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Gnome Recipes

Article from Issue 213/2018
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Cutting recipes out of magazines and attaching them to the fridge is a thing of the past. Today, Gnome Recipes is your friendly kitchen helper.

Satirist Ephraim Kishon once confessed "food is my favorite food." Our earliest ancestors might have focused more on food than on enjoyment because of the considerable amount of time it took to procure it, but today's picture is different. In a fast food age, many people treat cooking, baking, and enjoyment of the results as pleasant leisure activities. Numerous specialized magazines bear witness to this, and many print publications feature a recipe page.

In the long run, this abundance of sources results in loose recipe clippings that threaten to fall out of your cookbook, often exceeding the book's thickness. If you make room for a laptop in the kitchen, the new Gnome Recipes program can save you not only from this avalanche of recipe clippings but a huge amount of time, from writing shopping lists to setting the timer to converting portions [1].

Delicious Pictures

The first time you open the program, your mouth might water: The main window (Figure 1) shows recipe pictures, lets you select recipes by category, and shows information about the contributing hobby chefs at the bottom. To start, simply click on one of the photos.

Figure 1: Gnome Recipes welcomes you with a clearly structured screen in the current Gtk3 design.

The application describes dishes in detail on the corresponding recipe pages (Figure 2), such as Struwen, a very tasty yeast dough pancake known in Germany's Münsterland and the Lower Rhine region. There is even a reference to a Wikipedia entry, but it cannot be clicked or copied.

Figure 2: The recipes – like Struwen, a typical Good Friday dish – come from the community.

If you mouse over the image, arrows appear that take you to more images of the dish or directly to its preparation. If the photos appear somewhat blurry at first, you do not need to see your local optician: The program first loads only a tiny preview image and then retrieves a higher resolution image off the web. For many recipes, the application displays small icons below the illustration that denote allergy information and dietary restrictions (for vegetarians or people who follow religious dietary regulations).

Click the Print button at the bottom right to create a hard copy of the entire recipe, including picture, list of ingredients, and instructions. The same applies for the shopping list: Click Buy Ingredients at bottom left to add the ingredients; then, click View shopping list to call up the shopping list. Most recipes are designed for four servings; if you are cooking for fewer people or for a larger group of Linux fans, the number of servings on which the shopping list is based can be changed in the Yield field.

However, the shopping list printout still needs some optimization (Figure 3): The quantity specifications and their conversion within the program leave some questions. For example: Why does the application calculate salt and sugar by volume, and why are raisins, yeast, and oil on the list as bulk? The developers still have to work on localization here.

Figure 3: One raisin, please? The shopping list can cause confusion.

Once you have everything you need, use the Start Cooking button to begin preparation. The screen changes to full-screen mode, and the arrows on the right and left switch between the individual steps.

If you do not have a touchscreen device, it is better to use the keyboard while cooking. A single press on any key moves to the next step, a double-press to the previous one. Press Esc to return to the recipe.

A help window, which appears in the first window, outlines the keyboard controls (Figure 4). You can even use these controls to skip steps, such as the baking time (in this example, 30 minutes), but you will still be prompted to set the timer.

Figure 4: When you are cooking, recipes switch to full-screen mode, which can also be controlled on a touchscreen.

Your Contributions, Please!

To share your recipes with the community, first add information about yourself. The Chef Information entry top left in the application menu (or in the upper bar of the Gnome Shell) takes you to the corresponding input fields. The Application applies the username set in Gnome; you can add some additional information, but you can also discard it and replace it with an alias.

Use the New Recipe button in the top left corner to open the input window (Figure 5). Most input fields are self-explanatory. You do not need to fill in information on, for example, Spiciness or Season. The checkboxes at bottom right are definitely helpful for food sensitivities, vegetarians, or vegans.

Figure 5: The community is happy about every new recipe: Just add your favorite dish.

After clicking Save, your recipe is available in your own collection. Use the Share button on the right to make the recipe available to other users (Figure 6). The default setting is Share with a friend; alternatively, you can share with the community with the Contribute to Recipes project checkbox.

Figure 6: If necessary, you can email recipes to friends and acquaintances; otherwise, use the Share button.

Both variants require a configured mail client. An email provider's web interface is not enough – unless, for example, you have set up Gmail with Gnome Gmail [2] as a dummy for a native client. If no suitable program is available, you still have the option to output the recipe as a PDF document and send it as an email attachment. However, this does not let you pass the recipe on as a native file that can be imported into Gnome Recipes on another computer.

Theoretically, exporting the recipe from the Application menu is still possible. This was successful, but the program crashed reproducibly. Here the developers have to make improvements, either by stabilizing the current Export routine or by offering the recipe directly as text that can be copied and pasted into email.

Conclusions

Gnome Recipes version 2.0.2 from December 2017, which was the version tested here, is a pretty smart apprentice for the kitchen. Crashes, nevertheless occurred, for example, when reactivating a previously closed shopping list or when exporting recipes. No other serious problems occurred.

The program follows the current Gnome user interface design somewhat, so it might cloud the picture in other work environments but should not prevent you from using the software (see the "Setting Up Gnome Recipes" box for installation instructions). The large main window is a bit annoying, though. Although Gnome applications should work well on netbook displays with 1024x600 pixel resolution, my test device's 900-pixel horizontal resolution screen was not enough to display the window without scrollbars.

Setting Up Gnome Recipes

Initially Gnome Recipes had a hard time making its way into the package sources of common distributions, but now a current version can be installed on Debian "Sid," Arch Linux, Mageia Cauldron, and openSUSE Tumbleweed. Ubuntu has had Gnome Recipes in its repositories since "Zesty Zapus."

To install from the source code, compile the tarball [4], which can be downloaded from the Gnome project as shown in Listing 1. If you only want to test the application, you do not have to execute the last command; the program also runs directly from the folder. However, this requires a trick; a single double-click on the binary file will not work. The command

$ GSETTINGS_SCHEMA_DIR=build/data ./build/src/gnome-recipes

works if you call the program in the root directory of the unpacked tarball.

Gnome is currently gradually converting the build system from GNU Autotools to Meson, on which Gnome Recipes is based. This means that the three-step Autotools trick, which used to be common in Gnome, no longer works. To compile Gnome Recipes to work on your system, you need the meson and ninja commands. The latter can usually be found in the ninja-build package, on Mageia and Arch Linux in ninja. You also need to install the developer packages for Gtk3, Gnome online accounts, REST, JSON-GLib, and libsoup on your system.

Alternatively, use the Flatpak package [5], which the developers themselves offer on the project's homepage, including a nightly build of the current state of development. The package with the current version worked very well on Fedora 27 in our lab. However, Flatpak packages require a lot of disk space; including the necessary run-time environment, the installation took more than 200MB.

Although recipes are often only available in English or with incomplete localization, hardly any other wishes remain unfulfilled with regard to the variety of templates. As always, free software thrives on participation. So make every effort to make your favorite creations or regional classics accessible to a wider audience. You can also contribute to the translation of the program and the recipes [3].

Listing 1

Installing Gnome Recipes

$ rm -rf build
$ meson --prefix=$HOME/.local/build
$ ninja -C build
$ ninja -C build install

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