Qt Python SuperHybrids

You may know about PyQt – python bindings to Qt frameworks. They are great and allow to prototype gui Qt based code in very fast way. To my mind you can develop faster in 1.5-2 times comparing to same development cycle with Qt. Well, development is little different – you do not have compilation stage, but need to be more cautions about testing to be sure that all branches of executed code are tested, because you never know until they are executed at least once.

Currently you can find PyQt even for Maemo – link

Anyway, PyQt is great, python programming is fast, but one of frequently asked questions is –
How can I integrate python scripting in my application and operate Qt Api from my scripts?, and why not?

When you can think that it is not possible, I would like to show the way how to do this and let’s even make working example.

Let’s start from scratch, assuming that you have installed and ready Qt Frameworks. (4.6.3 is used). First download such packages from PyQt homepage:

  • SIP
  • PyQt4 (I used Mac platform for the example)

Build sip:

# tar -zxf sip-4.10.3.tar.gz
# cd sip-4.10.3
# python configure.py
# make
# sudo make install

Build PyQt:

# tar -zxf PyQt-mac-gpl-4.7.4.tar.gz
# cd PyQt-mac-gpl-4.7.4
# python configure.py
# make
# sudo make install

(BTW: you may need to set the environment variable if configure does not work)

# export QMAKESPEC=macx-g++

Now, it is time to design small Qt application which we will use as base for executing PyQt routines.
Let’s choose Canvas-based application – in such application we can prototype canvas items with PyQt
during runtime of the application. Make it simple: two areas: plain text editor for python codes on left and canvas on right.


CONFIG += qt
QT += core gui
HEADERS += MainWindow.h
SOURCES += MainWindow.cpp Main.cpp


#include <QtGui>
#include "MainWindow.h"
int main(int argc, char ** argv) {
    QApplication app(argc, argv);
    MainWindow window;
    return app.exec();


#ifndef MainWindow_H
#define MainWindow_H

#include <QMainWindow>
class QPushButton;
class QGraphicsView;
class QGraphicsScene;
class QPlainTextEdit;

class MainWindow : public QMainWindow { Q_OBJECT
    MainWindow(QWidget * parent = 0L);
    virtual ~MainWindow();

    void runPythonCode(QString);

private slots:
    void runPythonCode();

    QGraphicsView * viewer;
    QGraphicsScene * scene;
    QPlainTextEdit * editor;
    QPushButton * pb_commit;
#endif // MainWindow_H


#include <QtGui>
#include "MainWindow.h"

MainWindow::MainWindow(QWidget * parent):QMainWindow(parent) {
    QSplitter * splitter = new QSplitter;

    QWidget * editorContent = new QWidget;

    QVBoxLayout * layout = new QVBoxLayout;

    editor = new QPlainTextEdit;

    pb_commit = new QPushButton(tr("Commit"));
    connect(pb_commit, SIGNAL(clicked()), 
            this, SLOT(runPythonCode()));

    scene = new QGraphicsScene(this);
    viewer = new QGraphicsView;

    splitter->setSizes(QList<int>() << 400 << 600);

MainWindow::~MainWindow() {;}

void MainWindow::runPythonCode() {
    emit runPythonCode(editor->toPlainText());

As result we have a window with editor (left) and canvas (right):

Now it is time to modify application to get it working with PyQt. We are going to:

  • Change application to dynamic library
  • Create wrappings for MainWindow class
  • Make Main.py instead of C main() routine

For first point we just change TEMPLATE to lib, exclude Main.cpp, and build the shared lib.

CONFIG += qt
QT += core gui
HEADERS += MainWindow.h
SOURCES += MainWindow.cpp

Now create folder “sip”. Inside we create a wrappings for our MainWindow class:

%Module PyQtHybrid 0
%Import QtGui/QtGuimod.sip
%If (Qt_4_2_0 -)

class MainWindow : QMainWindow {
#include "../MainWindow.h"
    virtual ~MainWindow();

    void runPythonCode(QString);

private slots:
    void runPythonCode();

    QGraphicsView * viewer;
    QGraphicsScene * scene;
    QPlainTextEdit * editor;
    QPushButton * pb_commit;


To generate wrappings from sip we need a configure.py and PyQtHybridConfig.py.in.

import os
import sipconfig
from PyQt4 import pyqtconfig

build_file = "PyQtHybrid.sbf"
config = pyqtconfig.Configuration()
pyqt_sip_flags = config.pyqt_sip_flags

os.system(" ".join([ \
    config.sip_bin, \
    "-c", ".", \
    "-b", build_file, \
    "-I", config.pyqt_sip_dir, \
    pyqt_sip_flags, \
    "MainWindow.sip" \

installs = []
installs.append(["MainWindow.sip", os.path.join(config.default_sip_dir, "PyQtHybrid")])
installs.append(["PyQtHybridConfig.py", config.default_mod_dir])

makefile = pyqtconfig.QtGuiModuleMakefile(

makefile.extra_libs = ["PyQtHybrid"]
makefile.extra_lib_dirs = [".."]


content = {
    "PyQtHybrid_sip_dir":    config.default_sip_dir,
    "PyQtHybrid_sip_flags":  pyqt_sip_flags
sipconfig.create_config_module("PyQtHybridConfig.py", "PyQtHybridConfig.py.in", content)


from PyQt4 import pyqtconfig

class Configuration(pyqtconfig.Configuration):
    def __init__(self, sub_cfg=None):
        if sub_cfg: cfg = sub_cfg
        else: cfg = []
        pyqtconfig.Configuration.__init__(self, cfg)

class PyQtHybridModuleMakefile(pyqtconfig.QtGuiModuleMakefile):
    def finalise(self):

Time to build Python module in “sip” folder (we assume that C++ lib is already built in top folder)

# python configure.py
# make

Almost everything is ready, time to connect everything in Main.py script:

import sys

from PyQt4.QtCore import *
from PyQt4.QtGui import *
from PyQtHybrid import *

class RunScript(QObject):
    def __init__(self, mainWindow):
        self.mainWindow = mainWindow

    def runScript(self, script):
        mainWindow = self.mainWindow

a = QApplication(sys.argv)
w = MainWindow()
r = RunScript(w)
a.connect(w, SIGNAL('runPythonCode(QString)'), r.runScript)
a.connect(a, SIGNAL('lastWindowClosed()'), a, SLOT('quit()') )

Now, if you run the Main.py you will get same window as we saw before, but, python code entered in left editor panel can be committed for execution by … well application itself…

We have an application which can program itself ;) – that’s cool.

Let’s try small code snippets like:


Oh! status bar is appeared in our application. Well, more complex maybe – let’s change background of canvas:


Can we create new objects? Of course yes:

li1 = QGraphicsLineItem(10,10, 500,500)
li1.setPen(QPen(QBrush(QColor("#ff0000")), 3.0, Qt.DashLine))

Example with a line

Can we create new classes just in real time and instanciate them???
Sure yes!!!. Let’s create subclass of QGraphicsItem and make custom painting:

class MyItem(QGraphicsItem):
	def boundingRect(self):
		return QRectF(-100,-100,200,200)

	def paint(self, painter, option, widget):
		g = QLinearGradient(-100,-100, 100,100)
		g.setColorAt(0, QColor('#00ff00'))
		g.setColorAt(1, QColor('#ffffff'))
		p = QPen(QBrush(QColor("#ff0000")), 4, Qt.DashLine)
		painter.drawRoundedRect(-100,-100,200,200, 30,30)

my1 = MyItem()

Example with custom class

Well, so we can do everything with our small application – we can program it in real time. We can even generate code by program itself to execute it and more. Anyway, this also can be used for performance balancing when you can quickly prototype your code in python, and then transfer such code into C++ to make it running fast.

Good example – developing canvas-based games, when it can be really helpful and convenient to work with python code to make the logic, drawing etc and then migrate some code into C++.

You can ask what is the difference to just programming with your editor?You are coding your application while it is running. This is very new approach to programming with Qt. There is one especiality – you can loose your programming when exit :), So, it makes sense to modify the application to save all your code snippets to files.

It’s up to you.

Let’s hope to see LGPL PyQt packages sometimes…

This entry was posted in Blog, Embedding, Hybrids, PyQt, Qt, Research. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. pharmacy tech
    Posted July 26, 2010 at 17:04 | Permalink

    My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

  2. Posted July 29, 2010 at 12:45 | Permalink

    Wow, cool!

    Is it possible to do this with pyside? The pyside bindings are released under LGPL.

  3. admin
    Posted July 29, 2010 at 13:37 | Permalink

    Yes, I am planning to do same for PySide, but first I am waiting to get PySide working on Mac. Unfortunately, current version is not compilable there.

  4. Jack
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 19:05 | Permalink

    Wow! Thanks for the cool demo!

    I tried extending this a bit and generating the .pro, .ui, and .h/cpp files using QtCreator, then making edits as necessary to what was presented here so that my own UI would be shown. Everything works until I execute the python file corresponding to Main.py, at which point I get the error lib[PyQtHybrid].so.1 cannot be found (this was done on Linux). When I locate that file I find it’s a link pointing to the lib, and both link and lib are located in the same directory as the Main.py analogue. Has anyone encountered a similar problem?

  5. yshurik
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 22:49 | Permalink

    It is supposed to be in ‘sip’ folder.
    Just have a look at first line in main.py:

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