Anygui: Generic GUI for Python

Magnus Lie Hetland

February 8th, 2002

1. Introduction

The Python standard library currently does not contain any platform-independent GUI packages. It is the goal of the Anygui project to change this situation. There are many such packages available, but none has been defined as standard, so when writing GUI programs for Python, you cannot assume that your user has the right package installed.

The problem is that declaring a GUI package as standard would be quite controversial. There are some packages that are quite commonly available, such as Tkinter; but it would not be practical to require all installations to include it, nor would it be desirable to require all Python GUI programs to use it, since there are many programmers who prefer other packages.

Anygui tries to solve this problem in a manner similar to the standard anydbm package. There is no need to choose one package at the expense of all others. Instead, Anygui gives generic access to several popular packages through a simple API, which makes it possible to write GUI applications that work with all these packages. Thus, one gets a platform-independent GUI module which is written entirely in Python.

To get the latest Anygui distribution, or to get in touch with the developers, please visit the Anygui website:

1.1 Design Goals

A. Anygui should be an easy to use GUI package which may be used to create simple graphical programs, or which may serve as the basis for more complex application frameworks.

B. Anygui should be a pure Python package which serves as a front-end for as many as possible of the GUI packages available for Python, in a transparent manner.

C. Anygui should include functionality needed to perform most GUI tasks, but should remain as simple and basic as possible.

1.2 Warning

The Anygui API is currently very much in flux as the Anygui team keeps experimenting with it. Because of that, incompatibilities may occur between releases. The current release (0.1.1) should be regarded as a prototype.

1.3 Tutorial

There is also a short tutorial available, which is included in the installation (doc/tutorial.txt) and is available from the website (

2. Installation

The Anygui package comes in the form of a gzip compressed tar archive. To install it you will first have to uncompress the archive. On Windows this can be done with WinZip. in Mac OS, you can use StuffIt Expander. In Unix, first move to a directory where you'd like to put Anygui, and then do something like the following:

foo:~/python$ tar xzvf anygui-0.1.1.tar.gz

If your version of tar doesn't support the z switch, you can do something like this:

foo:~/python$ zcat anygui-0.1.1.tar.gz | tar xvf

Another possibility is:

foo:~/python$ gunzip anygui-0.1.1.tar.gz

foo:~/python$ tar -xvf anygui-0.1.1.tar

No matter which version you choose, you should end up with a directory named anygui-0.1.1.

2.1 Running

The simple way of installing Anygui is to use the installation script that's included in the distribution. This requires Distutils (, which is included in Python distributions from version 2.0. To install the Anygui package in the default location, simply run the setup script with the install command:

foo:~$ python install

This will install Anygui in your standard Python directory structure. If you don't have access to this directory (e.g. because Python was installed by a sysadmin, and you don't have root access) you can install it somewhere else with the --prefix option:

foo:~$ python install --prefix=${HOME}/python

2.2 Doing it Manually

Since Anygui consists of only Python code, nothing needs to be compiled. And the only thing needed to install Python code is to ensure that the packages and modules are found by your Python interpreter. This is as simple as including the lib directory of the Anygui distribution in your PYTHONPATH environment variable. In bash (, you could do something like this:

foo:~$ export PYTHONPATH=$PYTHONPATH:/path/to/anygui/lib

To make this permanent, you should put it in your .bash_profile file, or something equivalent. If you don't want to mess around with this, and already have a standard directory where you place your Python modules, you can simply copy (or move) the anygui package (found in anygui-0.1.1/lib) there, or possibly place a symlink in that directory to the anygui package.

2.3 Making Sure You Have a Usable GUI Package

Once you have Anygui installed, you'll want to make sure you have a usable GUI package. This is easy to check: Simply start an interactive Python interpreter and try to execute the following:

>>> from anygui import *

>>> backend()

The backend function will return the name of the backend in use. If it is neither 'curses' nor 'text' you should be all set for making GUI programs with Anygui. (The 'curses' and 'text' backends use plain text to emulate graphical interfaces on platforms that don't have them.) Anygui currently supports the following packages:

PythonWin  (mswgui)

Tkinter    (tkgui)

wxPython   (wxgui)

Java Swing (javagui)

PyGTK      (gtkgui)

Bethon     (beosgui)

PyQt       (qtgui)

Curses     (cursesgui) -- used when no GUI package is available

Plain text (textgui)   -- used if curses is not available

Add gui to name returned by the backend function to get the full name of the backend module (in the anygui.backends package). For instance, the msw backend is found in anygui.backends.mswgui module.

In general, if you end up with a text-based solution, cursesgui will be preferred over textguiif your Python-installation has a wrorking curses module. The exception is if you are using Anygui in the interactive interpreter, in which textgui will be preferred, to avoid interfering with the terminal and locking up the interpreter prompt. (If you'd like to, for some reason, you can override this behaviour with the environment variable ANYGUI_FORCE_CURSES; see the API Reference below.)

BeOS Note: The BeOS backend (beosgui) is currently not fully functional, but is included nonetheless.

Of these, Tkinter is compiled in by default in the MS Windows distribution of Python (available from, PythonWin (as well as Tkinter) is included in the ActiveState distribution, ActivePython (available from, and Java Swing is automatically available in Jython, the Java implementation of Python.

Note: In Mac OS 9, Anygui (using Tkinter) works with with Python Classic and recent versions of Python Carbon, but older versions have problems with Tkinter.

3. Using Anygui

Note: For some examples of working Anygui code, see the test and demo directories of the distribution. Remember that the test scripts are written to test certain features of Anygui, not to represent recommended coding practices.

Using Anygui is simple; it's simply a matter of importing the classes and functions you need from the anygui module, e.g.:

from anygui import *

After doing this you must create an Application object, at least one Window, and probably a few components such as Buttons and TextFields. The Windows are added to the Application (through its add method), and the various components are added to the Window. When you have done this, you call the run method of your Application instance.

# Make components here

win = Window()

# Add components to the Window

app = Application()


3.1 Avoiding Namespace Pollution

Importing everything from Anygui (as in from anygui import *) is fine for small programs, where you're certain that there will be no name clashes. You may also simply import the names you need:

from anygui import Application, Window

The preferred way to use modules like this is usually to avoid cluttering your namespace, by using simply import anygui. However, if you are going to create a lot of widgets, the anygui prefix may be cumbersome. Therefore, I suggest renaming it to gui, either with a simple assignment...

import anygui; gui = anygui

... or, in recent versions of Python:

import anygui as gui

Then you can instantiate widgets like this:

win = gui.Window()

The examples in this documentation use the starred import, for simplicity.

3.2 Importing the Backends Directly

If you wish to import a backend directly (and "hardwire it" into your program), you may do so. For instance, if you wanted to use the wxPython backend, wxgui, you'd replace

from anygui import *


from anygui.backends.wxgui import *

This way you may use Anygui in standalone executables built with tools like py2exe ( or the McMillan installer (, or with jythonc with the --deep option or equivalent.

Note: Compiling jar files of Anygui programs with Jython may not work in the current version.

Note that the namespace handling still works just fine:

import anygui.backends.tkgui as gui

3.3 Creating a Window

One of the most important classes in Anygui is Window. Without a Window you have no GUI; all the other widgets are added to Windows. Knowing this, we may suspect that the following is a minimal Anygui program (and we would be right):

from anygui import *

app = Application()

win = Window()


This example gives us a rather uninteresting default window. You may customise it by setting some of its properties, like title and size:

w = Window()

w.title = 'Hello, world!'

w.size = (200, 100)

If we want to, we can supply the widget properties as keyword arguments to the constructor:

w = Window(title='Hello, world!', size=(200,100))

3.4 The set Method and the Options Class

If you want to change some attributes of a widget, you can either just set them directly, or (if you'd like to set several at once), use the set method, just like the constructor:

w.set(title='Hello, again', size=(300,200))

Supplying the same attributes with the same values to a lot of widgets (if you are making several buttons with the same size, for instance) can be a bit impractical (you'll learn more about buttons in a little while):

bt1 = Button(left=10, width=50, height=30, text='Button 1')

bt2 = Button(left=10, width=50, height=30, text='Button 2')

bt3 = Button(left=10, width=50, height=30, text='Button 3')

To deal with this, the widget constructors (and the set method) can take Options objects as positional parameters:

opt = Options(left=10, width=50, height=30)

bt1 = Button(opt, text='Button 1')

bt2 = Button(opt, text='Button 2')

bt3 = Button(opt, text='Button 3')

As you can see, this saves quite a lot of typing. You can use as many Options arguments as you like.

3.5 The modify Method

Just like set can be used to set the attributes of a Component, the modify method can be used to modify them, without rebinding them to another value. To show the difference, consider the following example (where foo is an attribute that does nothing special):

>>> from anygui import *

>>> btn = Button()

>>> some_list = [1, 2, 3]

>>> = some_list

>>> btn.modify(foo=[4, 5, 6])


[4, 5, 6]

>>> some_list

[4, 5, 6]

>>> btn.set(foo=[7, 8, 9])


[7, 8, 9]

>>> some_list

[4, 5, 6]

As you can see, using modify modifies the list, while set replaces it. The modify method is used for (among other things) implementing Model-View-Controller systems. (More about that later.)

The modify method works as follows: If there is a specific internal method for modifying an attribute, that is called. Otherwise, the supplied value will be assigned to[:] (where name is the attribute in question). If that doesn't work (a TypeError exception is raised), the value will be assigned to If that doesn't work either, the attribute will be rebound to the new value, with the same result as using set. So, to avoid any in-place modification, all you need to do is use immutable values:

>>> from anygui import *

>>> btn = Button()

>>> some_list = [1, 2, 3]

>>> = tuple(some_list)

>>> btn.modify(foo=[4, 5, 6])


[4, 5, 6]

>>> some_list

[1, 2, 3]

3.6 The refresh Method

The modify method is used to modify attributes in-place, e.g. to keep them in sync with a widget. This is done automatically when you change a widget through the graphical interface. In a way, the refresh method works the other way: If you modify an attribute, you can call the refresh method to keep the widget's appearance in sync with its state. When you assign to an attribute, refresh is called automatically; you only have to call it yourself if you have an attribute which is a mutable object, and you modify that object.

For more info about the use of refresh, see the section "About Models, Views, and Controllers", below.

3.7 Adding a Label

Simple labels are created with the Label class:

lab = Label(text='Hello, again!', position=(10,10))

Here we have specified a position just for fun; we don't really have to. If we add the label to our window, we'll see that it's placed with its left topmost corner at the point (10,10):


3.8 Layout: Placing Widgets in a Frame

This section goves a simple example of positioning Components; for more information about the Anygui layout mechanism, please refer to the API Reference (below).

win.add(lab, position=(10,10))

win.add(lab, left=10, top=10)

win.add(lab, top=10, right=10)

win.add(lab, position=(10,10), right=10, hstretch=1)

In the last example hstretch is a Boolean value indicating whether the widget should be stretched horizontally (to maintain the other specifications) when the containing Frame is resized. (The vertical version is vstretch.)

Just like in component constructors, you can use Options objects in the add method, after the component to be added:

win.add(lab, opt, left=10)

3.8.1 Placing More Than One Widget

The add method can also position a sequence of widgets. The first widget will be placed as before, while the subsequent ones will be placed either to the right, to the left, above (up), or below (down), according to the direction argument, at a given distance (space):

win.add((lab1, lab2), position=(10,10),

        direction='right', space=10)

Note: Remember to enclose your components in a sequence (such as a tuple or a list), since add allows you to use more positional arguments, but will treat them differently. If you want to use Options objects, place them outside (after) the sequence. For more information see the section about the Frame class in the API Reference below.

3.9 Buttons and Event Handling

Buttons (as most components) work more or less the same way as Labels. You can set their size, their position, their text, etc. and then add them to a Frame (such as a Window). The thing that makes them interesting is that they emit events. Each time the user clicks a button, it sends out a click event. You can catch these events by linking your button to one or more event handlers. It's really simple:

btn = Button(text='Greet Environment')

def greeting(**args):

    print 'Hello, World!'

link(btn, greeting)

The event handling is taken care of by the call to link. An event handler may receive several keyword arguments, and if you're not particularly interested in any of them, simply use something like **args above. (For more information about this, see the section about global functions in the API Reference below.)

3.10 About Models, Views, and Controllers

The Anygui MVC mechanism (based on the refresh method and the Assignee protocol) is described in the API Reference below. Here is a short overview on how to use it.

A model is an object that can be modified, and that can notify other objects, called views, when it has been modified. A controller is an object that can modify the model, in particular as a direct response to a user action (such as clicking the mouse or typing some text). In Anygui, Components double as both views (showing a model's state to the user) and controllers (letting the user modify the model). Even though Anygui supports using models this way, you can also create complete application without using them.

Models are in general instances of some subclass of the Model class, although they don't have to be; see the API Reference below for a description of how they work. (The Model class is currently internal to the Anygui package, but it can be found int he anygui.Models module.) The Models that are included in Anygui are:

BooleanModel     -- represents a Boolean value

ListModel        -- behaves like a list

NumberModel      -- represents a numerical value

TextModel        -- acts like a mutable string

These all have a value attribute which may be used to change their internal value. They also support other operations, such as indexing and slicing etc. for ListModel. These are very easy to use: Just assign them to an attribute of a Component:

# You'll learn about CheckBoxes in a minute

cbx = CheckBox(text='Simple model test')

state = BooleanModel(value=1)

cbx.on = state

Now, if you change state (e.g. with the statement state.value=0) this will automatically be reflected in the CheckBox (which will be acting like a view). If the user clicks the CheckBox, the model will be changed.

To keep a view up-to-date manually you can call its refresh method. This can be useful if you use a simple (non-Model) mutable value such as a list in an attribute:

btn = Button()

rect = [0, 0, 10, 10]

btn.geometry = rect

rect[3] = 20


After modifying rect, the button will not have changed, since it can't detect the change by itself. (That's only possible when you use a real model.) Therefore, you call btn.refresh to tell it to update itself.

If you assign a value to an attribute, the refresh method will be called automatically, so another way of doing the same thing is:

btn = Button()

rect = [0, 0, 10, 10]

btn.geometry = rect

rect[3] = 20

btn.geometry = rect

Warning: Because of the controller behaviour of Components, if the Button is resized, rect will be modified. If you don't want this behaviour, use a tuple instead of a list, since tuples can't be modified.

If you want another object to monitor a model, you can simply use the link method, since all models generate an event (of the type default) when they are modified.


from anygui import *

>>> mdl = BooleanModel()

>>> mdl.value = 1

>>> def model_changed(**kw):

>>>     print 'The model has changed!'

>>> link(mdl, model_changed)

>>> mdl.value = 0

The model has changed

>>> mdl.value = 0

The model has changed

Note the last two lines: We haven't really changed the model, but the event handler is called nonetheless. If you want to know whether the model really changed, you must retain a copy of its state, and compare the new value.

3.11 Using CheckBoxes

A CheckBox is a toggle button, a button which can be in one of two states, "on" or "off". Except for that, it works more or less like any other button in that you can place it, set its text, and link an event handler to it.

Whether a CheckBox is currently on or off is indicated by its on attribute.

3.12 RadioButtons and RadioGroups

RadioButtons are toggle buttons, just like CheckBoxes. The main differences are that they look slightly different, and that they should belong to a RadioGroup.

A RadioGroup is a set of RadioButtons where only oneRadioButton is permitted to be "on" at one time. Thus, when one of the buttons in the group is turned on, the others are automatically turned off. This can be useful for selecting among different alternatives.

RadioButtons are added to a RadioGroup by setting their group property: = radiogroup

This may also be done when constructing the button:

grp = RadioGroup()

rbn = RadioButton(group=grp)

Note: The behaviour of a RadioButton when it does not belong to a RadioGroup is not defined by the Anygui API, and may vary across backend. Basically, a RadioButton without a RadioGroup is meaningless; use a CheckBox instead.

RadioGroups also support an add method, as all other Anygui container-like objects:


Adds the button to the group, including setting to the group. As with the other add methods, the argument may be either a single object, or a sequence of objects.

3.13 ListBox

A ListBox is a vertical list of items that can be selected, either by clicking on them, or by moving the selection up and down with the arrow keys. (For the arrow keys to work, you must make sure that the ListBox has keyboard focus. In some backends this requires using the tab key.)

Note: When using Anygui with Tkinter, using the arrow keys won't change the selection, only which item is underlined. You'll have to use the arrow keys until the item you want to select is underlined; then select it by pressing the space bar.

A ListBox's items are stored in its attribute items, a sequence of arbitrary objects. The text displayed in the widget will be the result of applying the built-in Python function str to each object.

lbx = ListBox()

lbx.items = 'This is a test'.split()

The currently selected item can be queried or set through the selection property (an integer index, counting from zero). Also, when an item is selected, a select event is generated, which is the default event type for a ListBox. This means that you can either do

link(lbx, 'select', handler)


link(lbx, handler)

with the same result. (This is similar to the click event, which is default for Buttons; for more information, see the API Reference below.)

3.14 TextField and TextArea

Anygui's two text widgets, TextField and TextArea are quite similar. The difference between them is that TextField permits neither newlines or tab characters to be typed, while TextArea does. Typing a tab in a TextField will simply move the focus to another widget, while pressing the enter key will send an enterkey event (which is the TextField's default event type).

The text in a text component is stored in its text property (a string or equivalent), and the current selection is stored in its selection property (a tuple of two integer indices).

3.15 Making Your Own Components and LayoutManagers

Currently, you can create your own components by combining others in Frames, and wrapping the whole thing up as a class. One of the main reasons for doing this would be to emulate a feature (such as a tabbed pane) available in some backends, but not in others. One could then actually use the native version in the backends where it is available (such as wx, in this case), and use the "emulation" in the others. There is some limited support for this in the backend function (which will allow you to check whether you are currently using the correct backend), but in the future, a more complete API will be developed for this, allowing you access to the coolest features of your favorite GUI package, while staying "package independent".

You can already create your own layout managers, by properly supporting the methods add, remove, and resized. The simplest way of doing this is to subclass LayoutManager, which gives you the add and remove methods for free. You can then concentrate on the method resized which takes two positional arguments, dw, and dh (change in width and change in height) and is responsible for changing the geometries of all the components in the Frame the LayoutManager is managing. (This frame is available through the private attribute self._container.)

To get more control over things, you should probably also override the two internal methods add_components and remove_component:

add_components(self, *items, **kws)

Should add all the components in items, and associate them with the options in kws, for later resizing.

remove_component(self, item)

Should remove the given item.

4. API Reference

The following reference describes the full official API of the current version (0.1.1) of Anygui.

4.1 Environment Variables

Some environment variables affect the behaviour of the Anygui package. These must be set in the environment of the program using Anygui. They may either be set permanently through normal operating system channels (check your OS documentation for this), or possibly just set temporarily when running your program. In Unix shells like bash, you can set the variables on the command line before your comand, like this:

foo:~$ ANYGUI_SOMEVAR='some value' python

where ANYGUI_SOMEVAR is some environment variable used by Anygui.

Since Jython doesn't support OS environment variables, you'll have to supply them with the command-line switch -D:

foo:~$ jython -DANYGUI_SOMEVAR='some value'

You can also set these environment variables in your own program, by using code like the following before you import Anygui:

import os

os.environ['ANYGUI_SOMEVAR'] = 'some value'

This will probably not work well in Jython, though.

The environment variables used by Anygui are:

ANYGUI_WISHLIST: A whitespace separated list of backend names in the order you wish for Anygui to try to use them. The backends are identified with a short prefix such as wx for wxgui, or tk for tkgui. For a full list of available backends, see the section "Making Sure You Have a GUI Backend" above. Only the backends in this list will be tried; if you don't set ANYGUI_WISHLIST, then the following is the default:

'msw gtk java wx tk beos qt curses text'

If you insert an asterisk in the wishlist, it will be interpreted as "the rest of the backends, in default order". So, for instance,

ANYGUI_WISHLIST='tk wx * text curses'

is equivalent to

ANYGUI_WISHLIST='tk wx msq gtk java beos qt text curses'


foo:~$ ANYGUI_WISHLIST='tk wx qt' python

ANYGUI_DEBUG: When Anygui tries to import a backend, it hides all exceptions, assuming they are caused by the fact that a given backend doesn't work in your installation (because you don't have it installed or something similar). However, at times this may not be the reason; it may simple be that a given backend contains a bug. To track down the bug, set the ANYGUI_WISHLIST to some true (in a Python sense) value. (If the value supplied can be converted to an integer, it will. Otherwise, it will be treated as a string.) This will make Anygui print out the stack traces from each backend it tries to import.

There is one exception to this rule: If the true value supplied is the name of one of the backends (such as tk or curses) only the traceback caused by importing that backend will be shown. This can be useful to make the output somewhat less verbose.


foo:~$ ANYGUI_DEBUG=1 python

ANYGUI_ALTERNATE_BORDER: This Boolean variable affects cursesgui, making it use the same border-drawing characters as textgui ('+', '-', and '|'). This may be useful if your terminal can't show the special curses box-drawing characters properly.

ANYGUI_SCREENSIZE: Affects textgui. Gives the terminal ("screen") dimensions, in characters. This should be in the format widthxheight, e.g. 80x24. If this environment variable is not supplied, the standard Unix variables COLUMNS and LINES will be used. If neither is provided, the default size 80x23 will be used.

ANYGUI_FORCE_CURSES: Normally, cursesgui will not be selected if you are in the interactive interpreter. If you want to force the normal selection order (trying to use cursesgui before resorting to textgui) you can set this variable to a true value. Note that this is not the same as setting ANYGUI_WISHLIST to 'curses', since that will ignore all other backends.

ANYGUI_CURSES_NOHELP: If you don't want the help-screen that appears when an Anygui application is started using cursesgui (or textgui), you can set this variable to a true value.

4.2 Global Functions


Returns the current Application object.


Returns the name (as used in ANYGUI_WISHLIST) of the backend currently in use.


if backend() == 'wx':




link(source, [event,] handler, weak=0, loop=0)

Creates a link in the Anygui event system, between the source (any object) and the handler (any callable, or a (obj,func) pair, where func is an unbound method or function, and obj is an object which will be supplied as the first parameter to func). Supplying an event (a string) will make the link carry only information about events of that type. If no event is supplied, 'default' will be assumed. Setting weak to a true value will use weak references when setting up the link, so that no objects will be "kept alive" by the link.

A send-loop occurs if an object sends an event "to itself" (i.e. it is the source argument of a call to send which hasn't returned at the point where one of its methods are about to be activated as a handler). The truth value loop decides whether this handler will be activated in such a loop. (If send was called with loop=1, loops will be allowed anyway.)

Note that source, event, and handler are strictly positional parameters, while the others (weak, and loop) must be supplied as keyword parameters.

Sometimes one might want an event handler that reacts to a specific event from any source, or any event from a specific source; or even any event from any source. To do that, simply use the special value any as either source, event, or both.


from anygui import *

>>> def monitor_events(event, **kw):

...     print 'An event occurred:', event


>>> link(any, any, monitor_events)

>>> btn = Button()

>>> send(btn, 'foobar')

An event occurred: foobar

If you use send(btn, 'click') in this example, you will get two events, since the Button will detect the click event (which is its default), and issue a default event as well.

Note: You need to explicitly supply the event type if you want to respond to any event type; otherwise you will only respond to the default type.

Event handlers that react to the same event will be called in the order they were registered (with link), subject to the following: (1) All handlers registered with a specific source will be called before handlers with the value any as source; (2) all handlers registered with a specific event (including default) are called before handlers with the value any as event.

For more information on sending events, see send, below.

send(source, event='default', loop=0, **kwds)

When this is called, any handlers (callables) linked to the source, but which will not cause a send-loop (unless loop is true) will be called with all the keyword arguments provided (except loop), in the order in which they were linked. In addition to the supplied keyword arguments, the event framework will add source, event, and the time (as measured by the standard Python function time.time) when send was called, supplied with the time argument.

Note that source, and event, are strictly positional parameters, while the others (loop, and any additional arguments the user might add) must be supplied as keyword parameters.


# Link an event handler to a button, and then manually send a

# default event from the button. This event would have been

# sent automatically if we clicked the button. Note that we

# only use the arguments we need, and lump the rest in **kw.

def click(source, time, **kw):

    print 'Button %s clicked at %f.' % (source.text, time)

btn = Button(text='Click me')

link(btn, click)

send(btn) # Fake a button click -- will call click()

For information about the order in which event handlers are called, see link, above.

Important: Due to the current semantics of the any value, using it in send may not be a good idea, since the result might not be what you expect. For instance, calling send(any, any) will only activate event handlers which have been linked to the value any as both source and event, not to "event handlers with any source and any event". This may change in future releases. The current behaviour of send with any is consistent with unlink.

unlink(source, [event,] handler)

Undoes a call to link with the same positional arguments. If handler has been registered with either source or event as any, that parameter will be irrelevant when deciding whether or not to remove that link. For instance:

link(foo, any, bar)

unlink(foo, baz, bar)

Here the link created by link(foo, any, bar) will be removed by the call to unlink.

Note: This behaviour (unlinking handlers registered with the any value) may change in future releases.

Default Events: When used without the event argument, both link and send use an event type called default. Most event-generating components have a default event type, such as click for Buttons. The fact that this event type is default for Button means that when a Button generates a click event it will also generate a default event. So, if you listen to both click events and default events from a Button, your event handler will always be called twice.


Removes a handler completely from the event framework.


Unlinks all handlers that are methods of obj.


Remove the source (and all handlers linked to it) from the event framework.

4.3 Classes

Base Classes and Common Behaviour

All components are subclasses of corresponding abstract components which implement behaviour common to all the backends. So, for instance, Button subclasses AbstractButton. These abstract components, again, subclass AbstractComponent, which implements behaviour common to all components.

Perhaps the most important behaviour is attribute handling (inherited from the Attrib mixin), which means that setting a components attributes may trigger some internal method calls. For instance,

win.size = 300, 200

will automatically resize the component win. Attributes common to all components are:

x         -- x-coordinate of upper left corner

y         -- y-coordinate of upper left corner

position  -- equivalent to (x, y)

width     -- component width

height    -- component height

size      -- equivalent to (width, height)

geometry  -- equivalent to (x, y, width, height)

visible   -- whether the component is visible

enabled   -- whether the component is enabled

text      -- text associated with the component

These can all be set as keyword arguments to the component constructors. Also, Options objects (with similar constructors) can be used as positional arguments in the constructor, with all the Options's attributes being set in the component as well.

Common to Application, Window, and Frame is the contents attribute, as well as the add and remove methods. These will be described with the individual classes below.

All Attrib subclasses (including components, Application, and RadioGroup) share the following methods:

set(*args, **kwds)

Used to set attributes. Works like the Attrib constructor, setting attributes, and optionally using Options objects.

modify(*args, **kwds)

Works like the set method, except that the attributes are modified in place. That means the following (for an attribute named foo): (1) If there exists an internal method (implemented in Anygui) for modifying the attribute inplace (called _modify_foo), use that; otherwise (2) try to use slice assignment to change the value (will work for lists and ListModels etc.); if that doesn't work, (3) assign to the value's value attribute (used to modify Models. If neither of these approaches work, simply rebind the attribute (equivalent to using the set method).

As with set and ordinary attribute assignment, the refresh method will automatically be called when you use modify.


When an attribute of a Component (or Application, RadioGroup, or an instance of another Attrib subclass) is assigned a value, the Component is automatically updated to reflect its new state. For instance, if you have a Labellbl, assigning a value to lbl.geometry would immediately change the Label's geometry, and assigning to lbl.text would change its text.

This is good enough for most cases, but sometimes an attribute can contain a mutable value, such as a list, and changing that will not update the Component. For instance, if you use a list to hold the items of a ListBox, you could end up in the following situation:

lbx = ListBox()

lbx.items = 'first second third'.split()

# More code...


After performing this code, nothing will have happened to the ListBox, because it has no way of knowing that the list has changed. To fix that, you can simply call its refresh method:


This method checks whether any attributes have changed, and make sure that the Component us up to date.

Updating Automatically

Updating Components explicitly can be useful, but sometimes you would want it to be done for you, automatically, each time you modify an object that is referred to by a Component attribute. This can be taken care of by link and send. If your object uses send every time it's modified, and you link the object to your Component's refresh method, things will happen by themselves:

class TriggerList:

    def __init__(self):

        self.list = []

    def append(self, obj):



    def __getitem__(self, i):

        return self.list[i]

lbx = ListBox()

lbx.items = TriggerList()

link(lbx.items, lbx.refresh)

Now, if we call lbx.items.append('fourth'), lbx.refresh will automatically be called. To make your life easier, Anygui already contains some classes that send signals whend they are modified; these classes are called Models.

Model and Assignee

The Anygui models (BooleanModel, ListModel, TextModel, and NumberModel) are objects that call send (with the 'default' event) when they are modified.

An Assignee (part of the Anygui Model-View-Controller mechanism) is an object that supports the methods assigned and removed. These are automatically called (if present) when the object is assigned to one of the attributes of an Attrib object (such as a Component). Models use this behaviour to automatically call link and unlink, so when the Model is modified, the refresh method of the Attrib object is called automatically.

All models have a value attribute, which contains a "simple" version of its state (such as a number for NumberModel, a list for ListModel, etc.) Assigning to this attribute is a simple way of modifying the model in place.

class Application

To instantiate Windows, you must have an Application to manage them. You typically instantiate an application at the beginning of your program:

app = Application()

# Build GUI and run application

In some cases subclassing Application might be a useful way of structuring your program, but it is in no way required.

Application has the following methods:


Starts the main event loop of the graphical user interface. Usually called at the end of the program which set up the interface:

app = Application()

# Set up interface


Adds a Window to the Application, in the same way Components can be added to Frames (see below). A Window will not be visible until it has been added to the current Application object, and that Application is running. When constructing new Windows after has been called, you should ensure that you add your Window to your running Application after all the Components have been added to your Window; otherwise, you may see them appearing and moving about as Anygui takes care of the layout. (Before is called, this is not an issue, since no Windows will be appear before that time.)

The parameter win can be either a single Window, or a sequence of Windows.


Removes a Window from the application. This will make the Window disappear.


A read-only property containing a tuple of the Windows the Application currently manages.

class Button

A component which, when pressed, generate a 'click' event, as well as a 'default' event. Thus, in the following example, both handler1 and handler2 will be called when the button is pressed:

btn = Button()

def handler1(**kw): print 'Handler 1'

def handler2(**kw): print 'Handler 2'

link(btn, 'click', handler1)

link(btn, handler2)

class CheckBox

CheckBox is a kind of button, and thus will also generate 'click' and 'default' events when clicked. But in addition, each CheckBox has a Boolean attribute on, which is toggled each time the box is clicked. The state of the CheckBox can be altered by assigning to this attribute.

The on property will be automatically modified (as per the MVC mechanism) when the user clicks the CheckBox. This will also cause the CheckBox to send a click and a defaultevent.

The on attribute is a useful place to use a BooleanModel.

class Frame

Frame is a component which can contain other components. Components are added to the Frame with the add method:

add(comp, [opts,] **kwds)

Adds one or more components. The parameter comp may be either a single component, or a sequence of components. In the latter case, all the components will be added.

The opts parameter containes an Options object (see below) which gives information about how the object should be laid out. These options can be overridden with keyword arguments, and all this information will be passed to the LayoutManager (see below) of the Frame, if any. This LayoutManager is stored in the layout property.


Removes a component from the Frame.


This is a read-only property which contains the contents (a tuple of Components) of the Frame.

class Label

A Label is a simple component which displays a string of text. (Label can only handle one line of text.)

class LayoutManager

A layout manager is responsible for setting the geometry properties of a set of components when their parent Frame changes shape. The default LayoutManager (and the only one supplied with the current release) is the Placer (see below).

Note: Although Anygui 0.1 comes only with this layout manager, more will appear in the future.

class ListBox

Shows a list of options, of which one may be selected. The ListBox has two special attributes: items, a sequence of items to display, and selection, the currently selected (as an index in the items sequence).

The selection property will be automatically modified (as per the MVC mechanism) when the user makes a selection. This will also cause the ListBox to send a select and a defaultevent.

class Model

See the section on Model and Assignee above.

class Options

Options is a very simple class. It is simply used to store a bunch of named values; basically a dictionary with a different syntax. (For more information about the bunch class, see

You can set the attributes of an Options object and then supply it as an optional first parameter to the constructors of widgets:

opt = Options()

opt.width = 100

opt.height = 50

opt.x = 10

btn = Button(opt, y=10)

lbl = Label(opt, y=70)

Here btn and lbl will have the same width, height, and x attributes, but differing y attributes.

You can also set the attributes of an Options object through its constructur, just like with components:

opt = Options(width=100, height=50, x=10)

Options objects can also be used when supplying arguments to the add method of Frame:

# Assuming a Placer LayoutManager:

opt = Options(left=10, right=10, hstretch=1)

win.add(lbl, opt, top=10)

win.add(btn, opt, top=(lbl,10))

class Placer

A simple but powerful layout manager. When adding components to a Frame whose layout attribute is set to a Placer, you can supply the following keyword arguments:

left         -- the Component's left edge

right        -- the Component's right edge

top          -- the Component's top edge

bottom       -- the Component's bottom edge

hmove        -- move horizontally on resize

vmove        -- move vertically on resize

hstretch     -- stretch horizontally on resize

vstretch     -- stretch vertically on resize

direction    -- 'left', 'right', 'up', or 'down'

space        -- spacing between multiple Components

The geometry specifiers (left, right, top, and bottom) can be set to either None (the default; will use the Component's existing coordinates), a distance (from the corresponding Frame edge), a Component (will align the edge with the opposite edge of the given component), or a tuple (component, distance) (as with only a Component, except that a gap of size distance is inserted between the two).

The movement arguments (hmove and vmove) specify (with a Boolean value) whether the Component should be moved (horizontally, vertically, or both) to maintain the given distance to the surrounding Frame's edges; the stretching arguments (hstretch and vstretch) specify whether the Component may be stretched to maintain these distances.

class RadioButton

A RadioButton is a toggle button, just like CheckBox, with slightly different appearance, and with the difference that it belongs to a RadioGroup. Only one RadioButton can be active (have its on attribute be a true Boolean value)in the RadioGroup at one time, so when one is clicked or programmatically turned on, the others are automatically switched off by the RadioGroup. Each RadioButton also has a value attribute, which should be unique within its RadioGroup. When one RadioButton is active, the value attribute of its RadioGroup is automatically set to that of the active RadioButton. The RadioGroup of a RadioButton is set by assigning the RadioGroup to the group attribute of the RadioButton. Setting the value attribute of the RadioGroup will automatically activate the correct RadioButton.

class RadioGroup

See RadioButton above.

class TextArea

A multiline text-editing Component. Its text is stored in the text attribute, which will be modified (according to the MVC mechanism) when the component loses focus. It also supports the Boolean editable property, which may be used to control whether the user can edit the text area or not.

class TextField

A one-line text-editing Component. (See also TextArea, above.) If the enter/return key is pressed within a TextField, the TextField will send a enterkey event.

class Window

A window, plain and simple. Window is a type of Frame, so you can add components to it and set its layout property etc. To make your window appear, you must remember to add it to your Application, just like you add other components to Frames and Windows:

win = Window()

app = Application()


Windows have a title attribute which may be used by the operating system or window manager to identify the window to the user in various ways.

5. Known Problems

For an overview of known bugs in the current release, see the file KNOWN_BUGS found in the distribution.

6. Plans for Future Releases

For an overview of future plans, see the TODO file found in the distribution.

7. Contributing

If you want to contribute to the Anygui project, we could certainly use your help. First of all, you should visit the Anygui web site at, subscribe to the developer's mailing list ( and the user's list (, and try to familiarise yourself with how the package works behind the scenes. Then, you may either help develop the currently supported GUI packages, or you may start writing a backend of your own. Several potential backend targets may be found at

8. Anygui License

Copyright © 2001, 2002 Magnus Lie Hetland, Thomas Heller, Alex Martelli, Greg Ewing, Joseph A. Knapka, Matthew Schinckel, Kalle Svensson, Shanky Tiwari, Laura Creighton, Dallas T. Johnston, Patrick K. O'Brien. .

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.