Eric4 Ide Applications

This book teaches how to write GUI applications using the Python programming language and the Qt application development framework. The only essential prior knowledge is that you can program in some object-oriented programming language, such as C++, C#, Java, or of course, Python itself. For the rich text chapter, some familiarity with HTML and with regular expressions is assumed, and the databases and threading chapters assume some basic knowledge of those topics. A knowledge of GUI programming is not required, since all the key concepts are covered.

The book will be useful to people who program professionally as part of their job, whether as full-time software developers, or those from other disciplines, including scientists and engineers, who need to do some programming in support of their work. It is also suitable for undergraduate and post-graduate students, particularly those doing courses or research that includes a substantial computing element. The exercises (with solutions) are provided especially to help students.

Python is probably the easiest to learn and nicest scripting language in widespread use, and Qt is probably the best library for developing GUI applications. The combination of Python and Qt, "PyQt", makes it possible to develop applications on any supported platform and run them unchanged on all the supported platforms—for example, all modern versions of Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and most Unix-based systems. No compilation is required thanks to Python being interpreted, and no source code changes to adapt to different operating systems are required thanks to Qt abstracting away the platform-specific details. We only have to copy the source file or files to a target machine that has both Python and PyQt installed and the application will run.

If you are new to Python: Welcome! You are about to discover a language that is clear to read and write, and that is concise without being cryptic. Python supports many programming paradigms, but because our focus is on GUI programming, we will take an object-oriented approach everywhere except in the very early chapters.

Python is a very expressive language, which means that we can usually write far fewer lines of Python code than would be required for an equivalent application written in, say, C++ or Java. This makes it possible to show some small but complete examples throughout the text, and makes PyQt an ideal tool for rapidly and easily developing GUI applications, whether for prototyping or for production use.

Pyqt Gui Prototyping
Figure 1 The Eric4 IDE—a PyQt4 application

Since the emphasis of the book is on GUI programming, Part I provides a fast-paced Python tutorial as well as some PyQt coverage. This material is clearly marked (just like this paragraph, with "Qt" in the margin) to make Qt it easy for experienced Python programmers to skip the Python they already know. Parts II, III, and IV of the book are all PyQt-specific and assume that readers can already program in Python, whether from previous experience or from reading Part I.

Quite often in programming we reach decision points when there are several possible approaches we could take. Reference books and the online documentation identify what classes, methods, and functions are available, and in some cases provide examples, but such documents rarely provide a broader context. This book gives the necessary context, highlighting the key decision points for GUI programming and offering insights into the pros and cons so that you can decide for yourself what the right policy is for your particular circumstances. For example, when you create a dialog, should it be modal or modeless? (See Chapter 5 for an explanation and policy recommendations on this issue.)

PyQt is used to write all kinds of GUI applications, from accounting applications, to visualization tools used by scientists and engineers. Figure 1, for example, shows Eric4, a powerful integrated development environment that is written in PyQt. It is possible to write PyQt applications that are just tens of lines long, and medium-size projects of 1000 to 10 000 lines are very common. Some commercial companies have built 100000-line PyQt applications, with programming teams varying in size from just one person to more than a dozen people. Many in-house tools are written using PyQt, but because these are often used to gain competitive advantage, the companies involved generally do not permit their use of PyQt to be made public. PyQt is also widely used in the open source world, with games, utilities, visualization tools, and IDEs all written using it.

This book is specifically about PyQt4, the Python bindings for the Qt 4 C++ application development framework.* PyQt4 is provided in the form of ten Python modules which between them contain around 400 classes and about 6 000 methods and functions. All the example programs have been tested on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, using Python 2.5, Qt 4.2, and PyQt 4.2, and additionally on Windows and Linux using Qt 4.3 and PyQt 4.3. Backporting to earlier versions is possible in some cases, but we recommend using the most up-to-date versions of Python, Qt, and PyQt.

Python, PyQt, and Qt can be used free of charge for noncommercial purposes, but the license used by Python is different from that used by PyQt and Qt. Python is available with a very liberal license that allows it to be used to develop both commercial and noncommercial applications. Both PyQt and Qt are dual-licensed: This essentially allows them to be used to develop noncommercial applications—which must in turn be licensed using an acceptable open source license such as the GNU General Public License (GPL); or to be used to develop commercial applications—in this case, a commercial PyQt license and a commercial Qt license must be purchased.

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