[Idle-dev] Some implemented ideas that may help IDLE, request for feedback

Michael Foord fuzzyman at voidspace.org.uk
Tue Aug 18 11:21:05 CEST 2009

Bruce Sherwood wrote:
> I don't have a problem with it being an option to have the error 
> window come forward, and we can argue about what the default should 
> be. But I'd like to explain in some depth how extremely important this 
> is in certain environments.

For the record, if it only happens the first time I have no problem with 
it being on by default. My earlier response was only in the context of 
the reply that annoying users was no problem as it would teach them a 

All the best,

Michael Foord

> Ruth Chabay and I have developed an alternative curriculum for the 
> introductory physics course taken by engineering and science students 
> in their first and/or second year in the university (see 
> http://www.matterandinteractions.org). This new curriculum emphasizes 
> a 20th-century perspective on introductory physics, in stark contrast 
> to the 19th-century perspective that has been traditional for over 50 
> years. One of the implications is that computational modeling plays an 
> important role in the curriculum, with students writing Python 
> programs to model physical systems (actually, VPython, a 3D 
> programming environment; see vpython.org). This is a vitally important 
> innovation, because computational modeling is now central to all 
> engineering and science but has hardly penetrated the undergraduate 
> curriculum.
> Almost all of these students are very knowledgeable in the use of 
> computers except for one type of use: programming. So every semester 
> there are thousands of students writing VPython programs despite 
> having no previous programming experience. This is feasible thanks to 
> the cleanliness of Python, and the fact that we need teach only a very 
> small subset of the language, just sufficient for our purposes, and to 
> the fact that VPython generates navigable 3D animations as a side 
> effect of computations.
> These novices need all the help the environment can give. A continual 
> major problem is that a student will stare without comprehension at a 
> halted animation without realizing that the halt is due to a program 
> error, because the shell window is hidden behind the animation window. 
> It is really really really important for the shell window to come 
> forward when there is an error.
> Thanks to those who have responded to Guilherme's summary of new 
> features, it is evident that there may be sophisticated users who 
> would be inconvenienced by this change, so it makes sense for it to be 
> an option. I would argue strongly that the default should be to bring 
> the shell window forward, as Guilherme has now implemented, because 
> the sophisticated user can deal with the issue, whereas the novice 
> user is unlikely even to look at the configuration options in IDLE.
> Bruce Sherwood
> Guilherme Polo wrote:
>> 2009/8/17 Guilherme Polo <ggpolo at gmail.com>:
>>> 2009/8/17 Michael Foord <fuzzyman at voidspace.org.uk>:
>>>> Tal Einat wrote:
>>>>> [snip...]
>>>>>>> * Bring IDLE's shell forward on first thing printed to sys.stderr,
>>>>>>> this can only happen again after a shell restart. I consider 
>>>>>>> this of
>>>>>>> great importance when writing programs that may open other windows,
>>>>>>> like a Tkinter program, or a Visual one, since the user might 
>>>>>>> expect
>>>>>>> something to happen on that window but nothing happens because 
>>>>>>> of an
>>>>>>> error that occurred without him noticing. As reported by Bruce, the
>>>>>>> lack of this feature has been a big problem in courses where 
>>>>>>> novices
>>>>>>> write such programs and don't understand why an animation has 
>>>>>>> stopped,
>>>>>>> because the error message is behind other windows.
>>>>>> -0  (doesn't this mean having to *constantly* move the window out 
>>>>>> of the
>>>>>> way
>>>>>> when your logging code causes it to jump in front of your GUI)
>>>>> ... which would teach users to only log actual errors to stderr.
>>>>> +1
>>>> Really? Even in libraries they didn't write?
>>>> Deliberately pissing off users, even in the name of teaching them good
>>>> habits, is never a good strategy.
>>> I have no doubt this is a feature that might help some and annoy
>>> others. I still stand on my opinion that it is a good addition, but
>>> making it optional seems really the better way to go.
>> It is now "officially" an option, defaulting to bring shell forward on
>> first error.
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