Events And Callbacks

Introduction

In some places, the API requires to attach code to an event. An event could be a menu item which is selected or a change of some status which might require some action. The API allows implementation of specific code which is called in that case. This enables us to implement the functionality behind a menu item. In this text we will refer to such functionality by the general term "callback". In general a callback is custom code that is called from the API in contrast to API code that is called from the custom code.

There are basically two ways to attach specific code to a callback:

  • Reimplementation: some API classes provide "virtual" methods. "virtual" is a C++ term and means a method that can be overridden in a derived class. This technique is employed for example in the "Strategy" design pattern. In strictly typed C++ this is quite a common pattern which allows definition of interfaces and concrete implementations based on those interfaces. Ruby as a dynamic language doesn't care much about classes and their relationship: an object either has a method or it hasn't. So, reimplementation is just a matter of providing the right method. An examples for the strategy pattern is the BrowserSource class (BrowserSource).
  • Events: events allow attaching a piece of code to an event. In Ruby, such a block is "Proc" object, in "Python" it is a "callable" object ("lambda function" is a term used in both languages for this kind of concept). In case the event is triggered, this attached code is executed. Multiple lambda functions can be attached to the same event and removed from the latter. Events can be cleared of attached code, where only the blocks attached from one language can be cleared together - code attached from Python cannot be cleared from Ruby. An example for events is the Action class (Action) which provides both the reimplementation interface ("triggered" method) and the event interface ("on_triggered"). By the way, Qt signals are mapped to events in KLayout's Qt binding (The Qt Binding).

The "Observer" class which was there prior to KLayout 0.25 has been dropped in favour of the more flexible events. It is no longer supported.

Reimplementation (Strategy Pattern)

The BrowserSource (BrowserSource) class is a nice example for the Strategy pattern. It is used by the BrowserDialog class (BrowserDialog) as a kind of internal HTML server which handles URL's starting with "int:". For this, a script has to provide a class that reimplements the "get(url)" method. In the following example, a BrowserSource is created that takes an URL with an integer index number and delivers a HTML text with a link to the URL with the next index.

Here is the code:

module MyMacro
  
  include RBA
  
  class MyBrowserSource < BrowserSource
    def get(url)
      next_url = url.sub(/\d+/) { |num| (num.to_i+1).to_s }
      "This is #{url}. <a href='#{next_url}'>Goto next (#{next_url})</a>"
    end
  end
  
  dialog = BrowserDialog::new
  dialog.source = MyBrowserSource::new
  dialog.home = "int:0"
  dialog.exec

end

This example demonstrates how the "get" method is reimplemented to deliver the actual text. Ruby even allows reimplementation of a method without deriving a new class, because it allows to define methods per instance:

module MyMacro
  
  include RBA
  
  source = BrowserSource::new
  def source.get(url)
    next_url = url.sub(/\d+/) { |num| (num.to_i+1).to_s }
    "This is #{url}. <a href='#{next_url}'>Goto next (#{next_url})</a>"
  end
  
  dialog = BrowserDialog::new
  dialog.source = source
  dialog.home = "int:0"
  dialog.exec

end

Events

Events are the callback variant which is the easiest one to use. Using an event it is possible to directly attach a block of code to a callback. An event has a specific signature, i.e. the parameters it provides. The block can obtain this parameters by listing them in it's argument list.

Here is a simple example that uses the parameterless "on_triggered" event of the Action class (Action). It puts a new entry into the tool bar and if it is clicked, it displays a message box:

module MyMacro
  
  include RBA
  
  action = Action::new
  action.on_triggered do
    MessageBox::info("A message", "The action was triggered", MessageBox::Ok)
  end
  action.title = "My Action"
  
  Application::instance.main_window.menu.insert_item("@toolbar.end", "my_action", action)
  
end

Specifying a block to an event will make the event only execute that block. A more flexible way of controlling the code attached to events is available through the += and -= operators:

module MyMacro

  include RBA

  code = lambda do 
    MessageBox::info("A message", "The action was triggered", MessageBox::Ok)
  end

  action = Action::new
  action.on_triggered += code

  ...
  
  # to remove the code from the event, use:
  action.on_triggered -= code

  # to replace all event handlers by the one given by "code":
  action.on_triggered = code

  # to clear all event handlers use:
  action.on_triggered.clear
  

If the Qt binding is available (see The Qt Binding), Qt signals are implemented as events. This way it's very simple to create a Qt dialog. In following example, the "textChanged" signal of QLineEdit is attached a code block which copies the text of the input field to the label below:

module MyMacro
  
  include RBA
  
  dialog = QDialog::new(Application::instance.main_window)
  layout = QVBoxLayout::new(dialog)
  input = QLineEdit::new(dialog)
  label = QLabel::new(dialog)
  layout.addWidget(input)
  layout.addWidget(label)

  # implement the textChanged signal as event:
  input.textChanged { |text| label.text = text }

  dialog.exec

end

Using the += operator on the event, multiple handlers can be added to a signal:

module MyMacro
  
  include RBA
  
  dialog = QDialog::new(Application::instance.main_window)
  layout = QVBoxLayout::new(dialog)
  input = QLineEdit::new(dialog)
  label1 = QLabel::new(dialog)
  label2 = QLabel::new(dialog)
  layout.addWidget(input)
  layout.addWidget(label1)
  layout.addWidget(label2)

  # two signal consumers:
  input.textChanged += lambda { |text| label1.text = text }
  input.textChanged += lambda { |text| label2.text = text.reverse }
  
  dialog.exec

end