Everything good about Python except GUI IDE?
Sven R. Kunze
srkunze at mail.de
Sun Feb 28 07:23:07 EST 2016
On 28.02.2016 07:34, Steven D'Aprano wrote:
> I think that's out-and-out wrong, and harmful to the developer community. I
> think that we're stuck in the equivalent of the pre-WYSIWYG days of word
> processing: you can format documents as nicely as you like, but you have to
> use a separate mode to see it.
> Drag-and-drop GUI builders have the same advantages over code as Python has
> over languages with distinct compile/execute steps: rapid development,
> prototyping, exploration and discovery. Of course, any decent modern
> builder won't limit you to literally drag-and-drop, but will offer
> functionality like duplicating elements, aligning them, magnetic guides,
Another good point. I will get to this later.
> GUI elements are by definition graphical in nature, and like other graphical
> elements, manipulation by hand is superior to command-based manipulation.
> Graphical interfaces for manipulating graphics have won the UI war so
> effectively that some people have forgotten there ever was a war. Can you
> imagine using Photoshop without drag and drop?
> (you can measure this by counting the numbers of replies to a thread)
That's whole different topic. What is Photoshop manipulating? Layers of
pixels. That's an extremely simplified model. There is no dynamic
behavior as there is with GUIs.
> And yet programming those graphical interfaces is an exception. There, with
> very few exceptions, we still *require* a command interface. Not just a
> command interface, but an *off-line* command interface, where you batch up
> all your commands then run them at once, as if we were Neanderthals living
> in a cave.
Not sure if I agree with you here.
Let's ask ourselves, what is so different about, say, a complex
mathematical function and a complex GUI? In other words: why do you can
live with a text representation of that function whereas you cannot live
with a text representation of a GUI?
One difference is the number of interactions you can do with a function
and a GUI. A function takes some numbers whereas a GUI takes some
complex text/mouse/finger/voice interactions.
So, I've never heard of any complains when it comes to mathematical
functions represented in some source code. But, I've heard a lot of
complains regarding GUI design and interaction tests (even when they are
done graphically) -- also in WPF.
Both text representations are abstract descriptions of the real thing
(function and GUI). You need some imagination to get them right, to
debug them, to maintain them, to change them. We could blame Python here
but it's due to the problem realm and to the people working there:
Functions -> mathematicians/computer scientists, work regularly with
highly abstract objects
GUI -> designers, never really got the same education for
programming/abstraction as the former group has
So, (and I know that from where I am involved with) GUI research
(development, evaluation etc.) is not a topic considered closed. No
serious computer scientist really knows the "right" way. But, hey,
people are working on it at least.
Usually, you start out simple. As the time flies, you put in more and
more features and things become more and more complex (we all know that
all non-toy projects will). And so does a GUI. At a certain point, there
is no other way than going into the code and do something nasty by
utilizing the Turing-completeness of the underlying language. Generated
code always looks creepy, bloaty with a lot of boilerplate. If you
really really need to dig deeper, you will have a hard time finding out
what of the boilerplate is really needed and what was added by the
code-generator. In the end, you might even break the
That is the reason, why traditional CASE tools never really got started,
why we still need programmers, why we still have text. From my point of
view (highly subjective), start by using general building blocks (text,
functions, classes, ...) is better long-term; not by starting with a
cage (the GUI) and subsequently adding more and more holes not fitting
the original concept. History so far as agreed with this; professional
software development always uses text tools for which LATER somebody
built a GUI. I cannot remember it being the other way round.
Furthermore, I agree with Chris about the version control problem.
Last but not least, GUIs are a place for bike shedding because almost
everybody is able to see them and can start having an opinion about them:
Who loves the new Windows modern UI? Either you like it or you hate it.
What about the Riemann zeta function? Anybody?
PS: another thought.
I recently introduced LaTeX to my girlfriend. LaTeX is quite ugly and it
has this "distinct compile/execute step", so initially I hesitated to
show it to her. But her MS Word experience got worse and worse the more
complex (and especially larger) her workload became. Word became less
responsive and results became even less reproducible (footnote
numbering, styling, literature, etc.).
She needed to invest some time to learn LaTeX and to tweak the initial
template to fit her needs. Though, in the end, she's much happier and
get reproducible results. She still uses a GUI for writing LaTeX. It
helps her avoiding mistakes.
So, I don't think it's GUI vs text but rather how can they complement
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