Section 6.6. Automated Program Launchers


6.6. Automated Program Launchers

Suppose, for just a moment, that you wish to ship Python programs to an audience that may be in the very early stages of evolving from computer user to computer programmer. Maybe you are shipping a Python application to nontechnical users, or perhaps you're interested in shipping a set of Python demo programs with a book. Whatever the reason, some of the people who will use your software can't be expected to do anything more than click a mouse. They certainly won't be able to edit their system configuration files to set things such as PATH and PYTHONPATH per your programs' assumptions. Your software will have to configure itself.

Luckily, Python scripts can do that too. In the next three sections, we're going to study three modules that aim to automatically launch programs with minimal assumptions about the environment on the host machine:


Launcher.py

A library of tools for automatically configuring the shell environment in preparation for launching a Python script. It can be used to set required shell variablesboth the PATH system program search path (used to find the "python" executable) and the PYTHONPATH module search path (used to resolve imports within scripts). Because such variable settings made in a parent program are inherited by spawned child programs, this interface lets scripts preconfigure search paths for other scripts.


LaunchBrowser.py

Aims to portably locate and start an Internet browser program on the host machine in order to view a local file or remote web page. It uses tools in Launcher.py to search for a reasonable browser to run.


Playfile.py

Provides tools for opening media files with either a platform-specific player or a general web browser. It can play audio, images, and video, and it uses the Python library's webbrowser and mimetypes modules to do some of its work.

All of these modules are designed to be reusable in any context where you want your software to be user friendly. By searching for files and configuring environments automatically, your users can avoid (or at least postpone) having to learn the intricacies of environment configuration.

6.6.1. Launcher Module Clients

The three modules in this section see action in many of this book's examples. In fact, we've already used some of these tools. The launchmodes script we met at the end of the prior chapter imported Launcher functions to hunt for the local python.exe interpreter's path, needed by os.spawnv calls. That script could have assumed that everyone who installs it on their machine will edit its source code to add their own Python location; but the technical know-how required for even that task is already light-years beyond many potential users.[*] It's much nicer to invest a negligible amount of startup time to locate Python automatically.

[*] You gurus and wizards out there will just have to take my word for it. One of the very first things you learn from flying around the world teaching Python to beginners is just how much knowledge developers take for granted. In the first edition of the book Learning Python, for example, my coauthor and I directed readers to do things like "open a file in your favorite text editor" and "start up a DOS command console." We had no shortage of email from beginners wondering what in the world we meant.

The two modules listed in Examples 6-14 and 6-15, together with launchmodes of the prior chapter, also form the core of the demo-launcher programs at the top of the examples distribution tree. There's nothing quite like being able to witness programs in action first hand, so I wanted to make it as easy as possible to launch the Python examples in this book. Ideally, they should run straight from the book examples distribution package when clicked, and not require readers to wade through a complex environment installation procedure.

However, many demos perform cross-directory imports and so require the book's module package directories to be installed in PYTHONPATH; it is not enough just to click on some programs' icons at random. Moreover, when first starting out, users can't be assumed to have added the Python executable to their system search path either; the name "python" might not mean anything in the shell.

At least on platforms tested thus far, the following two modules solve such configuration problems. For example, the Launch_PyDemos.pyw script in the root directory automatically configures the system and Python execution environments using Launcher.py tools, and then spawns PyDemos2.pyw, a Tkinter GUI demo interface we'll meet in Chapter 10. PyDemos in turn uses launchmodes to spawn other programs that also inherit the environment settings made at the top. The net effect is that clicking any of the Launch_* scripts starts Python programs even if you haven't touched your environment settings at all.

You still need to install Python if it's not present, of course, but the Python Windows self-installer is a simple point-and-click affair too. Because searches and configuration take extra time, it's still to your advantage to eventually configure your environment settings and run programs such as PyDemos directly instead of through the launcher scripts. But there's much to be said for instant gratification when it comes to software.

These tools will show up in other contexts later in this text. For instance, a GUI example in Chapter 11, big_gui, will use a Launcher tool to locate canned Python source-distribution demo programs in arbitrary and unpredictable places on the underlying computer.

The LaunchBrowser script in Example 6-15 also uses Launcher to locate suitable web browsers and is itself used to start Internet demos in the PyDemos and PyGadgets launcher GUIsthat is, Launcher starts PyDemos, which starts LaunchBrowser, which uses Launcher. By optimizing generality, these modules also optimize reusability.

6.6.2. Launching Programs Without Environment Settings

Because the Launcher.py file is heavily documented, I won't go over its fine points in narrative here. Instead, I'll just point out that all of its functions are useful by themselves, but the main entry point is the launchBookExamples function near the end; you need to work your way from the bottom of this file up in order to glimpse its larger picture.

The launchBookExamples function uses all the others to configure the environment and then spawn one or more programs to run in that environment. In fact, the top-level demo launcher scripts shown in Examples 6-12 and 6-13 do nothing more than ask this function to spawn GUI demo interface programs we'll meet in Chapter 10 (e.g., PyDemos2.pyw and PyGadgets_bar.pyw). Because the GUIs are spawned indirectly through this interface, all programs they spawn inherit the environment configurations too.

Example 6-12. PP3E\Launch_PyDemos.pyw

 #!/bin/env python ################################################## # PyDemos + environment search/config first # run this if you haven't set up your paths yet # you still must install Python first, though ################################################## import Launcher Launcher.launchBookExamples(['PyDemos2.pyw'], trace=False) 

Example 6-13. PP3E\Launch_PyGadgets_bar.pyw

 #!/bin/env python ################################################## # PyGadgets_bar + environment search/config first # run this if you haven't set up your paths yet # you still must install Python first, though ################################################## import Launcher Launcher.launchBookExamples(['PyGadgets_bar.pyw'], trace=False) 

When run directly, PyDemos2.pyw and PyGadgets_bar.pyw instead rely on the configuration settings on the underlying machine. In other words, Launcher effectively hides configuration details from the GUI interfaces by enclosing them in a configuration program layer. To understand how, study Example 6-14.

Example 6-14. PP3E\Launcher.py

 #!/usr/bin/env python """ ========================================================================== Tools to find files, and run Python demos even if your environment has not been manually configured yet.  For instance, provided you have already installed Python, you can launch Tkinter GUI demos directly from the book's examples distribution tree by double-clicking this file's icon, without first changing your environment configuration. Assumes Python has been installed first (double-click on the python self installer on Windows), and tries to find where Python and the examples distribution live on your machine.  Sets Python module and system search paths before running scripts: this only works because env settings are inherited by spawned programs on both Windows and Linux. You may want to edit the list of directories searched for speed, and will probably want to configure your PYTHONPATH eventually to avoid this search.  This script is friendly to already-configured path settings, and serves to demo platform-independent directory path processing. Python programs can always be started under the Windows port by clicking (or spawning a 'start' DOS command), but many book examples require the module search path too for cross-directory package imports. ========================================================================== """ import sys, os try:     PyInstallDir = os.path.dirname(sys.executable) except:     PyInstallDir = r'C:\Python24'      # for searches, set for older pythons BookExamplesFile = 'README-PP3E.txt'   # for pythonpath configuration def which(program, trace=True):     """     Look for program in all dirs in the system's search     path var, PATH; return full path to program if found,     else None. Doesn't handle aliases on Unix (where we     could also just run a 'which' shell cmd with os.popen),     and it might help to also check if the file is really     an executable with os.stat and the stat module, using     code like this: os.stat(filename)[stat.ST_MODE] & 0111     """     try:         ospath = os.environ['PATH']     except:         ospath = '' # OK if not set     systempath = ospath.split(os.pathsep)     if trace: print 'Looking for', program, 'on', systempath     for sysdir in systempath:         filename = os.path.join(sysdir, program)      # adds os.sep between         if os.path.isfile(filename):                  # exists and is a file?             if trace: print 'Found', filename             return filename         else:             if trace: print 'Not at', filename     if trace: print program, 'not on system path'     return None def findFirst(thisDir, targetFile, trace=False):     """     Search directories at and below thisDir for a file     or dir named targetFile.  Like find.find in standard     lib, but no name patterns, follows Unix links, and     stops at the first file found with a matching name.     targetFile must be a simple base name, not dir path.     could also use os.walk or os.path.walk to do this.     """     if trace: print 'Scanning', thisDir     for filename in os.listdir(thisDir):                    # skip . and ..         if filename in [os.curdir, os.pardir]:              # just in case             continue         elif filename == targetFile:                        # check name match             return os.path.join(thisDir, targetFile)        # stop at this one         else:             pathname = os.path.join(thisDir, filename)      # recur in subdirs             if os.path.isdir(pathname):                     # stop at 1st match                 below = findFirst(pathname, targetFile, trace)                 if below: return below def guessLocation(file, isOnWindows=(sys.platform[:3]=='win'), trace=True):     """     Try to find directory where file is installed     by looking in standard places for the platform.     Change tries lists as needed for your machine.     """     cwd = os.getcwd( )                                # directory where py started     tryhere = cwd + os.sep + file                 # or os.path.join(cwd, file)     if os.path.exists(tryhere):                   # don't search if it is here         return tryhere                            # findFirst(cwd,file) descends     if isOnWindows:         tries = []         for pydir in [PyInstallDir, r'C:\Program Files\Python']:             if os.path.exists(pydir):                 tries.append(pydir)         tries = tries + [cwd, r'C:\Program Files']         for drive in 'CDEFG':             tries.append(drive + ':\\')     else:         tries = [cwd, os.environ['HOME'], '/usr/bin', '/usr/local/bin']     for dir in tries:         if trace: print 'Searching for %s in %s' % (file, dir)         try:             match = findFirst(dir, file)         except OSError:             if trace: print 'Error while searching', dir     # skip bad drives         else:             if match: return match     if trace: print file, 'not found! - configure your environment manually'     return None PP3EpackageRoots = [                               # python module search path    #'%sPP3E' % os.sep,                             # pass in your own elsewhere     '']                                            # '' adds examplesDir root def configPythonPath(examplesDir, packageRoots=PP3EpackageRoots, trace=True):     """     Set up the Python module import search-path directory     list as necessary to run programs in the book examples     distribution, in case it hasn't been configured already.     Add examples package root + any nested package roots     that imports are relative to (just top root currently).     os.environ assignments call os.putenv internally in 1.5+,     so these settings will be inherited by spawned programs.     Python source lib dir and '.' are automatically searched;     unix|win os.sep is '/' | '\\', os.pathsep is ':' | ';'.     sys.path is for this process only--must set os.environ.     adds new dirs to front, in case there are two installs.     """     try:         ospythonpath = os.environ['PYTHONPATH']     except:         ospythonpath = '' # OK if not set     if trace: print 'PYTHONPATH start:\n', ospythonpath     addList = []     for root in packageRoots:         importDir = examplesDir + root         if importDir in sys.path:             if trace: print 'Exists', importDir         else:             if trace: print 'Adding', importDir             sys.path.append(importDir)             addList.append(importDir)     if addList:         addString = os.pathsep.join(addList) + os.pathsep         os.environ['PYTHONPATH'] = addString + ospythonpath         if trace: print 'PYTHONPATH updated:\n', os.environ['PYTHONPATH']     else:         if trace: print 'PYTHONPATH unchanged' def configSystemPath(pythonDir, trace=True):     """     Add python executable dir to system search path if needed     """     try:         ospath = os.environ['PATH']     except:         ospath = '' # OK if not set     if trace: print 'PATH start:\n', ospath     if ospath.lower().find(pythonDir.lower( )) == -1:            # not found?         os.environ['PATH'] = ospath + os.pathsep + pythonDir      # not case diff         if trace: print 'PATH updated:\n', os.environ['PATH']     else:         if trace: print 'PATH unchanged' def runCommandLine(pypath, exdir, command, isOnWindows=0, trace=True):     """     Run python command as an independent program/process on     this platform, using pypath as the Python executable,     and exdir as the installed examples root directory.     Need full path to Python on Windows, but not on Unix.     On Windows, an os.system('start ' + command) is similar,     except that .py files pop up a DOS console box for I/O.     Could use launchmodes.py too but pypath is already known.     """     command = exdir + os.sep + command          # rooted in examples tree     command = os.path.normpath(command)         # fix up mixed slashes     os.environ['PP3E_PYTHON_FILE'] = pypath     # export directories for     os.environ['PP3E_EXAMPLE_DIR'] = exdir      # use in spawned programs     if trace: print 'Spawning:', command     if isOnWindows:         os.spawnv(os.P_DETACH, pypath, ('python', command))     else:         cmdargs = [pypath] + command.split( )         if os.fork( ) == 0:             os.execv(pypath, cmdargs)           # run prog in child process def launchBookExamples(commandsToStart, trace=True):     """     Toplevel entry point: find python exe and examples dir,     configure environment, and spawn programs.  Spawned     programs will inherit any configurations made here.     """     isOnWindows  = (sys.platform[:3] == 'win')     pythonFile   = (isOnWindows and 'python.exe') or 'python'     if trace:         print os.getcwd( ), os.curdir, os.sep, os.pathsep         print 'starting on %s...' % sys.platform     # find python executable: check system path, then guess     try:         pypath = sys.executable     # python executable running me     except:         # on older pythons         pypath = which(pythonFile) or guessLocation(pythonFile, isOnWindows)     assert pypath     pydir, pyfile = os.path.split(pypath)               # up 1 from file     if trace:         print 'Using this Python executable:', pypath         raw_input('Press <enter> key')     # find examples root dir: check cwd and others     expath = guessLocation(BookExamplesFile, isOnWindows)     assert expath     updir  = expath.split(os.sep)[:-2]                  # up 2 from file     exdir  = os.sep.join(updir)                         # to PP3E pkg parent     if trace:         print 'Using this examples root directory:', exdir         raw_input('Press <enter> key')     # export python and system paths if needed     configSystemPath(pydir)     configPythonPath(exdir)     if trace:         print 'Environment configured'         raw_input('Press <enter> key')     # spawn programs: inherit configs     for command in commandsToStart:         runCommandLine(pypath, os.path.dirname(expath), command, isOnWindows) if _ _name_ _ == '_ _main_ _':     #     # if no args, spawn all in the list of programs below     # else rest of cmd line args give single cmd to be spawned     #     if len(sys.argv) == 1:         commandsToStart = [             'Gui/TextEditor/textEditor.py',         # either slash works             'Lang/Calculator/calculator.py',        # launcher normalizes path             'PyDemos2.pyw',            #'PyGadgets.py',             'echoEnvironment.pyw'         ]     else:         commandsToStart = [ ' '.join(sys.argv[1:]) ]     launchBookExamples(commandsToStart)     if sys.platform[:3] == 'win':         raw_input('Press Enter') # to read msgs if clicked 

One way to understand the launcher script is to trace the messages it prints along the way. When run on my Windows test machine for the third edition of this book, I have a PYTHONPATH but have not configured my PATH to include Python. Here is the script's trace output:

 C:\...\PP3E>Launcher.py C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E . \ ; starting on win32... Using this Python executable: C:\Python24\python.exe Press <enter> key Using this examples root directory: C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples Press <enter> key PATH start: C:\WINDOWS\system32;...more deleted...;C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 4.1\bin PATH updated: C:\WINDOWS\system32;...more deleted...;C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 4.1\bin; C:\Python24 PYTHONPATH start: C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples;C:\Mark\PP2E-cd\Examples Exists C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples PYTHONPATH unchanged Environment configured Press <enter> key Spawning: C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E\Gui\TextEditor\textEditor.py Spawning: C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E\Lang\Calculator\calculator.py Spawning: C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E\PyDemos2.pyw Spawning: C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E\echoEnvironment.pyw Press Enter 

Four programs are spawned with PATH and PYTHONPATH preconfigured according to the location of your Python interpreter program, the location of your examples distribution tree, and the list of required PYTHONPATH enTRies in the script variable, PP3EpackageRoots.

Just one directory needs to be added to PYTHONPATH for book examples todaythe one containing the PP3E root directorysince all cross-directory imports are package paths relative to the PP3E root. That makes it easier to configure, but the launcher code still supports a list of entries for generality (it may be used for a different tree).

To demonstrate, let's look at some trace outputs obtained with different configurations in the past. When run by itself without a PYTHONPATH setting, the script finds a suitable Python and the examples root directory (by hunting for its README file), uses those results to configure PATH and PYTHONPATH settings if needed and spawns a precoded list of program examples. For example, here is a launch on Windows with an empty PYTHONPATH, a different directory structure, and an older version of Python:

 C:\temp\examples>set PYTHONPATH= C:\temp\examples>python Launcher.py C:\temp\examples . \ ; starting on win32... Looking for python.exe on ['C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS\\COMMAND', 'C:\\STUFF\\BIN.MKS', 'C:\\PROGRAM FILES\\PYTHON'] Not at C:\WINDOWS\python.exe Not at C:\WINDOWS\python.exe Not at C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\python.exe Not at C:\STUFF\BIN.MKS\python.exe Found C:\PROGRAM FILES\PYTHON\python.exe Using this Python executable: C:\PROGRAM FILES\PYTHON\python.exe Press <enter> key Using this examples root directory: C:\temp\examples Press <enter> key PATH start C:\WINDOWS;C:\WINDOWS;C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND;C:\STUFF\BIN.MKS; C:\PROGRAM FILES\PYTHON PATH unchanged PYTHONPATH start: Adding C:\temp\examples\Part3 Adding C:\temp\examples\Part2 Adding C:\temp\examples\Part2\Gui Adding C:\temp\examples PYTHONPATH updated: C:\temp\examples\Part3;C:\temp\examples\Part2;C:\temp\examples\Part2\Gui; C:\temp\examples; Environment configured Press <enter> key Spawning: C:\temp\examples\Part2\Gui\TextEditor\textEditor.pyw Spawning: C:\temp\examples\Part2\Lang\Calculator\calculator.py Spawning: C:\temp\examples\PyDemos.pyw Spawning: C:\temp\examples\echoEnvironment.pyw 

When used by the PyDemos launcher script, Launcher does not pause for key presses along the way (the trace argument is passed in false). Here is the output generated when using the module to launch PyDemos with PYTHONPATH already set to include all the required directories; the script both avoids adding settings redundantly and retains any exiting settings already in your environment (again, this reflects an older tree structure and Python install to demonstrate the search capabilities of the script):

 C:\PP3rdEd\examples>python Launch_PyDemos.pyw Looking for python.exe on ['C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS\\COMMAND', 'C:\\STUFF\\BIN.MKS', 'C:\\PROGRAM FILES\\PYTHON'] Not at C:\WINDOWS\python.exe Not at C:\WINDOWS\python.exe Not at C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\python.exe Not at C:\STUFF\BIN.MKS\python.exe Found C:\PROGRAM FILES\PYTHON\python.exe PATH start C:\WINDOWS;C:\WINDOWS;C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND;C:\STUFF\BIN.MKS; C:\PROGRAM FILES\PYTHON PATH unchanged PYTHONPATH start: C:\PP3rdEd\examples\Part3;C:\PP3rdEd\examples\Part2;C:\PP3rdEd\examples\ Part2\Gui;C:\PP3rdEd\examples Exists C:\PP3rdEd\examples\Part3 Exists C:\PP3rdEd\examples\Part2 Exists C:\PP3rdEd\examples\Part2\Gui Exists C:\PP3rdEd\examples PYTHONPATH unchanged Spawning: C:\PP3rdEd\examples\PyDemos.pyw 

And finally, here is the trace output of a launch on my Linux system; because Launcher is written with portable Python code and library calls, environment configuration and directory searches work just as well there:

 [mark@toy ~/PP3rdEd/examples]$ unsetenv PYTHONPATH [mark@toy ~/PP3rdEd/examples]$ python Launcher.py /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples . / : starting on linux2... Looking for python on ['/home/mark/bin', '.', '/usr/bin', '/usr/bin', '/usr/local/ bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin', '/bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin', '/home/mark/ bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin', '/home/mark/bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin'] Not at /home/mark/bin/python Not at ./python Found /usr/bin/python Using this Python executable: /usr/bin/python Press <enter> key Using this examples root directory: /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples Press <enter> key PATH start /home/mark/bin:.:/usr/bin:/usr/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/X11R6/bin:/bin:/ usr /X11R6/bin:/home/mark/bin:/usr/X11R6/bin:/home/mark/bin:/usr/X11R6/bin PATH unchanged PYTHONPATH start: Adding /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part3 Adding /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part2 Adding /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part2/Gui Adding /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples PYTHONPATH updated: /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part3:/home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part2:/home/ mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part2/Gui:/home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples: Environment configured Press <enter> key Spawning: /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part2/Gui/TextEditor/textEditor.py Spawning: /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/Part2/Lang/Calculator/calculator.py Spawning: /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/PyDemos.pyw Spawning: /home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/echoEnvironment.pyw 

In all but the first of these launches, the Python interpreter was found on the system search path, so no real searches were performed (the Not at lines near the top represent the module's which function, and the first launch used the more recent sys.executable instead of searching). In a moment, we'll also use the launcher's which and guessLocation functions to look for web browsers in a way that kicks off searches in standard install directory trees. Later in the book, we'll use this module in other waysfor instance, to search for demo programs and source code files somewhere on the machine with calls of this form:

 C:\temp>python >>> from PP3E.Launcher import guessLocation >>> guessLocation('hanoi.py') Searching for hanoi.py in C:\Program Files\Python Searching for hanoi.py in C:\temp\examples Searching for hanoi.py in C:\Program Files Searching for hanoi.py in C:\ 'C:\\PP3rdEd\\cdrom\\Python1.5.2\\SourceDistribution\\Unpacked\\Python-1.5.2 \\Demo\\tkinter\\guido\\hanoi.py' >>> from PP3E.Launcher import findFirst >>> findFirst('.', 'PyMailGui.py') '.\\examples\\Internet\\Email\\PyMailGui.py' >>> findFirst('.', 'peoplecgi.py', True) Scanning . Scanning .\PP3E Scanning .\PP3E\Preview Scanning .\PP3E\Preview\.idlerc Scanning .\PP3E\Preview\cgi-bin '.\\PP3E\\Preview\\cgi-bin\\peoplecgi.py' 

Such searches aren't necessary if you can rely on an environment variable to give at least part of the path to a file; for instance, paths scripts within the PP3E examples tree can be named by joining the PP3EHOME shell variable with the rest of the script's path (assuming the rest of the script's path won't change and that we can rely on that shell variable being set everywhere).

Some scripts may also be able to compose relative paths to other scripts using the sys.path[0] home-directory indicator added for imports (see Chapter 3). But in cases where a file can appear at arbitrary places, searches like those shown previously are sometimes the best scripts can do. The earlier hanoi.py program file, for example, can be anywhere on the underlying machine (if present at all); searching is a more user-friendly final alternative than simply giving up.

6.6.3. Launching Web Browsers Portably

Web browsers can do amazing things these days. They can serve as document viewers, remote program launchers, database interfaces, media players, and more. Being able to open a browser on a local or remote page file from within a script opens up all kinds of interesting user-interface possibilities. For instance, a Python system might automatically display its HTML-coded documentation when needed by launching the local web browser on the appropriate page file.[*] Because most browsers know how to present pictures, audio files, and movie clips, opening a browser on such a file is also a simple way for scripts to deal with multimedia generically.

[*] For example, the PyDemos demo bar GUI we'll meet in Chapter 10 has buttons that automatically open a browser on web pages related to this bookthe publisher's site, the Python home page, my update files, and so onwhen clicked.

The next script listed in this chapter is less ambitious than Launcher.py, but equally reusable: LaunchBrowser.py attempts to provide a portable interface for starting a web browser. Because techniques for launching browsers vary per platform, this script provides an interface that aims to hide the differences from callers. Once launched, the browser runs as an independent program and may be opened to view either a local file or a remote page on the Web.

Here's how it works. Because most web browsers can be started with shell command lines, this script simply builds and launches one as appropriate. For instance, to run a Netscape browser on Linux, a shell command of the form netscape url is run, where url begins with file:// for local files and http:// for live remote-page accesses (this is per URL conventions we'll meet in more detail later in Chapter 16). On Windows, a shell command such as start url achieves the same goal. Here are some platform-specific highlights:


Windows platforms

On Windows, the script either opens browsers with DOS start commands or searches for and runs browsers with the os.spawnv call. On this platform, browsers can usually be opened with simple start commands (e.g., os.system("start xxx.html")). Unfortunately, start relies on the underlying filename associations for web page files on your machine, picks a browser for you per those associations, and has a command-line length limit that this script might exceed for long local file paths or remote page addresses.

Because of that, this script falls back on running an explicitly named browser with os.spawnv, if requested or required. To do so, though, it must find the full path to a browser executable. Since it can't assume that users will add it to the PATH system search path (or this script's source code), the script searches for a suitable browser with Launcher module tools in both directories on PATH and in common places where executables are installed on Windows.


Unix-like platforms

On other platforms, the script relies on os.system and the system PATH setting on the underlying machine. It simply runs a command line naming the first browser on a candidates list that it can find on your PATH setting. Because it's much more likely that browsers are in standard search directories on platforms like Unix and Linux (e.g., /usr/bin), the script doesn't look for a browser elsewhere on the machine. Notice the & at the end of the browser command-line run; without it, os.system calls block on Unix-like platforms.

All of this is easily customized (this is Python code, after all), and you may need to add additional logic for other platforms. But on all of my machines, the script makes reasonable assumptions that allow me to largely forget most of the platform-specific bits previously discussed; I just call the same launchBrowser function everywhere. For more details, let's look at Example 6-15.

Example 6-15. PP3E\LaunchBrowser.py

 #!/bin/env python ############################################################################# # Launch a web browser to view a web page, portably.  If run in '-live' # mode, assumes you have an Internet feed and opens page at a remote site. # Otherwise, assumes the page is a full file pathname on your machine, # and opens the page file locally.  On Unix/Linux, finds first browser # on your $PATH.  On Windows, tries DOS "start" command first, or searches # for the location of a browser on your machine for os.spawnv by checking # PATH and common Windows executable directories. You may need to tweak # browser executable name/dirs if this fails. This has only been tested in # Windows and Linux; you may need to add more code for other machines (mac: # ic.launcurl(url)?). See also the new standard library webbrowser module. ############################################################################# import os, sys from Launcher import which, guessLocation     # file search utilities useWinStart = False                           # 0=ignore name associations onWindows   = sys.platform[:3] == 'win' def launchUnixBrowser(url, verbose=True):         # add your platform if unique     tries = ['netscape', 'mosaic', 'lynx']        # order your preferences here     tries = ['firefox'] + tries                   # Firefox rules!     for program in tries:         if which(program): break                  # find one that is on $path     else:         assert 0, 'Sorry - no browser found'     if verbose: print 'Running', program     os.system('%s %s &' % (program, url))         # or fork+exec; assumes $path def launchWindowsBrowser(url, verbose=True):     if useWinStart and len(url) <= 400:           # on Windows: start or spawnv         try:                                      # spawnv works if cmd too long             if verbose: print 'Starting'             os.system('start ' + url)             # try name associations first             return                                # fails if cmdline too long         except: pass     browser = None                                # search for a browser exe     tries   = ['IEXPLORE.EXE', 'netscape.exe']    # try Explorer, then Netscape     tries   = ['firefox.exe'] + tries     for program in tries:         browser = which(program) or guessLocation(program, 1)         if browser: break     assert browser != None, 'Sorry - no browser found'     if verbose: print 'Spawning', browser     os.spawnv(os.P_DETACH, browser, (program, url)) def launchBrowser(Mode='-file', Page='index.html', Site=None, verbose=True):     if Mode == '-live':         url = 'http://%s/%s' % (Site, Page)       # open page at remote site     else:         url = 'file://%s' % Page                  # open page on this machine     if verbose: print 'Opening', url     if onWindows:         launchWindowsBrowser(url, verbose)        # use windows start, spawnv     else:         launchUnixBrowser(url, verbose)           # assume $path on Unix, Linux if _ _name_ _ == '_ _main_ _':     # defaults     Mode = '-file'     Page = os.getcwd( ) + '/Internet/Web/PyInternetDemos.html'     Site = 'starship.python.net/~lutz'     # get command-line args     helptext = "Usage: LaunchBrowser.py [ -file path | -live path site ]"     argc = len(sys.argv)     if argc > 1:  Mode = sys.argv[1]     if argc > 2:  Page = sys.argv[2]     if argc > 3:  Site = sys.argv[3]     if Mode not in ['-live', '-file']:         print helptext         sys.exit(1)     else:         launchBrowser(Mode, Page, Site) 

6.6.3.1. Launching browsers with command lines

This module is designed to be both run and imported. When run by itself on my Windows machine, Firefox starts up. The requested page file is always displayed in a new browser window when os.spawnv is applied but in the currently open browser window (if any) when running a start command:

 C:\...\PP3E>LaunchBrowser.py Opening file://C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E/Internet/Web/PyInternetDemos.html Starting 

The seemingly odd mix of forward and backward slashes in the URL here works fine within the browser; it pops up the window shown in Figure 6-2. Note that this script may be renamed with a .pyw extension by the time you fetch its source in order to suppress its pop-up window on Windows; rename back to a .py to see its trace outputs.

Figure 6-2. Launching a Windows browser on a local file


By default, a start command is spawned; to see the browser search procedure in action on Windows, set the script's useWinStart variable to False (or 0). The script will search for a browser on your PATH settings, and then search in common Windows install directories hardcoded in Launcher.py. Here is the search in action on an older machine with Internet Explorer as the first in the list of browsers to try (the PATH on my newer machine is too complex to bear):

 C:\...\PP3E>python LaunchBrowser.py                        -file C:\Stuff\Website\public_html\about-pp.html Opening file://C:\Stuff\Website\public_html\about-pp.html Looking for IEXPLORE.EXE on ['C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS\\COMMAND', 'C:\\STUFF\\BIN.MKS', 'C:\\PROGRAM FILES\\PYTHON'] Not at C:\WINDOWS\IEXPLORE.EXE Not at C:\WINDOWS\IEXPLORE.EXE Not at C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\IEXPLORE.EXE Not at C:\STUFF\BIN.MKS\IEXPLORE.EXE Not at C:\PROGRAM FILES\PYTHON\IEXPLORE.EXE IEXPLORE.EXE not on system path Searching for IEXPLORE.EXE in C:\Program Files\Python Searching for IEXPLORE.EXE in C:\PP3rdEd\examples\PP3E Searching for IEXPLORE.EXE in C:\Program Files Spawning C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\IEXPLORE.EXE 

If you study these trace message you'll notice that the browser wasn't on the system search path but was eventually located in a local C:\Program Files subdirectory; this is just the Launcher module's which and guessLocation functions at work. As run here, the script searches for Internet Explorer first; if that's not to your liking, try changing the script's TRies list to make Netscape (or Firefox) first:

 C:\...\PP3E>python LaunchBrowser.py Opening file://C:\PP3rdEd\examples\PP3E/Internet/Cgi-Web/PyInternetDemos.html Looking for netscape.exe on ['C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS', 'C:\\WINDOWS\\COMMAND', 'C:\\STUFF\\BIN.MKS', 'C:\\PROGRAM FILES\\PYTHON'] Not at C:\WINDOWS\netscape.exe Not at C:\WINDOWS\netscape.exe Not at C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND\netscape.exe Not at C:\STUFF\BIN.MKS\netscape.exe Not at C:\PROGRAM FILES\PYTHON\netscape.exe netscape.exe not on system path Searching for netscape.exe in C:\Program Files\Python Searching for netscape.exe in C:\PP3rdEd\examples\PP3E Searching for netscape.exe in C:\Program Files Spawning C:\Program Files\Netscape\Communicator\Program\netscape.exe 

Here, the script eventually found Netscape in a different install directory on the local machine. Besides automatically finding a user's browser for him, this script also aims to be portable. When running this file unchanged on Linux, the local Netscape browser starts if it lives on your PATH; otherwise, others are tried:

 [mark@toy ~/PP3rdEd/examples/PP3E]$ python LaunchBrowser.py Opening file:///home/mark/PP3rdEd/examples/PP3E/Internet/Cgi- Web/PyInternetDemos.html Looking for netscape on ['/home/mark/bin', '.', '/usr/bin', '/usr/bin', '/usr/local/bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin', '/bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin', '/home/mark/ bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin', '/home/mark/bin', '/usr/X11R6/bin'] Not at /home/mark/bin/netscape Not at ./netscape Found /usr/bin/netscape Running netscape [mark@toy ~/PP3rdEd/examples/PP3E]$ 

If you have an Internet connection, you can open pages at remote servers toothe next command opens the root page at my site on the starship.python.net server, located somewhere on the East Coast the last time I checked:

 C:\...\PP3E>python LaunchBrowser.py -live ~lutz starship.python.net Opening http://starship.python.net/~lutz Starting 

In Chapter 10, we'll see that this script is also run to start Internet examples in the top-level demo launcher system: the PyDemos script presented in that chapter portably opens local or remote web page files with this button-press callback:

 [File mode]     pagepath = os.getcwd( ) + '/Internet/Web'     demoButton('PyMailCGI2',                'Browser-based pop/smtp email interface',                'LaunchBrowser.pyw -file %s/PyMailCgi/pymailcgi.html' % pagepath,                pymailcgifiles) [Live mode]     site = 'localhost:%s'     demoButton('PyMailCGI2',                'Browser-based pop/smtp email interface',                'LaunchBrowser.pyw -live pymailcgi.html '+ (site % 8000),                pymailcgifiles) 

6.6.3.2. Launching browsers with function calls

Other programs can spawn LaunchBrowser.py command lines such as those shown previously with tools such as os.system, as usual; but since the script's core logic is coded in a function, it can just as easily be imported and called:

 >>> from PP3E.LaunchBrowser import launchBrowser >>> launchBrowser(Page=r'C:\Mark\WEBSITE\public_html\about-pp.html') Opening file://C:\Mark\WEBSITE\public_html\about-pp.html Starting >>> 

When called like this, launchBrowser isn't much different than spawning a start command on DOS or a netscape command on Linux, but the Python launchBrowser function is designed to be a portable interface for browser startup across platforms. Python scripts can use this interface to pop up local HTML documents in web browsers; on machines with live Internet links, this call even lets scripts open browsers on remote pages on the Web:

 >>> launchBrowser(Mode='-live', Page='index.html', Site='www.python.org') Opening http://www.python.org/index.html Starting >>> launchBrowser(Mode='-live', Page='PyInternetDemos.html', ...                             Site='localhost') Opening http://localhost/PyInternetDemos.html Starting 

On a computer where there is just a dial-up connection, the first call here opens a new Internet Explorer GUI window if needed, dials out through a modem, and fetches the Python home page from http://www.python.org on both Windows and Linuxnot bad for a single function call. On broadband connections, the page comes up directly. The second call does the same but, using a locally running web server, opens a web demos page we'll explore in Chapter 16.

6.6.3.3. Viewing multimedia in browsers

I mentioned earlier that browsers are a cheap way to present multimedia. Alas, this sort of thing is best viewed live, so the best I can do is show startup commands here. The next command line and function call, for example, display two GIF images in Internet Explorer on my machine (be sure to use full local pathnames). The result of the first of these is captured in Figure 6-3 (you may have to edit the browser tries list and start-mode flags on your machine to make this work).

Figure 6-3. Launching a browser on an image file


 C:\...\PP3E>python LaunchBrowser.py            -file C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E\Gui\PIL\images\dublin3.jpg C:\temp>python >>> from LaunchBrowser import launchBrowser >>> launchBrowser(Page=r'C:\temp\Examples\PP3E\Gui\gifs\mp_lumberjack.gif') 

The next command line and call open the sousa.au audio file on my machine; the second of these downloads the file from http://www.rmi.net first. If all goes as planned, the Monty Python theme song should play on your computer:

 C:\PP3rdEd\examples>python LaunchBrowser.py                      -file C:\Mark\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E\Internet\Ftp\sousa.au Opening file://C:\PP3E-cd\Examples\PP3E\Internet\Ftp\sousa.au Starting >>> launchBrowser(Mode='-live', ...               Site='www.rmi.net', ...               Page='~lutz/sousa.au', ...               verbose=0) >>> 

Of course, you could just pass these filenames to a spawned start command or os.startfile call on Windows, or run the appropriate handler program directly with something like os.system. But opening these files in a browser is a more portable approach; you don't need to keep track of a set of file-handler programs per platform. Provided your scripts use a portable browser launcher such as LaunchBrowser, you don't even need to keep track of a browser per platform.

That generality is a win unless you wish to do something more specific for certain media types or can't run a web browser. On some PDAs, for instance, you may not be able to open a general web browser on a particular file. In the next section, we'll see how to get more specific when we need to.

Finally, I want to point out that LaunchBrowser reflects browsers that I tend to use. For instance, it tries to find Firefox and then Internet Explorer before Netscape on Windows, and prefers Netscape over Mosaic and Lynx on Linux, but you should feel free to change these choices in your copy of the script. In fact, both LaunchBrowser and Launcher make a few heuristic guesses when searching for files that may not make sense on every computer. Configure as needed.

6.6.4. A Portable Media File Player Tool

Reptilian minds think alike. Roughly one year after I wrote the LaunchBrowser script of the prior section for the second edition of this book, Python sprouted a new standard library module that serves a similar purpose: webbrowser. In this section, we wrap up the chapter with a script that makes use of this new module as well as the Python mimetypes module in order to implement a generic, portable, and extendable media file player.

6.6.4.1. The Python webbrowser module

Like LaunchBrowser of the prior section, the standard library webbrowser module also attempts to provide a portable interface for launching browsers from scripts. Its implementation is more complex but likely to support more options and platforms than the LaunchBrowser script presented earlier (classic Macintosh browsers, for instance, are directly supported as well). Its interface is straightforward:

 import webbrowser webbrowser.open_new('file://' + fullfilename)         # or http://... 

The preceding code will open the named file in a new web browser window using whatever browser is found on the underlying computer or raise an exception if it cannot. Use the module's open call to reuse an already-open browser window if possible, and use an argument string of the form "http://..." to open a page on a web server. In fact, you can pass in any URL that the browser understands. The following pops up Python's home page in a new browser window, for example:

 >>> webbrowser.open_new('http://www.python.org') 

Among other things, this is an easy way to display HTML documents as well as media files, as shown in the prior section. We'll use this module later in this book as a way to display HTML-formatted email messages in the PyMailGUI program in Chapter 15. See the Python library manual for more details. In Chapter 16, we'll also meet a related call, urllib.urlopen, which fetches a web page's text but does not open it in a browser.

To demonstrate the webbrowser module's basic utility, though, let's code another way to open multimedia files. Example 6-16 tries to open a media file on your computer in a somewhat more intelligent way. As a last resort, it always falls back on trying to open the file in a web browser, much like we did in the prior section. Here, though, we first try to run a type-specific player if one is specific in tables, and we use the Python standard library's webbrowser to open a browser instead of using our LaunchBrowser.

6.6.4.2. The Python mimetypes module

To make this even more useful, we also use the Python mimetypes standard library module to automatically determine the media type from the filename. We get back a type/subtype MIME content-type string if the type can be determined or None if the guess failed:

 >>> import mimetypes >>> mimetypes.guess_type('spam.jpg') ('image/jpeg', None) >>> mimetypes.guess_type('TheBrightSideOfLife.mp3') ('audio/mpeg', None) >>> mimetypes.guess_type('lifeofbrian.mpg') ('video/mpeg', None) >>> mimetypes.guess_type('lifeofbrian.xyz')       # unknown type (None, None) 

Stripping off the first part of the content-type string gives the file's general media type, which we can use to select a generic player:

 >>> contype, encoding = mimetypes.guess_type('spam.jpg') >>> contype.split('/')[0] 'image' 

A subtle thing: the second item in the tuple returned from the mimetypes guess is an encoding type we won't use here for opening purposes. We still have to pay attention to it, thoughif it is not None, it means the file is compressed (gzip or compress), even if we receive a media content type. For example, if the filename is something like spam.gif.gz, it's a compressed image that we don't want to try to open directly:

 >>> mimetypes.guess_type('spam.gz')              # content unknown (None, 'gzip') >>> mimetypes.guess_type('spam.gif.gz')          # don't play me! ('image/gif', 'gzip') >>> mimetypes.guess_type('spam.zip')             # skip archives ('application/zip', None) 

This module is even smart enough to give us a filename extension for a type:

 >>> mimetypes.guess_type('sousa.au') ('audio/basic', None) >>> mimetypes.guess_extension('audio/basic') '.au' 

We'll use the mimetypes module again in FTP examples in Chapter 14 to determine transfer type (text or binary), and in our email examples in Chapters 14 and 15 to send, save, and open mail attachments.

In Example 6-16, we use mimetypes to select a table of platform-specific player commands for the media type of the file to be played. That is, we pick a player table for the file's media type, and then pick a command from the player table for the platform. At each step, we give up and run a web browser if there is nothing more specific to be done. The end result is a general and smarter media player tool that you can extend as needed. It will be as portable and specific as the tables you provide to it.

Example 6-16. PP3E\System\Media\playfile.py

 #!/usr/local/bin/python ################################################################################ # Try to play an arbitrary media file.  This may not work on your system as is; # audio files use filters and command lines on Unix, and filename associations # on Windows via the start command (i.e., whatever you have on your machine to # run .au files--an audio player, or perhaps a web browser).  Configure and # extend as needed.  As a last resort, always tries to launch a web browser with # Python webbrowser module (like LaunchBrowser.py).  See also: Lib/audiodev.py. # playknownfile assumes you know what sort of media you wish to open; playfile # tries to determine media type automatically using Python mimetypes module. ################################################################################ import os, sys helpmsg = """ Sorry: can't find a media player for '%s' on your system! Add an entry for your system to the media player dictionary for this type of file in playfile.py, or play the file manually. """ def trace(*args):     print ' '.join(args)   # with spaces between ################################################################################ # player techniques: generic and otherwise: extend me ################################################################################ class MediaTool:     def _ _init_ _(self, runtext=''):         self.runtext = runtext class Filter(MediaTool):     def run(self, mediafile, **options):         media  = open(mediafile, 'rb')         player = os.popen(self.runtext, 'w')          # spawn shell tool         player.write(media.read( ))                  # send to its stdin class Cmdline(MediaTool):     def run(self, mediafile, **options):         cmdline = self.runtext % mediafile          # run any cmd line         os.system(cmdline)                          # use %s for filename class Winstart(MediaTool):                          # use Windows registry     def run(self, mediafile, wait=False):           # or os.system('start file')         if not wait:                                # allow wait for curr media             os.startfile(mediafile)         else:             os.system('start /WAIT ' + mediafile) class Webbrowser(MediaTool):     def run(self, mediafile, **options):                 # open in web browser         import webbrowser                                # find browser, no wait         fullpath = os.path.abspath(mediafile)            # file:// needs abs dir         webbrowser.open_new('file://%s' % fullpath)      # open media file ################################################################################ # media- and platform-specific policies: change me, or pass one in ############################################################################## # map platform to player: change me! audiotools = {     'sunos5':  Filter('/usr/bin/audioplay'),             # os.popen().write( )     'linux2':  Cmdline('cat %s > /dev/audio'),           # on zaurus, at least     'sunos4':  Filter('/usr/demo/SOUND/play'),     'win32':   Winstart( )                                # startfile or system    #'win32':   Cmdline('start %s')     } videotools = {     'linux2':  Cmdline('tkcVideo_c700 %s'),               # zaurus pda     'win32':   Winstart( ),                               # avoid DOS pop up     } imagetools = {     'linux2':  Cmdline('zimager %s/%%s' % os.getcwd( )),  # zaurus pda     'win32':   Winstart( ),     } # map mimetype of filenames to player tables mimetable = {'audio': audiotools,                        # add text: PyEdit?              'video': videotools,              'image': imagetools} ################################################################################ # top-level interfaces ################################################################################ def trywebbrowser(mediafile, helpmsg=helpmsg):     """     try to open a file in a web browser     """     trace('trying browser', mediafile)                         # last resort     try:         player = Webbrowser( )         player.run(mediafile)     except:         print helpmsg % mediafile                              # nothing worked def playknownfile(mediafile, playertable={}, **options):     """     play media file of known type: uses platform-specific     player objects, or spawns a web browser if nothing for     this platform; pass in a media-specific player table     """     if sys.platform in playertable:         playertable[sys.platform].run(mediafile, **options)    # specific tool     else:         trywebbrowser(mediafile)                               # general scheme def playfile(mediafile, mimetable=mimetable, **options):     """     play media file of any type: uses mimetypes to guess     media type and map to platform-specific player tables;     spawn web browser if media type unknown, or has no table     """     import mimetypes     (contenttype, encoding) = mimetypes.guess_type(mediafile)     # check name     if contenttype == None or encoding is not None:               # can't guess         contenttype = '?/?'                                       # poss .txt.gz     maintype, subtype = contenttype.split('/', 1)                 # 'image/jpeg'     if maintype in mimetable:         playknownfile(mediafile, mimetable[maintype], **options)  # try table     else:         trywebbrowser(mediafile)                                  # other types ############################################################################### # self-test code ############################################################################### if _ _name_ _ == '_ _main_ _':     # media type known     playknownfile('sousa.au', audiotools, wait=True)     playknownfile('ora-pp2e.jpg', imagetools, wait=True)     playknownfile('mov10428.mpg', videotools, wait=True)     playknownfile('img_0276.jpg', imagetools)     playknownfile('mov10510.mpg', mimetable['video'])     # media type guessed     raw_input('Stop players and press Enter')     playfile('sousa.au', wait=True)                       # default mimetable     playfile('img_0268.jpg')     playfile('mov10428.mpg' , mimetable)                  # no extra options     playfile('calendar.html')                             # default web browser     playfile('wordfile.doc')     raw_input('Done')                                     # stay open if clicked 

One coding note: we could also write the playknownfile function the following way (this form is more concise, but some future readers of our code might make the case that it is also less explicit and hence less understandable, especially if we code the same way in playfile with an empty table default):

 defaultplayer = Webbrowser( ) player = playertable.get(sys.platform, defaultplayer) player.run(mediafile, **options) 

Study this script's code and run it on your own computer to see what happens. As usual, you can test it interactively (use the package path to import from a different directory):

 >>> from PP3E.System.Media.playfile import playfile >>> playfile('mov10428.mpg') 

We'll use this example again as an imported library like this in Chapter 14 to open media files downloaded by FTP. When the script file is run directly, if all goes well, its self-test code at the end opens a number of audio, image, and video files located in the script's directory, using either platform-specific players or a general web browser on your machine. Just for fun, it also opens an HTML file and a Word document to test the web browser code. As is, its player tables are only populated with commands for the machines on which I tested it:

  • On my Windows XP computer, the script opens audio and video files in Windows Media Player, images in the Windows standard picture viewer, HTML files in the Firefox web browser, and Word documents in Microsoft Word (more on this in the webbrowser sidebar). This may vary on your machine; Windows ultimately decides which player to run based on what you have registered to open a filename extension. We also wait for some files to play or the viewer to be closed before starting another; Media Player versions 7 and later cannot open multiple instances of the Player and so can handle only one file at a time.

  • My Linux test machine for this script was a Zaurus PDA; on that platform, this script opens image and audio files in machine-specific programs, runs audio files by sending them to the /dev/audio device file, and fails on the HTML file (it's not yet configured to use Netfront). On a Zaurus, the script runs command lines, and always pauses until a viewer is closed.

Figure 6-4 shows the script's handiwork on Windows. For other platforms and machines, you will likely have to extend the player dictionaries with platform-specific entries, within this file, or by assigning from outside:

 import playfile playfile.audiotools['platformX'] = playfile.Cmdline('...') playfile.mimetable['newstuff'] = {...} 

Figure 6-4. Launching media files with specific players


Or you can pass your own player table to the playfile function:

 from playfile import playfile myplayers = {...}                              # or start with mimetools.copy( ) playfile('Nautyus_Maximus.xyz', myplayers) 

The MediaTool classes in this file provide general ways to open files, but you may also need to subclass to customize for unique cases. This script also assumes the media file is located on the local machine (even though the webbrowser module supports remote files with "http://" names), and it does not currently allow different players for different MIME subtypes (you may want to handle both "text/plain" and "text/xml" differently).

In fact, this script is really just something of a simple framework that was designed to be extended. As always, hack on; this is Python, after all.

More on the webbrowser Module

In Example 6-16, Microsoft Word is opened directly by webbrowser for the .doc file instead of being spawned by, or embedded in, an intermediate web browser. The explanation for this is both subtle and instructive.

Technically, on Windows the current version of the webbrowser module by default uses Netscape if program netscape is on your system PATH setting, and otherwise issues an os.startfile call to open files per your filename associations (and assumes this will launch your web browserit won't for a Word document!). The net effect is that you may not get a web browser at all.

If you really mean to open a browser regardless of the document type, you can set your BROWSER environment variable to a list of candidate browsers which will be used instead if any one of them is on your PATH or is a command-line string containing a "%s" URL substitution target. If this is not set, the default browser rules of the prior paragraph are used.

In other words, on Windows, if you don't have Netscape and don't set your BROWSER, then using webbrowser.open_new today is similar to using our playfile script's Winstart class, but without a wait option. To force webbrowser to use Firefox, I set my BROWSER as follows (you can make this system-wide via the System settings GUI in Control Pad):

 ...\PP3E\System\Media>set BROWSER=C:\"Program Files"\"Mozilla Firefox"\firefox.exe  %s ...\PP3E\System\Media>playfile.py 

Once set, Word documents open in Firefox with its standard open dialogs rather than in Word directly. Also, your script also now waits for each browser open call to exit (that is, until the browser window is closed), because os.system is used to start the browser. You should in principle also be able to add Firefox to your PATH and configure webbrowser this way too:

 ...\PP3E\System\Media>set PATH=%PATH%;C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox ...\PP3E\System\Media>set BROWSER=firefox.exe ...\PP3E\System\Media>playfile.py 

This doesn't quite work, though, because webbrowser currently adds single quotes around the URL name for this case, which Firefox does not recognize (webbrowser seems to have a few Unix biasesit also looks for program netscape on Windows, not netscape.exe, and naively splits a command line on spaces in an attempt to extract a program name).

This may be improved but is mostly a moot point on Windows; the default os.startfile is sufficient for most use cases. In fact, we adopted a similar default policy in the LaunchBrowser example we coded in this chapter.

The webbrowser module also has lower-level get and register calls to select and name specific browsers, and uses different text and GUI-based default browsers on Unix-like platforms. Moreover, its default browser choices may change over time, especially given the explosive growth of the open source Firefox browser in recent years. See the Python library manual or webbrowser.py in the standard library directory for details.





Programming Python
Programming Python
ISBN: 0596009259
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 270
Authors: Mark Lutz

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