15.1. Graphical User Interfaces¶
A graphical user interface (GUI) allows a user
to interact with a computer program using a pointing device that manipulates
small pictures on a computer screen. The small pictures are called
widgets. Various types of pointing devices can be used, such as a mouse,
a stylus pen, or a human finger on a touch screen.
We refer to programs that use a graphical user interface as “GUI programs.”
A GUI program is very different from a program that uses a command line interface
which receives user input from typed characters on a keyboard.
Typically programs that use a command line interface perform a series of
tasks in a predetermined order and then terminate.
However, a GUI program
widgets that are displayed to a user and then it
simply waits for the user to interact with them. The order that tasks are
performed by the program is under the user’s control – not the program’s control!
This means a GUI program must keep track of the “state” of its processing
and respond correctly to user commands that are given in any order the user
chooses. This style of programming is called “event driven programming.”
In fact, by definition, all GUI programs are event-driven programs.
15.2. GUI Programming¶
An GUI program has the following structure:
Create the icons and widgets that are displayed to a user and organize them inside a screen window.
Define functions that will process user and application events.
Associate specific user events with specific functions.
Start an infinite event-loop that processes user events. When a user event happens, the event-loop calls the function associated with that event.
A GUI program’s interface is composed of
widgets displayed in a window.
Your computer’s operating system controls the creation and manipulation
of windows on your computer’s display screen. The operating system also
controls the pointing devices on your computer, such as a mouse or a touch
screen. Therefore, your computer’s operating system is what recognizes events
that happen in a window. Your operating system sends events to your program in
the order they are generated by a user. Your program’s event-loop responds to
these events. All GUI programs have the same event-loop, so there is an
event-loop provided for you and it looks something like this:
while True: # Get the next event from the operating system event = get_next_event() # Get the function that is assigned to handle this event a_function_to_handle_the_event = event-handlers[event] # If a function has been assigned to handle this event, call the function if a_function_to_handle_the_event: a_function_to_handle_the_event() # Call the event-handler function # Stop processing events if the user gives a command to stop the application if window_needs_to_close: break # out of the event-loop
Again, you do not implement an event-loop in a GUI program. The event
loop has already been written for you. You make this event-loop work by
associating a function (which is called an
callback function) to a specific event. We will show you how to do this
in a few lessons. First, let’s learn how to create a GUI interface which is
widgets a user sees when a GUI program runs.
15.3. GUI Programming Options¶
Python does not implement GUI, event-driven-programming in its core
functionality. GUI programming is implemented using imported modules which
are often referred to as “toolkits.” Anyone can implement external modules
that facilitate GUI programming, and many people have. Therefore you have
many options available to you for GUI programming. A partial list of options
can be found at https://docs.python.org/3/faq/gui.html. The following lessons
explain how to use the
Tkinter toolkit to create GUI programs. Once you
understand how GUI programming works, you should be able to learn
how to use any of the other available toolkits without much difficulty.
TKinter is an abbreviation for “TK interface”. “TK” is a platform independent,
customizable, and configurable GUI library. The Python module
allows Python programs to use the TK libraries. An overview of TK can be
found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tk_(software)_
15.5. Tkinter Pre-programmed Interfaces¶
Tkinter provides a set of standard GUI dialog boxes that can be used with
minimal programming. These are described in the next lesson.
(A dialog box is a small window on a computer screen
in which a user is prompted to provide information or select commands.)
15.6. Tkinter Custom Interfaces¶
Tkinter also provides the functionality to create any user interface
imaginable. To create a custom GUI program you basically do five things:
Create instances of the widgets you want in your interface.
Define the layout of the widgets (i.e., the location and size of each widget).
Create functions that will perform your desired actions on user generated events.
Connect your functions to specific user events.
Start a GUI event-loop.
Each of these tasks are explain in detail in the following lessons.
Note: All coding examples in these lessons assume you are using Python 3.5 or greater.
15.7. Hello World¶
Many programming languages are introduced to new users by showing them how to display “Hello world!” on the screen. This is considered to be the simplest possible program you can write in the language. In that spirit, here is a GUI program that displays “Hello World!:
import tkinter as tk from tkinter import ttk # Create the application window window = tk.Tk() # Create the user interface my_label = ttk.Label(window, text="Hello World!") my_label.grid(row=1, column=1) # Start the GUI event loop window.mainloop()