Development/Tutorials/Developing Qt4 Applications using Qt Designer and Ruby on Kubuntu

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Development/Tutorials/Developing Qt4 Applications using Qt Designer and Ruby on Kubuntu

Developing Qt4 Applications using Qt Designer and Ruby on Kubuntu Jaunty 9.04

Introduction

Part of Qt's great power lies in the fact that you get a top notch GUI design kit to please the most avid designer as well as an elegant development framework to keep the application coders happy. In this article we will take you through both sides of this equation as we show you how to create a small application which displays a list of items (pieces of text) and let's you move these items up and down via drag'n'drop. You'll learn how to

  • Install the packages you need to get started
  • Draw a GUI with Qt Designer
  • Relate the GUI to the code that runs underneath it through subclassing
  • Programmatically control the display of widgets on screen
  • Do some simple debugging using ruby-debug

Ground breaking in the extreme!

noframe
 
Note
These instructions are tested with Kubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope). They have also been tested successfully with Ubuntu 9.04. If you are a user of another distro, you are invited to post how you installed it on your distro. This will be very useful to other users!

Install the appropriate packages

From a command line terminal run

sudo apt-get install libkorundum4-ruby1.8
sudo apt-get install qt4-designer
sudo apt-get install libqt4-ruby1.8-dev
sudo apt-get install libqt4-ruby1.8-examples
sudo apt-get install qt4-doc qt4-doc-html qt4-demos qt4-dev-tools
</code>
 
For Mandriva 2010.1, i'have installed :
<syntaxhighlight lang="bash">sudo urpmi qt4-assistant qt4-debug qt4-designer qt4-doc qt4-examples ruby-qt4 ruby-qt4-devel</code>
 
= Create a simple Form with Qt4 Designer<br>  =
 
*Create a folder on disk for your project, for example, my_first_project 
*Start up Qt4 Designer<br>
 
#Select Qt 4 Designer from the Applications-&gt;Programming menu or...<br> 
#From a command line terminal run <tt>designer-qt4</tt><br>
 
*The default form is a Dialog with Buttons Right. Stick with that and click Create<br> 
*Drag a List Widget from the Item Widgets (Item-Based) selection of widgets on the left onto the form. Be careful NOT&nbsp;to choose the List View from the Item Views (Model-Based)<br> 
*Right-click the List Widget that is now dragged on the form<br>
 
#Select Edit Items<br> 
#Click the green plus icon on the left to add an item<br> 
#Enter the text:&nbsp;First line<br> 
#Click the green plus icon on the left to add an item 
#Enter the text: Second line 
#Click OK to finish editing items
 
*In the Property Editor on the right, scroll down to the section QAbstractItemView<br> 
*Keep scrolling down a little more to the Property DragDropMode and change it's value to internal. This will let us move items up and down in the list easily<br> 
*Save what we've done by selecting Save As in the File Menu
 
#Navigate to the folder you created earlier, my_first_project<br> 
#Choose the filename dashboard.ui for your file and click save 
#This file contains and XML representation of the form you just created<br>
 
*If you want to take a quick look at your form select Preview from the Form menu<br> 
*But we're done with GUI stuff now! Let's get hacking...
 
= Creating the basic application structure<br>  =
 
*Now that we've got a user interface, we need to run a command (<tt>rbuic4</tt>) that creates a Ruby class that we can use based on the interface<br> 
*From the command line terminal<br>
 
#Navigate to the my_first_project folder you created earlier using the <tt>cd</tt> command<br> 
#Run the command <tt>rbuic4 dashboard.ui -x -o dashboard_ui.rb</tt>
#For instant gratification run the command <tt>ruby dashboard_ui.rb</tt>
#Woaa!!! You should see your beautiful form before your very eyes. But when the excitement dies down, be aware that if you were to add any code to your dashboard_ui.rb file it would get blown away every time we run <tt>rbuic4</tt> on this file to pick up the latest changes we made to the UI using Qt4 Designer. But it needn't be this way...<br> {{Note|The <tt>-x</tt> bit of the <tt>rbuic4</tt> command says to create a little stub (like a main function in C/C++ or public static void main in Java) that kicks off the application. Otherwise your application would have no entry point. 
 
The <tt>-o dashboard_ui.rb</tt> bit of the command says dump the resulting ruby code into a file called dashboard_ui.rb 
 
We need to rerun this command every time we change the form using Qt4 Designer. Usually we won't add the <tt>-x</tt> flag}}<br>
 
== Move application startup code into a main.rb file  ==
 
*Create a new file in the my_first_project folder called main.rb 
*Move the following code from the dashboard_ui.rb file to main.rb<br>
 
<code ruby="ruby">if $0 == __FILE__
    a = Qt::Application.new(ARGV)
    u = Ui_Dialog.new
    w = Qt::Dialog.new
    u.setupUi(w)
    w.show
    a.exec
end</code> 
 
*Inside the main.rb file, there is no need for the opening <tt>if $0 == __FILE__'</tt> line (and it's enclosing <tt>end</tt> statement). This is because main.rb is going to be the entry point to our application. So you can safely remove those two lines.
 
{{Note|
So what is the <tt>if $0 &#x3D;&#x3D; __FILE__</tt> line all about?
 
If the code within the if statement is in a file that is included by a separate top level program then this condition will be false. The code inside the if statement will not be executed.
 
Note: you can always use <tt>rbuic4</tt> with the <tt>-x</tt> option even for a production program - just that you will have a test hook in there if you ever just want to test the UI.
}}
 
*We move the inclusion of the Qt framework (<tt>require 'Qt4'</tt> - or it may be <tt>require 'Qt'</tt> on your system) from the dashboard_ui.rb file to main.rb
 
*We change the line <tt>u.setupUi(w)</tt> to <tt>u.setup_ui(w)</tt>
 
{{Note|
To some, the latter is more Rubyesque. If you look in the autogenerated file dashboard_ui.rb, you will see that the function <tt>sampleUi()</tt> is wrapped by another function <tt>sample_ui()</tt>.
 
Again for Rubyesque-ness, we change <tt>Ui_Dialog.new</tt> to <tt>Ui::Dialog.new</tt>
 
This is just aesthetics. Syntactic sugar, but important syntactic sugar nonetheless!}}
 
*This gives us a main.rb file that looks like<br>
 
<code ruby="ruby">require 'Qt4'
require 'dashboard_ui'
 
a = Qt::Application.new(ARGV)
 
u = Ui::Dialog.new
w = Qt::Dialog.new
u.setup_ui(w)
w.show
a.exec</code> 
 
{{Note|It is fine to have more than one <tt>require 'Qt4'</tt> in your code, they just get ignored after the first one.}}
 
Ok, so where are we at now? Well if you run <tt>ruby main.rb</tt> from the command line your dinky little dialog should appear. The way we are using the dialog in our application is called the Direct Approach. For more information (which is beyond the scope of this article) check out http://doc.trolltech.com/4.0/designer-using-a-component.html to see what the different approaches are. That article is very C++ based but you should get the gist of what is going on. But basically a lot of the important work is being done in the main.rb file; this means that we don't have much control over our widgets programmatically.
 
In the next section, we will switch to using the Single Inheritance Approach. Then we'll show you how to programmatically populate the List Widget on application startup. Fasten your seatbelts!
 
= The Single Inheritance Approach - Separating generated code from our 'real' code =
Ok, everything you learned is a lie! Well, not really, but definitely you'll want to do take the Single Inheritance Approach over the Direct Approach.
 
== Subclassing the dashboard_ui.rb file  ==
 
In Qt4, this is the primary way to separate autogenerated from code from our own logic. Using a text editor '''create a new file in your my_first_project folder called dashboard.rb''' with the following contents. (Note:&nbsp;For the rest of this article be careful to pay attention as to whether we are talking about dashboard_ui.rb or dashboard.rb). The comments should explain what's going on.
 
<code ruby="ruby">
# We pull in the file containing the class which consists of generated code
require 'dashboard_ui'
 
# We inherit from Qt:Dialog as it gives us access to User Interface
# functionality such as connecting slots and signals
class Dashboard < Qt::Dialog
 
    # We are then free to put our own code into this class without fear
    # of it being overwritten. Here we add a initialize function which
    # can be used to customise how the form looks on startup. The method
    # initialize() is a constructor in Ruby
 
    def initialize(parent = nil)
 
       # Widgets in Qt can be optionally be children of other widgets.
       # That's why we accept parent as a parameter
 
       # This super call causes the constructor of the base class (Qt::Widget)
       # to be called, shepherding on the parent argument
 
       super(parent)
 
       # We'll be putting some code here real soon...
 
    end
 
end
</code>
 
== Giving our Dashboard class the power! ==
Next we need to move the creation of the actual dialog out of main.rb and into the dashboard.rb to make the <tt>Dashboard</tt> class responsible for managing the widget. This is a core concept to understand. At the same time, we make the following changes to the main.rb file
*We change <tt>require 'dashboard_ui'</tt> to <tt>require 'dashboard'</tt>
{{Note| Why do we change the require statement? Because we are using the Dashboard class that '''we''' have defined and control rather than the <tt>Ui::Dialog</tt> class autogenerated by <tt>rbuic4</tt>}}
*Create an instance of <tt>Dashboard</tt> rather than <tt>Ui::Dialog</tt> and rename variables to be more meaningful
*Call the show method on the <tt>Dashboard</tt> object rather than some separate <tt>Qt::Dialog</tt> object
{{Note| Why can we call the show method on the <tt>Dashboard</tt> object? Because of the subclassing we are implementing, <tt>Dashboard</tt> now '''is''' a <tt>Qt::Dialog</tt> object!}}
* Finally, we move the <tt>setup_ui</tt> function call and the creation of a <tt>Ui::Dialog</tt> instance from main.rb to '''our''' Dashboard class in dashboard.rb. As we do so we rename variables to be a little more meaningful. Here's what main.rb should look like when you're done...
 
<code ruby="ruby">
require 'Qt4'
require 'dashboard'
 
a = Qt::Application.new(ARGV)
dashboard = Dashboard.new
dashboard.show
a.exec
</code>
 
<br>
 
And here's what dashboard.rb should look like when you're done...
 
<code ruby="ruby">
# We pull in the file containing the class which consists of generated code
require 'dashboard_ui'
 
# We inherit from Qt:Dialog as it gives us access to User Interface
# functionality such as connecting slots and signals
class Dashboard < Qt::Dialog
 
    # We are then free to put our own code into this class without fear
    # of it being overwritten. Here we add a initialize function which
    # can be used to customise how the form looks on startup. The method
    # initialize() is a constructor in Ruby
 
    def initialize(parent = nil)
 
       # Widgets in Qt can optionally be children of other widgets.
       # That's why we accept parent as a parameter
 
       # This super call causes the constructor of the base class (Qt::Widget)
       # to be called, shepherding on the parent argument
 
       super(parent)
 
       # The Dashboard class we are in holds presentation logic and exists
       # to 'manage' the dialog widget we created in Qt Designer earlier.
       # An instance of this dialog widget is created and stored in @ui variable
 
       @ui = Ui::Dialog.new
 
       # Calling setup_ui causes the dialog widget to be initialised with the
       # defaults you may have specified in Qt Designer. For example, it 
       # - populates the 'First Line' and 'Second Line' items in the List Widget
       # - sets the drag drop mode to 'Internal'
       # - and much much more. Peer into the dashboard_ui.rb if you want to the
       #   full gory details
 
       @ui.setup_ui(self)
 
    end
 
end
</code>
 
== Programmatically control how the List Widget is populated on app startup  ==
 
Now currently all the code to insert the items into the Item List is controlled in the autogenerated file dashboard_ui.rb. Let's take the power back!<br> 
 
From the the <tt>setupUi</tt> function in dashboard_ui.rb file to the bottom of our own dashboard.rb file's initialize function, move the lines 
 
<code ruby="ruby">Qt::ListWidgetItem.new(@listWidget)
Qt::ListWidgetItem.new(@listWidget)</code> 
 
From the the <tt>retranslateUi</tt> function in dashboard_ui.rb file to the bottom of our dashboard.rb file's initialize function, move the lines 
 
<code ruby="ruby">
@listWidget.item(0).text = Qt::Application.translate("Dialog", "First Line", nil, Qt::Application::UnicodeUTF8)
@listWidget.item(1).text = Qt::Application.translate("Dialog", "Second Line", nil, Qt::Application::UnicodeUTF8)</code> 
 
'''NB: Use <tt>@ui.listwidget</tt> in instead of just <tt>@listwidget</tt> in the lines that you move. This is because <tt>@ui</tt> is the variable that contains the Dialog which in turn contains the List Widget.'''
 
This gives us a dashboard.rb file that looks as follows...
 
<code ruby="ruby">
# We pull in the file containing the class which consists of generated code
require 'dashboard_ui'
 
# We inherit from Qt:Dialog as it gives us access to User Interface
# functionality such as connecting slots and signals
class Dashboard < Qt::Dialog
 
    # We are then free to put our own code into this class without fear
    # of it being overwritten. Here we add a initialize function which
    # can be used to customise how the form looks on startup. The method
    # initialize() is a constructor in Ruby
 
    def initialize(parent = nil)
 
       # Widgets in Qt can optionally be children of other widgets.
       # That's why we accept parent as a parameter
 
       # This super call causes the constructor of the base class (Qt::Widget)
       # to be called, shepherding on the parent argument
 
       super(parent)
 
       # The Dashboard class we are in holds presentation logic and exists
       # to 'manage' the dialog widget we created in Qt Designer earlier.
       # An instance of this dialog widget is created and stored in @ui variable
 
       @ui = Ui::Dialog.new
 
       # Calling setup_ui causes the dialog widget to be initialised with the
       # defaults you may have specified in Qt Designer. For example, it 
       # - populates the 'First Line' and 'Second Line' items in the List Widget
       # - sets the drag drop mode to 'Internal'
       # - and much much more. Peer into the dashboard_ui.rb if you want to the
       #   full gory details
 
       @ui.setup_ui(self)
 
       # As promised...
 
       Qt::ListWidgetItem.new(@ui.listWidget)
       Qt::ListWidgetItem.new(@ui.listWidget)
 
       #And also...
 
       @ui.listWidget.item(0).text = Qt::Application.translate("Dialog", "First Line", nil, Qt::Application::UnicodeUTF8)
       @ui.listWidget.item(1).text = Qt::Application.translate("Dialog", "Second Line", nil, Qt::Application::UnicodeUTF8)
 
    end
 
end
</code>
 
= Debugging your application<br>  =
 
You should now be able to run <tt>ruby main.rb</tt> and see you're lovely form appear. Try to drag the first line and second line up and down. Not bad, eh? 
 
One last thing if you need to do some simple debugging on your app, make sure that you have the ruby-debug gem installed (<tt>sudo gem install ruby-debug</tt>) and stick the line <tt>debugger</tt> in your source code anywhere you want to put a breakpoint. Then instead of the ruby command run <tt>rdebug main.rb</tt> and this will drop you into a nifty command line debugger. Initially it will be at line 1 in your source file but if you type <tt>c</tt> it will bring you to your breakpoint. For more on using command line debugging see [http://pivots.pivotallabs.com/users/chad/blog/articles/366-ruby-debug-in-30-seconds-we-don-t-need-no-stinkin-gui- ruby-debug in 30 seconds (we don't need no stinkin' GUI!)].<br> 
 
Ya, sure we don't need no stinkin' GUI! But don't tell those Qt&nbsp;guys - they seem to produce quite nice ones!
 
= Useful Links and Articles<br>  =
* One of the best ways to learn is to look at some Qt examples in Ruby. Download the latest qt4-qtruby zip (something like qt4-qtruby-2.0.3.tgz) from   http://rubyforge.org/projects/korundum and check out the ruby/qtruby/examples directory
* http://zetcode.com/tutorials/qtrubytutorial contains a list of online Qt tutorials with Ruby
* Check out the online Qt4 Designer Manual to really nail the art of designing GUI's with Qt4 Designer at http://doc.trolltech.com/4.0/designer-manual.html
 
= Tips of the Day - Understanding class naming conventions in Qt4 documentation=
* Most Qt reference documentation is written with the C++ flavour of Qt in mind - for example the wealth of information available at http://qt.nokia.com/doc/4.5/index.html. It will talk of things like <tt>QFileDialog</tt>, <tt>QDir</tt> and so on. You need to release that when you use those framework classes in Qt Ruby you need to use <tt>Qt::FileDialog</tt>, <tt>Qt::Dir</tt> and so on. So don't forget to change that leading <tt>Q</tt> on the class names into a <tt>Qt::</tt>. A bit of mental jiggery-pokery to keep you on your toes!
* We have no maximize, minimize titler bar buttons in our little app. That's because the type of window in our application in a <tt>QDialog</tt>. If you want to have max and min buttons easily in your application's title bar use a <tt>QMainWindow</tt> instead. It's a good exercise for you to try and figure out how to do this.
 
[[Category:Ruby]]

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