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matplotlib, Preview, and AppleScript -- Oh, My!

 I use matplotlib fairly frequently in my research, it rocks. However, the fact that the MacOSX backed doesn't let me use 'Cmd-Q' to close things down is annoying. So my solution is a combination of pycario and preview with a little AppleScript through in for fun. I program in Eclipse with PyDev, however I run my python programs exclusively from iTerm. Hence, I'm used to cmd-tabbing back and forth between iterm and eclipse. However, when I run a program that opens up a gui, such doing "" things get annoying. When using other gui elements that allow 'Cmd-Q' to close things down it doesn't interupt my work flow:

  1. cmd-tab to iterm from eclipse
  2. run python program
  3. look at resulting gui which is now the forground window
  4. cmd-q to close the gui
  5. cmd-tab to eclipse from iterm

And I never touched the mouse. With it looks like this:

  1. cmd-tab to iterm from eclipse
  2. run python program
  3. look at gui
  4. cmd-q which does nothing
  5. move the mouse over to the x-button to close the window 
  6. cmd-tab to eclipse from iterm

Which is annoying to me. My solution? Don't bother with the MacOSC backend for matplotlib since I don't need any of its features, i just want to see the graph for about 5 seconds. So my code would look something like:

import os
import matplotlib as mpl
import pylab as plt
import numpy as np


os.system('osascript -e "tell application \\"Eclipse\\" to activate"')
os.system('open /tmp/tmp.png')

So the first few lines should make since, import stuff, pick the "cairo" backend, plot some random numbers. Then it gets interesting. Instead of "" I save the figure to a png, then using AppleScript I call Eclipse to the foreground, and last I open the saved figure which uses Preview. Now the window order is Preview > Eclipse > iTerm. 


  1. cmd-tab to iterm from eclipse
  2. run python program
  3. look at gui
  4. cmd-q and I'm back at eclipse

Which cuts a step off of my non-gui workflow and two steps off the clumsy workflow. And there you go. 


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