This Blog continues on

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Custom PyGTK Widgets in Glade3: Part 2: Custom widget adaptors

In the last post about custom glade widgets, we briefly discussed how to add your PyGTK custom widgets to glade-3 so that they can be used in a user interface designer. In this post, this shall be extended to include how you can create a custom adaptor for a PyGTK widget to define additional behaviour.

We shall be using a custom widget as an example, which I have called a "Service View". We plan that this widget has a content section, which is the main part, and also contains a close button at the bottom. We will use this widget as a general dockable view, kind of like a dialog which is a widget rather than a top-level window. This may seem utterly pointless, but it should be a useful component in an application that generates many different views in notebooks, like an IDE: Debugger, Terminal, Documentation Browser (etc). These can all share the same basic layout, but just replace the single main part of the widget.

First let's write a widget:

import gtk

class ServiceView(gtk.VBox):

__gtype_name__ = 'ServiceView'

def __init__(self):
self.frame = gtk.Frame()
self._bb = gtk.HButtonBox()
self.pack_start(self._bb, expand=False)

So, in this widget, we want to be able to add a single child component inside the frame, self.frame, and also to be able to set the label of self.frame.

If we add this widget to Glade3 using a catalog (in pywidgets.xml) such as:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<glade-catalog name="pywidgets" library="pywidgets"
domain="glade-3" depends="gtk+" language="python">
title="Service View"
<glade-widget-group name="PythonWidgets"
title="Python Widgets">

and support code (in which simply imports the widget like so:

from serviceview import ServiceView

(where the module is in the python path, and contains the widget above)

Install the catalog and module file in the right places, and fire up glade-3. Create a window, and add our custom widget to it. Immediately you will be queried with an input dialog as to the required size of the widget. Once you have answered this, the widget will be created.

Problems? Yes, it doesn't work as we would like in the following ways:
  • The query asking us the size of the widget
  • The grey extra sections which you can add widgets to outside our frame
  • The inability to change the contents of the frame, and its label
All these problems stem from the same issue, that our widget is a subclass of gtk.VBox, and so will be treated as a VBox for the extent of its lifetime.

So how can we fix these things? We need to do two things. Firstly override some properties in the catalog file, and secondly create a custom adaptor. (We might one day be able to do all these things from the adaptor, but this is not possible at the moment, and it is one problem highlighted by the glade-3 developers, that they have a "hybrid API".)

Fixing the catalog

Don't forget to read the excellent documentation at this point. Widgets in glade, and in the default catalog offer the ability to launch input windows for queries. This is not entirely necessary, as a sane default could be chosen, and then changed as required in the normal way, but it could be useful in some circumstances I guess. In this case, because we are using a subclass of the Box widget, it will ask us what size we would like it to be. Size is not a real property of the Box, it is a virtual property, and helps Glade know how to display it. If we look at this part of the default catalog, we can see this happening:

<glade-widget-class name="GtkBox" fixed="True"
<property save="False" query="True" id="size" default="3"
name="Number of items">
<tooltip>The number of items in the

Each property tag inside a properties tag inside glade-widget-class tag must have the id attribute, but the rest shown here are optional. The important one for us here is query="True" which causes the query box to be shown, and so we can replace that in our own catalog in a sort of a property "override". Note that save="False" is set on the property, because it is not a real property, only a virtual property, and so it will not be written to the glade XML file.

Not only do we want to disable the query box, but we want to:
  1. Set the default value of this to zero, so none of the grey areas are shown and no extra widgets can be added to the Box
  2. Hide or disable the size widget
Again looking at the documentation, we discover that the default value can be set with default="0" and the property can eithe be disabled with disabled="True" or hidden with visible="False".

So the class definition of our catalog becomes:

<glade-widget-class title="Service View"
<property id="size" query="False" default="0" visible="False"

Reinstall the catalog, create a window, and add our widget. We see that we are no longer asked for the starting size, and the size value does not appear in our property list. There are a few properties of the Box left that we don't really want here, and removing them is left as an exercise for the reader, and we shall move on.

Using a Custom Adaptor

The adaptor class should appear in your support code module, and should be referenced in your catalog, for example:

<glade-widget-class title="Service View" name="ServiceView" adaptor="ServiceViewAdaptor">

Which references a Class that registers the __gtype_name__ of ServiceView Adaptor. The class should inherit from glade.get_adaptor_for_type('SomeGTKType'), and for our case of a VBox subclass, we could use glade.get_adaptor_for_type('GtkVBox') as our adaptor superclass (which it was automatically using itself), like so:

import glade

class ServiceViewAdaptor(glade.get_adaptor_for_type('GtkVBox')):
__gtype_name__ = 'ServiceViewAdaptor'

In the adaptor code, glade is a special Python module only available within runtime glade, and it contains the glade user interface bindings. You can get it's documentation at runtime if you want to have a look, but we will be playing with this stuff in subsequent posts.

So far we have not overridden anything, and our running code should behave exactly the same as it was previously, but with our named custom adaptor (which doesn't do anything).

Now we can start adding methods to our custom adaptor. In general, the available methods that will be called are of the form:

do_something(self, to_object, *args)

Where something is the action, and to_object is the created object in the user interface. An example of this will be our first method:

def do_post_create(self, obj, reason):
# Create one of those nice-looking grey areas from Glade that mean that you can add something to this widget

At this stage, if you like, you can install your catalog and support code, and test this widget out. You will see that the grey area appears correctly inside our frame. Now try to add something to it, like a label. You will notice that the label is just added to the end of the VBox, where we really don't want it. For this to be fixed we need to override our next few methods, the child methods:

def do_get_children(self, obj):
"""Called when glade wants the children of a widget"""
return obj.frame.get_children()

def do_add(self, obj, child):
"""Called to add a child to the widget"""

def do_remove(self, sv, child):
"""Called to remove a child from our widget"""

def do_replace_child(self, obj, old, new):
Called to replace the child of our widget.
Note that this is what is called by glade when you delete,
or cut a widget since it actually replaces the widget with a

The implementation of these methods is particularly straight-forward, and they achieve our goals. The trick is knowing what does what. The get_children method needs to be in place so that the Glade widget hierarchy appears correctly with the child widget. The do_add, do_remove, and do_replace methods are for exactly those things, adding, removing and replacing widgets.

If you install your catalog and support module once more, you will notice that now it actually works. The widget is added in the correct place, and the hierarchy appears correctly with a single child on your widget. You will have a few warnings from GTK about child properties, and these are silenced by writing child_property methods:

def do_child_get_property(self, obj, child, prop):
"""Called to retrieve a property value"""
if prop in ['expand', 'fill']:
return True
elif prop == 'padding':
return 0
elif prop == 'position':
return 0
elif prop == 'pack-type':
return gtk.PACK_START
return True

def do_child_set_property(self, obj, child, prop, val):
"""Called to set a property value"""
if prop in ['expand', 'fill', 'padding', 'pack-type']:

Because our widget is behaving like a real container (although just via the adaptor), it will get queried as to how to set child properties. Most of these are not important for us, because a Frame has very little in the way of packing and expanding, and since it is a Bin, it has no spacing. So we can just return simple values. Likewise we don't need to set anything there.

Trying It Out

So now we have our fully functional widget in Glade. Try it out. Make a new project, add our widget to a window, add an example widget to the container and then load it up with some code such as (for a file called ''):

import gtk

# Make sure this type is registered with gobject so glade can load it
from serviceview import ServiceView'').get_widget('window1').show_all()

How did it look? Terrible! Yes, the glade loader has put our child widget inside the VBox, rather than inside the Frame! Disaster! Except when you realise what the glade loader is doing. It is calling a method on the ServiceView object to add children.

Because it is a VBox subclass, this method behaves as it would for VBoxes (to add an object to the end). There is a slight complication. The add method that we have available in a gtk.VBox in Python is not what Glade is using. It actually uses the method that Glade uses too. To override the method that Glade uses, we need to implement the method do_add which is kind of like a way of saying "override the C add".

Once we have implemented this like so:

def do_add(self, child):

The widget loads with the child in the correct place.


For those who wish to play around with this system, you might try (now that you have implemented do_add in the widget itself, to remove the do_add method of the custom adaptor. And you will see that this does in fact work as we would want. You could furthermore use the GtkFrame adaptor as the superclass for our adaptor, and see that that has the correct effect.

This leads to a general question as to where you should implement your widget functionality, in your Widget, or in your Adaptor. We could override the entire Container Interface in our widget, and it would behave correctly without an adaptor, but that has the disadvantage of not being able to behave like a VBox any more.

In general the course you decide should be based on your own requirements, but it seems that at them moment, with Glade3 you will need a blend of:
  1. Catalog for Glade3
  2. Custom Adaptor for Glade3
  3. Widget Methods for the Glade Loader
Still to come in this series of posts:
  • Custom widget editors
  • Controlling the Glade3 UI from Python
NB: The API is early and changing at this stage, and there is no emphasis on backward-compatibility, so be prepared to throw any code away!