Features of an ObjectListView

Why take the time to learn how to use an ObjectListView? What’s the benefit? The return on investment? This page tries to document the useful features of an ObjectListView. Not all features are equally useful, but its better to be aware of what’s available so that you can use it when the need arises.

Ease of use

The major goal of an ObjectListView is to make your life easier. All common ListCtrl tasks should be easier – or at least no more difficult – with an ObjectListView. For the investment of creating column definitions, you receive a great deal of convenience and value added functions. See Getting Started for an introduction to the basics.

Automatically create the ListCtrl from model objects

The major way in which the ObjectListView makes your life easier is by being able to automatically build the ListCtrl from a collection of model objects. Once the columns are defined, an ObjectListView is able to build the rows of the ListCtrl without any other help. It only takes a single method call: SetObjects().

Different flavours of ObjectListView for different purposes

An ObjectListView is the plain vanilla version of the control. It accepts a list of model objects, and builds the control from those model objects.

A FastObjectListView requires a list of model objects, but it can deal with those objects very quickly. Typically, it can build a list of 10,000 objects in less than 0.1 seconds.

A GroupListView` also requires a list of model objects, but allows those model objects to be partitioned into groups, and then those groups presented to the user as collapsible collections. Partitioned is normally done using the sort column. When the user clicks on a different sort column, the rows are partitioned into different groups. See Using a GroupListView.

A VirtualObjectListView does not require a list of model objects. Instead, it asks for model objects as it requires them. In this way, it can support an unlimited number of rows. A VirtualObjectListView must be given an objectGetter callable, which is called when the list needs to display a particular model object.

Editing cell values

ListCtrls normally allow only the primary cell (column 0) to be edited. An ObjectListView allows all cells to be edited. This editing knows to use different editors for different data types. It also allows autocompletion based on existing values for that column (pass autoCompleteCellEditor=True to a column constructor)

See Editing Cell Values for more details.

Automatic sorting

Once the column are defined, the ObjectListView will automatically sort the rows when the user clicks on a column header. This sorting understands the data type of the column, so sorting is always correct according to the data type. Sorting does not use the string representation.

Supports all ListCtrl views

An ObjectListView supports all views: report, list, large and small icons. All functions should work equally in all views: editing, check state, icons, selection.

More control over column width

An ObjectListView allows the programmer to have control over the width of columns after the ListCtrl is created.

When a column is defined, it is normally given a width in pixels. This is the width of the column when the ListCtrl is first shown. After creation, the user can resize that column to be something else.

By using the minimumWidth and maximumWidth attributes, the programmer can control the lower and upper limits of a column. The programmer can also use the fixedWidth constructor parameter to indicate that a column should not be resizable by the user.

Finally, the programmer can specify that a column should resize automatically to be wider when the ListCtrl is made wider and narrower when the ListCtrl is made narrower. This type of column is a space filling column, and is created by passing the isSpaceFilling parameter to the ColumnDefn constructor.

See these recipes:

Displays a “list is empty” message

An empty ListCtrl can be confusing to the user: did something go wrong? Do I need to wait longer and then something will appear?

An ObjectListView can show a “this list is empty” message when there is nothing to show in the list, so that the user knows the control is supposed to be empty.

See this recipe: 8. How do I change the message that’s shown when the ObjectListView is empty?

Checkboxes in any column

An ObjectListView trivially supports checkboxes on rows. In fact, it supports multiple checkboxes per row, if you are really keen. See this recipe for more details: 7. How do I use checkboxes in my ObjectListView?.

Alternate rows background colors

Having subtly different row colours for even and odd rows can make a ListCtrl easier for users to read. ObjectListView supports this alternating of background colours. It is enabled by default, and the background colours are controlled by the evenRowsBackColor and oddRowsBackColor attributes.

Custom row formatting

An ObjectListView allows rows to be formatted with custom colours and fonts. For example, you could draw clients with debts in red, or big spending customers could be given a gold background. See here: 6. How can I change the colours of a row?

Model object level operations

The ObjectListView allows operations at the level that makes most sense to the application: at the level of model objects. Operations like SelectObjects(), RefreshObjects(), GetSelectedObjects() and GetCheckedObjects() provide a high-level interface to the ListCtrl.

The VirtualObjectListView is an unfortunate exception to these features. It does not know where any given model object is located in the control (since it never deals with the whole list of objects), so these model level operations are not available to it.

Searching on the sort column

When a user types into a normal ListCtrl, the control tries to find the first row where the value in cell 0 begins with the character that the user typed. [This feature is not supported by a standard ListCtrl on all platforms, but it is supported on all platforms by ObjectListView].

ObjectListView extends this idea so that the searching can be done on the column by which the control is sorted (the “sort column”). If your music collection is sorted by “Album” and the user presses “z”, ObjectListView will move the selection to the first track of the “Zooropa” album, rather than find the next track whose title starts with “z”.

In many cases, this is behaviour is quite intuitive. iTunes works in this fashion on its string value columns (e.g. Name, Artist, Album, Genre).

Fast searching on sorted column

When the user types something into a control, the ObjectListView will use a binary search (if possible) to find a match for what was typed. A binary search is normally possible if the ObjectListView is sorted on a column that shows strings.

A binary search is able to handle very large collections: 10,000,000 rows can be searched in about 24 comparisons. This makes it feasible to seach by typing even on large virtual lists.


By calling SetFilter(), you can dynamically filter the model objects that are presented to the user in the control.

A filter is a callable that accepts a single parameter, which is the list of model objects provided to the ObjectListView via the SetObjects() method. The filter should return the list of objects that will be presented to the user.

The supplied module Filter provides some useful standard filters:

  • Filter.Predicate(booleanCallable)

    Show only the model objects for which the given callable returns true. The callable must accept a single parameter, which is the model object to be considered.

  • Filter.Head(n)

    Show only the first N model objects.

  • Filter.Tail(n)

    Show only the last N model objects. Useful to watching logs.

  • Filter.TextSearch(objectListView, columns=(), text="")

    Show only model objects that contain text in one of the given columns. If columns is empty, all columns from the ObjectListView will be considered.

  • Filter.Chain(filters)

    Show only model objects which satisfy all of the given filters.

Filtering and performance

Most filters impose a performance penalty on the rebuilding of an ObjectListViews contents.

This is because they (normally) examine each model object provided to the SetObjects() method and decide if it should be included. Thus, a filter normally has a O(n) performance hit.

However, for a plain vanilla ObjectListView, if the filter significantly reduces the number of displayed rows, rebuilding the list may be faster with the filter installed, since building N/2 rows (for example) is faster than building N rows. This does not apply for FastObjectListViews, since it only builds rows when they are displayed.