Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Playing in the Sandbox

This message showed up in the Manning Sandbox forum for wxPython In Action.  After saying some nice things about the book, the poster has some suggestions:

I would love to see an advanced volume covering topics such as XRC, using XML to define a screen layout; creating custom widgets...  internationalization, and a full chapter or more expanding on chapter 5 "Creating your blueprint." I find that... program organization is most important yet little seems to be written about it, for any programming language.... A book that illustrates solutions to design problems using patterns, Python, and wxPython will help many people...
Thanks for the kind words.  I'm thrilled that you found the book helpful.

There are about three or four things that I regret not being able to include in the book.  XRC is definitely on that list -- I think that XML or other GUI description languages are going to be increasingly important.  (Also on the list: multimedia and how to distribute your finished program).

These all got pushed out of the book over space considerations.  We were something like 75 pages over budget as it was.  Owing to some communication issues, nobody realized that we were that far over our page count until the pages were already written, and while it wasn't a problem to get them approved, it did mean that we didn't push forward into other topics.

There are no current plans for a second book, although it's not out of the question that we'd fill a gap or two with an article on line somewhere.  (To be clear, there are no current plans for that, either).  Frankly, sales are not high enough for a publisher to seek us out for a second book at this point, especially since an advanced book would, almost by definition, sell fewer copies than the original.  That's not a knock on the sales, which seem to be roughly in line with publisher expectations, just a comment on the size of the potential market.

As for a patterns/program organization book for Python, I'd love to write one.  For one thing, it'd give me a chance to rant at length about the finer points of architecture and class structure.  I've been known to have an opinion or two on the topic.  The main problem would be selling it.  My sense is that it's rather hard to sell a general-topic programming book compared to one that's tied to a specific tool or product.  This would especially be true for a relatively small market like Python. 

Still, that's what blogs are for, so hopefully I'll be able to get some interesting thoughts on those lines here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

GWT Article Now Online

I'm happy to announce that Part One of my four part series on using Google Web Toolkit is now available at:

This part focuses on creating a GUI front-end using GWT. In case you wonder about the lead time on these things, it was originally written in August, and slightly updated right before it was published.

I think that the future part of the series will appear monthly. The next one is about using the Derby database as your back-end.

I'm pleased with how the article turned out, although I sort of wish I had taken the time to polish the look of the sample a bit -- that's one ugly Web 2.0 application. On the other hand, there's only a limited number of space available in this article (2000 words, and I was already over), and any graphical enhancement needs to be put in code and explained. So it's a tradeoff.

Hope you like it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Don't Ask Questions, It Only Encourages Him

Let me promote this from the comment section -- it's not hard to find, it's the only comment on the previous post.

What is your favorite Python IDE? Your editor choices are interesting and valid but I wondered if you have a preffered IDE for Python and wxPython work?

I may have covered this somewhere, either on this site, or in the Python 411 podcast interview. If so, I'm sorry.

When I'm on a Windows machine, my Python editor of choice is JEdit, and has been for quite a while. I should say that I only rarely use the Python debugger and Jython interpreter add-ons that are available for it. I do have a couple of custom scripts that execute the script I'm working on and so on, but it's not a very elaborate set-up. What I like about JEdit is that it has a clean interface, had familiar Windows keyboard shortcuts and menus, and had a lot of plugin and macro power. The main downside is that it's kind of a memory hog for a text editor.

When I jumped Mac-side for my personal stuff, I tried just about every free programmer's editor I could find (JEdit, like a lot of Java/Swing programs, behaves a bit oddly on a Mac). Finally, I somewhat reluctantly decided to pay for TextMate. Although Python-mode on TextMate hasn't quite gotten the love and attention that Ruby has, there's still a lot of power there. It's really easy to script and customize, and it's about the only editor I've seen that has dynamic mode. So that if you are writing, say, a Django template, TextMate knows the the HTML portion gets colored and edited under HTML scope, and inside the Django tags, you use Django/Python mode.

My main issue with the various IDE's is that I haven't seen a Python one where the gain in the IDE functionality makes up for the editor itself not being as powerful as my normal editor. Some of this is my personal workflow -- using Python and test-first programming, it's very rare for me to feel that I need a step-through debugger. I'm also not very fond of code-generating GUI builders, for reasons that are probably worth another post.

That said, one thing I do like when I'm in and IDE for whatever reason is the ability to specify a project and do useful things across project scope. (Both JEdit and TextMate have this ability, but not fully formed.) I've done some Ruby work using Eclipse with Ruby plugins, and it's nice to, say, have one-button access to running all your unit tests.

That's what works for me, but I'm always looking for new tools and finding out how other people work.