* Work In Progress *


This page is for discussion of the Seahorse Gaim plugin.

The plugin will be implemented using libebook, from evolution-data-server, and libcryptui and the DBUS interface provided by Seahorse. A pre-alpha release that doesn't do much anything useful is available on Bugzilla.

Code Structure



Contains function definitions that can be called from other files that make up the plugin.


Contains functions instantiating the plugin and connecting signals.


Handles interfacing with e-d-s through libebook.


Responsible for preparing the preference frame and saving and loading preferences.


Handles manipulating the Gaim conversation windows.

Key Selection

Case 1: Email address(es) provided by libebook

If libebook is queried for a given IM nick and one or more email addresses are returned, then Seahorse will be queried for the keys related to those email addresses using the MatchKeys method asynchronusly. If a single key is returned, it will be used if trusted, the user will be asked if it is not. If multiple keys are returned, a cryptui key chooser will prompt the user to choose a key. If no keys are returned, the DiscoverKeys method will be used asychronusly to try and locate a key.

Case 2: Email Address not found

If libebook doesn't return an email address for the given nick, a cryptui key chooser will prompt the user to choose a key.

Status Notification

The encrypted status of the chat will be displayed in the menu bar of the current chat using the same icons as the panel applet.

Plain Text




Valid Signature


Invalid Signature


If a bad signature is received, a warning will be displayed using libnotify or a dialog.


When a user selects a key to use for encryption with a user, that choice will be stored in a text file much like the text replacement plugin. Likewise, the preference will be displayed in a GtkTreeView. The GtkTreeView will look something like this:

IM Nick

Key ID



There are checkboxes indicating if a received message is encrypted whether we should try and encrypt back or not and whether or not to sign messages. There is a combo menu to select the signing key.

Encryption Implementation and Compatibility with Other Clients

AdamSchreiber: A year ago(5/2005) when I first sat down to think about an OpenPGP plugin for Gaim, I contacted Alan Humphreys of the Fire project to find out how they encrypted/signed messages. The following is what he sent.

Here is a message I wrote a few years back (has it been that long!) about how Fire handles encryption today, and some of the outstanding limitations in the design:

This can be found at:  http://web.archive.org/web/20030501005530/http://chat.solidhouse.com/smsn/

(Thank goodness for the Internet Wayback Machine.... The original site is gone)

I will replicate the important part here:

 Fire is an IM client for MacOS X which supports AIM, ICQ, irc, Jabber, MSN, and Yahoo in a single application. For some time, Fire has supported encrypting and signing messages on these various services, including MSN.

In order to further the effort of compatibility between various IM clients, I have written this document to describe how Fire handles encryption, signing, and key exchange. We welcome feedback to this document at fire-core@lists.sourceforge.net

In our implementation we use GPG as the encryption engine and key repository. GPG is an open source implementation which is compatible with PGP - see http://www.gnupg.org/

Fire treats each message as a separate entity, and attempts to follow the normal standards used for Privacy Enhanced Email (as described in RFC 1421 - http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/cgi-bin/rfc/rfc1421.html) wherever possible.

Some nuances about the implementation which differ from how an encrypted email message is handled because of the limitations/features of the IM protocols:

Character set
The payload of GPG encrypted messages and keys is a Base64 encoded message, which uses characters which lie entirely within the ASCII character set. Therefore, the character set of the message payload should be interpreted as ASCII when being interpreted. In IM clients, there are 4 encoding methodologies used today in the wire protocol, and some must be handled slightly differently when using encryption.

Group A - No special care necessary:

1) UTF-8 encoding (MSN, Jabber, and -optionally-Yahoo use this scheme)
This method of encoding Unicode 3.0 characters into strings of 1 to 6 bytes has the desirable property that ASCII characters are sent as-is in the data stream, so the raw bytes of an encrypted payload or key expressed in BASE-64 can be interpreted directly as ASCII without character set transformation for both sending and receiving.

2) ISOLatin1 encoding (used by AIM-TOC and optionally by AIM-Oscar and Yahoo)
This encoding scheme, much like UTF-8 express ASCII bytes directly in its encoding scheme, and so no transformation to the raw data stream is neccessary.

3) Client selected encoding (used by irc and ICQ)
These clients allow the users on either end of a conversation to select the encoding scheme they will be using for a particular conversation. In this case, the encryption/signing portion of the scheme can simply interpret and send the characters directly as ASCII.

Group B - Special handling needed:

4) UTF-16 encoding (Used optionally by AIM-Oscar)
This encoding method expresses Unicode 3.0 characters into strings of 2 bytes for each character. By virtue of the layout of the Unicode tables, this means that ASCII characters (such as a GPG payload) will appear as a NULL byte followed by the ASCII byte in the raw data stream. Upon reception of a UTF-16 message, the bytes must be transformed from UTF-16 and into ASCII (by stripping out the NULL bytes). Similarly, prior to transmission, the ASCII payload must be converted into UTF-16 encoding.

If the transformation of a received UTF-16 datastream into raw ASCII fails, that is an indication that this is not an encrypted message, and the encryption and signing phases should be skipped.

Line Breaks
Some instant messaging clients from MSN and irc do not accept messages containing line breaks (CR LF) in them, and based upon the client, will have unexpected results when such a message is received. Also, some irc servers will not accept messages containing CR or LF, or will ignore everything following the first line break.

As encryption of messages was added to fire, we had two goals we wanted to meet. First, that encryption could be used on any of the services supported by Fire. Second, that any message we sent could be received an displayed by any client out there.

The Base64 encoding scheme calls for line breaks to ensure that the length of any given line is less than 76 characters. (see RFC 1421) This presented us with the unique problem that some irc and MSN clients, which did not support decryption would receive our encrypted message (in BASE 64) and not be able to even display the BASE64 ASCII message - because of the line breaks.

To overcome this limitation, it was decided that prior to transmission, Fire would replace all occurrences of line breaks (CR or LF in any combination) with "
". Since '<' and '>' do not appear in a Base64 encoded message, it is assured that this tag will not occur naturally within the message. Furthermore, many clients interpret the received message as a form of HTML, so the
tag will be translated to a line break by those non-encrypting clients as it is displayed.

Upon reception of a message, Fire first changes any "
" tags in the data stream back into line breaks, prior to decrypting, key acceptance, or signing validation.

Message Type Detection
IM data streams do not contain a header portion which can be used to send information to the remote client about the accompanying message. Therefore, it is necessary to embed information in the message body itself to indicate the type of message enclosed. Each of these types of message is distinguished by a human readable line at the beginning of the message (encoded in ASCII as described above)

There are three message types involved in encrypted IM messages:

1) Public Key
This message type is used for sending a user's public key to another user. The first line of messages containing a public key is:


2) Signed Message
A message whose contents are not encrypted, but are signed so that changes to the message while in transit can be detected. The first line of a signed message is:


3) Encrypted Message
A message which has been encrypted to obscure the message contents. The first line of an encrypted message is:


Signed & Encrypted Messages
A message can be both signed and encrypted in this case, the ordering of operations is as follows:

Sending a message:
user msg ---> encryption ---> signing ---> transmission

Receiving a message:
reception ---> signing validation ---> decryption ---> user msg

Handling Failures
In case a key acceptance, decryption or validation fails, the user is alerted via the whatever appropriate actions make sense for your UI, and the original received data payload is displayed as the message.

Encoding of Signed Messages
In Fire's implementation of encryption, Signed messages are Base64 encoded before they are signed with a signature. This means that a signed message will not be readable on a client which does not support the encryption. This facilitates handling of messages which contain embedded NULL bytes in the character encoding scheme.

There are undoubtedly other areas of discussion which will ensue as we come up with a cross-client compatible implemenation. But these were the topics which immediately came to mind. Again, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Apps/Seahorse/GaimPluginDevelopment (last edited 2013-11-19 17:27:10 by WilliamJonMcCann)