[IPython-dev] Architecting interactive matplotlib figures in the IPython notebook

MinRK benjaminrk@gmail....
Thu Apr 18 12:03:36 CDT 2013

Interactive rich display will be our main focus for the Summer / Fall after
shipping 1.0 in July.  Since the plotting lives in the kernel (which is not
a webserver), and there shouldn't be any plotting logic in the notebook
server itself, my guess is that the http server approach is not going to be
workable inside IPython.  IPython's own mechanism for getting messages from
the frontend to the kernel is with our message spec, and I expect that will
be better suited to communicating between the frontend and the kernel
within the context of the notebook.  However, this may be less useful as a
general-purpose library within matplotlib, as it is quite IPython specific.
 Assuming the code is appropriately decoupled, there should not be any
great difference between using websocket/JSON messages for the rpc calls,
as opposed to http requests.

We haven't yet worked out exactly what the APIs will look like (on both
Javascript and Python sides) for exposing methods for this kind of rich
widget, but this should be our primary task starting in late July.


On Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 9:41 AM, Phil Elson <pelson.pub@gmail.com> wrote:

> You may be aware that as of matplotlib v1.3 there will be a "WebAgg"
> backend which allows figures created on the server-side to be interacted
> with on a client-side web browser.
> Specifically calling *plt.show()* with the "WebAgg" backend starts a
> tornado http server which serves up the open figures in PNG form. When the
> client connects to the server, the current state of the figure is sent to
> the browser, and any client mouse or keyboard interactions are captured and
> sent back to the server via web sockets. Anything which result in a change
> to the draw state are re-rendered, and the resulting PNG is sent back to
> the client. This process works well for everything that we've tested,
> including Pickers and Animations (I'd definitely encourage you to have a
> go).
> So the obvious question is, can we use this technology to achieve
> interactive figures in live IPython notebook environments?
> Unfortunately I don't have enough knowledge of IPython's internals to make
> the informed decisions necessary to get out of the blocks, so I'm hoping
> the mailing list can help me out.
> The first step towards this goal involves deciding *where* a (or
> multiple?) WebAgg server(s) would sit. A couple of my thoughts on this
> (some of which are mutually exclusive):
>    - It'd be great to make use of the same twisted server as the Notebook
>    client, so that we can piggy-back on the IPython notebook configuration
>    (port, certificate etc.)
>       - This would mean that this is a Notebook only feature (without
>       this, there is no reason that other clients couldn't have implemented the
>       necessary interface to achieve inline interactive figures (e.g., the Qt
>       console))
>       - This would also give the WebAgg the necessary blocking IOLoop to
>       handle events and timers.
>       - As of matplotlib v1.2 there has been experimental pickle support,
>    so:
>       - we are not bound to use the kernel that generated a figure in the
>       first instance, as we can pass figures (albeit slowly) across processes
>       - we could store the figure in the notebook format to be restored
>       when a notebook is reconnected to a kernel (does this happen for other
>       Display elements?)
>       - As it stands, the WebAgg backend does not copy figure instances
>    per client, so any interactions that one user does, is shown in every other
>    client's browser. Is this a desirable feature for the Notebook? What about
>    figures which are shown more than once in the same notebook?
> I'm keen to work through these design decisions and am more than willing
> to get my hands dirty - there is a matplotlib release scheduled for the end
> of May, and myself and some of the other members of the matplotlib
> development team are planning to attend SciPy with interactive figures for
> the Notebook high on the wishlist.
> Any thoughts on where you think the Agg server should sit and its expected
> behaviour would be really valuable.
> Thanks in advance,
> Phil
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