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Getting GUI help

Getting GUI help

IDLE makes obtaining the help you need easy. Look at the Help menu and you see three entries for obtaining help:


  • About IDLE: Provides you with the latest information about
  • IDLE Help: Shows you a text file containing information about working with the IDLE For example, this is where you find a list of the IDLE commands.
  • Python Docs: Contains information required to work with Python com- mands and other


Choose Help➪About IDLE to see the About IDLE dialog box shown in Figure 4-4. Near the middle of the dialog box, you see URLs for obtaining additional help. Each of the buttons displays a text file containing useful information, especially in the README and NEWS files. Click Close to exit this dialog box.









Figure 4-4: The About IDLE dialog box contains useful infor­ mation that you might not see otherwise.



Precisely what you see when you choose Help➪Python Docs depends on the platform you use. Figure 4-5 shows the Windows version of the dialog box.

The Python Docs file contains information about how to work with and use Python to create applications. It even has a tutorial section in which you can find additional helpful tips after working your way through this book.














Figure 4-5: Use Python Docs to dis­ cover more about using

Python to create applications.



Configuring IDLE

IDLE is basically a fancy text editor, when you think about it, so it’s not sur- prising that you can configure it to perform the task of editing text better. Choose Options➪Configure IDLE to see the IDLE Preferences dialog box shown in Figure 4-6. This is where you can choose things like what font IDLE uses when displaying text. In the figure, you see the Font/Tabs tab, which lets you choose the size and style font used for text, along with the number of spaces used for indentation (see the “Understanding the Use of Indentation” section of this chapter for details).


As previously mentioned, IDLE uses color coding to make reading and under- standing the code easier. This tab lets you choose the colors used to perform highlighting, as shown in Figure 4-7. Notice that you can save your selections as a theme. You can create different themes for different needs. For example, you may use one theme when you use your laptop or other computing device in bright conditions and another theme in low light conditions.

















Figure 4-6: Configure IDLE to meet your particular require­ ments.

















Figure 4-7: Change the highlighting used for text so that you can see it





Even though you won’t see shortcut keys used very often in this book due  to platform differences, IDLE does support them. The shortcut keys on your platform may differ from those shown in Figure 4-8. IDLE comes with built-   in key sets for Windows, Mac, OS X, and Unix. You can choose any of these themes by clicking the small button next to the IDLE Classic Windows entry (see Figure 4-8). You can also create your own custom theme that’s based on another application you use.
















Figure 4-8: Use shortcut keys that make the most sense to you as a developer.



The General tab, shown in Figure 4-9, controls how IDLE works. For example, you can tell IDLE to open a Python Shell window (so that you can experi- ment) or an Edit window (so that you can write an application). The default  is to open a Python Shell window so that you can experiment with Python  and try new techniques. You can also control whether IDLE prompts you to save files before running applications (always a good idea in case the applica- tion causes the system to freeze) and the size of the initial window when you create one. Paragraph formatting keeps your text from becoming too long to comfortably see in the window. The defaults you see normally work just fine, so there really isn’t a good reason to change them.

















Figure 4-9: The General tab controls the func­ tioning of the IDLE application.



The Additional Help Sources feature lets you create new help sources for IDLE to use. For example, you can create a link to an online source, such as Python’s online documentation at To add a new source, click Add. You see the New Help Source dialog box, shown in Figure 4-10, where you can add the text that appears on the Help menu for this information source and the location of that source on a hard drive or online.

When you finish adding the source, click OK and you’ll see it added to the IDLE Help menu. There are also buttons on the General tab of the IDLE Preferences dialog box for editing and removing help sources.



Figure 4-10:

Create new help sources as needed to make your develop­ ment experi­ ence easier.