Commit abf2a3ee authored by Prabhu Ramachandran's avatar Prabhu Ramachandran
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NEW: Added notes (written by David Gobbi) on how VTK objects can be accessed

and modified through Python.
parent 621c28ec
Notes on the Python Wrappers for VTK
Latest Revision: Dec 19, 2002
Refers to VTK version 4.2
This document provides a detailed description of how VTK objects are
accessed and modified through Python. The installation of VTK-Python
is covered in README.txt.
Nearly all the power of VTK objects are available through Python
(with a few exceptions as noted below). The C++ symantics are
translated as directly as possible to Python symantics.
The Basics:
For the most part, using VTK from Python is very similar to using VTK
from C++ except for changes in syntax, e.g.
vtkObject *o = vtkObject::New()
o = vtkObject()
Some other important differences are that you can pass a Python tuple,
list or array to a method that requires a C++ array e.g.:
>>> a = vtkActor()
>>> p = (100.0, 200.0, 100.0)
>>> a.SetPosition(p)
or if the C++ array is used to return information, you must pass a
Python list or array that has the correct number of slots:
>>> z = [0.0, 0.0, 0.0]
>>> vtkMath.Cross((1,0,0),(0,1,0),z)
>>> print z
[0.0, 0.0, 1.0]
If the C++ method returns a pointer to an array, then that method is
only wrapped if there is a hint that gives the size of the array.
This hint is either given in the 'hints' file e.g. VTK/Wrapping/hints
or by the number specified in the macro used to declare the method in
the C++ header file e.g. vtkGetVectorMacro(Position,float,3):
>>> a = vtkActor()
>>> print a.GetPosition()
(0.0, 0.0, 0.0)
Finally, the python 'None' is treated the same as C++ NULL:
>>> a = vtkActor()
>>> a.SetMapper(None)
>>> print a.GetMapper()
And perhaps one of the most pleasant features of Python is that all
type-checking is performed at run time, so the type casts that are
often necessary in VTK-C++ are never needed in VTK-Python.
Finally, a C++ method that requires a void * can be passed a Python
string. No check is done to ensure that the string is the correct
size, and the string's reference count is not incremented. Extreme
caution should be applied when using this feature.
Unavailable methods
A method is not wrapped if
1) its parameter list contains a pointer/reference that is not a
pointer/reference to a vtkObject
2) its parameter list contains a multidimensional array
3) it returns a pointer/reference that is not a pointer/reference
to a vtkObject and there is no entry in hints file
4) it is an operator method (there should not be any of these in VTK)
Unavailable classes
Some classes are meant to be used only by other VTK classes and are
not wrapped. These are labelled as WRAP_EXCLUDE in the CMakeLists.txt
Printing VTK objects
Printing a vtk object will provide the same information as provided
by the vtkObject::Print() method (i.e. the values of all instance variables)
The same information is provided by calling str(obj). A more compact
representation of the object is available by calling repr(obj)
repr(obj) -> '<vtkclass libVTKCommonPython.vtkObject at 100c8d48>'
(under Windows (TM), 'libVTKCommonPython' is replaced by 'vtkpython').
Built-in documentation
All of the documentation that is available in the VTK header files and
in the html man pages is also available through python.
If you want to see what methods are available for a class, use e.g.
>>> dir(vtkActor)
to get a list of all the methods defined in vtkActor.h or if you also
want a listing of all method defined for vtkActor and its superclasses
>>> a = vtkActor()
>>> dir(a)
will print a very long list of all the methods for object 'a'.
Using the 'pydoc' module (part of the standard python library) you
can also retrieve documentation about VTK classes and methods:
>>> import pydoc
>>> pydoc.doc(vtkActor)
[ lots of info printed, try it yourself]
For the method documentation, all the different 'signatures' for the
method are given in both Python and in the original C++ format before
the documentation itself is given.
>>> pydoc.doc(vtkActor.SetPosition)
Python Library Documentation: built-in function SetPosition
V.SetPosition(float, float, float)
C++: virtual void SetPosition (float _arg1, float _arg2, float _arg3);
V.SetPosition((float, float, float))
C++: virtual void SetPosition (float _arg[3]);
Set/Get/Add the position of the Prop3D in world coordinates.
Peculiarities and special features
Deleting a vtkObject:
There is no direct equivalent of o->Delete() since Python provides a
mechanism for automatic garbage collection. The object will be
deleted once there are no remaining references to it either from
inside Python or from other VTK objects. It is possible to get rid of
the local reference to the object by using the python 'del' command,
i.e. "del o", and this will results in a call to o->Delete() if the
local reference to the object was the last remaining reference to the
object from within Python.
Class methods
In C++, if you want to call a method from a superclass you can do the
vtkActor *a = vtkActor::New();
The equivalent in python is
>>> a = vtkActor()
>>> vtkProp3D.SetPosition(a,10,20,50)
The wrappers also provide an additional feature which isn't very
'pythonic' at all: support for static methods e.g. class methods
that don't require a 'self' (equivalent to the C++ 'this'):
>>> vtkMath.Norm(x)
This sort of thing is not allowed by most Python classes! In fact,
the wrapped VTK classes aren't real Python classes at all, they just
behave similarly.
Subclassing a VTK class
It is possible to subclass a VTK class from within Python, but it
is NOT possible to override the virtual methods of the class.
The python-level code will be invisible to the VTK C++ code,
the methods that you define will only be visible when you access
the class from Python.
It is therefore not reasonable, for instance, to subclass the
vtkInteractorStyle to provide custom python interaction. Instead,
you have to do this by adding Observers to the vtkInteractor object.
Transmitting data from Python to VTK
If you have a large block of data in Python (for example a Numeric
array) that you want to access from VTK, then you can do so using
the vtkDataArray.SetVoidArray() method.
Creating a Python object from just the address of a VTK object
When you instantiate a class, you can provide a hexidecimal string
containing the address of an existing vtk object, e.g.
t = vtkTransform('_1010e068_vtkTransform_p')
The string follows SWIG mangling conventions. If a wrapper for the
specified object already exists, then that wrapper will be used rather
than a new wrapper being created. If you want to use this feature
of vtkpython, please think twice.
Special attributes available from VTK-Python
Special vtkobject attributes:
o.__class__ the vtkclass that this object is an instance of
o.__doc__ a description of the class (obtained from C++ header file)
o.__methods__ list of all methods of this object
o.__members__ list of all attributes of this object
o.__this__ a string containing the address of the VTK object
Special method attributes:
m.__doc__ a description of the method (obtained from C++ header file)
Special vtkclass attributes:
c.__bases__ a tuple of base classes for this class (empty for vtkObject)
c.__doc__ a description of the class (obtained from C++ header file)
c.__methods__ methods of this class (not including inherited methods)
c.__members__ list of all attributes of this class
c.__name__ the name of the class, same as returned by GetClassName()
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