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Creating an Interface for the Motif Finding Script, Part 1

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And we are back. After much ado about real life, I am able to “restart” this blog and probably with a good frequency of posts. Last time we saw the final product of our motif finding series. We ended up creating a very elegant script in Python that efficiently counts words in FASTA sequences and then using a basic statistical method, calculates the significance of each word and output the overrepresented ones. Our script used a little bit less than 50 lines, and if you include the imported fasta module, it won’t top 100. But the number of lines is not important. The efficiency, clarity and speed are key here. At the same time, running a script from the command line is not something everyone is used to do. In order to add more visibility to our simple script, why not including a GUI? With a visual interface, more people can use our script, in different systems. Sounds great. Python has many options of GUI frameworks, some more cross-platform that others. In the end finding the right framework is more a matter of taste, or availability. My personal experience with wxWidgets lead me to start developing in wxPython, and for me this was a natural choice. But there are many other GUI frameworks for Python, each one providing more or less integration and portability (you can “choose” you own here). So, let’s create a skeleton for our GUI. First step is to install wxPython. Packages for Windows are available from their website, RPMs for Linux and DMG for Macs (I’m quite sure OS X Leopard comes with wxPython by default, just test importing it). After installing it, start Python and check if everything is in place

import wx

On my machine, I get no errors and the version is (you don’t need the latest version to create the GUI). Everything seems to be fine. A wxPython script has the same format as any Python script, the only difference is that its output is not directed to the prompt or a file. The script’s product will be the screen, so in most cases the output and program usage will depend on the user’s interaction with objects on the screen. Like any other graphical interface. A very simple script would look like

#!/usr/bin/env python

import wx

class pymot(wx.App):

    def __init__(self, redirect=False):
        wx.App.__init__(self, redirect)

class pymotGUI(wx.Frame):

    def __init__(self, parent, id):
        wx.Frame.__init__(self, parent, id,  'Python Motif Finder', style=wx.DEFAULT_FRAME_STYLE)

    def __do_layout(self):

app = pymot()
frame = pymotGUI(parent=None, id = -1)

Usually a wxPython interface has three parts in its script: a class for the window/frame/dialog, a class for the application and a initialization routine. All wxPython applications, and scripts, need to derive an wx.App class and initialize it (on OnInit or on __init__ functions), i.e. create the window, begin the program, etc. Another class, derived from wx.Frame in this case, will build the window/frame/dialog per se and will also contain initialization for the window, objects, events, etc. The last part is the main script where the application is started, by calling the derived class, the window is also called and shown. The last line is the MainLoop, present in every wxPython script, and it is the main line of the script, the heart of the application. MainLoop processes all the events and manages how the objects interact by receiving and dispatching such events. The script above could have been created differently, some lines of it omitted and there is also no need to derive an specific class for the frame. But this way it is easier to get a grasp of the script as it will need to be enlarged so accommodates the objects and maybe a couple of extra windows and dialogs. Running the above script will generate the window very simple and barebones. Next will explore the script above, include some extra elements and learn a little bit more of wxPython.