Other posts related to pyqt

Cross Platform GUI Development with Python and Qt

 | May 12, 2009 5:16 pm

One of computer programmers many fantasies (or at least one of my fantasies) is a cross-platform codebase that is easy to maintain.  I want to write an application once and then be able to deploy in on any platform in existence.  It should integrate into the destination environment in a native manner, but still be similar enough to the other platforms so that  issues can be addressed in a way that doesn’t hinder overall progress.

Part of this dream can be fulfilled by using Python and standard library, it is also possible to do much of it by using IronPython and .Net (through the OpenSource Mono framework).  However, in each case, you are forced to make a tradeoff.  Python and the standard library are wonderful, if you are willing to accept a speed hit.  IronPython and Mono also work well, as long as you avoid using any of the Windows specific libraries.  Unfortunately, many of neatest .Net features (like Windows Presentation Foundation) are only available on Windows.

Okay, there is always GTK+ or wxWidgets (the same toolkits used for the Gnome desktop), but GTK+ is written in C and while much of the miscellaneous nastiness has been abstracted away, it is still one of the hardest toolkits to work with.  Oh, and the documentation sucks.  (When any documentation can be found at all.)  Thus, we arrive at the final contender: Qt.  Qt has had a long and controversial history  involving license issues, passion, and miscellaneous geek pride.  In fact, it’s due to Qt and some rather divisive decisions made by its developers that we even have alternative toolkits at all.  But, despite that history, Trolltech’s recent decision to release the framework under the permissive LGPL license (rather than the noxious GPL) changes all that.  In many ways, Qt might just become the cross-platform toolkit of choice

Of course, it's a given that Qt is tremendously powerful with rich functionality.  Applications that are written in Qt are fully cross-platform and behave the same way wherever they are deployed.  It uses native widgets whenever possible and has a sophisticated theming system that allows it to follow platform conventions without significantly modifying the underlying code.  More importantly, Qt is backed by a passionate developer community and a well funded corporation (Nokia).  It is true, you get what you pay for.  Qt is well designed and the documentation is simply fantastic.  And unlike GTK+ or wxWidgets, the entire toolkit is written in proper object oriented C++.

I first started experimenting with the Qt framework about two months ago, after deciding to tackle a major add-on to one of my favorite writing programs, LyX.  As I have said elsewhere, I am not the world’s most

gifted computer programmer (far from it actually), but Qt actually makes it pretty easy to get yourself up and running in a reasonable amount of time.  If I were forced to do most of my GUI programming in Qt and C++, that would be an acceptable solution.  However, that is completely unnecessary.  You see, Qt has one of the most tightly integrated Python bindings available, through the user of PyQt from Riverbank software.  Qt plus Python is, quite simply, programming perfection.  So while I did some mild experimenting with the Qt frameworks in C++, I have spent much of the past few months doing the heavy work of learning the framework via the use of  Python.

In the process, I have made a great many mistakes and a great many more discoveries.  And since the final step in any discovery is to share your findings, I will be doing that through this series of articles.  Of more interest to most, however, I will also be introducing the fruits of my labors: a somewhat functional prototype of my outliner add-on for LyX.

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Installation of PyQt on Mac OS X

 | 5:12 pm

Note: The installation instructions in this article apply to Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and Qt 4.5.3.  While it is possible to get Qt 4.5.3 to run on Snow Leopard, it requires compiling it from source.  Instructions for doing so can be found in the comments below.  It is important to note, however, that there are some minor issues with the 4.5 framework on Snow Leopard (including mutlithreaded memory leaks).

You can find instructions for how to install PyQt on Snow Leopard using the Qt 4.7 frameworks at http://blog.oak-tree.us/index.php/2010/05/27/pyqt-snow-leopard.

To install PyQt on Mac OS X, it is also necessary to install and configure the GCC compilers and the Qt framework in addition to SIP and PyQt.  The easiest way to get the most current version of the GCC compilers and tools is by downloading the XCode tools package from Apple at the Apple Developer Connection (ADC).  ADC requires that you have an Apple ID and account, which are both free.  After you log-in, download the XCode developer tools package, which is a bit hefty (nearly 1 GB in size) and may take a while to download depending on your internet speed.

XCode and Qt

While waiting for the XCode tools to download, you can also begin downloading the Qt binary installer from the Trolltech downloads site.  As with Windows, I would advise that you you select  the complete SDK (which also include pre-compiled binaries) rather than the source release.  If you only download the Qt framework, you will need to compile the source yourself which is both time intensive and is not worth the additional headache.

Once XCode has finished downloading, run the package installer.  It will ask you to select the destination drive and what components of the software you would like to install.

Select the installation disc where you want to install XCode the developer tools

Choose the components you would like to install

This will automatically install and configure the GNU tool chain.  Once it has finished, you can access the tools by going to the “/Developer/” folder on the root of the drive.

After XCode has finished, run the Qt installer.

The Qt SKD Installer

Select the installation destination

The Qt installer package will automatically place the tools and other things that you will need in the same Developer folder where the XCode tools and frameworks are located.  You will need to make a note of the path for qmake.  The default installation site for qmake is “/usr/bin/qmake-4.5”.

SIP and PyQt

SIP is a program that makes it easy to create C++ bindings program for Python.  You can find the source code at Riverbank’s SIP download page.  Since we will be using the 4.5 version of PyQt, you will need to download the latest developer snapshot (version 4.8 or greater).  Be sure to get the Linux/Unix source code, rather than the Windows source.  You will also need the latest source code snapshot for PyQt 4.5, which is also available from Riverbank.

After you have finished downloading the source files, move them to a folder in your Users directory.  I have a special directory entitled “Applications” where I keep the source code for programs that I have manually compiled.  Note: The rest of the steps will be done from the Mac OS X terminal.

After you have moved the source code for both SIP and PyQt to this new directory, extract it by using the tar utility with the x and f options (tar –xf):

cd ~/Applications
tar -xf sip-4.8-snapshot-20090430.tar
tar -xf PyQt-mac-gpl-4.5-snapshot-20090507.tar

After you have expanded the files, it might be a good idea to rename the directories to something more manageable (like sip-4.8 and PyQt4.5:

mv sip-4.8-snapshot-20090430 sip-4.8
mv PyQt-mac-gpl-4.5-snapshot-20090507 PyQt4.5

First, we need to compile and install SIP.  The default configuration will move the compiled files to a directory where Leopard can’t read them.  So, we will manually need to specify the destination directory using the –d flag:

cd sip-4.8
python configure.py -d /Library/Python/2.5/site-packages

After the configuration is finished, run make and sudo make install:

sudo make install

Once SIP has finished installing, we need to repeat the process for PyQt.  From the sip-4.8 directory, chagne to PyQt:

cd ..
cd PyQt4

Next, run the configuration script specifying the path to your version of qmake and the installation directory for the python bindings:

python configure.py -q /usr/bin/qmake-4.5 -d /Library/Python/2.5/site-packages/

Then compile and install:

sudo make install

Since Qt is a rather large framework, it may require between 15 and 30 minutes to fully compile.

Installation of PyQt on Windows

 | 2:00 pm

On Windows, we first need to install the pre-compiled Qt binary package from the Trolltech downloads page.  Select the LGPL/Free tab and choose the “Qt SDK: Complete Development Environment” for Windows.  It is a fairly hefty package (167 megabytes) and may take a while to transfer.  The installer includes the core Qt libraries, several important C++ development tools, and an integrated development environment (IDE) called Qt creator.  Luckily, the same installer will work on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Qt and MinGW

When you run the installer, it will ask for the installation destination.  To avoid future problems, this folder should not include any spaces. The default is “C:\Qt\2009.02”,  but because I like to keep the root directory of my drive as clean as possible, I changed this to “C:\Qt\Windows”.  To begin the installation, press “Install.”

Change the installation directory to C:\Windows\Qt

The installer will also download and configure the GNU compiler toolset for Windows (also known as MinGW).  By default, MinGW will be installed in a subdirectory under the main Qt directory.  In this example, it was installed to “C:\WINDOWS\Qt\mingw”.  Note this file path, it will be important to the steps below.


After you finish with the Qt framework, the next step is to download and install Python.  You can get the Python interpreter and other associated files from the Python release download page.  While the newest version is Python 3.0.1, I would recommend that you download and install Python 2.5.4 instead.  When trying to set up SIP with Python 2.6.2 and Python 3.0.1, I experienced a number of errors.  These were resolved by using the x86 version of Python 2.5.

When you first run the installer, it will ask whether you want to install Python for all users or for just the current users.  Make sure that “install for all users” is selected.  Like Qt, you should install Python to a directory without spaces.  The default install location will be “C:\Python25”, though I typically change it to “C:\Windows\Python25” so that it matches the installation directory for Qt.

Make sure that the "Install for all users" option is selected

Change the installation directory to "C:\Windows\Python25" so that it is similar to the installation directory of Qt

After the Python installer has finished running, you will need to modify one of the Windows environment variables.  On Windows XP, the easiest way to access the environment variables to right click on “My Computer” and select “Properties” from the drop own menu.  When the “System Properties” window launches click on the “Advanced” tab and then press the “Environment Variables” button.   (If you are using Windows Vista or the Windows 7 beta, the easiest way to access the Environment Variables is to go to Control Panel and Search for “Path” in the search bar.  All other steps remain the same.)

You can open the "Environment Variables" by right clicking on "My Computer" and selecting "Properties."  Then choose the advanced tab and click on the "Environment Variables" button

From the “System Variables” list, select the Path Variable and then press “Edit”.

Select Path from the "System Variables" list and select "Edit"

In the variable value box, type in the path to the Python folder you just installed, the path to the “bin” folder of MinGW (which should be under the MinGW folder from above), and last the path to a Qt program called qmake (which is located in the qt\bin folder of the Qt installation) .  You should separate these values from the other paths (and from each other) by a semi-colon.  If you have followed all of the instructions in this tutorial, you will add:


And your path variable should now look something like:

%SystemRoot%\System32; C:\Windows\Qt\mingw\bin; C:\Windows\Python25; C:\Windows\Qt\qt\bin

Press “Ok” to close the dialog box and then “Ok” again to close first the Environment Variables and then the “System Properties Pane.”  Now that you have changed the Path variable, you need to restart your computer so that the changes can take effect.

SIP and PyQt

Prior to compiling PyQt, you will first need to compile and install SIP, which can be found at Riverbank Software.  Though the stable version of the software is currently (4.7.9), you will need to download the latest Windows source code  snapshot of version 4.8 (Qt 4.5 doesn’t work with earlier versions of SIP).  (Update: Alternatively, you can also find a copy of the 4.8 snapshot here.)  You will need the most recent source code snapshot of PyQt 4.5, which is also available from Riverbank.  (Update: Multiple people seem to have had problems installing the 4.5 snapshot from the Riverbank website.  As a matter of convenience, you can find the April 30, 2009 version here.  This is the same version that was used in the writing of this article.)

After you have finished downloading the source files, extract them to the Qt installation directory (C:\Windows\Qt in this tutorial).  This might also be a good time to rename the directories to something shorter than the default snapshot names.  I have changed mine to PyQt4 and sip-4.8.

The rest of the steps will be run from the command line prompt (cmd.exe) and must be run with administrator privileges to work properly.  Start by going to the start menu and then choosing the run command; then type “cmd.exe” and press enter.  (If you are on Windows Vista, you can open the command prompt by typing “cmd.exe” in the search dialog of the start menu.  To run with administrator privileges, right click on the top program choice and select “Run as administrator” from the context menu.)

At the command line, first, go to the Qt installation directory by typing:

cd C:\Windows\Qt

Then go to the SIP directory:

cd sip-4.8

Prior to compiling, we need to create a proper configuration file:

python configure.py –p win32-g++

After the configuration is done, compile the new file by typing:


This will take some time.  After the files have finished compiling, you can install them by typing:

mingw32-make install

The process is repeated for PyQt.  Change to the PyQt4 source directory by typing:

cd ..
cd PyQt4

Then configure the make files, compile and install by typing:

python configure.py –p win32-g++
mingw32-make install

Since Qt is a rather large framework, it may take between 15 and 30 minutes to fully compile.

Update: If you only want to run PyQt programs, the installation process can be greatly simplified by using the automated PyQt installer for Windows.  The installer will automatically install a copy of the Qt framework and the PyQt bindings.  You will need to install Python separately, however.

Installation of PyQt on Linux (Ubuntu)

 | 1:52 pm

In comparison to Windows and Mac OS X, installing PyQt on Linux is trivially easily.  It is likely that all of the software necessary for Python development is likely available in your favorite distribution repository.  If you are using the most recent version of Ubuntu 9.04 (and who isn't), then, all you need to do is open up your terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install python-qt4 qt4-dev-tools python-qt4-dev build-essential pyqt4-dev-tools

The package manager (apt-get) will take care of downloading and installing any dependencies.  Once the installation routine finishes, you will have a fully working installation of Qt 4.5 and PyQt 4.5 without any compilation, configuration, or other miscellaneous headaches.  The qt4-dev-tools, pyqt4-dev-tools and python-qt4-dev packages install important tools used for creating user-interfaces.  The build-essential package installs the GNU compilers and autoconf tool chain.  If you will only be running PyQt programs, these additional packages are unnecessary.