public bool spawn_async_with_pipes (string? working_directory, string[] argv, string[]? envp, SpawnFlags _flags, SpawnChildSetupFunc? child_setup, out Pid child_pid, out int standard_input = null, out int standard_output = null, out int standard_error = null) throws SpawnError

Executes a child program asynchronously (your program will not block waiting for the child to exit).

The child program is specified by the only argument that must be provided, argv. argv should be a null-terminated array of strings, to be passed as the argument vector for the child. The first string in argv is of course the name of the program to execute. By default, the name of the program must be a full path. If flags contains the g_spawn_search_path flag, the `PATH` environment variable is used to search for the executable. If flags contains the g_spawn_search_path_from_envp flag, the `PATH` variable from envp is used to search for the executable. If both the g_spawn_search_path and g_spawn_search_path_from_envp flags are set, the `PATH` variable from envp takes precedence over the environment variable.

If the program name is not a full path and g_spawn_search_path flag is not used, then the program will be run from the current directory (or working_directory, if specified); this might be unexpected or even dangerous in some cases when the current directory is world-writable.

On Windows, note that all the string or string vector arguments to this function and the other g_spawn*() functions are in UTF-8, the GLib file name encoding. Unicode characters that are not part of the system codepage passed in these arguments will be correctly available in the spawned program only if it uses wide character API to retrieve its command line. For C programs built with Microsoft's tools it is enough to make the program have a wmain instead of main. wmain has a wide character argument vector as parameter.

At least currently, mingw doesn't support wmain, so if you use mingw to develop the spawned program, it should call get_command_line to get arguments in UTF-8.

On Windows the low-level child process creation API CreateProcess doesn't use argument vectors, but a command line. The C runtime library's spawn*() family of functions (which spawn_async_with_pipes eventually calls) paste the argument vector elements together into a command line, and the C runtime startup code does a corresponding reconstruction of an argument vector from the command line, to be passed to main. Complications arise when you have argument vector elements that contain spaces or double quotes. The `spawn*()` functions don't do any quoting or escaping, but on the other hand the startup code does do unquoting and unescaping in order to enable receiving arguments with embedded spaces or double quotes. To work around this asymmetry, spawn_async_with_pipes will do quoting and escaping on argument vector elements that need it before calling the C runtime spawn function.

The returned child_pid on Windows is a handle to the child process, not its identifier. Process handles and process identifiers are different concepts on Windows.

envp is a null-terminated array of strings, where each string has the form `KEY=VALUE`. This will become the child's environment. If envp is null, the child inherits its parent's environment.

flags should be the bitwise OR of any flags you want to affect the function's behaviour. The g_spawn_do_not_reap_child means that the child will not automatically be reaped; you must use a child watch (g_child_watch_add ) to be notified about the death of the child process, otherwise it will stay around as a zombie process until this process exits. Eventually you must call close_pid on the child_pid, in order to free resources which may be associated with the child process. (On Unix, using a child watch is equivalent to calling waitpid or handling the sigchld signal manually. On Windows, calling close_pid is equivalent to calling CloseHandle on the process handle returned in child_pid). See g_child_watch_add.

Open UNIX file descriptors marked as `FD_CLOEXEC` will be automatically closed in the child process. g_spawn_leave_descriptors_open means that other open file descriptors will be inherited by the child; otherwise all descriptors except stdin/stdout/stderr will be closed before calling exec in the child. g_spawn_search_path means that argv[0] need not be an absolute path, it will be looked for in the `PATH` environment variable. g_spawn_search_path_from_envp means need not be an absolute path, it will be looked for in the `PATH` variable from envp. If both g_spawn_search_path and g_spawn_search_path_from_envp are used, the value from envp takes precedence over the environment. g_spawn_stdout_to_dev_null means that the child's standard output will be discarded, instead of going to the same location as the parent's standard output. If you use this flag, standard_output must be null. g_spawn_stderr_to_dev_null means that the child's standard error will be discarded, instead of going to the same location as the parent's standard error. If you use this flag, standard_error must be null. g_spawn_child_inherits_stdin means that the child will inherit the parent's standard input (by default, the child's standard input is attached to `/dev/null`). If you use this flag, standard_input must be null. g_spawn_file_and_argv_zero means that the first element of argv is the file to execute, while the remaining elements are the actual argument vector to pass to the file. Normally spawn_async_with_pipes uses argv[0] as the file to execute, and passes all of argv to the child.

child_setup and user_data are a function and user data. On POSIX platforms, the function is called in the child after GLib has performed all the setup it plans to perform (including creating pipes, closing file descriptors, etc.) but before calling exec . That is, child_setup is called just before calling exec in the child. Obviously actions taken in this function will only affect the child, not the parent.

On Windows, there is no separate fork and exec functionality. Child processes are created and run with a single API call, CreateProcess. There is no sensible thing child_setup could be used for on Windows so it is ignored and not called.

If non-null, child_pid will on Unix be filled with the child's process ID. You can use the process ID to send signals to the child, or to use g_child_watch_add (or waitpid ) if you specified the g_spawn_do_not_reap_child flag. On Windows, child_pid will be filled with a handle to the child process only if you specified the g_spawn_do_not_reap_child flag. You can then access the child process using the Win32 API, for example wait for its termination with the WaitFor*() functions, or examine its exit code with GetExitCodeProcess. You should close the handle with CloseHandle or close_pid when you no longer need it.

If non-null, the standard_input, standard_output, standard_error locations will be filled with file descriptors for writing to the child's standard input or reading from its standard output or standard error. The caller of spawn_async_with_pipes must close these file descriptors when they are no longer in use. If these parameters are null, the corresponding pipe won't be created.

If standard_input is null, the child's standard input is attached to `/dev/null` unless g_spawn_child_inherits_stdin is set.

If standard_error is NULL, the child's standard error goes to the same location as the parent's standard error unless g_spawn_stderr_to_dev_null is set.

If standard_output is NULL, the child's standard output goes to the same location as the parent's standard output unless g_spawn_stdout_to_dev_null is set.

throws can be null to ignore errors, or non-null to report errors. If an error is set, the function returns false. Errors are reported even if they occur in the child (for example if the executable in argv[0] is not found). Typically the `message` field of returned errors should be displayed to users. Possible errors are those from the SpawnError domain.

If an error occurs, child_pid, standard_input, standard_output, and standard_error will not be filled with valid values.

If child_pid is not null and an error does not occur then the returned process reference must be closed using close_pid.

On modern UNIX platforms, GLib can use an efficient process launching codepath driven internally by posix_spawn. This has the advantage of avoiding the fork-time performance costs of cloning the parent process address space, and avoiding associated memory overcommit checks that are not relevant in the context of immediately executing a distinct process. This optimized codepath will be used provided that the following conditions are met:

  1. g_spawn_do_not_reap_child is set
  2. g_spawn_leave_descriptors_open is set
  3. g_spawn_search_path_from_envp is not set
  4. working_directory is null
  5. child_setup is null
  6. The program is of a recognised binary format, or has a shebang. Otherwise, GLib will have to execute the program through the shell, which is not done using the optimized codepath.

If you are writing a GTK+ application, and the program you are spawning is a graphical application too, then to ensure that the spawned program opens its windows on the right screen, you may want to use GdkAppLaunchContext, GAppLaunchContext, or set the display environment variable.

Example: Spawn with pipes, async:

private static bool process_line (IOChannel channel, IOCondition condition, string stream_name) {
if (condition == IOCondition.HUP) {
print ("%s: The fd has been closed.\n", stream_name);
return false;

try {
string line;
channel.read_line (out line, null, null);
print ("%s: %s", stream_name, line);
} catch (IOChannelError e) {
print ("%s: IOChannelError: %s\n", stream_name, e.message);
return false;
} catch (ConvertError e) {
print ("%s: ConvertError: %s\n", stream_name, e.message);
return false;

return true;

public static int main (string[] args) {
MainLoop loop = new MainLoop ();
try {
string[] spawn_args = {"ls", "-l", "-h"};
string[] spawn_env = Environ.get ();
Pid child_pid;

int standard_input;
int standard_output;
int standard_error;

Process.spawn_async_with_pipes ("/",
out child_pid,
out standard_input,
out standard_output,
out standard_error);

// stdout:
IOChannel output = new IOChannel.unix_new (standard_output);
output.add_watch (IOCondition.IN | IOCondition.HUP, (channel, condition) => {
return process_line (channel, condition, "stdout");

// stderr:
IOChannel error = new IOChannel.unix_new (standard_error);
error.add_watch (IOCondition.IN | IOCondition.HUP, (channel, condition) => {
return process_line (channel, condition, "stderr");

ChildWatch.add (child_pid, (pid, status) => {
// Triggered when the child indicated by child_pid exits
Process.close_pid (pid);
loop.quit ();
}); ();
} catch (SpawnError e) {
print ("Error: %s\n", e.message);
return 0;

valac --pkg glib-2.0 GLib.Process.spawn_async_with_pipes.vala



child's current working directory, or null to inherit parent's, in the GLib file name encoding


child's argument vector, in the GLib file name encoding


child's environment, or null to inherit parent's, in the GLib file name encoding


function to run in the child just before exec


return location for child process ID, or null


return location for file descriptor to write to child's stdin, or null


return location for file descriptor to read child's stdout, or null


return location for file descriptor to read child's stderr, or null


flags from SpawnFlags


user data for child_setup


true on success, false if an error was set

Namespace: GLib.Process
Package: glib-2.0