Developing Gnome applications with Python (part 2)


Software Development


Hilaire Fernandes

TranslationInfo:[Author + translation history. mailto: or http://homepage]

original in fr Hilaire Fernandes

fr to de Günther Socher

de to en Guido Socher


Hilaire Fernandes is vice president of OFSET, an organization to promote and develop free software for education for the Gnome project. He has as well written Dr. Geo a software for dynamic geometry. Currently he is working on Dr. Genius an other mathematics software for educational purposes for the Gnome project.


This article series is mainly intended for programming beginners in the area of Gnome and GNU/Linux. Python as the programming language has been selected because beginners are usually getting much faster into this language than compiled languages such as C. To understand this article you need some programming basics in Python.




Needed tools

The software needed to execute the described program was listed in the first article in this series.

You need as well:

The installation procedure and the usage of Python-Gnome with LibGlade are as well described in the first part of this article series.

Drill, our support

The goal of the first article was to demonstrate the mechanism and the interaction modes between the different components of a program written for a configuration using Gnome, Glade, LibGlade and Python.

The example used the GnomeCanvas widget. This example provided us with a colorful presentation and showed us the ease of development with this configuration.

For the next sections, I suggest to work within a framework in which we will explain the different widgets of Gnome. This article concentrates on the setup of the framework. . Further articles will use this framework adding more features to illustrate the many Gnome widgets.

Our framework is called Drill. This is a platform for educational purposes which will be used for our examples and exercises. These examples are solely for educational purposes to demonstrate the usage of the widgets.

Creating an interface with Glade

The widgets

The application window is created with Glade. Like in the previous article you first create a window for a Gnome application. From that window you need to delete the useless icons and menus.

The main part of Drill has been divided into two workspaces using the GtkPaned widget.

[Drill window]
Fig. 1 - Drill main window

Both workspaces are vertically separated with a handle used to adjust the size of each. The left workspace contains the tree widget (GtkTree), in which the different parts of the exercise will be stored by category. The right workspace is empty. This is where we'll add the exercises according to the user's choice.

From Glade, viewing Drill's interface gives us insight into the structure of its components.

[widgets in tree]
Fig. 2 - tree view of Drill

You can see in Fig. 2 that the hpanedTree widget (of the type GtkPaned) only contains one widget, frame2 (of the type GtkFrame), the one on the left side. frame2 contains the exerciceTree widget. It's preferable to first insert a GtkFrame widget with a shadow of the type GTK_SHADOW_IN into a GtkPaned widget. This avoids masking the handle.

Last, the Gnome dialog box "About Drill" can look like this one.

[Dialog window]
Fig. 3 - Dialog box "About" Drill

Its different items are edited from Glade in the Widget leaf from the Properties window.

The widgets and processing functions names

Use the following names for these widgets to manipulate them under these names from Python.

Gnome application window:
Handle separating the exercises tree :
Exercises tree:
Gnome dialog box About :

You can see these widget names in Fig. 2

We list here quickly the names of the processing functions. If you need more information on this subject then you can read the part I of this article series.

Name of the widget Signal Processing
about clicked gtk_widget_destroy
about close gtk_widget_destroy
about destroy gtk_widget_destroy
button1 (Icon New in the
tool bar)
clicked on_new_activate
new activate on_new_activate
drillApp destroy on_exit_activate
exit activate on_exit_activate
about activate on_about_activate

Final adjustments

From Glade it is possible to specify the widgets geometry. In our case you can set the size of the drillApp to 400 and 300 from the Common tab in the properties panel. You can also set the horizontal divider position to 100 instead of 1.

Now the widget exerciceTree needs to be adjusted to only allow one selection at a time. As a matter of fact, only one exercise can be selected at a time. From the properties panel, select Selection->Single. The other options for this widget are less important.

Voilà! It's all over as far as Drill is concerned. We'll start developing exercises in the next article. For now, let's see how to use the interface from Python and how to manipulate the GtkTree widget.

The Python code

The complete source code can be found at the end of this document. You need to save it in the same directory as the file

The required modules

from gtk import *
from gnome.ui import *
from GDK import *
from libglade import *

The graphical interface with LibGlade

The creation of the graphical interface and the connection of the processing functions with LibGlade is done in the same way as in the previous example. We won't come back on this particular aspect.

In the Python program we define the global variables:

The tree is created from LibGlade, its pointer is obtained via the following call:

exerciceTree = wTree.get_widget ("exerciceTree")

We need as well the pointer to the horizontal panels, in fact the container reference (GtkPaned) of the two horizontal panels separated by a handle. The one on the left contains the tree; the one on the right contains the exercises; for now we'll place the label there :

   paned = wTree.get_widget ("hpanedTree")
   label = GtkLabel ("No exercise selected") ()
   paned.pack2 (label)

Once again, the use of both the GTK+ Reference manual -- on the objects GtkLabel and GtkPaned -- and the source code of Python /usr/lib/python1.5/site-packages/ provide you with the required understanding on the right use of objects. .

The GtkTree widget

This is now the most important part of the article : how to use a tree of the GtkTree type.

The tree is filled up with consecutive calls to the addMathExercices(), addFrenchExercices(), addHistoryExercices() and addGeographyExercices() functions. These functions are all very similar. Each of these functions adds a new sub-category (a subtree) as well as titles of exercises (items) :

def addMathExercices ():
   subtree = addSubtree ("Mathematics")
   addExercice (subtree, "Exercise 1", "Math. Ex1")
   addExercice (subtree, "Exercise 2", "Math. Ex2")

The subtree

def addSubtree (name):
   global exerciceTree
   subTree = GtkTree ()
   item = GtkTreeItem (name)
   exerciceTree.append (item)
   item.set_subtree (subTree) ()
   item.connect ("select", selectSubtree)
   return subTree

To create a subtree in an existing tree you need to do two things: Generate a GtkTree tree and a GtkTreeItem item, with the name of the subtree. Next, the item is added to the root tree -- the tree containing all categories -- and we add the subtree to the item using the set_subtree() method. Finally the select event is connected to the item, thus, when the category is selected, the selectSubtree() function is called.


def addExercice (category, title, idValue):
   item = GtkTreeItem (title)
   item.set_data ("id", idValue)
   category.append (item) ()
   item.connect ("select", selectTreeItem)
   item.connect ("deselect", deselectTreeItem)

The items have the names of the exercises as their title, here just Exercice 1, Exercice 2, ... To each item we associate an id additional attribute . GTK+ has the possibility to add to any object of the type GtkObject -- every GTK+ widgets comes from it -- some attributes. To do this there are 2 methods, set_data (key, value) and get_data (key) to initialize and get the value of an attribute. The item is then added to its category -- a subtree. Its show() method is called since it is required to force the display. Last, the select and deselect events are connected. The deselect event becomes active when the item looses its selection. Chronologically, the deselectTreeItem() method is called on the item loosing its selection, next selectTreeItem() is called on the item taking the selection.

The processing functions

We have defined three processing functions selectTreeItem(), deselectTreeItem() and selectSubtree(). They update the text label -- on the right side -- with the value of the id attribute. That's all for now.

The final word

We just set the infrastructure in which we will add the exercises -- as many newly discovered widgets. We have mainly discussed the GtkTree widget and how to associate attributes to widgets. This mechanism is often used to get additional related information from the processing functions, what we have done here. Until the next article you can try to transform the Couleur game, we used in part I, as an exercise in Drill.

Appendix: The full source code

# Drill - Teo Serie
# Copyright Hilaire Fernandes 2001
# Release under the terms of the GPL licence
# You can get a copy of the license at from gtk import *
from gnome.ui import *
from GDK import *
from libglade import * exerciceTree = currentExercice = label = None

def on_about_activate(obj):
    "display the about dialog"
    about = GladeXML ("", "about").get_widget ("about") ()

def on_new_activate (obj):
    global exerciceTree, currentExercice

def selectTreeItem (item):
    global label
    label.set_text ("L'exercice " +
             item.get_data ("id") + "est sélectionné.")

def deselectTreeItem (item):
    global label
    label.set_text ("L'exercice " +
             item.get_data ("id") + "est désélectionné.")

def selectSubtree (subtree):
    global label
    label.set_text ("No selected exercise")

def addSubtree (name):
    global exerciceTree
    subTree = GtkTree ()
    item = GtkTreeItem (name)
    exerciceTree.append (item)
    item.set_subtree (subTree) ()
    item.connect ("select", selectSubtree)
    return subTree

def addExercice (category, title, id):
    item = GtkTreeItem (title)
    item.set_data ("id", id)
    category.append (item) ()
    item.connect ("select", selectTreeItem)
    item.connect ("deselect", deselectTreeItem)

def addMathExercices ():
    subtree = addSubtree ("Mathématiques")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 1", "Math. Ex1")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 2", "Math. Ex2")

def addFrenchExercices ():
    subtree = addSubtree ("Français")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 1", "Français Ex1")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 2", "Français Ex2")

def addHistoryExercices ():
    subtree = addSubtree ("Histoire")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 1", "Histoire Ex1")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 2", "Histoire Ex2")

def addGeographyExercices ():
    subtree = addSubtree ("Géographie")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 1", "Géographie Ex1")
    addExercice (subtree, "Exercice 2", "Géographie Ex2")

def initDrill ():
    global exerciceTree, label
    wTree = GladeXML ("", "drillApp")
    dic = {"on_about_activate": on_about_activate,
        "on_exit_activate": mainquit,
        "on_new_activate": on_new_activate}
    wTree.signal_autoconnect (dic)
    exerciceTree = wTree.get_widget ("exerciceTree")
    # Temporary until we implement real exercice
    paned = wTree.get_widget ("hpanedTree")
    label = GtkLabel ("No selected exercise") ()
    paned.pack2 (label)
    # Free the GladeXML tree
    wTree.destroy ()
    # Add the exercices
    addMathExercices ()
    addFrenchExercices ()
    addHistoryExercices ()
    addGeographyExercices ()

initDrill ()
mainloop ()