2023Q1 Roadmap

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 11 January 2023

Welcome to a new year! 2022 saw some amazing progress for BeeWare; and we've got some big plans for 2023. As always, this roadmap should be read as a guide to what we aim to focus on over the coming quarter, rather than a hard commitment of features that will be made available on a specific deadline.

Q4 progress

Progress in Q4 was not as significant as we originally planned. A combination of conference travel and holiday leave meant the quarter was shorter than most; but even then, our goals for the quarter were extremely optimistic.

We were able to hit our goal for Web deployment. We've restored the Toga web backend to a working state, and we've added a Web deployment backend to Briefcase. There's still a lot of work required before Web deployment is a viable as a production solution, but the initial pieces are now in place.

We were also able to hit our goals on housekeeping. We've made a lot of improvements to the base infrastructure of repositories, enabling Black, pre-commit, and towncrier in Toga, and improving coverage reporting (including getting to 100% branch coverage in Briefcase's test suite).

We've made significant progress on improving the testing story for BeeWare apps. We've added the ability for Briefcase projects to run normal Python test suites inside a packaged app, and we've demonstrated that we can use this capability to run CI for iOS and Android apps (as well as desktop platforms). This feature will be included in the next Briefcase release.

Using this new testing capability, we've started building a GUI test suite for Toga. This is a critical part of ensuring the quality of Toga going forward; but getting this testing framework in place has revealed lots of complications and bugs. We're making progress, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

Our plans to release Toga v0.3 final have also been delayed. The process of adding SCM-based versioning to the repository (part of the housekeeping task) revealed a bug that prevented code running on Android; fixing that bug became a blocker on the release of Toga v0.3. We've now resolved that problem, so we should be able to release Toga v0.3 final as soon as the fix has been released into the BeeWare's Android tooling.

Unfortunately, that leaves a lot on the Q4 TODO list. We haven't made any changes to the example apps; Toga documentation is mostly unchanged; we haven't been able to do any substantial Toga planning; and we haven't been able to add any native cross-platform hardware support.

Q1 priorities

It's probably unsurprising that Q1 2023 will be picking up on items we didn't get around to in Q4 2022.

  • Testing - Completing the Toga GUI testing suite will be our primary focus for the quarter.
  • Planning - Once we've got the test harness in place, we'll be in a much better position to evaluate what work remains to get to v1.0.
  • Documentation - The process of systematically building a test suite also gives us an opportunity to update the API documentation for each widget as we go. There's still lots of documentation required on top of the API guide, but complete API documentation will be a big start.
  • Cross-platform hardware - Cross-platform support for device hardware (especially mobile) is one of the banner features that makes mobile device support worthwhile. Providing proof that this hardware support is easy to use will be a key demonstrator for BeeWare as a platform.

Longer term goals

Our longer term goals are largely unchanged from Q4 2022. Upstreaming, Toga 1.0, and a forge for mobile packages are all important goals for the BeeWare ecosystem. However, we don't expect to make any significant progress on these goals until we have solidified Toga's testing story.

Summary

The seeming lack of progress made in Q4 was definitely disappointing; but the work hasn't been wasted. Progress has been slow specifically because the problems we're trying to solve are hard, and reveal every gnarled edge case that platforms have to offer. We are making progress, though; and once we've got the Toga testing framework stabilized, we'll be in a much stronger position to make predictions for future work on Toga.

December 2022 Status Update

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 17 December 2022

This status update is a little earlier than our usual end-of-month report because the team will be taking a well-earned break to spend time with family and friends over the holiday and new year period. As a result, we've got less to report than in past months; however, some significant progress and improvements have been made.

What we've done

During December:

What's next?

There won't be much more progress from the core team for the rest of this year. We'll still be around to handle critical problems, answer questions and do code reviews for contributors; but our response times might be a little slower than normal. We'll publish our Q1 2023 roadmap when we return in January - but we'll be largely picking up where this year has left off - improving the testing story for Toga.

Want to get involved?

Want to get involved? Here are some open issues that would be a great place to get started with contributing to a BeeWare project. They're all relatively minor changes, but would provide a big improvement to the lives of BeeWare users:

  1. Modify the handling of app signing options
  2. Filter out a message generated after Xcode updates
  3. Add the ability to refresh the support package in a project
  4. Provide protection against creating projects with "semi-reserved" names
  5. Add the ability to configure the ABIs built by an Android project
  6. Add support for the ANDROID_HOME environment variable
  7. Purge cache folders when installing app code in Briefcase

Pick one of these tickets, drop a comment on the ticket to let others know you're looking at it, and try your hand at a PR! We have a guide on setting up a Briefcase development environment; but if you need any additional assistance or guidance, you can ask on the ticket, or join us on the BeeWare Discord server.

November 2022 Status Update

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 1 December 2022

November has brought some very important improvements to BeeWare. Although these changes don't have an immediate impact for users, they're going to form a vital part of our work going forward.

What we've done

During November:

What's next?

December will be a slow month due to the Christmas and New Year break; however, until then, we'll continue to focus will continue to be on testing. We'll continue to build out the testing tools that we've worked on this month, and start building tests using those tools. We also hope to begin work on a firm 1.0 roadmap for Toga.

Want to get involved?

Want to get involved? Here's 8 open issues that would be a great place to get started with contributing to a BeeWare project. They're all relatively minor changes, but would provide a big improvement to the lives of BeeWare users:

  1. Modify the handling of app signing options
  2. Filter out a message generated after Xcode updates
  3. Add the ability to refresh the support package in a project
  4. Provide protection against creating projects with "semi-reserved" names
  5. Add the ability to configure the ABIs built by an Android project
  6. Add support for the ANDROID_HOME environment variable
  7. Add a command summary to briefcase --help
  8. Add an option to display the platforms supported by a command

Pick one of these tickets, drop a comment on the ticket to let others know you're looking at it, and try your hand at a PR! We have a guide on setting up a Briefcase development environment; but if you need any additional assistance or guidance, you can ask on the ticket, or join us on the BeeWare Discord server.

October 2022 Status Update

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 1 November 2022

How time flies! Progress in October was a little slower than in past months; preparing for and attending DjangoCon US, plus some well-earned holiday leave reduced the amount of time we had to work on new features. However, we were able to make a number of significant improvements.

What we've done

During October:

  • We restored the web backend for Toga! Web deployment has always been part of the BeeWare story, but we hit some technological challenges with the approach that we were taking in the Toga 0.2 branch. However, with the addition of WASM as an officially supported platform in CPython 3.11, and the release of PyScript, we have a new way of getting Python in the browser. We have been able to use these tools to build a much improved Toga web backend.
  • We added support for deploying Briefcase apps as static web sites.
  • We released official support for Python 3.11 on macOS, iOS and Linux - on the day that Python 3.11 was released!. Python 3.11 support for Android and Windows is ready to go, and should be published in a day or two.
  • We modified Briefcase to write its logs into subdirectory, instead of littering them in the project directory.
  • We presented a talk at DjangoCon US 2022. The video for this talk should be up in around a month. A major feature of this talk was a demo of an Electron-style "web site as an app", built entirely in Python. This demo (called Positron) has been included in the Toga repository as an example.
  • We attended the DjangoCon US 2022 sprints, and handed out 4 challenge coins to new contributors!
  • We added the ability to retrieve widgets by ID to the Toga API.
  • We made a big change to the way that Toga backends are discovered. This new approach has two major advantages - firstly, it means third-parties can register their own backends; but more importantly, it means that code no longer needs to explicitly provide a backend. This simplifies the creation of test cases - but it also means that icons, images and fonts no longer need to be "late bound". This is an internal detail, but it significantly simplifies the code using those data types.
  • We added the ability to create Image objects from raw data, rather than an image file.
  • We started the process of modernising the layout and tooling of the Toga repository. Some of these changes have already landed; more will come in the coming days. This ensures that we have a stable foundation for future work on Toga.

What's next?

During November, we continuing to focus on Toga, with a particular focus on testing. A particular focus will be working out how to test graphical features of Toga - an area that has historically been managed entirely with manual testing. Having strong automated testing of graphical features will be a key milestone in ensuring Toga remains stable in the long term.

Want to get involved?

Want to get involved? Here's 8 open issues that would be a great place to get started with contributing to a BeeWare project. They're all relatively minor changes, but would provide a big improvement to the lives of BeeWare users:

  1. Improve protection against corrupted or incomplete downloads
  2. Modify the handling of app signing options
  3. Filter out a message generated after Xcode updates
  4. Add the ability to refresh the support package in a project
  5. Provide protection against creating projects with "semi-reserved" names
  6. Add the ability to configure the ABIs built by an Android project
  7. Add support for the ANDROID_HOME environment variable
  8. Silence an warning that is displayed when an Android emulator has no skin defined

Pick one of these tickets, drop a comment on the ticket to let others know you're looking at it, and try your hand at a PR! We have a guide on setting up a Briefcase development environment; but if you need any additional assistance or guidance, you can ask on the ticket, or join us on the BeeWare Discord server.

2022Q4 Roadmap

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 4 October 2022

With Q3 completed, it's time to provide an update on the long term goals and priorities of the BeeWare project. As always, this roadmap should be read as a guide to what we aim to focus on over the coming quarter, rather than a hard commitment of features that will be made available on a specific deadline.

Q3 progress

We were able to hit our biggest Q3 goals:

  • Linux packaging - We've investigated and addressed all the known issues with Linux packaging. There's one pending enhancement that would expand the range of third-party binary packages that can be included in Briefcase projects.
  • Windows packaging - We've introduced a stub binary for Windows apps (as well as a Visual Studio target for Windows projects). This allowed us to significantly improve log capture, so when a Windows app crashes it's a lot easier to obtain diagnostic information. This change also corrected most of the issues with the way Windows apps were using the site module; however, there is still one issue related to the handling of packages that have complex post-installation processes.
  • Binary modules - By far the biggest achievement of Q3. With the release of Briefcase 0.3.10, we now support binary modules on iOS and Android. We have also published 40 of the most popular binary modules, compiled for iOS and Android.

However, we didn't hit all our goals:

  • Testing - Testing support has improved substantially. We have a much more thorough CI configuration on Briefcase that verifies that templates generate valid projects. We also have a testbed project that we can use to check that support packages are behaving correctly. However, we are not yet able to run this test project in CI, so we don't have automated validation of PRs against the support packages. We also made very little progress in GUI testing.
  • Conda integration - We began initial discussions around Conda integration, on two fronts: firstly, to investigate the possibility of using Conda as a base for package management in apps; and secondly, about using conda-forge as a framework for managing community contributions. Both of these conversations are ongoing; it will likely take some time before these efforts bear fruit.

Q4 priorities

In Q4, we're planning to focus on:

Toga

The primary focus for Q4 will be Toga. There are a number of pieces of work involved with this:

  • Housekeeping - Basic repository maintenance tasks, like enabling black, introducing pre-commit hooks, towncrier, and automating release infrastructure.
  • Example consolidation - Toga's examples folder has become a sprawling collection of code that is part documentation, part testbed. We need to start consolidating these examples into 2 apps - one that is a user-facing demonstrator of Toga features, and one that can be used as a functional test of Toga features.
  • Testing - Modernising and cleaning up the existing test suite, and working out how to automate GUI tests
  • Documentation - Toga's documentation has lagged behind an acceptable standard for a long time,
  • Planning - Developing a clear plan for what will be in Toga 1.0
  • Cross-platform hardware - While it has always been technically possible to support the APIs needed to access device hardware, there hasn't been a cross-platform API for this work. In Q4, we hope to demonstrate at least 1 interesting piece of mobile device hardware.

Although we won't get to Toga v1.0 in Q4, we will land a v0.3 final, after several years of maintaining dev pre-releases as the main way to use Toga.

Web support

Toga has historically had support for the Web as a platform; however, that effort was put on hold because the approach we were taking wasn't proving viable. However, with the release of Python 3.11, WASM becomes an officially supported CPython platform. We've also seen the release of PyScript, demonstrating that client-side Python in the browser is an extremely viable proposition. The time has come to resurrect BeeWare's support for the web as a deployment platform. This will involve getting Toga's web backend into a working state, and adding a web deployment backend for Briefcase.

Longer term goals

Looking into next year, the big items on the horizon are:

Upstreaming

With binary modules now being supported on both iOS and Android, and the introduction of a Tier 3 support level in PEP11, the prospect of elevating iOS and Android to official supported platforms is seeming increasingly plausible. Our hope is to go to PyCon US next year in a position to make a concrete proposal to the CPython core team.

Toga 1.0

The broad goal for "Toga 1.0" could be considered "Tkinter, but with some additional bells to show off". We want to deliver a core widget set of the "essentials", plus some nice features to show off, like WebViews and camera or GPS integration. We hope to establish the feature list for Toga 1.0 in Q4; once that plan is in place, we'll have a better idea of when we will be able to deliver on that plan.

A Forge for mobile packages

As of today, all binary modules for mobile platforms are being maintained by the BeeWare team. This isn't a viable solution long term; we need to move to an environment where the community can manage binary packages for mobile platforms.

Summary

For the last 6 months, the focus of BeeWare has been on Briefcase and the support packages - ensuring that we have a feature complete, robust set of tools for deploying apps on any platform. In Q4, our focus is shifting to the tools we need to build apps on those platforms, and ensuring we have a stable foundation for future development. It's taken a long time for BeeWare to get this far - but we're getting very close to unlocking the remarkable potential of the Python ecosystem on mobile devices.

September 2022 Status Update

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 3 October 2022

September has been a big month for the BeeWare team. There have been lots of small updates - but there's one very large, eagerly anticipated update that has taken several months to complete.

What we've done

During September:

  • We added support for binary packages on mobile platforms! There's more detail related to this than can fit in a bullet point; more details below.
  • We added the ability to remove files from a templated app. This can be used to trim down a project, removing parts of the Python interpreter that you don't need (such as standard library modules that you don't need)
  • We've changed the way we use templates, switching to using branches based on the Briefcase release, rather than the Python release. This enables us to make development changes to templates without affecting the published stable release.
  • We reworked the way Briefcase manages integrations with the tools needed to build apps. This was a mammoth project, but as a result the process of verifying tools is faster, and a number of bugs related to having stale builds have been resolved.
  • We've made a number of improvements to console handling of log messages, especially on Windows
  • We improved error handling in Toga when TLS1.2 or TLS1.3 isn't supported by Windows.
  • We started conversations with the teams at Anaconda responsible for conda about using Conda as a base for Briefcase apps, and on using Conde-forge style infrastructure to support binary packaging. Nothing concrete has come from these conversations yet; these conversations are ongoing.

Binary package support you say?

All the new binary packaging support is contained in Briefcase 0.3.10.

On Android, binary module support was achieved by moving to Chaquopy as a base for Android projects. Along with support for binary modules, this change has the added benefit of faster startup times, and less bugs at runtime. This means you'll need to re-generate any Android project - the Python source code should work as-is, but there's no simple way to convert the Android Gradle project from the older Rubicon base to the newer Chaquopy base.

On iOS, we've reworked how the support packages are constructed, and added support for installing binary modules from a Beeware-specific package repository that includes builds of iOS binary wheels. We've also added asset signing to the iOS Xcode project - and applied the same changes to the macOS backends. Of course, this also means you'll need to re-generate any iOS project to take advantage of these changes.

While we are now able to support binary packages on mobile platforms, this doesn't mean that every binary package is automatically supported. Binary wheels need to be compiled for mobile platforms, and compiling for mobile platforms can be complicated. However, we've compiled ~40 of them most popular packages with binary components (including numpy, pandas, cryptography, pillow and matplotlib), and made them available as dependencies. In order to get working builds, some of these packages are slightly older versions (e.g., cryptography is a version from before the introduction of the rust dependency); however, we've endeavoured to provide the most recent versions possible.

A full list of supported packages can be found on the Chaquopy package repository for Android, and the BeeWare repository for iOS. If your project uses one of these packages, you only need to add them to the requires definition in your pyproject.toml, then update and re-build your project, and you're done.

If there’s a package you want that isn't on this list, you'll need to request a binary wheel. For Android, open a ticket on the Chaquopy repository. For iOS, open a ticket on this repository. If you're adventurous, you can also try building wheels yourself. The issue trackers are on a project that has as "forge-like" tool for building wheels, in the server/pypi folder; there are tools and documentation describing how to build a package. The use of these projects is a short-term measure; in the longer term, we want to move to an actual “forge”-style community-managed model for managing binary packages.

What's next?

For the last few months, the focus of the BeeWare team has been on Briefcase and the support packages. In October (and the rest of Q4), we'll be shifting our focus to Toga. The initial focus will be on improving the foundation of the project - testing and build infrastructure; but once those pieces are in place, we'll start adding new features.

We'll also be at DjangoCon US in San Diego - and there will be some web-related updates related to the presentation that will be given at that conference. We hope we'll see you there!

Want to get involved?

Want to get involved? Here's 10 open issues that would be a great place to get started with contributing to a BeeWare project. They're all relatively minor changes, but would provide a big improvement to the lives of BeeWare users:

  1. Write Briefcase logs into a subdirectory, instead of the project folder
  2. Improve protection against corrupted or incomplete downloads
  3. Modify the handling of app signing options
  4. Modify the Briefcase new project wizard to show which repository and branch it's using
  5. Filter out a message generated after Xcode updates
  6. Add the ability to refresh the support package in a project
  7. Provide protection against creating projects with "semi-reserved" names
  8. Add the ability to configure the ABIs built by an Android project
  9. Add support for the ANDROID_HOME environment variable
  10. Silence an warning that is displayed when an Android emulator has no skin defined

Pick one of these tickets, drop a comment on the ticket to let others know you're looking at it, and try your hand at a PR! We have a guide on setting up a Briefcase development environment; but if you need any additional assistance or guidance, you can ask on the ticket, or join us on the BeeWare Discord server.

August 2022 Status Update

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 1 September 2022

The main focus of the BeeWare team during August was binary module support on mobile platforms. Although we haven't got the final results of this work yet, we have significant progress to report for both iOS and Android. We've also had a number of other improvements land over the course of the month.

What we've done

During August:

What's next?

In September, we hope to wrap up the work on binary dependencies. On Android, this is mostly a matter of completing the work to support multiple Python versions. On iOS, we need to develop the tools to manage the compilation of third-party binary libraries. We have an initial proof of concept of this; we need to finish these tools, and develop the infrastructure to distribute. We're also hoping to start conversations with the Anaconda team about Conda integration with Briefcase, and start improving GUI testing in Toga.

July 2022 Status Update

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 1 August 2022

Another month of important updates to the BeeWare project! This month, our focus was on packaging improvements on Linux and Windows.

In addition the technical progress, we welcomed Malcolm Smith (@mhsmith on Github) to the Anaconda BeeWare team! Malcolm brings his considerable experience developing and maintaining Chaquopy, a set of tools and libraries for building Android applications that use Python. Chaquopy tackles the "Python on Android" problem from the perspective of adding Python to an existing Android Studio project rather than writing apps entirely with Python; as a result, it features much tighter integration with native Android Studio tooling. One particularly interesting feature of Chaquopy is that it supports binary dependencies on Android - a key feature that BeeWare's Android tooling currently lacks. Historically, Chaquopy was a closed source tool with licenses available for open source projects; however, as a result of joining Anaconda, Malcolm has released Chaquopy as an Open Source project!

What we've done

During July:

  • We added support for Linuxdeploy plugins for Linux AppImages. These plugins are an important part of making AppImages self-contained, as many libraries need to provide the Linuxdeploy tooling hints to help find all the resources needed at runtime. Adding support for these plugins should address most of the issues we've been seeing with moving AppImages between Linux versions.
  • We added a Flatpak backend for Linux packaging. Flatpak is an alternative packaging format to AppImage which has the support of a number of large Linux distributions. For now, AppImage continues to be the default Linux packaging format, but we may change this default in the future.
  • We improved the packaging of Windows apps by adding a stub binary. We're still hunting some bugs in this stub binary, but when those are resolved, the Windows apps generated by Briefcase will present to the operating system with consistent app naming and icons. The stub binary also enables us to catch runtime problems with the app in a way that makes diagnosing app problems much easier.
  • We presented a webinar about native application development. If you weren't able to attend the webinar live, a recording is available; register here to watch.
  • We got an initial proof of concept of a Toga app running on Android using Chaquopy as a base, accessing a binary library (matplotlib), deployed with Briefcase. Over the coming weeks, we're hoping this proof of concept will evolve into major improvement to BeeWare's Android tooling.
  • We modified Briefcase to use OS-appropriate directories for caching. While the ~/.briefcase location has served us well, it isn't a location that adheres to platform-native conventions for storing app resources, so we've moved Briefcase's cache of downloads, tools and templates to a platform-appropriate location.
  • We addressed an issue with the current working directory leaking into the runtime path. This was especially common with Linux apps, but it could potentially be an issue with other platforms as well.
  • We've started the process of making Toga widget APIs internally consistent. While we've aimed to keep naming of widgets' attributes and handlers consistent, there are a couple of annoying inconsistencies. We've started the process of cleaning up these inconsistencies.
  • We've started looking into binary dependencies on iOS apps.

What's next?

In August, our major focus will be binary dependencies on mobile. This is one of the biggest missing pieces of the BeeWare story at present. Being able to utilize Chaquopy as a base gives us a huge head start on Android, so it seems likely we'll have a working solution for Android in the near future. However, on iOS, we're still at the "we don't know what we don't know" stage. It's unclear if we'll have a fully working solution by the end of the month, but we should have at least some progress to report.

June 2022 Status Update

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 4 July 2022

It's been another busy month at the hive! This month, we've had a couple of high profile improvements, and some slow progress towards longer term goals. These improvements have been primarily in Briefcase and app packaging, but there have been some minor Toga improvements as well.

What we've done

During June:

What's next?

In July, we'll be focussing on:

  • Completing the work on Linux and Windows application packaging.
  • Presenting a webinar about native application development. If you'd like to attend, registration for this webinar is open
  • Starting investigations into binary module support on mobile platforms.

We're also delighted to announce that we've successfully completed our hiring process; so, in 2 weeks, there will be another Bee in the hive! I'm very excited about the possibilities that this additional team member will afford. Look out for a welcome announcement in the coming weeks.

2022Q3 Roadmap

Posted by Russell Keith-Magee on 24 June 2022

One of the benefits of having the support of an organisation like Anaconda is that we are now in a position to make more concrete commitments on project goals, and the likely timeframe when key features will be delivered. To that end, in addition to monthly status updates, we're going to start publishing regular updates on our project roadmap so the community has a better idea what to expect over the coming months.

Project estimation is difficult at the best of times; and project estimation on a FLOSS project is especially complex. In addition to any work that we are planning internally as a team, we need to manage contributions from the community. If a community member contributes a piece of work that isn't on our roadmap, we need to review that work. As a result, our ability to deliver on our own roadmap is dependent on how much is contributed by the community - something that is very hard to predict ahead of time.

In addition, several of the topics listed on this roadmap are complex, foundational tasks, and potentially contain unknown complications. As with any complex work, it can be difficult to predict ahead of time how long that work will take.

As a result, this roadmap should be read as a guide to what we aim to focus on over the coming quarter, rather than a hard commitment of features that will be made available on a specific deadline.

Q3 priorities

During Q3, we're planning to work on:

Linux packaging

Breifcase's AppImage packaging backend has had a cluster of issues reported related to inclusion of third party libraries, and the post-processing that needs to be performed on an AppImage. We've already started work on this during Q2; early in Q3, you should expect to see this work wrapped up. This will include:

  • Adding support for linuxdeploy plugins for our existing AppImage backend; and
  • Adding a Flatpak backend.

Windows packaging

Briefcase has an MSI packaging backend for Windows; and while this backend works, it doesn't deliver an end-user experience that is as polished as we'd like. We should be starting initial work on Windows packaging in the coming week, with the complete solution completed in early Q3. This will include:

  • Adding a stub binary for Windows apps, so that Briefcase apps present to the task manager with the apps name and icon, rather than "pythonw";
  • Improving log capture on Windows, so that it is easier to diagnose when problems occur; and
  • Fixing some issues with the way the site is defined and used. This may also address some issues we've seen with binary modules in some Windows apps.

Binary modules

The biggest caveat on BeeWare's mobile app story has always been that we don't provide support for binary packages on mobile platforms. In Q3, we're going to start addressing this limitation.

There are already tools like crossenv that can simplify this process, and we've got a PR in our review queue that provides a proof-of-concept implementation of Android binary packaging. We need to take these tools, plus other tools in the Python ecosystem, and extend Briefcase so that we can present a clear development story for mobile developers that want to use modules with binary components.

On iOS, there is an additional complication - we need to resolve how to manage dynamic loading of modules. BeeWare's iOS support currently relies on static compilation of all binary modules. This was originally done because prior to iOS8, dynamic linking was prohibited on iOS. The days of iOS8 are now long behind us; but the Apple support package has retained this old approach, mostly because it wasn't clear what approach Apple would allow through the App Store review process. We will be making changes to Briefcase's iOS support to accomodate dynamic module loading, and then extending that support to include user-provided binary modules.

Testing (especially GUI testing)

Without testing, it's very difficult to ensure the stability and reliability of code in the long term. Unfortunately, many of the areas where BeeWare operates are inherently difficult to test. Visual GUI tests are notoriously difficult to perform; packaging tests require the ability to actually install and run finished applications; testing mobile applications requires access to mobile device hardware in a CI setup. As a project, we've avoided writing tests for many of our core features due to these complexities - and we've paid the price for this in regressions. Now that we have more time, we can focus on setting up the frameworks to let us perform this testing.

This includes adding:

  • Support package tests, ensuring that the packages include valid libraries;
  • App template tests, ensuring that Briefcase is able to generate valid and installable applications; and
  • GUI tests, ensuring that Toga generates apps that look and behave the way they should.

Testing is an ongoing process, so it's highly unlikely we'll have "100% test coverage" by the end of the quarter. The goal will be to add the frameworks that allow us to add tests at all, so that we can retrofit tests onto existing code, and add tests on all new code going forward. Ideally, these tests will be fully automated tests running in CI. However, we may accept semi-automated or manual tests as a short term of interim measure, especially if those tests lay the groundwork for fully automated tests in the future.

Conda integration

Briefcase is currently uses PyPI and pip as source of Python packages. However, PyPI and pip isn't the only packaging solution in the Python ecosystem - another commonly used packaging source is Conda.

At this point, I must recognise the elephant in the room - Anaconda, the company that produced and maintains Conda, is my employer. However, I must stress that the fact this is on our roadmap is not as a result of a directive from my employer. The original proposal for this idea predates even my earliest hiring discussions with Anaconda. It is being pursued now for three reasons:

  1. The key value of Conda is that it simplifies the process of delivering complex binary packages, and ensuring that the binary dependencies for those packages are isolated from any packages that might be present on the user's computer. This core problem statement shares a lot of similarities with the core problem associated with application packaging. Conda also has much more nuanced representation of hardware platforms, alternatives for binary artefacts, and options for custom repositories. There is a possibility that using Conda as a packaging base may simplify some of the problems we've seen with distributing binary dependencies.
  2. There is a significant portion of the Python community that have commercial needs that requires the use of the managed repositories provided by Anaconda, or are simply more familiar with Conda tooling than PyPI/pip.
  3. As a result of having 1 (soon to be 2) full time engineers, we now have the resources to explore complex changes that might not have otherwise been explored. We are exploring this idea because we now have the resources to do so; we were not provided those resources on the condition that we explore this idea.

We don't anticipate dropping support for pip, or for PyPI as a package source. We're looking at extending Briefcase to provide another commonly used and requested option for packaging, rather than replacing PyPI/pip.

Longer term goals

Looking beyond Q3, the big items on the horizon are:

Upstreaming

The Apple and Android support packages maintained by BeeWare include a number of patches against the core CPython. We want to begin the process of getting these modifications into the CPython codebase.

There have been two major impediments to this in the past:

  1. Development resources When we were a volunteer driven project, we didn't have the resources to engage meaningfully with the CPython core team to shepherd our patches into the CPython codebase.
  2. Testing Supported platforms in the CPython codebase need to have CI solutions.

We now have resources, so we can dedicate the time needed to upstream patches; and once we've completed our testing work in Q3, we'll be in a position to recommend CI configurations to the CPython core team. That means the work of upstreaming patches and making iOS and Android fully supported platforms can begin.

Toga 1.0

The broad goal for "Toga 1.0" could be considered "Tkinter, but with some additional bells to show off". We want to deliver a core widget set of the "essentials", plus some nice features to show off, like WebViews and camera or GPS integration. The exact set of features for Toga 1.0 is still a subject for discussion; I'd expect to see a more concrete feature list and plan emerge in Q4.

Summary

As with most of the work that has been done in Q2, the foundational work we're planning for Q3 is not as glamorous as adding high profile GUI widgets, but it's all necessary work if we're going to provide a stable and reliable development story. Once this foundation is established, we'll be in a much better position to rapidly develop new features that are visible - and to ensure that those features are stable and reliable as BeeWare develops.

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