[GNC-dev] Slow user interface in 3.x gnucash (for large files), and potential optimization

Christian Stimming christian at cstimming.de
Tue Jun 12 15:57:00 EDT 2018

Dear all,

as discussed before, I am only recently starting to use the 3.x series of 
gnucash in daily production work. However, there are still some issues that 
keep bugging me, compared to the 2.6.x version of gnucash.

One of the issues is that the user interface in the register is surprisingly 
slower compared to 2.6.x. I have a somewhat large data file [1], so I saw some 
behaviour that is probably not the usual case. The slowness is that when 
activating the auto-complete by typing the first letter in the txn 
description, then pressing <tab>, there is a delay of approx. 1.5 seconds with 
100% CPU until the cursor appears in the next field and the data is filled in. 
This delay is quite recognizable and it is annoying. In previous gnucash 
versions, it was not there.

Hence I tried to narrow down the cause of this slowness using 
valgrind/callgrind with switching on and off the instrumentation just around 
this very keypress using callgrind_control. In the result, I recognized a 
surprising high number of std::string constructor calls and similarly 
destructor calls - which, for this single lookup operation, looked suspicious 
to me.

Turns out that the std::string constructor and destructor is used a lot when 
calling qof_instance_get_path_kvp() with a std::vector<std::string>, but the 
std::vector is created on-the-fly using the { } syntax, AND (this is the 
expensive part) all the std::string's inside that vector are also created on-
the-fly from string literals that are expanded from #defines. It occurred to 
me that this last construction/destruction can be avoided rather easily: Why 
don't we declare std::string constants and use those, instead of the const 
char* literals expanded from the #defines? I implemented a very simple test of 
this idea, see

Testing this change with callgrind again brought down the instruction count of 
the described operation in the user interface from 3.2e9 to 2.6e9, which in my 
opinion is a significant optimization. What do you think - would it be a good 
idea to use kind of construct (no pun intended) in this and other places? Or 
did I miss something here?



[1] Some numbers about my data file: 4MB compressed XML, 30,000 transactions, 
200 accounts, 30,000 kvp slots.

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