Chasing the IronPython and Various Other Free Desktop Development Tools

Chasing the IronPython and Various Other Free Desktop Development Tools

Python logo
Image via Wikipedia

Screw that balancing writing and developing post. It worked then. But now that I am building my own ideas. And that is where I have been for a while. I developed a few things to automate a few of my jobs in php and was stuck there for a while, but it paid off. While I was doing that, I found that some of the code I needed to build part of my idea had already been written, but in Python. So what the hell, I’d check it out. Sikuli was pretty awesome and I have used it for a few things and picked up the Python syntax.

So I would give it a try. But first, I had to find an IDE for it. Seems like a simple process. Not with me. I installed about 4 or 5 to check them out and found IronPython. Now I was not looking to write desktop software. I just wanted some dumb scripts I could cron. But if I could kill two birds with one stone… I have written Windows software before in Visual Basic 6, right before .NET came out. I didn’t know much about marketing then and only made a few hundred bucks the first year selling my software as shareware. I didn’t feel like upgrading to .NET was worth the trouble. And that was 7 years ago.

Since then I have played around a bit with AutoIt but found it too clunky for anything but basic programs without much features. I have tried a few macro tools. But nothing seemed worth the trouble to focus on. There are many ways to create windows applications with Python. Since I ran into Python through the Natural Language Toolkit as a piece I needed for my web application, creating desktop software was not a focus, so I wanted something easy and free. And here is what I installed:

It terms out that Visual Studio 10 does support Iron Python but you can’t use the WYSIWYG form designer yet. But using .NET 3 and SharpDevelop, you get a form designer. There is a beta version of Sharp Develop that supports .NET 4.0 but I tried it on two windows machines and it would not compile my executable. And it turns out that IronPython Tools for Visual Studio 2010 does not have a working form designer. Scratch that, because I am looking for RAD. Screw you purists that use a text editor. We have software for a reason. To make things easier. I make things hard enough on myself. So here is what I really ended up using:

  • Sharp Develop 3.2
  • The Visual Studio Shell
  • Iron Python 2.6.1

And here are some other possibilities I found in free bin:

  • QT - If I remember right, Skype and Google Earth are written in QT.
  • miniPHP - I am not sure if this one is going to make it. But it would have been an easy way out for me. Writing in PHP and compiling to an executable with windowing capabilities. Why do I wonder about it's future? I have seen two of these come and go over the last few years, like RoadSend which I invested time in and then updates just stopped.
  • MonoDevelop - I have yet to investigate this one more. It's a .NET IDE like Sharp Develop but it will create applications for Windows, Mac or Linux
  • Boa Constructor - A cross platform Python IDE and wxPython GUI Builder.
  • VisualWX - A RAD tool for C++, Python, Perl and Ruby

And that’s about that. And, oh yes, I wrote a piece of crap Google Scraper/Url Harvester just for the hell of it, which I am giving away. Why is it a piece of crap? Because it could do much more and I know that. But it is one piece of a bigger software suite I am writing which is why you have to join a list to get it. That way I can inform you when the bigger, better version comes out. Or you can bypass joining the list by downloading the software here, just because your my friend and all. Here is a screenshot of version #2. It is a work in progress and things can change. I finally tracked down a damn ribbon so my program can look all slick and shiny.

Stephan Miller

Written by

Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

Twitter | Github | LinkedIn