipped with Xournal++ reside in the same folder, the plugins subfolder of the shared recources folder.

In the latest development version, custom plugins can be stored in the plugins subfolder of the config folder. Create the plugins subfolder manually, if it does not exist.

Each plugin has its files stored in a subfolder of the plugin folder and contains at least a plugin.ini file and a Lua code file.

Plugin structure

The plugin.ini file contains the name of the author, the version number, info on whether it is enabled by default or not and a reference to the main Lua code file. A sample file (referencing main.lua) is:


## Author / Copyright notice


## If the plugin is packed with Xournal++, use
## <xournalpp> then it gets the same version number



The Lua code file referenced in the plugin.ini file must define an initUi-function that registers toolbar actions and initializes all UI stuff. It is supposed to call the app.registerUi-function, whose argument is a Lua table containing

  • the menu name displayed in Xournal++'s menubar,
  • the callback function used when the plugin is called from the menu or via a keyboard accelerator,
  • the accelerator used to execute the plugin callback function. The format looks like <Control>a or <Shift><Alt>F1, see GTK4 reference for details. The accelerator can be omitted. Using accelerators without modifiers like (<Alt>, <Control>, <Shift>) is allowed, but will likely break the text tool.

You can register multiple menu entires/accelators in the same plugin by using app.registerUi multiple times.

A sample file for the main Lua code file is:


-- Register all Toolbar actions and intialize all UI stuff
function initUi()
  app.registerUi({["menu"] = "NAME", ["callback"] = "run", ["accelerator"] = "<Alt>F1"});

-- Callback if the menu item is executed
function run()
-- app.uiAction({["action"]="ACTION_TOOL_PEN"})
-- app.changeToolColor({["color"] = 0xff0000, ["selection"] = true})

For more extensive examples of plugins, you can check out the code of the plugins bundled with Xournal++ in the repository.

Plugin API


Functions of the xounalpp lua-Api will return lua errors which can be handled by calling the function with pcall when something unexpected happens (like wrong arguments passed). In rare cases nil, errorMessage might be returned to silently throwing an error. This is reserved for expected things (like the resource is unavailable). You may make such errors to lua errors by wrapping with assert.


The Lua Plugin can execute a number of Xournal++ functions to interact with Xournal++. Those are defined in the Plugin API.

Currently the list contains the following functions:

  • app.msgbox displays a message box with the specified buttons and returns the button clicked by the user
  • app.glib_rename renames a file in the file system using glib's rename function
  • app.saveAs opens a "save as" dialog and returns the chosen file path by the user (doesn't actually save anything)
  • app.registerUi registers menu items for the plugin (used in the initUi-function)
  • app.uiAction simulates a toolbar/menubar click starting some action
  • app.uiActionSelected notifies action listeners about selected options
  • app.sidebarAction executes actions accessible in the sidebar
  • app.layerAction executes actions accessible in the layer controller
  • app.changeToolColor changes the color of any tool with color capabilities
  • app.changeCurrentPageBackground changes the background type and config of the current page
  • app.changeBackgroundPdfPageNr changes the page number of the background PDF of the current page
  • app.getToolInfo returns all properties of a specific or the active tool
  • app.getDocumentStructure returns lots of useful info on the document, also used for applying operations on all/selected pages
  • app.scrollToPage scrolls relatively or absolutely to a page
  • app.scrollToPos scrolls relatively or absolutely to a new position on the same page
  • app.setCurrentPage sets the given page as new current page
  • app.setPageSize sets the width and height of the current page
  • app.setCurrentLayer sets the given layer as the new current layer, and updates visibility if specified
  • app.setLayerVisibility sets the visibility of the current layer
  • app.setCurrentLayerName sets the name of the current layer
  • app.setBackgroundName sets the name of the background layer
  • app.scaleTextElements scales all text elements of the current layer by the given scale factor
  • app.getDisplayDpi returns the configured display DPI
  • app.export exports the current document in pdf, svg or png format
  • app.getStrokes returns a list of strokes on the current layer / the current selection
  • app.addStrokes draws strokes on the canvas given a set of coordinates
  • app.addSplines draws strokes on the canvas given a set of splines. The function rasterizes it, then uses the resulting series of coordinates to place the stroke on the canvas
  • app.getFilePath opens a "Open File" dialogue and returns the chosen file path by the user
  • app.refreshPage notifies Xournal++ of changes done by the addStrokes and addSplines functions, causing the strokes to appear on the canvas.

All those functions are documented in the same file luapi_application.h, including example usage. Future progress on the Plugin API will be reported here. Help is always welcome.

Using plugins to define shortcuts for ui actions

Currently Xournal++ does not have shortcuts/keybindings configurable in the preferences. However you can write your custom plugin to achieve exactly that.

The function app.uiAction used for simulating a toolbar/menubar click can be used for lots of different actions. This command accepts a Lua table with keys "action", "group" and "enabled" as its argument. The "group" key is only used for displaying warnings, so you can omit it. The "enabled" key is set to true by default, so you can often omit it as well. The "action" key accepts one of the action strings listed in the Control::actionPerformed method in the source code. Note that the list of actions will change when new functionality is added to Xournal++.

For example use:


to activate the ruler (for drawing line segments) or

app.uiAction({["action"]="ACTION_TOOL_FILL", ["enabled"]=false})

to turn off filling of shapes.

Retrieving information about the document and iterating through pages and layers

The app.getDocumentStructure function yields a Lua table of the following shape:

  "pages" = {
      "pageWidth" = number,
      "pageHeight" = number,
      "isAnnoated" = bool,
      "pageTypeFormat" = string,
      "pdfBackgroundPageNo" = integer (0, if there is no pdf background page),
      "layers" = {
        [0] = {
          "isVisible" = bool
        [1] = {
          "isVisible" = bool,
          "isAnnotated" = bool
      "currentLayer" = integer
  "currentPage" = integer,
  "pdfBackgroundFilename" = string (empty if there is none)

So for example to get the number of all pages, the page number of the current page and the layer ID of the current layer use the code:

local docStructure = app.getDocumentStructure()
local numPages = #docStructure["pages"]
local currPage = docStructure["currentPage"]
local currLayer = docStructure["pages"][currPage]["currentLayer"]

You can iterate through all pages by using the lines

local docStructure = app.getDocumentStructure()
local numPages = #docStructure["pages"]
for i=1, numPages do

Similarly you can run through all layers of a page. In case of the current page this would read like

local docStructure = app.getDocumentStructure()
local page = docStructure["currentPage"]
local numLayers = #docStructure["pages"][page]["layers"]
for i=1, numLayers do

Using Lua modules

More complex Plugins will require Lua modules for certain operations. For instance if your Plugin needs a more sophisticated GUI or wants to repeat tasks in predefined time intervals, you may want to use the lgi-module via require("lgi").

The Lua package path by default contains the root folder of the plugin and the system Lua package path. In case you need other folders in the package path, use the package.path key to add them.