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PyGTK: The Python GUI creation tool

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Discover the versatility of PyGTK, a powerful Python toolkit for creating graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Explore the features and ease of use that make PyGTK an essential tool for developers building interactive and visually appealing applications.

PyGTK is a Python module for creating a graphical user interface (GUI) for an application. Find out all you need to know about this tool and its successor PyGObject: how it works, advantages and disadvantages, training...

A graphical user interface is essential for a modern application. It allows users to interact with ease. To create such a GUI for a Python program, we generally use the PyGTK module.

What is PyGTK?

Created by James Henstridge, PyGTK is a module for creating graphical interfaces in Python, enabling users to interact with an application quickly.

Its name is a combination of the Python language and GTK: GIMP ToolKit. GIMP ToolKit is a collection of Python wrappers for the GTK+ graphical user interface library.

It brings together numerous graphical elements and other programming tools for building applications. Highly intuitive, PyGTK is ideal for rapid prototyping.

This LGPL-licensed open-source software is also a cross-platform library. It can be installed on Unix and Win32. It is an extension of the GNOME project.

What is PyGTK used for?

PyGTK is mainly used for creating graphical user interfaces (GUIs) in the Python language. A GUI consists of a window and its collection of widgets, including dialog boxes, checkboxes, buttons, text and other elements.

The GUI sends a signal to the program as soon as the user interacts with this window or one of its widgets. This is true even if the user simply hovers over it with the mouse cursor. The aim is to inform the program that a response may be required.

Advantages and disadvantages of PyGTK

One of PyGTK’s main strengths is its high level of performance, especially for versions 0.X for GTK 1.2. Version 2.0 for GTK 2.X is still very good.

This tool also offers an efficient API based on signal and callback propagation. Each component can send a signal, which is passed upwards until it is captured and a callback call is generated.

An interface creation tool called Glade can be used to generate an XML reference for the interface, which the library can use directly.

In addition, PyGTK offers a high level of application portability to Windows. This porting can generally be carried out without having to modify the code.

Finally, the documentation for this tool is very comprehensive. There are excellent tutorials for both versions, and the reference is particularly extensive for 2.X.

On the other hand, PyGTK’s main weakness is the size of the code. While much of it may seem superfluous, it is indispensable.

To use any element, you need to construct it, then call it, configure it with its methods, position it and then show it with the show () method. There are at least three calling methods for each object. As a result, the source code is voluminous.

PyGTK modules

Various modules are available for PyGTK. Pango is a text layout and drawing library focused on internationalization.

Cairo is a 2D graphics library that supports different types of devices. The ATK library offers accessibility tools such as user interfaces, magnifiers and alternative input devices.

The GTK module is responsible for the user interface, while Glade is used to create graphical interfaces from XML files. Finally, GObject is the foundation class for PyGTK classes and provides common functions and attributes.

PyGTK classes

Let’s take a look at the various PyGTK classes. The gtk.Widget class provides a standardized set of methods and signals for widgets.

The gtk.Window class is a window with a title bar and buttons for resizing, closing and moving.

The gtk.Dialog is used to create a popup window containing information and options for the user to choose from. gtk.Button is a button widget that sends a signal when clicked. It is usually displayed as a pushbutton with a text label and used to attach a callback function.

For its part, gtk.Label displays text in read-only mode. With gtk.Layout, you can create a scrollable zone with child widgets and custom graphics that can scroll indefinitely.

The gtk.Toolbar is a container that stores and maintains a horizontal or vertical bar of buttons and widgets. The gtk.ComboBox widget is used to select items from a list.

To add a horizontal or vertical scrollbar, use gtk.Scrollbar. The gtk.ProgressBar class is used to display the progress of a long-running process. Finally, the gtk.Menu class groups together menu item objects that can be accessed by the user, executing application functions when activated.


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Which applications use PyGTK?

Many applications use PyGTK. Well-known examples include the Anaconda installer, BitTorrent, SoundConverter or Ubuntu Software Center.

Other examples include Deluge, Emesene, Flumotion, Exaile, gDesklets, Gajim, GIMP and Gedit, Gramps GNOME Sudoku, Jokosher, the Gwibbler microblogging client, PyMusique, puddletag, Tryton, ROX Desktop, Pybliographer, the Wing IDE, Comix and the Ubuntu Ubiquity installer.

What is PyGObject?

With the launch of GTK version 3, PyGTK is replaced by PyGObject, using GObject Introspection to generate bindings for Python and other languages very quickly. This will eliminate the delay between GTK updates and bindings in different languages.

This tool provides a wrapper to be used in Python programs when accessing GObject libraries: an object system notably used by GTK, GLib, GIO, GStreamer.

Any library using GObject Introspection is dynamically accessible to PyGObject. This replaces the need for separate modules like PyGTK, GIO and python-gnome to build a complete GNOME 3.0 application.

As soon as a new feature is added to the GObject library, it is immediately available as a Python API without the need for an intermediary.

The PyGObject wrapper and GObject library are licensed under the GNU LGPL. They are therefore suitable for use on both free and proprietary software. Many applications already use them, from small, single-use scripts to large-scale applications.

Examples include Ex Falso, Gramps, Meld, Pitivi, PyChess and Quod Libet. Although PyGObject has already replaced PyGTK, porting takes time for many programs.

Conclusion: PyGTK, a very useful Python module for GUI creation

The PyGTK Python module makes it easy to create advanced graphical interfaces for applications. It was an open-source, cross-platform tool offering great flexibility, and has now been replaced by PyGObject.

To learn how to use PyGTK, PyGObject and Python, choose DataScientest. Our Data Science training courses all include a module dedicated to this programming language.

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Now you know all about PyGTK. For more information on the same subject, take a look at our complete dossier on Python and our dossier on NumPy.


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