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Nearly everything in navit is a plugin. A plugin is a shared library which needs to contain a function

void plugin_init(void)

This function is called when the plugin gets loaded. Usually it registers the plugin by calling an appropriate function (more on that below).

Unless you know better, start by creating a new folder under /plugin. Create a C source file with at least a definition for plugin_init().

Then add CMakeLists.txt to you plugin directory, so your plugin is built as a module (e.g. A minimal version looks like this:

module_add_library(plugin_myplugin myplugin.c)

plugin_myplugin is the name for the plugin. The following parameters are the C source files from which the module will be built.

Finally, add a module definition to /CMakeLists.txt, to have it built at all.

add_module(plugin/myplugin "Default" TRUE)

To have the plugin loaded, you need to add it to the <plugins> element in navit.xml.

Registering the plugin

Usually plugin_init() should call an appropriate plugin_register_category_<foo>() function:

void plugin_init(void) {
	dbg(lvl_debug, "Enter\n");
	plugin_register_category_<foo>("myplugin", myplugin_new);
	dbg(lvl_debug, "Exit\n");

Instead of <foo>, specify the plugin category you want to register. The first parameter to the function is the name by which the plugin will be known; the second one is the constructor function which Navit will call when it instantiates the plugin.

For a list of valid plugin categories, see plugin_def.h.

If you register a plugin in this manner, you will also need to supply a constructor function to instantiate the plugin. The signature for this function depends on the type of plugin you’re registering—see plugin_def.h for a list.

Multiple registrations of the same plugin are possible. For example, a single plugin could register two different maps (each with its own constructor function) and an OSD.

This goes for plugins that provide the functionality of one of the predefined categories (e.g. maps, GUI or graphics). Some plugins (those in binding/ being notable examples) do none of the above registrations but register callback functions instead. This allows a plugin to run actions on a wide range of events—but make sure you understand when your intended callback will fire.

Instantiating the plugin

When Navit decides it needs to use the plugin, it will call the constructor function you supplied. Its arguments depend on the plugin type. Common arguments are:

  • struct navit *nav A reference to the Navit instance, if your plugin needs to access it.
  • struct <foo>_methods *meth A pointer to the methods for the plugin, which again depend on the plugin category. Your plugin needs to implement these methods with the expected signatures and store pointers to them in this argument.
  • struct attr **attrs The attributes set for this plugin.
  • struct callback_list *cbl
  • struct attr *parent The parent of this plugin in the Navit object hierarchy. Most plugins have the Navit instance as a parent; map plugins have a mapset as a parent.

The return value of this function is a pointer to a struct <foo>_priv, which you can define in your plugin. It is meant to hold your plugin’s private data that is specific to this plugin instance.

The constructor function will not get called until Navit actually instantiates the plugin, i.e. starts using its functionality. This typically happens when the functionality of a plugin is requested in the configuration, i.e. a plugin of this category and with a type matching your name is specified in navit.xml. For example, the following elements all cause a plugin to be instantiated when Navit starts up:

<gui type="gtk" enabled="yes" menubar="1" toolbar="1" statusbar="1"/>
<osd type="compass" enabled="yes"/>
<map type="binfile" enabled="yes" data="/media/mmc2/MapsNavit/osm_europe.bin"/>

For some plugins, instantiation is hardcoded into Navit and takes place regardless of configuration. This is the case e.g. for the route and navigation maps. For most plugin scenarios, this is not something you would need to worry about.

Loading the plugin

To have the plugin loaded, you need to add it to the <plugins> Object in navit.xml:

<plugin path="$NAVIT_LIBDIR/*/${NAVIT_LIBPREFIX}" active="yes"/>

Depending on your platform, there may already be entries to load certain plugins on demand.

TODO: describe what the active and ondemand attributes do (which values cause the plugin to be loaded, i.e. the plugin_init() function to get called, and when does that happen?)

Calling Navit core functions from a plugin

Plugins can call any Navit core function which are exported via C header files.

There is one caveat, which is unlikely to be an issue in a fully developed feature but may bite you in the early stages of development: If you have added a new source file to Navit core as part of your development process but not used any of its functions anywhere in Navit core, the toolchain may optimize that file out. Navit will build without errors but calls to functions in that source file will fail at runtime. The simple workaround is to call a single function from your new source file anywhere in Navit core—after that the functions exported from that source file will be compiled into the Navit binary and available for plugins to call.

Defining a new plugin category

First off, this is an advanced level and you should know what you’re doing. If you’re sure none of the existing plugin categories fit your requirements, read on.

Pick a name for the plugin category; you will need it in multiple places.

In plugin.h, add another element just before plugin_category_last. The name must start with plugin_category_, followed by the name for your plugin category. Also provide a Doxygen comment describing what plugins in this category do.

In plugin_def.h, add another call to PLUGIN_CATEGORY with the name of your new plugin category and the signature for the constructor function.

In a core header file of your choice, define struct <category>_meth, again including the name of your plugin category in the type identifier. Decide the methods this plugin needs to provide, along with their signatures, and add a member for each.

Finally, you will need to decide when Navit should instantiate this plugin and provide logic to do that.


The j1850 plugin is quite simple and can be a good start if you want to write your own plugin. It demonstrates how to use event callbacks (using a timeout during the plugin init, or using the idle loop during the regular use), how to add a custom OSD for your plugin, and how to send commands to another plugin (look at the spotify controls).