A different kind of interface

bearophileHUGS at lycos.com bearophileHUGS at lycos.com
Thu Jan 22 10:10:10 CET 2009

I use the Python shell daily, plus of course normal editors to edit
python scripts. They both are very useful for different purposes. But
the default interactive shell isn't much handy if you want to modify
the past code to run it again, or you want to embed a bit of text in
the code, or if you want to produce something a bit more clean that
you can save, or just if you want to edit and debug 7-lines long

I have tried IPython, but I have never appreciated it too much, maybe
because it requires me to remember too many things (and because on Win
it's probably a little less handy). Probably I need something closer
to an editor and less close to a shell.

In past I have also used the interactive editor of Mathematica (older
versions, but I think its basic usage isn't changed much later), but
despite being quite handy if you want to mix plotting and the editing
of small formulas, I can't appreciate it to write programs more than 3
lines long. It's not a good or handy editor, and it has some other

So I have always tried to think for possible alternative solutions for
an interactive way to use Python. I am not looking for something to
replace the nornal editors used to write long Python programs.

Years ago I have found this nice small program, TextCalc:

Despite being very limited and being not integrated with everything
else, it's so handy that for me in certain situations it's the right
tool to use when I have to process numbers and data in simple ways. It
helps me keep all the intermediate solutions, you can save the working
page just as the text file you are seeing, it's "passive", it doesn't
go bang, so if you want you can use it just a primitive text editor.
It does something only when you ask it to. And for a basic usage there
is nearly nothing to remember.

I don't know if this can be any good, but maybe a textcalc-like
interface that (beside having few graphical buttons for normal
operations, and few basic text editing capabilities) allows to use
Python may be a good idea. Probably there are better designs for this
interface, but it's hard to invent them.

If you have ideas I'd like to know them.


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