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4 Attempts at Packaging Python as an Executable

A few years back I researched how to create a single-file executable of a Python application. Back then, the goal was to make a desktop interface that included other files and binaries in one bundle. Using PyInstaller I built a single binary file that could execute across platforms and looked just like any other application.

Fast forward until today and I have a similar need, but a different use case. I want to run Python code inside a Docker container, but the container image cannot require a Python installation.

Instead of blindly repeating what I tried last time, I decided to investigate more alternatives and discuss them here.

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Making 3D Interfaces for Python with Unity3D

A while back I wrote a post on using with game engines as frontend interfaces. I want to enable rich interfaces in the Python ecosystem that are usable in virtual and augmented reality. Since then, I was able to build some basic concepts on top of Sofi and I’m here to share them.

Using Sofi and WebSockets to command game engines

Sofi works as a WebSocket server that can issue commands and handle events from a client. It’s written to simplify the use of frontend web technologies as interfaces to a Python backend. You can even package it as a desktop app with a desktop look and feel.

It functions by sending the user to a webpage with the basics needed to open a WebSocket client. This client then registers handlers that process server commands telling it how to alter the DOM or respond to events. All the logic resides with Python, the webpage is the user interface.

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How to Turn a Web App Into a Desktop App, Using Chromium and PyInstaller

Packaging and distributing your app sounds simple in principle. It’s just software. But in practice, it’s quite challenging.

I’ve been working on a Python module called Sofi that generates user interfaces. It can deliver a desktop feel while using standard single-page web technologies. For flexibility, I designed it to work through two methods of distribution: in-browser and executable.

Running in the browser, it functions much like a normal webpage. You can load it by opening a file, or launch it from your shell. I also built an executable that runs as a packaged app, independent and without external requirements.

Over time, as I hacked at code in Atom — my editor of choice these days — I remembered that Atom is actually a browser. It uses Node.js as a back end, and the Electron framework for its user interface.This inspired me to start poking at Electron’s internals, hoping to find examples and best practices on how they solved desktop packaging.

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