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Control: press

When the user presses on a key.

This control is triggered when the user presses a key on her keyboard while the widget is selected, or while the window is focused, if this control is bound to a window itself. Contrary to other controls, this one has sub-controls with the name of the key right in the method name for easy processing.


If you want to set up a control on the window that triggers when the user presses the ‘a’ key on her keyboard, you might add a method in the window class with the name:

def on_press_a(self, ...):

This method will only be called if the user presses the ‘a’ key on her keyboard.

Important note: the press control handles key presses in a universal keyboard layout which only partly uses the user keyboard layout. That is to say, if you want to intercept the a key, you can be confident the user will have to press on whatever key on her keyboard will generate a a. However, if you want to intercept digits for instance, like 4, the intercepted key will be the one in the position of the ‘4’ key on a QWERTY keyboard. In other words, on other layouts, it might not be the key to press to type a ‘4’. If you really need to intercept what the user would have typed (not what key she pressed to type it), you might prefer using the type control.

You can also use the same syntax to create a press control on a specific widget. Assuming, for instance, you have a text entry of ID ‘entry’, you could intercept a user pressing on the ‘a’ key while this widget is focused by creating the following method:

def on_press_a_in_entry(self):

The pressed key directly follows the control type separated with an underscore (_). If this is a control on a specific widget, the widget ID follows the control type and key, separated by _in_ (like on_release_a_in_text).

Sub-controls and main controls

In both cases, you can create a method that will operate on the press control, regardless of what key has been pressed. This can be done, in a window control, by creating a method on_press, and on a widget control, by creating a method on_press_{widget ID}.

Note: if you have both one ore more press sub-controls, and one main press control, the latter will be called only if the former isn’t triggered. Consider this example:

class Interface(Window):

    def on_press_a(self):
        print("A was called.")

    def on_press(self):
        print("Another key (not A) was pressed.")

In this case, the on_press method will only be called if the key is not an “a”.

Different keys, same method

Also notice you can easily create methods that handle several keys:

class Interface(Window):

    def on_press_a(self):
    on_press_b = on_press_a
    on_press_r = on_press_a

This syntax will bind the keys ‘a’, ‘b’ and ‘r’ to the same method, so that if the user presses one of these keys, the same action will be performed.

What keys to intercept?

You can intercept virtually any key pressed with this control. Your method has to contain the name of the key as a lowercase version. Here are some examples:

def on_press_a(self, ...): # The user presses the 'a' key
def on_press_5(self, ...): # The user presses the '5' key (above 't')
def on_press_escape(self, ...): # The user presses the 'escape' key
def on_press_space(self, ...): # The user presses the 'space' key

All key names are lowercased. Below is a table of commonly-used keys you can use in your method names:

Name Key Note
back Backspace `
tab Tabulation -
return Return -
escape Escape -
space Spacebar -
delete Delete -
shift Shift May be used by the user OS.
alt Alt Open menubar on Windows.
home Home -
end End -
left Left arrow -
up Up arrow -
right Right arrow -
down Down arrow -
numpadX X on numpad Like numpad0 or numpad8.
fX f Like f1 or f12.
pageup Page Up -
pagedown Page Down -

There are other keys but these are the most commonly-used.

Pressing several keys

You can also intercept controls if the user presses a keyboard shortcut, like CTRL + n. This is done in a very straightforward way:

def on_press_ctrl_n(self):

Control key names form the key name. They’re separated with an underscore (_).

The rule for control keys is that their lowercased name should be used. More than one control key can be used in the method name, but in this case they have to be ordered:

So this method:

def on_press_ctrl_shift_x(self, ...):

… will be triggered if the user presses CTRL + Shift + x. However:

def on_press_alt_ctrl_o(self, ...):

… will not trigger (an error will be raised). To work, you should change this method name like this:

def on_press_ctrl_alt_o(self, ...):

It’s common to want to link a keyboard shortcut with a simple action. For instance, if we want to link ‘Alt + F4’ with the action “close the window”.

BUI offers an easy way to link these actions:

class Interface(Window):

    # ...
    on_press_alt_f4 = close

Although convenient, this code doesn’t do any particular magic. It is almost equivalent to the following, more understandable code:

class Interface(Window):

    # ...
    def on_press_alt_f4(self):

We simply directly link the action “close” to a specific keyboard shortcut. Python doesn’t see much of a difference, although the first syntax is just an alias for the close method. This is a common action: close is a basic action that doesn’t require any argument and can be linked with a control method in this way.

Obtain the key in the control method

With all this flexibility, sometimes you just need to know the real key the user pressed. This information is contained inside the control object. You can easily access it as a method argument.

def on_press(self, key):
    print(f"The user pressed {key!r}.")

If the user presses ESCAPE, this message will be displayed in the console:

The user pressed the 'escape' key.

The key argument is actually filled by the control manager. When it examines your method signature and sees you want extra information, it looks at the control. key is an attribute on the control, so it knows where it should come from.

Why is that useful? I should know what key was pressed, it’s right in the method name!

In most cases, that’s true. In sub-controls, where you don’t know the key that was pressed, this can be useful. But most importantly, if you set a control method to intercept different key presses but you still need to know which key was pressed, this can be useful:

class Example(Window):

    def move_around(self, key):
        print(f"Move around the map.  The user pressed {key!r}")
    on_press_left = move_around
    on_press_right = move_around
    on_press_up = move_around
    on_press_down = move_around
    # And if you don't mind, you can shorten that to a single
    # line, thanks to Python syntax.  Shorter is not always clearer.
    on_press_left = on_press_right = on_press_up = on_press_down = move_around

In this example, you set the move_around method to be called if the user presses either the left, right, up or down arrow key. But if you need to know which key was pressed inside the method, then having the key in the control method argument is handy.

You can also use the control itself to obtain this information:

def on_press(self, control):

control is a reserved name that will always contain the control object. Read on control attributes in the next section to know what to use as your control method argument. Of course, your control method can receive, beyond self, none, one or more argument depending on your needs.

Control attributes

The control object has the following attributes:

Attribute Type Note
key str The name of the key being pressed.
raw_key str The raw key with no control keys.
ctrl bool Is the CTRL key being pressed too?
meta bool Is the Meta key being pressed too?
alt bool Is the Alt key being pressed too?
shift bool Is the Shift key being pressed too?

The raw_key attribute is useful if you want to intercept ‘a’ but don’t care if CTRL or Alt or all of the control keys is being pressed at the time.

Use these attributes as your control method argument. For instance:

def on_press(self, raw_key, shift):

Alternatively you can specify the control keyword argument in your method signature which will always contain the control object.

def on_press(self, control):
    print(f"The user pressed on {control.key}.")