Jupyter UI wrangling

What happens inside those notebook cells

Jupyter is complicated so I segregated information about UI, rendering etc from the main notebook. Here is the stuff about how to use the jupyter system to support non-standard user interactions.

Jupyter is dynamic thanks to the interaction between javascript (left) and python (right)

Presentations using Jupyter

Basic: export to reveal.js

You can use my favourite dorky presentation hack!

The easiest is Classic reveal.js mode. tl;dr:

$ jupyter nbconvert --to slides some_notebook.ipynb  --post serve

You might want to make various improvements, such as tweaking the reveal.js settings in jupyter slideshows

If you aren’t running a coding class, you will want to hide the input cells from your IPython slides by customising the output templates, or you can suppress all code by using output format hide_code_slides.

These kind of custom tweaks are not too crazy but you need a copy of the reveal.js source code for some of them. A more comprehensive version using a custom theme and the reveal.js source looks like

jupyter nbconvert Presentation.ipynb  \
    --to slides --reveal-prefix ../../reveal.js \
    --post serve --SlidesExporter.reveal_theme=league

Fancier: integrated slideshows using RISE

Fancier again: interactive slideshows using RISE.

To meet your house style requirements it is usually sufficient to customise some decorations and alter some css.

Major plus: you can execute code while running the slide!

Major minus: there is no facility that I can see to style your cover slides differently, which is incompatible with, e.g., my university’s style guide.

If you don’t wish to display inline input code, you can avoid it with hide_code

Install using pip:

pip install hide_code
jupyter nbextension install --py hide_code
jupyter nbextension enable --py hide_code
jupyter serverextension enable --py hide_code

Install using conda:

conda install -c conda-forge hide_code

Rich display

Various objects support rich display of python objects e.g. IPython.display.Image

from IPython.display import Image

or you can use markdown for local image display


If you want to make your own objects display, uh, richly, you can implement the appropriate magical methods:

class Shout(object):
    def __init__(self, text):
        self.text = text

    def _repr_html_(self):
        return "<h1>" + self.text + "</h1>"

I leveraged this to make a latex renderer called latex_fragment which you should totally check out for rendering inline algorithms, or for emitting SVG equations.

Alternatively one can use the inbuilt jupyter LaTeX renderer:

from IPython.display import Latex
Latex('''The mass-energy equivalence is described by the famous equation


discovered in 1905 by Albert Einstein.
In natural units ($c$ = 1), the formula expresses the identity



Set up inline plots:

%matplotlib inline

inline svg:

%config InlineBackend.figure_format = 'svg'

Graph sizes are controlled by matplotlib. Here’s how to make big graphs:

import matplotlib as mpl
mpl.rcParams['figure.figsize'] = (10.0, 8.0)

Interesting-looking other graphing options:

Jupyter lab includes such nifty features as a diagram editor which you can install using jupyter labextension install jupyterlab-drawio

Citations and other academic writing in Jupyter

I did this for

  1. my blog — using simple Zotero markdown citation export, which is not great for inline citations but fine for bibliographies, and easy and robust.

  2. my papers — abandoning jupyter in favour of Pweave+pandoc, which works amazingly for everything if you use pandoc tricks for your citations.

I couldn’t find a unified approach for these two different use cases which didn’t sound like more work than it was worth. At least, many academics seem to have way more tedious and error-prone workflows than this, so I’m just being a fancypants if I try to tweak it further.

More recently, there has appeared jupyterbook which enables notebook-based blog rendering, including citations. This is built using the ruby site generator jekyll-scholar so is heavy in dependencies but it seems to work. A hyped example of this in action is You Only Write Thrice.

Chris Sewell has produced a script called ipypublish that eases some pain points in producing articles. It’s an impressive piece of work.

My own latex_fragment allows you to insert one-off latex fragments into jupyter and pweave (e.g. algorithmic environments or some weird tikz thing.)

Jean-François Bercher’s jupyter_latex_envs reimplements various latex markup as native jupyter including \cite. I

Sylvain Deville recommends treating jupyter as a glorified markdown editor and then using pandoc, which is an OK workflow if you are producing a once-off paper, but not for a repeatedly updated blog.

nbconvert has built-in citation support but only for LaTeX output. Citations look like this in markup:

<cite data-cite="granger2013">(Granger, 2013)</cite>

or even

<strong data-cite="granger2013">(Granger, 2013)</strong>

The template defines the bibliography source and looks like:

((*- extends 'article.tplx' -*))

((* block bibliography *))j
((( super () )))
((* endblock bibliography *))

And building looks like:

jupyter nbconvert --to latex --template=print.tplx mynotebook.ipynb

As above, it helps to know how the document templates work.

Note that even in the best case you don’t have access to BibTeX-style citation, so auto-year citation styles will look funky.

Speaking of custom templates, the nbconvert setup is customisable for more than latex.

{% extends 'full.tpl'%}
{% block any_cell %}
    <div style="border:thin solid red">
        {{ super() }}
{% endblock any_cell %}

But how about for online? cite2c seems to do this by live inserting citations from zotero, including author-year stuff. (Requires Jupyter notebook 4.2 or better which might require a pip install --upgrade notebook)

Julius Schulz gives a comprehensive config for this and everything else.

This workflow is smooth for directed citing, but note that there is no way to include a bibliography except by citation, so you have to namecheck every article; and the citation keys it uses are zotero citation keys which are nothing like your BibTeX keys so can’t really be manually edited.

if you are customising the output of jupyter’s nbconvert, you should be aware that the {% block output_prompt %} override doesn’t actually do anything in the templates I use. (Slides, HTML, LaTeX). Instead you need to use a config option:

$ jupyter nbconvert --to slides some_notebook.ipynb \
   --TemplateExporter.exclude_output_prompt=True \
    --post serve

I had to use the source to discover this.

ipyBibtex.ipynb? Looks like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet
consectetuer adipiscing elit,
sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt
ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.

So it supports author-year citations! But it’s a small, unmaintained package so is risky.

🏗 Work out how Mark Masden got citations working?


Jupyter allows interactions! For certain special cases with backing by a major firm or dev team such as dashboards, this can an easy way of interacting with python.

In the general case, not so much. For a while I thought building widgets in jupyter might be a useful or convenient thing to do, but many days of effort later I must conclude that not only were my early experiments not convenient, but also that the API changes are so frequent that it would need to be effortless to be viable to maintain a UI in an ongoing way. These days, I regard using jupyter for interactions a way of adding extra failure points to an app which would be better without jupyter.


See voilĂ . Also there an example of basic interaction here.

Updating progress graphs

from IPython.display import clear_output
## Run code

for i in range(10):
    plt.plot(x, y)


Official Manual: ipywidgets.

pip install ipywidgets
jupyter nbextension enable --py widgetsnbextension

See also the announcement: Jupyter supports interactive JS widgets, where they discuss the data binding module in terms of javascript UI thingies.

Pro tip: If you want a list of widgets

from ipywidgets import widget

Then you use them.

from ipywidgets import interact, IntSlider

External event loops

External event loops are now easy and documented. What they don’t say outright is that if you want to use the tornado event loop, relax because both the jupyter server and the ipython kernel already use the pyzmq event loop which subclasses the tornado one.

If you want you make this work smoothly without messing around with passing ioloops everywhere, you should make zmq install itself as the default loop:

from zmq.eventloop import ioloop

Now, your asynchronous python should just work using tornado coroutines.

NB with the release of latest asyncio and tornado and various major version incompatibilities, I’m curious how smoothly this all still works.

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