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About Sergio Lauriano Junior

Sergio is graduated in Software Development in the University City of São Paulo (UNICID). During his career, he get involved in a large number of projects such as telecommunications, billing, data processing, health and financial services. Currently, he works in financial area using mainly Java and IBM technologies.

Python GUI Programming with Tkinter

In this article, we’re going to see one famous GUI on Python called Tkinter. Also, we’ll see some widgets used to build interfaces with this framework and create an example using it.

1. Introduction

Tkinter is a Python library to develop Graphical User Interface (GUI). It is embedded in the standard Python installation.

One advantage of Tkinter is that it’s easy-to-use. Also, as a native Python language library, we just need to import and start coding to work.

Furthermore, it’s cross-platform, so the same code works on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

In the next steps, we’ll see how to start a project and create a simple interface example.

2. Pre-requisites

The examples found in this article work in version 3.6 or above. You can find the most recent version of Python here.

Also, feel free to use any IDE/Code Editor with support for Python language and versions recommended above.

3. Getting Started with the Python Tkinter

First, let discuss some concepts about a GUI. In following, we have the most common:

  • Container – it’s the component to organize and store our interface’s objects. Imagine a real-life container, where we put everything together. In this case, the objects that we want to store are the widgets.
  • Widgets – it’s any screen’s element. Can be a button, a label, a textbox, an icon, etc…
  • Event Handler – it’s an action or routine that is executed when we click on a button for instance.
  • Event Loop – an event loop verifies if another event was added. When this condition is confirmed, the event loop will execute the correspondent routine.

3.1 Starting a simple interface

The bottom example shows a simple interface created with Tkinter.

Simple Tkinter example
from tkinter import *

class Application:
    def __init__(self, master=None):
root = Tk()

Let’s understand the code above:

  1. Import all the component of Tkinter with from tkinter import *
  2. Create the Application class to start our code where we put all the interface’s controls.
  3. Instantiate the Tk() class in the root variable. The Tk() class allows the widgets been used in the interface.
  4. Send the root as a parameter to the Application class constructor.
  5. To conclude, we call the method (event loop) root.mainloop() to show the screen. Without this event loop, the interface won’t be shown.

This code will create a very simple window when executed.

tkinter python - example window
Tkinter simple example window

4. Working with Widgets

4.1 Container explained

To work with widgets, it’s necessary to understand the concept of containers. Below is an example to help us:

tkinter python - container structure
Container structure

For a matter of organization, we define containers and inside each one, we put our widgets. Therefore, every time a container is created, we must define what is the top-level container.

After defines the hierarchy of containers and widgets, we should position the elements in the screen, indicating the position where the element will appear.

4.2 Creating a widget

Now, talking about widgets, a class defines each one in Tkinter. Here are some of the widgets available:

Widget classDescription
LabelA widget used to display text on the screen
ButtonA button that can contain text and can perform an action when clicked
EntryA text entry widget that allows only a single line of text
TextA text entry widget that allows multiline text entry
FrameA rectangular region used to group related widgets or provide padding between widgets
Widget classes

In the bottom example, we’ll add our first widget in the code:

Fist widget Tkinter example
from tkinter import *

class Application:
    def __init__(self, master=None):
        self.container1 = Frame(master)
        self.msg = Label(self.container1, text="First widget")
root = Tk()

In the previous example, we add our first container using the Frame class. Next, we use the pack() method from the Frame class that defines the geometry management of our container. We’ll see more about geometry managers in the next sections.

Following, adding a label widget we insert a simple text (“First widget”). And then, use the method pack().

Note that we put our previously created container (container1) in the Label class constructor to inform the code what’s the parent (top-level) container of the widget.

And the result is here:

tkinter python - first widget example
First widget example

Comparing with our first example, when we don’t have any widget, the screen reduced its size. This happens because when we don’t have any content defined, the screen assumes the default size.

However, when we insert some content (a widget for instance), the main window assumes the size of this element. As we didn’t define size in the pack() method, the screen assumed the widget size.

4.3 Geometry management

As we see before, after define our containers and widget’s hierarchy, we should position those elements on the screen, indicating the position that the element will appear.

For that, Tkinter has 3 options to use:

4.3.1 Pack

In our previously first widget example, we use the pack() geometry manager, one of the most used.

Pack places the widget in a Frame or window in a specified order. It computes a rectangular area (parcel) that holds the widget and fills the remaining window’s area with blank space.

Pack example
import tkinter as tk

window = tk.Tk()

frame1 = tk.Frame(master=window, width=100, height=100, bg="red")

frame2 = tk.Frame(master=window, width=50, height=50, bg="yellow")

frame3 = tk.Frame(master=window, width=25, height=25, bg="green")

tkinter python - pack manager
Pack manager example

4.3.2 Grid

The grid() geometry manager is maybe more likely to use. It provides the same approach of pack(), but in an easier way to work and maintain.

Imagine that we’re working with a table kind interface with columns and lines. The grid() method splits them in the Frame class.

Grid example
import tkinter as tk

window = tk.Tk()

for rw in range(3):
    for cl in range(3):
        frame = tk.Frame(
        frame.grid(row=rw, column=cl)
        label = tk.Label(master=frame, text=f"Row {rw}\nColumn {cl}")

Grid example

We can notice that grid() is called on each frame object created and applied to the window object (top-level).

Another change we can do is put some padding in our columns and lines, adding this on our code:

Padding on grid example
frame.grid(row=rw, column=cl, padx=5, pady=5)

And see the result here:

Grid manager with padding

Also, to work with resizing our window, we can add this line to make the window more “responsive” for our re-sizing.

Re-sizing grid example
for rw in range(3):
    window.columnconfigure(i, weight=1, minsize=75)
    window.rowconfigure(i, weight=1, minsize=50)
Grid re-sized

4.3.3 Place

We can use place() manager to put an element in a specific place in our interface.

Just specifying a x-y coordinate, we put our element in the position that we want to place or element.

Place example
import tkinter as tk

window = tk.Tk()

frame = tk.Frame(master=window, width=250, height=250, bg="white")

label1 = tk.Label(master=frame, text="I'm at (0, 0)", bg="red")
label1.place(x=0, y=0)

label2 = tk.Label(master=frame, text="I'm at (150, 150)", bg="green")
label2.place(x=150, y=150)

Place example

5. Simple application example

I’ve attached in this article a simple application interface to create a user. There, we’ll see everything we used until here and store our data in a simple SQLite.

The SQLite is not the target of this article, so you don’t need to concern about that.

The application is divided in layers as following:

  • App.py – is where we have our container and widgets of our application.
  • Users.py – is our model class for user data.
  • Db.py – is our database class to work with SQLite.

The application calls user_register_app inside the examples .zip file.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, we saw the use of the Tkinter library to build interfaces in Python. Also, we could understand the concepts involving containers and widgets and see some examples to know how to use geometry management in our interfaces.

7. Download the source code

You can download the full source code of this example here: Python GUI Programming with Tkinter

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