Scope and Purpose

This document describes the resourceEditor which is used to design, lay out, and manipulate PythonCard applications' graphical components. It is current as of Version 0.8.2 of the PythonCard release; you should expect only minor changes in the behavior of the resourceEditor to change between now and release 1.0 of the product.

This document is not so much about how to use the resourceEditor as it is an operational reference overview of the functionality it contains. The walkthroughs that constitute the primary tutorials for PythonCard developers provide step-by-step instructions for using the resourceEditor to construct applications and are therefore closer to what you would consider a tutorial.

For the most part, this discussion confines itself to the use of the resourceEditor in building applications on Windows platforms. But PythonCard can also be used on *nix systems and Macintosh OS X.

Overview of resourceEditor

The resourceEditor is located in the tools directory of the PythonCard distribution. There is also an experimental version of the resourceEditor which presents the component properties in a very different format and allows a variety of operations on multiple components; this is in the same directory, but called multiresourceEditor.

The resourceEditor is the most common starting point for constructing a PythonCard application. Using this tool, you can create, position, size, describe and connect not only your application's windows and all of the components they contain (buttons, fields, and other controls), but also its menus and supporting dialogs. A direct-manipulation interface enables you to create, drag, and size window components in the grand tradition of Integrated Development Environments (IDEs). The resourceEditor also incorporates a menu editor and a background editor for managing the non-component portions of your PythonCard's application.

Scripting is not integrated into the resourceEditor. Instead, we allow you to choose your favorite Python script editor to write the code that gives your application its intelligence and behavior. (We would recommend you look at the codeEditor application that comes with PythonCard. It is a very capable Python-aware editor and its source is available so you can change it to suit your tastes.)

The 10,000-Foot View of PythonCard Application Development

Most PythonCard applications have at least two basic files. It is possible to build a PythonCard application in a single file, see the "noresource" sample in the samples directory.

One file, which has a double file extension of "" and is referred to as the "resource file", describes the user interface elements. It is a text file containing a Python dictionary object, which PythonCard parses and uses to create the user interface for your application at both design time and runtime. This file, being a standard Python code file, can be edited in any text editor to modify the user interface. As a rule, you will only do this if you need to add a component to the interface which is not directly supported by PythonCard. For most purposes, it is best to allow the resourceEditor to manage the contents of the resource file.

The second file is a standard Python script file ending with the extension .py (or .pyw depending on how you want it executed). It contains the code your application executes. This code consists of event-triggered methods and commands that will be executed as the user interacts with your PythonCard application.

Of course, any PythonCard application may contain multiple script files and, if it contains multiple windows or if it uses dialogs, may also have more than one resource file. In addition, data and configuration files may also be part of the application. This document, however, focuses on the resource file, only describing the script file where necessary to explain the resourceEditor's functionality.

It may not be entirely obvious why we would divide a PythonCard application into two files. This approach was popularized by Apple's Macintosh system, which actually used only one file for a typical application but divided that file into two parts which were managed separately. One contained the application code itself and the other contained information about the resources the application used for its user interface. PythonCard, which has some roots in a famous Apple Computer product called HyperCard, adopted this strategy of separating layout from executable source code. Doing so allows PythonCard developers, e.g., to change the layout of an application without even examining, let alone understanding and editing, source code for the application. This design also facilitates internationalization and other stylistic changes that a designer or other non-programming user can make without touching the rather more complicated source code that gives the application its behavior.

Basic Development Process

The typical process for developing a PythonCard application involves the following steps.

  1. Decide whether to start with an existing application or sample or to begin with a built-in application template.
  2. Make a copy of the starting point if you're using one.
  3. Launch resourceEditor and open the resource file for the starting point if you're using one.
  4. Add, delete, rename, reposition, and otherwise manipulate the visible components of the interface.
  5. Edit the background properties that describe the window itself.
  6. Edit the menu(s) to be included in the application, if any.
  7. Connect menus and components to their behavioral code to be stored in the Python script file for the application.

This is not a strict sequence of steps. Once you get past Step 3, you can and will freely intermix the other steps in an iterative style of application development as has become standard in using modern IDEs.

The first three steps are described in each of the walkthroughs that make up the primary tutorials for PythonCard, so we won't repeat them here except to say that you launch resourceEditor the same way you launch any other Python application on your system.

Before we look into the remaining steps and how they are carried out in the resourceEditor, let's look at all of the windows that comprise the resourceEditor.

The resourceEditor's User Interface

In its default configuration "out of the box," the resourceEditor, when you launch it, will open two windows plus a console window. The two windows are:

The Property Editor window always reflects information about the currently selected component in the resource window, including showing the size and position of the selected component in its status bar.

resourceEditor default resource window
Figure 1. Default Resource Window in resourceEditor

Property Editor Window
Figure 2. Blank Property Editor Window (No Component Selected)

When you wish to edit elements of the user interface for which the resourceEditor does not automatically open a window, you will encounter two other windows: the menu editor and the background editor, shown, respectively, in Figures 3 and 4.

background editor window
Figure 3. Background Info Editor Window
menu editor window
Figure 4. Menu Editor Window

There is also a String Editor which can be used to improve the flexibility and ease of internationalization of your application; this window is shown in Figure 5.

string editor window
Figure 5. String Editor Window

We will look at each of these windows in greater detail in subsequent sections of this document.

Using a Built-In PythonCard Template

The File menu in the resourceEditor's resource window contains a "New..." item that, when selected, produces a dialog box like the one shown in Figure 6. From this list, which will likely grow before the official release of PythonCard 1.0, you can choose one of four basic templates for creating a PythonCard application.

dialog for using built-in templates
Figure 6. Dialog for Selecting Built-In Templates as Starting Point for New Application

The names of the templates describe the various options for creating a new application. You can select one of these, but it is oftne more productive to begin by copying an existing application and renaming files as outlined in walkthrough1 of the PythonCard documentation suite.

Managing User Interface Components

Once you have a window open in the resourceEditor, you can add components to it, select existing components and manipulate or edit them, and otherwise use components to build a PythonCard application's GUI.

To add a component to the window, select it from the Component menu in the resourceEditor. Figure 7 shows the menu open so that you can see the components supported in this release. All of these components are inherited from wxPython.

component menu
Figure 7. Component Menu in Resource Window

When you select a component type, you are presented with a dialog to allow you to specify the name and, if appropriate, the label or text content for the new component. Figure 8 shows this name dialog; since it's a button component, it has a field for the Label as well as the one for the Name.

component name dialog
Figure 8. Name and Label/Text dialog

Once specified, the new instance of that component gets placed in the window in the upper left corner. Figure 9 shows a button placed in the top left of the Resource Editor Window

new button placed in resource window
Figure 9. New Button Placed in Resource Editor Window

It is selected so that its properties are immediately available for editing in the Property Editor window. Figure 10 shows the Property Editor window's contents immediately after the initial placement of the button, with the size and position shown in the window's status bar.

property editor window on new button
Figure 10. Property Editor Window on Newly Placed Button

The top left area of the Property Editor Window (Figure 10 above) shows the name of the currently selected object ("Button1") and the name of its class ("Button"). The top right area lists all of the properties associated with the object. The bottom portion of the window changes depending on which property is being edited. At the very bottom of the window, the status bar shows the component's position and size. Figure 11, for example, shows what the bottom area looks like if you select the button's "font" property. Notice the "Font..." button which, if clicked, will display the system's standard font dialog from which you can choose new settings.

setting font on newly placed button
Figure 11. Property Editor Window Preparing to Edit Font of Selected Button

To modify any built-in property of a component in the resourceEditor, you first select the object, which you can do either by clicking on the component in the Resource Editor Window or by selecting it from the list of objects in the Property Editor Window. Then you select the property you wish to change from the scrolling list of properties, make the appropriate adjustment to the setting, and either click the "Update" button or simply leave the edit field to instruct the resourceEditor to apply the new setting.

Each component has a set of properties, some of which are shared with all or some other components and some of which may be unique to the specific component. These properties are delineated in the soon-to-be-published PythonCard Component Description document.

The status bar of the Property Editor Window displays the size and position for the selected window in your application or for the selected component in the window, but its contents are not editable. To change those properties, you must either directly manipulate the component or edit the appropriate property.

Managing Background Properties

Every window in a PythonCard application automatically includes a background. This background describes the characteristics of the window as a whole, and acts as the backdrop against which components are placed and which is the container of those components.

As we saw in Figure 3, above, you can modify the properties of the application window's background using the Background Info Editor, which is displayed by selecting "Background Info..." from the resourceEditor's "Edit" menu.

You will want to change the background's name to something that reflects your application's name if for no other reason than it will be easier to remember its name when you refer to it in your Python scripts. The Title field should contain the text you want to display as the window's title in its title bar.

The position and size settings are the default values. When the window opens, it will open at that location on the screen and at the indicated size. You'll find that if you resize the window and move it around on the screen, then reopen the Background Info Editor, it will update to reflect your changes.

You can alter the foreground and background colors of the window using standard color selector dialogs for your system. In this release, we recommend you not alter those properties if you intend to run your PythonCard application on other platforms because cross-platform color compatibility is still a bit shaky in wxPython. It is possible to give your window a graphic image as a background. If you check the "Tile" checkbox, the image will appear in its original size, tiled as needed to fill the background. If you do not check "Tile," the image will be stretched or collapsed to the size of the window.

If you wish to select an icon to represent your application when it is collapsed or in the launch area for the system on which it runs, identify the image file for the icon in the space provided. If you do not supply an icon, PythonCard uses the standard Python icon, a cute green snake.

The last two items you can control about a background are whether it displays a status bar (default is off) and whether it is visible when your application starts (default is on).

Once you make changes to the background, you should save your application's resource file.

Managing Menus

The PythonCard resourceEditor incorporates a full-featured menu editor that uses industry-standard terminology and allows you to define shortcuts and accelerator keys for all menu options. Figure 12 shows you what the Menu Editor looks like when it has a complex set of menus defined. (It actually depicts the menus in the resourceEditor itself.)

menu editor with full set of menus
Figure 12. Menu Editor Showing Menus in resourceEditor's Resource File

You can add a new menu by clicking on the New Menu button. The result looks like Figure 13. Notice that the new menu is called "New Menu" and appears at the bottom of the current list of menus in the application.

menu editor with new menu defined
Figure 13. Menu Editor Showing New Menu Being Defined

By convention, you should name your menus starting with the word "menu" (in lower case), followed by the name of the menu itself (e.g., the File menu). The File menu should be named menuFile. Following this convention makes it easy to remember their names when you are writing the Python scripts to respond to the user's selection of your menus.

Similarly, you create new items to appear on menus by clicking the "New MenuItem" button in the Menu Editor. This creates a new menu item at the bottom of the current list of menus and menu items, as shown in Figure 14.

menu editor showing new menu item
Figure 14. Menu Editor Showing New Menu Item Being Edited

Again, naming conventions are useful. We recommend you name new menu items beginning with the tag "menu", followed by the name of the menu on which the item appears (e.g., File), and then by the name of the item itself (e.g. Exit): menuFileExit.

In providing a label for a menu item (but not, of course, for a menu, which is not executable), you may select an accelerator key by preceding any letter in the label with an ampersand ("&"). Figure 15 shows an example of this using the menuFileOpen menu item. Notice the ampersand preceding the letter "O" in the menu item's label. This means the user can select the File Open option by typing Alt-F (to select the File menu) followed by Alt-O. Notice, too, that the Ctrl+O shortcut is also defined, allowing the user to open a resource file by typing Control-O. To enter a shortcut key combination, just press the keys you wish to use. PythonCard places a text represetation of the key combination in the field.

menu editor showing menu item
Figure 15. Menu Editor Showing Menu Item With Accelerator Key and Shortcut Defined

You can also connect the menu to a command object defined in your Python script (see "Connecting Components and Menus to Scripts," below). Since many UIs have alternate ways to do the same operations available from the menu (e.g. command buttons, toolbars, etc.), a convenient way to do this is to use the command object, and connect to it from both the menu and the alternate button.

In addition, you can determine whether the menu item is enabled when the application launches, whether it is checkable and whether its default condition is to be checked if it is checkable. PythonCard handles the checking and un-checking of menu items that are defined as "Checkable" as the user interacts with the application.

The final feature of the Menu Editor to note is the "Up" and "Down" buttons. Since new menus and menu items are always created at the bottom of the list of menus and menu items, we need some way to move them around to associate them with the appropriate menu and to arrange menus in the desired order. Selecting any menu or menu item and then clicking the "Up" and "Down" buttons moves the selected object in the list.

Note that if you wish to create a menu separator within a menu, simply create a new menu item and make its label a single hyphen. Leave all other characteristics of the menu item unchanged.

Creating and Editing Dialogs

You can also use the PythonCard resourceEditor to create dialogs to be used in your application. You create a new dialog by selecting the "New Dialog" option from the File menu. The resulting editor looks like Figure 16.

new dialog dialog
Figure 16. Editing Window for New Dialog

Notice that a new dialog template includes two buttons by default, one labeled "OK" and set as the default button, the other labeled "Cancel." Editing a dialog is similar to editing a window, with the following exceptions:

dialog info editor
Figure 17. Dialog Information Editor Window

A discussion of how to incorporate dialogs into your PythonCard applications is beyond the scope of this document. See walkthrough3 for a tutorial and example.

Connecting Components and Menus to Scripts

There are two ways to create a connection between an active component or menu item in your PythonCard application and the application's behavior as defined in your Python script file: events and commands. (Remember that not all components need to have actions associated with them). The resourceEditor creates and manages the visual components of your application. Actions for these components are created in the associated Python script ... For details and examples, see the tutorial walk-throughs, particularly walkthrough2 and walkthrough3


When the user activates a component in your PythonCard application, that action triggers an event. Your Python script consists principally of methods defining how to respond to user-triggered events. There is a one-to-one correspondence between the event that is triggered and the name of the method or handler your program calls in response to the action.

For example, when the user clicks on a button, PythonCard generates a mouseClick event on that button. The full name of the event passed to your Python script in the case of a button-press looks like this: buttonSave_mouseClick (assuming the user has clicked on a button whose name is "buttonSave".)

Note that it is the button's name, not its label that is used here. In your Python script, the handler that will be run when the user clicks on the Save button would begin with the following line of Python code:

on_buttonSave_mouseClick(self, event):

Your Python code would then go on to define what you wanted the application to do when the user clicks on the Save button. If there is no handler called on_buttonSave_mouseClick, then if the user clicks on the button named buttonSave, nothing will happen.

Similarly, if the user selects a menu item, the event triggered is called something like menuFileSave_selected and your handler for this event would start with a line of Python code like this:

on_menuFileSave_selected(self, event):

The events each component can trigger is defined in the soon-to-be-published Component Reference Documentation.


In situations where you want the same behavior to be carried out by more than one component and each of those components can trigger only one action, you can use a single PythonCard command in your script file and connect each component to it. This requires two steps: definition of the command in your Python script, and pointing the component to the command it is to execute when it is activated.

Defining a command in your Python script simply requires following the definition convention of naming the command handler something like this:

on_editClear_command(self, event):

Next, you need to tell all of the components whose activation you wish to result in executing that command that they are connected to it. You do this in the Property Editor as shown in Figure 18. Notice that the name of the command is the middle portion of the handler name, which in Figure 17 results in the object being told it is to execute the command editClear.

connecting a button to a command
Figure 18. Connecting a Button to the editClear Command

Additional Features

This section describes three additional features of the resourceEditor:

Testing Your Application

You can run your PythonCard application directly from resourceEditor. This results in a highly interactive, seamless development environment which will further accelerate the rapidity with which you can create Python applications using PythonCard as the GUI tool.

Setting Up Runtime Options

Before you run your PythonCard application, you can set up some parameters that determine the level of detail with which you can examine and interact with the running application. From the File menu, choose "Run options..." The dialog box shown in Figure 19 appears.

run options dialog
Figure 19. Run Options Dialog

You can check any or all of the options in this dialog to affect the way your PythonCard application works when you are testing in resourceEditor. (The lower-case letter preceded by a hyphen in parentheses after each option tells you what switch you would use to invoke this same setting if you were to launch your application from the PythonCard shell or some other interpreter environment.)

None of these options "sticks" automatically. You can set up a configuration in which all of your options are remembered for all PythonCard applications you launch in the resourceEditor. We cover this option below. When you run the application outside the resourceEditor environment, these settings are ignored.

If you turn on logging, then run your application, PythonCard logs debugging information directly to the system console (referred to as "stdout" in programmer terminology). Optionally, you can instruct PythonCard to create a text file and route logging information to it. This file tracks debugging information about your application. A sample of this log file is shown in Figure 20 as it would appear if routed to a file called pythoncard.log. An explanation of the log is beyond the scope of this document.

sample debugging log file
Figure 20. Sample Debugging Log File

The Message Watcher runtime option opens a window (see Figure 21) that monitors messages as they are triggered inside your application.

message watcher window
Figure 21. Message Watcher Window Showing Sample Message Information

The checkboxes at the top of the window allow you to restrict the messages that appear. If your application uses any timer-based events and you want to monitor their firing, e.g., you will want to uncheck the "Hide timers" checkbox so those events will be displayed as they are triggered. Leaving the "Hide unused" checkbox in its default checked state means you will only see messages for which you have defined a handler. Unchecking that checkbox will result in you being able to see all messages generated by the user interacting with your application.

If you turn on the Namespace Viewer, you'll see a window like the one in Figure 22 when you run your PythonCard application. This window shows in its left pane a complete tree of all of the objects and methods in the namespace in which your application is running. Selecting objects in that list -- which is a tree outline and therefore can expand and collapse as desired -- displays appropriate information about them in the right text pane.

namespace viewer
Figure 22. Namespace Viewer Window With Representative Content

If you check the "Property Editor" checkbox in the Run Options dialog and then run your PythonCard application, a duplicate Property Editor window opens in the context of your application. You can use this window to change aspects of your program's interface (e.g., font settings) while the application is running. You have to be careful, obviously. Changing something on which the program's success depends can produce unexpected results.

Changes you make in the runtime Property Editor are not preserved when you quit the application and return to the resourceEditor.

One of the most powerful things you can do when running a PythonCard application from inside the resourceEditor is to open the shell by selecting that option from the Run Options dialog. When you do this, the standard PythonCard shell window opens. As you can see in Figure 23, you can interact with your program from this shell, inspect settings and properties, etc. In the window shown in Figure 23, we've asked the background of our application for its name and for a list of the components it contains. The component list is a dictionary which can be quite revealing when you are trying to debug a difficult-to-locate error. You can also use the Shell to send messages to your application manually.

shell window open in application
Figure 23. Shell Window Showing Interaction With Running Application

Debugging a Running PythonCard Application

You may have noticed if you've been running the resourceEditor and selecting the run options outlined above that you will often see a "Debug" menu in your application's menu bar (see Figure 24). Choosing any of the run options except logging will produce this menu when you run your application in the resourceEditor.

While the options on this menu are largely self-explanatory, let's run through them so you'll be sure you know how to use this powerful feature of PythonCard's resourceEditor.

debug menu in running application
Figure 24. Debug Menu in Running PythonCard Application

The first four items are toggles. If you wish to open the Message Watcher window when it isn't or to close it when it's open, choose that option. The same is true for the other menu items in the first group.

"Redirect stdout to Shell" is a useful debugging tool. If your application generates errors, the only way to see and capture them is by examining the results sent by Python to a terminal window called stdout. But since that window isn't open when you are running in PythonCard, you need a way to handle this output. This menu option allows you to have these messages displayed in the PythonCard Shell. This implies, of course, that you'll want to be sure the Shell is open before you choose this option.

The "Save Configuration" option allows you to set up a standard configuration for running PythonCard applications. You use this feature as follows:

  1. Before running your PythonCard application, choose the debugging options you'd like to set up. For example, if you always want to run your PythonCard applications with the Message Watcher and the Shell available, choose those options in the Run Options dialog.
  2. Run your application. Position the debugging windows where you'd like them on the screen.
  3. From the Debug menu, choose "Save Configuration."

Now any time you launch any PythonCard application from the resourceEditor, these debugging windows will appear in the same positions as they were when you saved the configuration.

Note, however, that if you add new debugging windows to your running application by opening, say, the Namespace Viewer, and then save the configuration again, that window will not appear next time you launch a PythonCard application. You must set up the options before you run the application.

You may, of course, change this configuration any time simply by changing your Run Options, running your application, and then saving the configuration.

The next two menu items in the Debug menu launch your Web browser and take you to the PythonCard home and documentation pages, respectively.

The final option displays a dialog box which tells you the version of PythonCard you are running, the versions of all supporting programs that are installed with it, and pointers to other useful information.

Using the Grid

Like most IDEs, PythonCard's resourceEditor includes a grid capability. The grid can be turned on or off, its size altered, and objects made to adhere to it using choices on the Options menu. There are only two choices on this menu. The first allows you to set the size of the grid in pixels. The default setting is 5. A value of zero effectively turns off the grid. The second menu option makes the grid active or inactive. It is a toggle for which you can use Ctrl-G as the shortcut. If the grid is active, then when you move components around on the background of your PythonCard application, they move in increments the size of the grid. If it is off, you can place components anywhere you like.

There is no way in the resourceEditor to cause existing objects to snap to a grid or to align with one another other than manually. If you have one or more components selected and choose to turn the grid on, the objects do not move, or "snap", to the grid. The grid only controls the parameters for your direct movement of components.

Viewing the Resource File

The View menu in the resourceEditor has toggle options to show and hide the Property Editor and the Position & Size Window. Its third item allows you to open and inspect but not edit the resource file for the open application. Selecting that menu option produces a window something like the one shown in Figure 25.

viewing the resource file
Figure 25. Resource Viewer

Examining the resource file, which as you can see stores a single Python dictionary object that describes all the elements of the PythonCard application's user interface, can often be helpful in understanding how things work together in your program.

Note that although you cannot edit the resource file here, the resource file can be edited by any text editor (preferably a Python-aware editor). However, we strongly discourage direct editing of the resource file until you've had considerable experience with PythonCard and with editing Python dictionaries. If this file becomes disorganized, your PythonCard application may have to be built again from scratch.

Concluding Thoughts

There is obviously a lot of power and capability in the PythonCard resourceEditor. While we have tried to be thorough here, we have not been exhaustive. For example, each of the components you can place on the background has its set of properties. Dealing with multiple-window applications in the resourceEditor has also not been addressed here. You'll find that in walkthrough3 of our tutorial series.

That concludes our tour of Pythoncard's resourceEditor. We hope it gets you on the way to being productive quickly.

The resourceEditor's UI is built in resourceEditor. You are free to examine it and, of course, in the grand tradition of Open Source, you are free to modify it, add to its functionality. If you do this please feed changes back into the Pythoncard community and consider joining the development list: User questions are dealt with helpfully and promptly on the user list:}

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$Revision: 1.5 $ : $Author: alextweedly $ : Last updated $Date: 2006/04/06 11:00:25 $