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Python Programming on Win32
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Running GUI Applications

Tkinter applications are normal Python scripts, but there are a couple of complications worth knowing about when running graphical applications under Windows. These were discussed in Chapter 3, Python on Windows, but are important enough to reiterate here; what we say in this section applies equally to wxPython later in this chapter.

The standard Python.exe that comes with Python is known as a console application (this means it has been built to interact with a Windows console, otherwise known as a DOS box or command prompt). Although you can execute your Tkinter programs using Python.exe, your program will always be associated with a Windows console. It works just fine, but has the following side effects:

  • If you execute Python.exe from Windows Explorer, a new empty console window is created; then the Tkinter windows are created.
  • If you execute a Tkinter application under Python.exe from a command prompt, the command prompt doesn't return until the Tkinter application has finished. This will be a surprise for many users, who expect that executing a GUI program returns the command prompt immediately.

To get around this problem, Python comes with a special GUI version called Pythonw.exe. This is almost identical to the standard Python.exe, except it's not a console program, so doesn't suffer the problems described previously.

There are two drawbacks to this approach. The first is that .py files are automatically associated with Python.exe. As we saw in Chapter 3, this makes it simple to execute Python programs, but does present a problem when you want to use Pythonw.exe. To solve this problem, Python automatically associates the .pyw extension with Pythonw.exe ; thus, you can give GUI Python applications a .pyw extension, and automatically execute them from Windows Explorer, the command prompt, and so forth.

The second drawback is that because Pythonw.exe has no console, any tracebacks printed by Python aren't typically seen. Although Python prints the traceback normally, the lack of a console means it has nowhere useful to go. To get around this problem, you may like to develop your application using Python.exe (where the console is an advantage for debugging) but run the final version using Pythonw.exe.

"Hello World"

The easiest way to get a feel for Tkinter is with the ever popular "Hello World!" example. The result of this little program is shown in Figure 20-1.

from sys import exit
from Tkinter import *
root = Tk() 
Button(root, text='Hello World!', command=exit).pack() 
Figure 20-1. Tkinter's "Hello World"


As you can see, apart from the import statements, there are only three lines of interest. The root variable is set to the default top-level window automatically created by Tk, although applications with advanced requirements can customize the top-level frames. The code then creates a Tkinter button object, specifying the parent (the root variable), the text for the button, and the command to execute when clicked. We discuss the pack() method later in this section. Finally, turn control over to the main event-processing loop, which creates the Windows on the screen and dispatches user-interface events.

The other end of the World

From the extreme simplicity of the "Hello World" example, the other end of the scale could be considered the tkDemo sample included with this chapter. Although space considerations prevent us from examining this sample in detail, Figure 20-2 should give you an indication of the capabilities offered by Tkinter.

Figure 20-2. tkDemo example in action



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