Graphic User Interface FAQ

General GUI Questions

What platform-independent GUI toolkits exist for Python?

Depending on what platform(s) you are aiming at, there are several.


Standard builds of Python include an object-oriented interface to the Tcl/Tk widget set, called Tkinter. This is probably the easiest to install and use. For more info about Tk, including pointers to the source, see the Tcl/Tk home page at Tcl/Tk is fully portable to the MacOS, Windows, and Unix platforms.


wxWidgets is a GUI class library written in C++ that’s a portable interface to various platform-specific libraries, and that has a Python interface called wxPython.

wxWidgets preserves the look and feel of the underlying graphics toolkit, and has a large set of widgets and collection of GDI classes. See the wxWidgets page for more details.

wxWidgets supports Windows and MacOS; on Unix variants, it supports both GTk+ and Motif toolkits.


There are bindings available for the Qt toolkit (PyQt) and for KDE (PyKDE). If you’re writing open source software, you don’t need to pay for PyQt, but if you want to write proprietary applications, you must buy a PyQt license from Riverbank Computing and (up to Qt 4.4; Qt 4.5 upwards is licensed under the LGPL license) a Qt license from Trolltech.


PyGtk bindings for the Gtk+ toolkit have been implemented by James Henstridge; see <>.


Python bindings for the FLTK toolkit, a simple yet powerful and mature cross-platform windowing system, are available from the PyFLTK project.


A wrapper for the FOX toolkit called FXpy is available. FOX supports both Unix variants and Windows.


For OpenGL bindings, see PyOpenGL.

What platform-specific GUI toolkits exist for Python?

The Mac port by Jack Jansen has a rich and ever-growing set of modules that support the native Mac toolbox calls. The port supports MacOS X’s Carbon libraries.

By installing the PyObjc Objective-C bridge, Python programs can use MacOS X’s Cocoa libraries. See the documentation that comes with the Mac port.

Pythonwin by Mark Hammond includes an interface to the Microsoft Foundation Classes and a Python programming environment that’s written mostly in Python using the MFC classes.

Tkinter questions

How do I freeze Tkinter applications?

Freeze is a tool to create stand-alone applications. When freezing Tkinter applications, the applications will not be truly stand-alone, as the application will still need the Tcl and Tk libraries.

One solution is to ship the application with the Tcl and Tk libraries, and point to them at run-time using the TCL_LIBRARY and TK_LIBRARY environment variables.

To get truly stand-alone applications, the Tcl scripts that form the library have to be integrated into the application as well. One tool supporting that is SAM (stand-alone modules), which is part of the Tix distribution (

Build Tix with SAM enabled, perform the appropriate call to Tclsam_init(), etc. inside Python’s Modules/tkappinit.c, and link with libtclsam and libtksam (you might include the Tix libraries as well).

Can I have Tk events handled while waiting for I/O?

Yes, and you don’t even need threads! But you’ll have to restructure your I/O code a bit. Tk has the equivalent of Xt’s XtAddInput() call, which allows you to register a callback function which will be called from the Tk mainloop when I/O is possible on a file descriptor. Here’s what you need:

from Tkinter import tkinter
tkinter.createfilehandler(file, mask, callback)

The file may be a Python file or socket object (actually, anything with a fileno() method), or an integer file descriptor. The mask is one of the constants tkinter.READABLE or tkinter.WRITABLE. The callback is called as follows:

callback(file, mask)

You must unregister the callback when you’re done, using


Note: since you don’t know how many bytes are available for reading, you can’t use the Python file object’s read or readline methods, since these will insist on reading a predefined number of bytes. For sockets, the recv() or recvfrom() methods will work fine; for other files, use, maxbytecount).

I can’t get key bindings to work in Tkinter: why?

An often-heard complaint is that event handlers bound to events with the bind() method don’t get handled even when the appropriate key is pressed.

The most common cause is that the widget to which the binding applies doesn’t have “keyboard focus”. Check out the Tk documentation for the focus command. Usually a widget is given the keyboard focus by clicking in it (but not for labels; see the takefocus option).

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