Scopes tutorials - adding settings to your scope

A scope can provide persistent settings for simple customizations, such as allowing the user to configure an email address or select a distance unit as metric or imperial.

Defining settings

You can define such settings in a configuration file. The file must be placed into the same directory as the scope’s normal configuration file, with the name <scope>-settings.ini.

For example, for a scope with ID "myscope", the normal configuration file is myscope.ini, and the settings definition file is myscope-settings.ini. Both files must be installed in the same directory (together with the scope’s .so file).

The shell constructs a user interface from the settings definitions. The user can change settings via that UI. The scope can then retrieve actual settings values at run time.


The following types are supported for settings:

  • string: a string value
  • number: a numeric value (integer or floating point)
  • boolean: true or false
  • list: a list of alternatives to choose from (single-choice)

Note: Please see Scope settings - what does “list” typereturns? from Ask Ubuntu

It is possible to optionally define a default value for each setting.

UI Examples

number, string

These types provide text inputs.


This type provides a checkbox.


This type provides an expandable list.


The file must contain a group for each setting. The order of the groups determines the display order for the user interface that is constructed by the shell. The group name is the ID of the corresponding setting.

Each setting definition must contain at least the following mandatory definitions:

  • type: Defines the type of the setting (string, number, boolean, or list).
  • displayName: Defines a display name that is shown for this setting by the shell.

The defaultValue field is optional. If present, it defines a default value that is provided to the scope if the user has not changed anything (or has never used the settings UI before using the scope). It is possible to test for settings that do not have a default value and were never set by the user.

For settings of type list, the displayValues field is mandatory. It must contain an array that lists the available choices. If you provide a default value, it must be in the range 0..max-1 (where max is the number of choices).

The displayName and displayValues fields can be localized by appending a locale identifier in square brackets. If no entry can be found that matches the current locale, the non-localized value is used.

Here is an example of a <scope>-settings.ini file using all the settings types:

 type = string
 defaultValue = London
 displayName = Location

 type = list
 defaultValue = 1
 displayName = Distance Unit
 displayName[de] = Entfernungseinheit
 displayValues = Kilometers;Miles
 displayValues[de] = Kilometer;Meilen

 type = number
 defaultValue = 23
 displayName = Age

 type = boolean
 defaultValue = true
 displayName = Enabled

# Setting without a default value

 type = string
 displayName = Color

Accessing settings, step by step

Let’s add some settings to our default scope template and make them interact with our results model. Create a new scope project and select the HTTP+JSON API template. This template provides a basic weather scope that we will use for this tutorial. You can retrieve all the files of our final scope with its settings in this branch.

Edit the settings file

First, open the settings file in the src/data folder, and declare the following settings:

 type = string
 defaultValue = London
 displayName = Location

 type = boolean
 defaultValue = true
 displayName = Forecast

The “location” setting will be used to allow the user to provide a default search for current weather and “forecast” will allow the user to turn on and off forecast results.


In src/query.h, in the Query class, we need to declare 3 things:

  • initScope(): A function that will send the current settings state each time the scope is queried
  • s_location and s_forecast: two variables to store the output of our settings.

Add the following lines at the end of the Query class, or paste the content of this file into yours.

     void initScope();
     std::string s_location;
     bool s_forecast;


Retrieve settings value

We are now going to create our function exposing settings value to the scope. At the bottom of src/query.cpp, let’s add a few lines that :

  • Request settings data
  • Check if the config is empty
  • Fill our "s_" variables with the location (string) and forecast (double) settings values.
void Query::initScope()
    unity::scopes::VariantMap config = settings();
    if (config.empty())
        cerr << "CONFIG EMPTY!" << endl;
    s_location = config["location"].get_string();
    s_forecast = config["forecast"].get_bool();

Use settings to change the results model

We are now going to call our new function to make the data available at query time.

Just add it at the beginning of the Query::run method:

void Query::run(sc::SearchReplyProxy const& reply) {
    try {

Location value

By default, this example scope does a “London” query to OpenWeatherMap when the user doesn’t provide a query string. Let’s change that .

We want our location value to be used by default. Since our scope does two queries (one for the current weather and one for the forecast) we need to fix the default query in two places. Replace “London” by our s_location variable in both calls that are done when the query is empty :

if(query_string.empty()) {
    // If the string is empty, get the current weather for the location in settings
    current =;
 } else {
    // otherwise, get the current weather for the search string
    current =;
if (query_string.empty()) {
    // If there is no search string, get the forecast for the location in settings
    forecast = client_.forecast_daily(s_location);
} else {
    // otherwise, get the forecast for the search string
    forecast = client_.forecast_daily(query_string);

Forecast value

The scope also provides weather forecast for seven days. For the sake of the example, the forecast setting is going to give the option to turn off forecast results.

At the top of the Forecast class, let’s do a check for the state of this setting and ignore everything coming from it when s_forecast is false.

Simply add :


That’s it!

Our scope now has working settings and should look like this: