[Rd] RE: [R] GUI support from R

Nicholas Lewin-Koh kohnicho@comp.nus.edu.sg
Sun, 2 Sep 2001 12:38:43 +0800 (GMT-8)

One thing to note is that GTk development is in a state of
transition. They are moving steadily towards GTK 2.0 which involves many
changes in Glib, Gdk  and the underlying private functions. James
Hesteridge who is the maintainer of pygtk is actively working on
integrating all the changes into the next version which is why thre hasn't
been a release in a while.

The nice feature of gtk vs wxwindows is that gtk is written entirely in C
while wxWindows is C++. My understanding is that there is byte
incompatibility between different compilers for C++, meaning that C++ code
compiled with VC++ cannot be combined with c++ code compiled with gcc. I
don't know how this affects modules loaded into python.

There is a very complete comparison of GUI toolkits at 

anyway my 2c


 On Sat, 1 Sep 2001, Warnes, Gregory R wrote:

> Hi Duncan,
> I've been looking around at GUI toolkits to use with Python (and by
> extension R). I initially tried Tk, but was disappointed because there is no
> consistent set of high level widgets.  I've subsequently done some looking
> at QT, wxWindows, and GTK.  QT is out because I am a *commercial* user, and
> I don't want to have a license hassle.  GTK seemed to have a lower level of
> functionality than wxWindows and seemed to be less platform independent.
> >From what I could see, the on-line documentation to wxWindows was better. In
> addition, the wxPython developer has indicated that the wxWindows
> development team is very supportive.
> I was also very pleased that wxWindows handles printing, and it had a nice
> set of high-level widgets as part of the 'base' library.  There seem to be
> some high level widgets for GTK, but they are 'add-ons' and seem less well
> integrated or supported.  
> Also, looking around at the 'embarrassment of riches' among Python GUI
> toolkits, I've come to the conclusion that it is better to have *one* GUI
> library that is well supported than to have a set of them.  Our community is
> really too small to fracture again into different toolkit users.  Perhaps a
> single set of high-level bindings would do the trick, but I worry that not
> enough functionality would be available at that level of abstraction.
> BTW, wxWindows uses GTK as the backend on Unix, so you may still be able to
> control gtk-based components that are written in GTK. 
> I'm very interested in the GUI issue because I am currently building a GUI
> tool that will use R as the computational backend.  It would be really nice
> if I could do the GUI building and control directly in R rather than using
> Python.  It would make one less language to learn & manage for me and for
> other users/developers.
> And, I really do need some of the high level widgets and functionality
> offered directly by wxWindows, but (as far as I can tell) not by GTK.
> -Greg
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Duncan Temple Lang [mailto:duncan@research.bell-labs.com]
> Sent: Monday, August 27, 2001 11:14 AM
> To: Warnes, Gregory R
> Cc: 'Duncan Temple Lang'; rossini@u.washington.edu; nychka@cgd.ucar.edu;
> r-help@stat.math.ethz.ch
> Subject: Re: [R] GUI support from R
> Warnes, Gregory R wrote:
> > 
> > Hey Duncan,
> > 
> > Can you share with us the reason for selecting GTK?  
> Well there are a few basic reasons.
> I know less about wxWindow than I do about Gtk.  And there is a lot
> less to Gtk than to wxWindows.  So that makes it is easier for me to
> think about the bindings. (Also, Gtk is like X, and I spent a fair bit
> of time desigining and developing S bindings for X and different
> widget sets a long time ago.) The additional features of wxWindows
> such as threads, etc. may get in the way in thinking about how Gtk
> bindings relate to, Tcl/Tk, Java, and other GUI toolkits.  It would be
> nice to have a level of abstraction above these toolkits with the
> ability to select one and use the same code for all.
> My "hope" is to be able to use Slcc to programmatically generate 
> bindings for Gtk. This will be easier given that I know
> my way around some of the Gtk code. However, if it works,
> applying the same programmatic approach to wxWindows
> should give us 80% of the grunt work for free and then
> require some tinkering later.
> Importantly, the applications I have in mind for RGtk are things like
> extending Gnumeric with plugins, programming GGobi events and even
> add-ons, and generally interacting with many of the Gnome tools
> including potentially building a GUI for R to replace the C-level
> Gnome code with R scripts, making it more flexible and adaptable.
> If we use wxWindows for these Gtk-based applications, we are adding
> an extra layer between R and the application that will probably be
> confusing.
> If we do get to the level of abstraction across toolkits, it won't
> matter much which toolkit we use, but will only require bindings to
> the ones of interest. The challenge then will be to allow integrating
> widgets from different toolkits, and that can be tricky on some
> platforms.
> So, I am in no way ruling out wxWindows. In many respects, it looks
> more appealing - just too big at present. What is its development
> energy like relative to Gtk. I am very happy to work on wxWindows
> too. There is very little in the RGtk at present.
>  D.
> > 
> > -Greg
> > 
> > 
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                  N             Nicholas Lewin-Koh
                 / \            Dept of Statistics
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