[CentralOH] Idle / Ubuntu Installation Tip

Mark Erbaugh mark at microenh.com
Tue Oct 28 17:32:32 CET 2008

I use Idle, the "standard" Python IDE. I know there are fancier IDE's
available but Idle is "lean and mean" and I feel pretty productive with

On a Windows platform, Idle's Help (F1) menu displays Python help from
locally stored HTML files. However, under Ubuntu Linux, the Help menu
displays online help from www.python.org. This has two problems for me:

1) I have a slow connection (satellite) to the Internet and have to
watch the amount of data I download (daily download limits).

2) The help that is displayed is now for Python 2.6 and I just got
around to upgrading to 2.5.

While you can add you own custom help pages to the Help menu, I looked
into getting Idle on Ubuntu working with local help files.  It's not too

The file idlelib.EditorWindow.py sets up the global variable, help_url.
On a Linux system it looks for a file:


If it doesn't find this file, help_url will be set to use the online

If you install the python-doc (not python2.5-doc package, which
python-doc also installs), the needed html files are installed locally,
but index.html is at:


The solution for me was to create a new directory


and in that directory create a symbolic link named Doc to


here are the commands I used:

sudo mkdir /usr/share/doc/python-docs-2.5.2

cd /usr/share/doc/python-docs-2.5.2

sudo ln -s /usr/share/doc/python2.5-doc/html Doc

Since Idle's help_url is only setup at startup, you'll have to restart
Idle for the change to take effect.

Note: I'm currently using Python 2.5.2, change the version numbers above
as appropriate for your Python version.

I hope this is helpful.  Criticisms and improvements are welcome.


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