Integrating Python and QML

Qt includes QML as a means of declaratively describing a user interface and using JavaScript as a scripting language within it. It is possible to write complete standalone QML applications, or to combine them with C++. PyQt5 allows QML to be integrated with Python in exactly the same way. In particular:

  • Python types that are sub-classed from QObject can be registered with QML.
  • Instances of registered Python types can be created and made available to QML scripts.
  • Instances of registered Python types can be created by QML scripts.
  • Singleton instances of registered Python types can be created automatically by a QML engine and made available to QML scripts.
  • QML scripts interact with Python objects through their properties, signals and slots.
  • Python properties, signals and slots can be given revision numbers that only those implemented by a specific version are made available to QML.

Registering Python Types

Registering Python types with QML is done in the same way is it is done with C++ classes, i.e. using the qmlRegisterType(), qmlRegisterSingletonType(), qmlRegisterUncreatableType() and qmlRegisterRevision() functions.

In C++ these are template based functions that take the C++ class, and sometimes a revision, as template arguments. In the Python implementation these are simply passed as the first arguments to the respective functions.

A Simple Example

The following simple example demonstates the implementation of a Python class that is registered with QML. The class defines two properties. A QML script is executed which creates an instance of the class and sets the values of the properties. That instance is then returned to Python which then prints the values of those properties.

Hopefully the comments are self explanatory:

import sys

from PyQt5.QtCore import pyqtProperty, QCoreApplication, QObject, QUrl
from PyQt5.QtQml import qmlRegisterType, QQmlComponent, QQmlEngine

# This is the type that will be registered with QML.  It must be a
# sub-class of QObject.
class Person(QObject):
    def __init__(self, parent=None):

        # Initialise the value of the properties.
        self._name = ''
        self._shoeSize = 0

    # Define the getter of the 'name' property.  The C++ type of the
    # property is QString which Python will convert to and from a string.
    def name(self):
        return self._name

    # Define the setter of the 'name' property.
    def name(self, name):
        self._name = name

    # Define the getter of the 'shoeSize' property.  The C++ type and
    # Python type of the property is int.
    def shoeSize(self):
        return self._shoeSize

    # Define the setter of the 'shoeSize' property.
    def shoeSize(self, shoeSize):
        self._shoeSize = shoeSize

# Create the application instance.
app = QCoreApplication(sys.argv)

# Register the Python type.  Its URI is 'People', it's v1.0 and the type
# will be called 'Person' in QML.
qmlRegisterType(Person, 'People', 1, 0, 'Person')

# Create a QML engine.
engine = QQmlEngine()

# Create a component factory and load the QML script.
component = QQmlComponent(engine)

# Create an instance of the component.
person = component.create()

if person is not None:
    # Print the value of the properties.
    print("The person's name is %s." %
    print("They wear a size %d shoe." % person.shoeSize)
    # Print all errors that occurred.
    for error in component.errors():

The following is the example.qml QML script that is executed:

import People 1.0

Person {
    name: "Bob Jones"
    shoeSize: 12

Using QQmlListProperty

Defining list-based properties in Python that can be updated from QML is done using the QQmlListProperty class. However the way it is used in Python is slightly different to the way it is used in C++.

In the simple case QQmlListProperty wraps a Python list that is usually an instance sttribute, for example:

class BirthdayParty(QObject):

    def __init__(self, parent=None):

        # The list which will be accessible from QML.
        self._guests = []

    def guests(self):
        return QQmlListProperty(Person, self, self._guests)

QML can now manipulate the Python list of Person instances. QQmlListProperty also acts as a proxy for the Python list so that the following can be written:

for guest in party.guests:

QQmlListProperty can also be used to wrap a virtual list. The following code fragment is taken from the example included with PyQt5:

class PieChart(QQuickItem):

    def slices(self):
        return QQmlListProperty(PieSlice, self,
                append=lambda pie_ch, pie_sl: pie_sl.setParentItem(pie_ch))

PieChart and PieSlice are Quick items that are registered using qmlRegisterType(). Instances of both can be created from QML. slices is a property of PieChart that, as far as QML is concerned, is a list of PieSlice instances.

The pyqtProperty() decorator specifies that the property is a QQmlListProperty, that its name is slices and that the slices() function is its getter.

The getter returns an instance of QQmlListProperty. This specifies that elements of the list should be of type PieSlice, that the PieChart instance (i.e. self) has the property, and defines the callable that will be invoked in order to append a new element to the list.

The append callable is passed two arguments: the object whose property is to be updated (i.e. the PyChart instance), and the element to be appended (i.e. a PieSlice instance). Here we simply set the chart as the slice’s parent item. Note that there isn’t actually a list anywhere - this is because, in this particular example, one isn’t needed.

The signature of the append callable is slightly different to that of the corresponding C++ function. In C++ the first argument is the QQmlListProperty instance rather than the PyChart instance. The signatures of the at, clear and count callables are different in the same way.

Using Attached Properties

In order to use attached properties in C++, three steps need to be taken.

  • A type that has attached properties must implement a static function called qmlAttachedProperties. This is a factory that creates an instance of the properties object to attach.
  • A type that has attached properties needs to be defined as such using the QML_DECLARE_TYPEINFO macro with the QML_HAS_ATTACHED_PROPERTIES argument.
  • The instance of an attached properties object is retrieved using the qmlAttachedPropertiesObject() template function. The template type is the type that has the attached properties.

PyQt5 uses similar, but slightly simpler steps to achieve the same thing.

  • When calling qmlRegisterType() to register a type that has attached properties the type of the properties object is passed as the attachedProperties argument. This type will be used as the factory for creating an instance of the properties object.
  • The instance of an attached properties object is retrieved using the qmlAttachedPropertiesObject() function in the same way that you would from C++. Just like qmlRegisterType(), qmlAttachedPropertiesObject() takes an additional first argument that is the type that, in C++, would be the template argument.

See the example included with PyQt5 for a complete example showing the use of attached properties.

Using Property Value Sources

Property values sources are implemented in PyQt5 in the same way as they are implemented in C++. Simply sub-class from both QObject and QQmlPropertyValueSource and provide an implementation of the setTarget() method.

Using QQmlParserStatus

Monitoring the QML parser status is implemented in PyQt5 in the same way as it is implemented in C++. Simply sub-class from both QObject and QQmlParserStatus and provide implementations of the classBegin() and componentComplete() methods.

Writing Python Plugins for qmlscene

Qt allows plugins that implement QML modules to be written that can be dynamically loaded by a C++ application (e.g. qmlscene). These plugins are sub-classes of QQmlExtensionPlugin. PyQt5 supports exactly the same thing and allows those plugin to be written in Python. In other words it is possible to provide QML extensions written in Python to a C++ application, and to provide QML extensions written in C++ to a Python application.

PyQt5 provides a QML plugin called pyqt5qmlplugin. This acts as a wrapper around the Python code that implements the plugin. It handles the loading of the Python interpreter, locating and importing the Python module that contains the implementation of QQmlExtensionPlugin, creating an instance of that class, and calling the instance’s registerTypes() method. By default the pyqt5qmlplugin is installed in the PyQt5 sub-directory of your Qt installation’s plugin directory.


pyqt5qmlplugin is the name of the plugin as seen by QML. Its actual filename will be different and operating system dependent.

A QML extension module is a directory containing a file called qmldir. The file contains the name of the module and the name of the plugin that implements the module. It may also specify the directory containing the plugin. Usually this isn’t needed because the plugin is installed in the same directory.

Therefore, for a QML extension module called Charts, the contents of the qmldir file might be:

module Charts
plugin pyqt5qmlplugin /path/to/qt/plugins/PyQt5

The pyqt5qmlplugin expects to find a Python module in the same directory with a filename ending with or plugin.pyw. In this case the name would be a sensible choice. Before importing this module pyqt5qmlplugin first places the name of the directory at the start of sys.path.


pyqt5qmlplugin has to locate the directory containing the qmldir file itself. It does this using the same algorithm used by QML, i.e. it searches some standard locations and locations specified by the QML2_IMPORT_PATH environment variable. When using qmlscene, pyqt5qmlplugin will not know about any additional locations specified by its -I option. Therefore, QML2_IMPORT_PATH should always be used to specify additional locations to search.

Due to a limitation in QML it is not possible for multiple QML modules to use the same C++ plugin. In C++ this is not a problem as there is a one-to-one relationship between a module and the plugin. However, when using Python, pyqt5qmlplugin is used by every module. There are two solutions to this:

  • on operating systems that support it, place a symbolic link in the directory containing the qmldir file that points to the actual pyqt5qmlplugin
  • make a copy of pyqt5qmlplugin in the directory containing the qmldir file.

In both cases the contents of the qmldir file can be simplifed to:

module Charts
plugin pyqt5qmlplugin

PyQt5 provides an example that can be run as follows:

cd /path/to/examples/quick/tutorials/extending/chapter6-plugins
QML2_IMPORT_PATH=. /path/to/qmlscene app.qml