Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rapid Application Development

An itch showed up, I needed (wanted) a simple, or so I thought, application to edit or create a definition file for the Energy Plus building simulation suite. Energy Plus is a US department of energy sponsored project. You need to define the building quite specifically. There are applications available for windows, or for purchase. So I decided that the best way to learn the rather complex structure was to write some code to fool with it.

I started with Ruby, but when I needed some gui stuff, found the bindings not up to date. PyQt is up to date and well supported, so I started writing. First was to parse the definition dictionary provided in the suite to build python classes representing each needed description. The classes would know how to read, write, edit and draw the particular element. Or would once I wrote it. Then read some example definition files, and work on the edit code. So far, so good. There is still a ways to go, but I'm seriously impressed how quickly one can bang out a working application for a specific purpose. This isn't trivial; the definition files are complex, long and involved. I have some widgets to write, some careful parsing through the results to check for accuracy, and some code to draw a few elements onto a graphics scene to represent the building outline. I suspect another 40 or so hours on top of the 40 or so I have into it already to get something useful.

Very impressed so far. PyQt is well documented and works, python works well and is reasonably quick. Qt is of course very nice to work with. It is so quick to build something useful.

The project is at You need python, and pyqt. And the energy plus suite mentioned above, which is free. Get both the linux and windows one, it runs in wine. The windows package has the dictionary files required to build the classes. I'm working with the v3.1 stuff, and eventually may test with earlier versions.

The prerequisite screenshot. Note the empty space in the middle. A graphics scene ready for one's imagination.

I started with Ruby, but when I needed some gui stuff, found the bindings not up to date.I'm not sure what you mean by this. The QtRuby bindings are very actively maintained and supported. For instance, they worked with Qt 4.5 before it was released. Please could you be more specific about what problems you had, so that perhaps I can try to fix whatever it was?

The PyQt bindings are really good and I'm pleased to hear that you are having good experience with them. But if you make vague claims about the Ruby bindings being not so good in comparison, it is going to put people off.
Qtruby isn't packaged for the distro that I use (Arch). The kdebindings package includes only kdepython, which is required for kde. I run trunk, and tried building, with no success. At this point I was thinking that anyone else who wanted to use what I was writing wasn't going to jump through these hoops, so I looked elsewhere. Also I needed to get something working.

Still, it is not related to the completeness of the Ruby bindings nor they availability.
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