How to Create Dialogs in Python

26 May 2019 Tutorials python gui dialog Hits

In this post I demonstrate dialogs that are provided in the Python standard library by showing you how to use them and what they look like.

Why Are These Dialogs Useful?

The dialogs in this post work on Windows, Linux and Mac and look exactly like the default dialogs the OS provides for other applications. Since they look the same as the 'default' dialogs, users are used to the look and feel, so they already know how to use them.

As these dialogs come with Python, they are easy to access and have had their time of debugging so are quite robust and predictable.

Dialog Types and Their Returns

Each dialog does something different, takes different input to be created and returns particular values. Understanding what each call returns in different situations is necessary to be able to use these dialogs correctly.

Some of these dialogs make sounds as you would typically find with dialogs displaying an error

In these examples I will be referencing a parent. This parent is a tkinter.Tk object which acts like the "base" of the dialogs. Using a parent also allows you to set an icon on the dialog window and task-bar item. Here is an example:

import tkinter

parent = tkinter.Tk() # Create the object
parent.overrideredirect(1) # Avoid it appearing and then disappearing quickly
parent.iconbitmap("PythonIcon.ico") # Set an icon (this is optional - must be in a .ico format)
parent.withdraw() # Hide the window as we do not want to see this one

When using an icon like this, the .ico must be an icon format - do not just rename the file.

You do not have to create a parent of your own and in that case, leave parent=parent out of the code snippets below. I do however recommend that you look at the side effects if you don't provide a parent as a tkinter.Tk object will be created which will then show a window that you cannot control. Using the parent snippet above makes things a lot easier.

It is important to note that all these dialog calls below are blocking. This means execution will not continue until the user has made a selection or this code is put into another thread.

Message Dialogs

Message dialogs are a simple way to display a message with a title. There are three types of dialogs that simply provide an "OK" button; information, warning and error. Each of these dialogs display a title, message and icon that corresponds to the type of dialog.

from tkinter import messagebox

# After creating parent...

info = messagebox.showinfo('Information Title', 'A simple message with an information icon', parent=parent)
warn = messagebox.showwarning('Warning Title', 'A simple message with a warning icon', parent=parent)
error = messagebox.showerror('Error Title', 'A simple message with an error icon', parent=parent)

Looking at the values of each info, warn and error after executing the lines, you will notice that they all have been assigned value "ok". If the user clicks the OK button or even closes the window using the cross, these dialogs will always return "ok".

Method OK Clicked Dialog Closed (X)
messagebox.showinfo "ok" "ok"
messagebox.showwarning "ok" "ok"
messagebox.showerror "ok" "ok"

Message Dialogs

Question Dialogs

Question dialogs allow you to ask a user a particular question with a title and have them reply in one of two ways (or three in one case).

from tkinter import messagebox

# After creating parent...

okcancel = messagebox.askokcancel('Question Title', 'Do you want to perform this action?', parent=parent) # OK / Cancel
retrycancel = messagebox.askretrycancel('Question Title', 'Do you want to retry?', parent=parent) # Retry / Cancel
yesno = messagebox.askyesno('Question Title', 'Are you sure you want to undo?', parent=parent) # Yes / No
yesnocancel = messagebox.askyesnocancel('Question Title', 'Are you sure you want to undo?', parent=parent) # Yes / No / Cancel
Method OK Retry Yes No Cancel Dialog Closed (X)
messagebox.askokcancel True False False
messagebox.askretrycancel True False False
messagebox.askyesno True False Not Possible
messagebox.askyesnocancel True False None None

Question Dialogs

Input Dialogs

Input dialogs ask for a particular type of value; in this case that is either of type string, integer or float. Unfortunately like all the other dialogs, the icon from the parent will not be used due to how these dialogs are constructed. If you plan on consistently taking input from a user I recommend creating your own input dialog.

from tkinter import simpledialog

# After creating parent...

string_value = simpledialog.askstring('Dialog Title', 'What is your name?', parent=parent)
integer_value = simpledialog.askinteger('Dialog Title', 'What is your age?', minvalue=0, maxvalue=100, parent=parent)
float_value = simpledialog.askfloat('Dialog Title', 'What is your salary?', minvalue=0.0, maxvalue=100000.0, parent=parent)
Method OK Cancel Dialog Closed (X)
simpledialog.askstring Input String None None
simpledialog.askinteger Input Integer None None
simpledialog.askfloat Input Float None None

Input Dialogs

File / Folder Dialogs

File and folder dialogs allow you to ask the user select a folder, single file, multiple files or chose a location to save a file as.

from tkinter import filedialog

# After creating parent...

directory = filedialog.askdirectory(title='Select a folder', parent=parent)

# Ask the user to select a single file name.
file_name = filedialog.askopenfilename(title='Select a file', parent=parent)

# Ask the user to select a one or more file names.
file_names = filedialog.askopenfilenames(title='Select one or more files', parent=parent)

# Ask the user to select a single file name for saving.
save_as = filedialog.asksaveasfilename(title='Save as', parent=parent)
Method OK Cancel Dialog Closed (X)
filedialog.askdirectory Directory Path '' ''
filedialog.askopenfilename File Path '' ''
filedialog.askopenfilenames List of File Paths '' ''
filedialog.asksaveasfilename File Path '' ''

When using any of these file dialog calls, you can also supply a string to the parameter initialdir which will put the user in a particular directory when the dialog first opens; for example:

directory_to_start_from = 'C:/Users/User/Downloads/'
directory = filedialog.askdirectory(initialdir=directory_to_start_from, title='Please select a folder:', parent=parent)

When asking for a file to open or save as, you can specify what type of files the user can select (based off file extension) using the filetypes argument. This argument takes a list of tuples, where each of these tuples contain a string of the group name and a string of file extensions separated by ; if required. The tuple that is the first in the list is the default selection. An example of the usage of filetypes:

file_types = [('Python files', '*.py;*.pyw'), ('All files', '*')] # Initially can select any .py or .pyw files but can change the selection to anything (*)
file_name = filedialog.askopenfilename(title='Select a file', filetypes=file_types, parent=parent)

File Dialogs

Color Picker Dialog

Color pickers are used to ask a user to select a color. These aren't seen in may places but when a color needs to be selected, this is a great option as it contains everything needed.

from tkinter import colorchooser

# After creating parent...

color = colorchooser.askcolor(initialcolor=(255, 255, 255), parent=parent) # Returns a tuple
Method OK Cancel Dialog Closed (X)
filedialog.askdirectory ((Red Int, Green Int, Blue Int), 'Hex Value') (None, None) (None, None)

As an example of the output, if I select cyan, I will get ((0.0, 255.99609375, 255.99609375), '#00ffff'). The numbers are large as they are floats but this means 0 red, 256 green and 256 blue. We can also see that the second value in the tuple is the hex value for cyan.

Color Dialog


While using a lot of dialogs in my own projects I have always looked around other sites, but recently I found a page called How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Interactive Edition which is a great beginner level tutorial for Python which covers many things. This site made me aware of some dialogs I didn't even realise existed so I give credit to the creator.