Creating a Shared Library in Vala


In addition to standalone applications, you can use Vala to build shared libraries. By using the compile-time flag --library, you can generate a shared library that can be used from another program written in Vala or any other language. The sample code below includes a shared library written in Vala plus a separate Vala program that calls functions from the shared library.

The sample

The Library

Our shared library, test_shared.vala:

namespace MyMath {
    public int sum(int a, int b) {
        return(a + b);

    public int square(int a) {
        return(a * a);

Compiling to generate the VAPI and shared library:

$ valac --library=test_shared -H test_shared.h test_shared.vala -X -fPIC -X -shared -o

You use the --library flag to indicate to the compiler that you're building a shared library. You can add a --vapi=filename flag to cause the generated VAPI to have a specific name; if you omit this, the generated VAPI will have the same name as the Vala source file. The -H flag tells the compiler to export a C header containing the methods exposed in the VAPI.

You use the -X flag to indicate that the next flag should be passed to the C compiler. You use the -fPIC flag to tell the C compiler to generate position-independent code; this is needed because the functions in a shared library may be loaded at almost any address in memory.

A Client Program Written in Vala

Our program that needs to access functionality from the library, main.vala:

using MyMath;

public void main() {
    stdout.printf("\nTesting shlib");
    stdout.printf("\n\t2 + 3 is %d", sum(2, 3));
    stdout.printf("\n\t8 squared is %d\n", square(8));

Compiling to create an executable:

$ valac test_shared.vapi main.vala -X -X -I. -o valatest

You use the -X -I. flag to tell the C compiler to search the current directory for #included files.

One final caveat - if the shared library you’ve just compiled isn’t yet installed system-wide, you’ll need to tell the linker where to find it:

$ export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=.

Finally, running the executable to obtain the desired output:

$ ./valatest
Testing shlib
    2 + 3 is 5
    8 squared is 64

Calling Vala Functions Using Introspection

To use code written in vala from a third language (e.g. JavaScript via gjs) you can use GObject's introspection (gi) capabilities.

Taking the library code above (it is important to provide a namespace), you just need to use slightly different compile switches, to tell valac additionally generate some introspection metadata:

$ valac test_shared.vala -X -fPIC -X -shared -o --library=testShared --gir testShared-0.1.gir

Afterwards you need to compile the introspection informations (the .gir file) into a binary format using the 'g-ir-compiler':

$ g-ir-compiler --output=testShared-0.1.typelib testShared-0.1.gir

Having done this you are able to use your library from another language using introspection.

A Client Program Written in Javascript

Take for example the following 'client.js' file:

const T =; 
print ("Result: " + T.square(42));

And finally run (and call the library code using gi) it with:

** (gjs:8275): DEBUG: Command line: gjs client.js
** (gjs:8275): DEBUG: Creating new context to eval console script
Result: 1764

You can get examples for other languages in this github repository:


Projects/Vala/SharedLibSample (last edited 2016-09-19 19:38:10 by AlThomas)