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Creating C++ Plugins for QML

Creating a Plugin

The QML engine loads C++ plugins for QML. Such plugins are usually provided in a QML extension module, and can provide types for use by clients in QML documents which import the module. A module requires at least one type registered in order to be considered valid.

QQmlExtensionPlugin is a plugin interface that makes it possible to create QML extensions that can be loaded dynamically into QML applications. These extensions allow custom QML types to be made available to the QML engine.

To write a QML extension plugin:

  1. Subclass QQmlExtensionPlugin
  2. Write a project file for the plugin
  3. Create a qmldir file to describe the plugin

QML extension plugins are for either application-specific or library-like plugins. Library plugins should limit themselves to registering types, as any manipulation of the engine's root context may cause conflicts or other issues in the library user's code.

Plugin Example

Suppose there is a new TimeModel C++ class that should be made available as a new QML type. It provides the current time through hour and minute properties.

class TimeModel : public QObject
    Q_PROPERTY(int hour READ hour NOTIFY timeChanged)
    Q_PROPERTY(int minute READ minute NOTIFY timeChanged)

To make this type available, we create a plugin class named QExampleQmlPlugin which is a subclass of QQmlExtensionPlugin. It overrides the registerTypes() method in order to register the TimeModel type using qmlRegisterType(). It also uses the Q_PLUGIN_METADATA() macro in the class definition to register the plugin with the Qt meta object system using a unique identifier for the plugin.

class QExampleQmlPlugin : public QQmlExtensionPlugin
    Q_PLUGIN_METADATA(IID QQmlExtensionInterface_iid)

    void registerTypes(const char *uri) override
        Q_ASSERT(uri == QLatin1String("TimeExample"));
        qmlRegisterType<TimeModel>(uri, 1, 0, "Time");

This registers the TimeModel class with version 1.0 of this plugin library, as a QML type called Time. The Q_ASSERT() macro can ensure the type namespace is imported correctly by any QML components that use this plugin. The Defining QML Types from C++ article has more information about registering C++ types into the runtime.

Additionally, the project file (.pro) defines the project as a plugin library, specifies it should be built into the imports/TimeExample directory, and registers the plugin target name and various other details:

CONFIG += qt plugin
QT += qml

DESTDIR = imports/TimeExample
TARGET = qmlqtimeexampleplugin
SOURCES += qexampleqmlplugin.cpp

Finally, a qmldir file is required in the imports/TimeExample directory to describe the plugin and the types that it exports. The plugin includes a Clock.qml file along with the qmlqtimeexampleplugin that is built by the project (as shown above in the .pro file) so both of these need to be specified in the qmldir file:

module TimeExample
Clock 1.0 Clock.qml
plugin qmlqtimeexampleplugin

To make things easier for this example, the TimeExample source directory is in imports/TimeExample, and we build in-source. However, the structure of the source directory is not so important, as the qmldir file can specify paths to installed QML files.

What is important is the name of the directory that the qmldir is installed into. When the user imports our module, the QML engine uses the module identifier (TimeExample) to find the plugin, and so the directory in which it is installed must match the module identifier.

Once the project is built and installed, the new Time component is accessible by any QML component that imports the TimeExample module

import TimeExample 1.0 // import types from the plugin

Clock { // this class is defined in QML (imports/TimeExample/Clock.qml)

    Time { // this class is defined in C++ (plugin.cpp)
        id: time

    hours: time.hour
    minutes: time.minute


The full source code is available in the plugins example.


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