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Tcl/Tk on Windows Frequently-Asked Questions

Archive-name: tcl-faq/tk/windows
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 1999/07/13

    Newsgroups: comp.lang.tcl, comp.answers, news.answers
    Followup-To: poster

    Archive-name: tcl-faq/tk/windows
    Posting-Frequency: monthly
    Last-modified: 1999/07/13

    Tcl/Tk on Windows Frequently-Asked Questions

    Tcl is a scripting language that runs on Windows, UNIX and
    Macintosh platforms. Tk is a standard add-on to Tcl that provides
    commands to quickly and easily create user interfaces. Even though
    Tcl was originally created on UNIX, your Tcl scripts should run the
    same on all supported platforms, except for a few differences. This
    document describes those differences on Windows.

    This list of frequently-asked questions, also called a FAQ, covers
    problems with the Tcl/Tk programming on the Windows platform.
    Please send any additions or corrections to Eric Foster-Johnson
    (the email address is at the bottom). This FAQ is located on the
    Internet at the following URL:

    Getting Started

    Tcl/Tk runs on the following versions of Windows.

      Windows 3.1
            Requires Win32s 1.30; no support starting with version

      Windows 95

      Windows 98
            Some problems reported in comp.lang.tcl Internet newsgroup.

      Windows NT

      Windows CE
            A port appears to be in progress; please keep me informed.
            I will gladly beta-test a CE version on my SH3 (LG Phenom
            Ultra) system.

    First, get the binary release of Tcl/Tk for Windows. The latest
    release is Tcl/Tk 8.1.1, tcl811.exe. Each binary release comes as a
    self-extracting archive. Run the program to install Tcl.

      Note: The default installation location is C:\Program Files\Tcl.
      Directory names with spaces can cause some problems with Tcl,
      so I recommend installing into the C:\Tcl directory.

    Once you have installed Tcl, you can double-click on any .tcl file
    in the Windows Explorer to run the Tcl script.

    Creating Scripts

    Tcl script files are really plain text files and should end with a
    .tcl extension. You can use any editor that can create text files
    (including Microsoft Word) to edit your Tcl scripts. Two editors
    recommended on the Internet include HomeSite (really intended for
    editing Web HTML files) located at and the
    Programmer's File Editor, located at The WordPad editor, which
    comes with Windows, has lots of problems, especially since it likes
    to append a .txt extension to all text files it creates (and you
    want a .tcl extension for Windows Tcl scripts).

    Learning Tcl

    The Tcl language is described in a number of books, including:

            Tcl and the Tk Toolkit by John Ousterhout, Addison-Wesley,

            Practical Programming with Tcl and Tk by Brent Welch,
            Prentice Hall, 1997.

            Graphical Applications with Tcl and Tk Second Edition by
            Eric Foster-Johnson, M&T Books, 1997, a book by yours truly
            that covers cross-platform development with Tcl and Tk on
            Windows and UNIX.

            Effective Tcl/Tk Programming by Mark Harrison and Michael
            McLennan, Addison-Wesley, 1997.

    I maintain a number of Web pages on Tcl that can also help.


    Questions answered here include:

      How to get Tcl/Tk For Windows
            A-1: Binary release of Tcl/Tk.
            A-2: How to Run Scripts from Windows

      Installing/Can't Run At All
            I-1: Don't upgrade over a previous version

      Differences From Unix
            D-1: \ Won't Work!
            D-2: How to create a valid font name on Windows
            D-3: Cut, copy and paste in the Tcl Console window
            D-4: Using the Windows Clipboard
            D-5: send is not implemented on Windows
            D-6: Start-up Files tclsh.rc and wishrc.tcl
            D-7: Accessing PC serial ports from Tcl
            D-8: Using UNC file names
            D-9: Getting list of mounted drives
            D-10: Accessing the Windows Registry
            D-11: Using Dynamic data Exchange (DDE)
            D-12: winfo interps and send fails on Windows
            D-13: Installing Tcl/Tk Applications on Windows
            D-14: Making executable scripts on NT

      Windows-Specific Bugs and Problems
            B-1: Puts bugs.
            B-2: fileevent only supports sockets under Windows until
            B-3: You need at least 256 colors and may have problems
            with more than 256
            B-4: Problems with clock command on Windows
            B-5: wm iconbitmap doesn't work on Windows
            B-6: If you use a pipe (|) in open, until the child process
            has terminated no events will be processed.
            B-7: The rightmost mouse button is Button-3.
            B-8: Tk on Windows supports cursors
            B-9: Sockets are not available on the system error
            B-10: toplevel -container does not work
            B-11: exec: couldn't create error file for command: Error 0

      Old Bugs
            O-1: Wish uses a lot of system resources and doesn't free
            O-2: Once exec fails, the next exec generates a fatal

      Compiling and Writing C and C++ Extensions
            C-1: Getting the source code
            C-2: Tcl no longer compiled with Borland C++
            C-3: Tcl uses long file names
            C-4: Where are the .lib files?
            C-5: Creating Dynamic Extensions on Windows
            C-6: C++ and DLLs
            C-7: Compiling with EGCS/Ming32
            C-8: Allocate memory with Tcl_Alloc
            C-9: Tcl and Microsoft Foundation Classes

            E-1: Expect
            E-2: Tix works on Windows.
            E-3: ODBC
            E-4: Network, Registry and ODBC Extensions
            E-5: Itcl
            E-6: BLT Win32 Patches
            E-7: VerTcl/TkCon Provides a Useful Console On Windows
            E-8: OCX Extensions for Tcl
            E-9: TkTable
            E-10: MDI (Muliple Document Interface)
            E-11: Windows shortcuts extension
            E-12: TclX
            E-13: Togl (Tk OpenGL)
            E-14: cc::Mail
            E-15: Tabbed dialogs, Combobox, etc.
            E-16: DLL-Caller Extension
            E-17: WinExec, Print, and Other Extensions
            E-18: Winico Extension
            E-19: Img Extension
            E-19: ActiveTcl Extension

      Windows 3.1 Issues
            W3-1: Windows 3.1 Requires Win32s
            W3-2: How to execute tclsh76.exe from Windows 3.1
            W3-3: Strange behaviour of exec under Win 3.1
            W3-4: Windows 3 doesn't support help contents file
            W3-5: Wish generates a UAE error at startup
            W3-6: Increasing environment space in DOS.


    How to get Tcl/Tk For Windows

    A-1: Binary release of Tcl/Tk for Windows

    Tcl/Tk 8.1.1 is available at

    This is a self-extracting archive.

    A-2: How to Run Scripts from Windows

    How do I run a script?

    There are three approaches to starting scripts in Tcl: source,
    shortcuts, and file associations.

    The most obvious way is to launch the Wish application and use
    "source". This is the best way to debug scripts.

    The second alternative is to create a Program Manager icon (Windows
    3.x or NT 3.x) or a shortcut (Windows 95). The binary release uses
    this technique for the widget tour icon. The command line for the
    icon should be something like:

    c:\tcl\bin\wish81.exe c:\myscript.tcl      

    The third way to launch a Tcl script is to create a file type
    association for the extension ".tcl" (or ".tk"). Using the File
    Manager (or My Computer in Windows 95), create a new file type for
    .tcl, and add an "open" action. The command for the action should
    be something like:

    "c:\Program Files\tcl\bin\wish81.exe" "%1"      

    Once you have set up the association, you will be able to double
    click on script files in File Manager to launch the app.

    Note that if either the location of wish or the location of the
    script contains spaces in any of the file names, you must enclose
    the name in quotes. For example:

    "c:\Program Files\tcl\bin\wish81.exe" "c:\Program

    -Scott Stanton

    You may also want to add an Edit action for Tcl files. For this,
    you need to pick an editor that won't place extra carriage returns
    on the end of lines. (Windows uses a carriage return/line feed
    combination to end each line of text, while Unix only uses a line

    In the Windows 95 Explorer, pick the Options choice from the View
    menu. Under the File Types tab, find your Tcl file type and Edit
    it. Under Actions, click New and name your new Action Edit. Choose
    your editor and accept all your changes.

    You should now be able to easily bring up an editor with a
    right-click on the file and the Edit popup option.

    -Hume Smith


    Installing/Can't Run At All

    I-1: Don't upgrade over a previous version

    It seems there is a bug in the Windows binary installer. If you are
    installing over the top of a prior version of Tcl, it is not
    correctly handling the versioning for the libraries. You will end
    up with a mixture of old and new files. The symptoms vary, but if
    you are seeing problems with the console or other stdio related
    features, the installer could very well be the culprit.

    The solution is to completely remove the old/broken installation
    and reinstall from the release file. This should give you a
    consistent set of files.

    Thanks to Gerald Lester for helping to identify this problem.

    -Scott Stanton


    Differences From Unix

    D-1: \ Won't Work!

    Remember that \ is a special character in Tcl.

    This is a problem because Windows uses a backslash for separating
    directories, while Unix uses a forward slash.

    So, in Tcl and in the Tcl shell, wish, you need to enter
    directories and paths with either two backslashes, e.g., \\, or
    with the Unix-style forward slash, e.g., /.

    For example, don't use:


    Use either:




    You can use the file join command to put file and directory names
    together using the native format.

    D-2: How to create a valid font name on Windows.

    You can either use X Window font names, in X Logical Font
    Description (XLFD) format, or a special Windows-specific format.
    With Tk 8.0 or higher, you should use the font command, which
    allows you to create cross-platform font definitions. This is much
    better than the older methods!

    If you are working with versions of Tk prior to 8.0, you need to
    set up XLFD font names or Windows-specific names, discussed below.

    1. XLFD format font names

    Windows Tk will accept X font names, but you must supply all the
    parts (you can use a * for a wild-card, though, see below). You can
    also use a number of XLFD elements, such as "bold", etc. to control
    the fonts.

    For example, the following all are valid font names on Tk in

    button .b1 -text "Arial" \      
    -font "-*-arial-bold-r-normal--*-*-*-*-*-*"      
    button .b2 -text "Courier" \      
    -font "-*-courier-medium-r-normal--*-*-*-*-*-*"      
    button .b3 -text "Symbol" \      
    -font "-*-Symbol-medium-i-normal--*-240-*-*-*-*"      
    pack .b1 .b2 .b3      

    To get the list of valid Windows font names, look in an application
    like Microsoft Word (or WordPad, which comes with Windows 95) and
    check the font list. Most True Type ("TT") fonts should be scalable
    to a number of sizes.

    You can find out more in depth information about XLFD naming
    formats at

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    2. Windows-specific font names

    In addition to the X style font names, Tk starting with version 4.2
    accepts a special tuple format consisting of a 3 element list of
    the form:

    {name size stylelist}      

    You can use any font name that Windows understands for the first
    element. The size is in points, and the style is a list of zero or
    more items from the set of supported styles: normal, bold, medium,
    heavy, thin, extralight, light, semibold, extrabold, italic,
    oblique, underline, strikeout. Many of these styles won't do
    anything for a given font. For example, to get a 20 point TrueType
    Times Roman font with bold and italic style, you would say "{Times
    Roman New} 20 {bold italic}".

    Note that the 3 part font specifier is just a place holder for font
    objects. Eventually we will support font objects that take various
    configuration options and return a handle that can be used anywhere
    a font string is used now.

    -Scott Stanton

    D-3: Cut, Copy and Paste in the Tcl Console Window

    The Tcl Console window sets up bindings that are supposed to follow
    the Windows (and IBM Common User Access, or CUA) standard of

      * Ctrl-x: cut

      * Ctrl-c: copy

      * Ctrl-v: paste

    In Tcl 8.0, the Ctrl-V does not work for paste. (The Paste menu
    choice does work, though.) In Tcl 8.1, Ctrl-V works fine.

    For older versions of Tcl/Tk, prior to 8.0, the Tcl Console window
    (by default) provides the following bindings:

      * Ctrl-x: deletes selected text

      * Ctrl-w: cut

      * Alt-w: copy

      * Ctrl-y: paste

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    D-4: Using the Windows Clipboard

    Associated with the Cut, Copy and Paste functions, the selection
    functions do work between Windows apps and Tcl/Tk scripts.

    To see this, try the following: select some text in Microsoft Word,
    Write or any other Windows app. Copy the data to the clipboard
    (inside the app). Then, enter the following at your wish prompt:

    set clip [selection get -selection CLIPBOARD ]      

    The variable clip should now hold the data from the clipboard.

    The parts that may be troublesome are that:

      * UNIX apps tend to use an active copy and paste with the PRIMARY

      * Windows apps tend to use a passive copy and paste, placing the
        data in the clipboard as an intermediary stopping point between
        the applications.

      * Motif applications on Unix do use the CLIPBOARD selection.
        Decoding the Motif clipboard is a left as an exercise for the

      * The X selection mechanism handles a lot more than text, which
        introduces some interesting complexity.

    All in all, Tk does pretty good with handling selections on
    multiple operating systems.

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    D-5: send is not implemented on Windows

    Furthermore, it is unlikely send will be ported soon, because send
    uses the X server for communication. Use the dde command instead.

    D-6: Start-up Files tclsh.rc and wishrc.tcl

    Tcl looks for ~/tclsh.rc, and wish looks for ~/wishrc.tcl. The
    tclsh.rc name is pretty inconsistent, and should probably be
    tclshrc.tcl. We don't use the .tclshrc form because it doesn't work
    on FAT filesystems. -Scott Stanton

    D-7: Accessing PC serial ports from Tcl

    Open the serial port using "set comdesc [open COM1: RDWR]", then
    use "read|write|gets|puts $comdesc" to access it. Don't forget to
    close it ("close $comdesc") when you're done.

    -Michael Schumacher

    D-8: Using UNC file names

    If you have machines networked, you can test for file existence
    generally with:

    file exists //NetworkName/c/      

    However, I'm do not believe there is any way in Tcl to tell what
    mapped drives are mapped to.

    -Jeffrey Hobbs

    D-9: Getting List of Mounted Drives

    Starting with Tcl 8.0 you can use the file volume command to return
    a list of mounted volumnes, for example:

    file volume
    A:/ C:/ D:/ E:/ G:/ H:/ I:/ Q:/ T:/ V:/ X:/

    D-10: Accessing the Windows Registry

    Starting with Tcl 8.0 you can use the registry package on Windows
    to access the registry.

    This package is only available on Windows.

    Note that the registry uses backslashes as separators and that Tcl
    treats a backslash as a special character. For example:

    package require registry
    registry keys "HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\\TclScript\\shell"
    edit open

    D-11: Using Dynamic data Exchange (DDE)

    See for more on
    the dde package included in Tcl 8.1.

    From a posting by Bill Schongar, at, you can control
    Microsoft Word from the dde command. First. be sure Word is
    running, then try a command like the following to insert text into
    the current document:

    package require dde
    dde execute -async Winword System {[Insert "Text from Tcl."]}

    To quit Word, or close a document, use the following commands as a

    dde execute Winword System {[FileExit 2]}
    dde execute Winword System {[FileClose 2]}

    In these examples, 2 = close without saving, 1 = save first, 0 =

    For documentation on accessing Word, see the "wrdbasic.hlp" file,
    which you can choose to install when you install Word.

    D-12: winfo interps and send fails on Windows

    Unfortunately, neither "winfo interp", nor "send" are implemented
    in any of the Tk for Windows releases. Hopefully this will be
    available in the next release.

    -Scott Stanton

    D-13: Installing Tcl/Tk Applications on Windows

    Steve Cassidy is working on a method for installing Tcl/Tk
    applications with libraries and everything else. Here's his

    I've posted here a couple of times saying that I'm working on an
    installation method for tcl/tk apps under windows which bundles the
    tcl/tk binaries and libraries with my own. Well I've just put
    together an example of this which folks might want to look at and

    You can find a self extracting, self installing exe file at:

    This contains the tcl/tk 8.0.3 distribution compiled by myself with
    Borland v5.0 plus my extensions and some of my own standalone
    executables. The self-installer runs a wish script which copies the
    files into the appropriate place (after prompting), adds a program
    group to the start menu (via the dde extension), and puts the
    appropriate things in the registry (for tcl/tk and Emu). It also
    builds an uninstall script which removes everything except the
    start menu items (I can't figure out where they are).

    It should be possible to install this package beside an existing
    tcl8.0 installation, I've modified the core to look for a different
    registry key (../scriptics/tcl/emu, rather than

    ****TAKE CARE!!! I can take no responsibility for your machine, I
    have been as careful as I know how to be but this code has only
    been tested on one NT4 machine so far.******

    The application is a speech database system, tcl/tk is used as a
    scripting language and to build gui elements like a labeller which
    can display speech signals and spectrograms etc. If you want to
    actually see how this works you will need some speech data and a
    database template file see for

    If you do install this, you should be able to run the Emu Labeller
    and get something other than an error message (without a database
    template you can't do anything). You should also be able to run
    wish80 and do any tcl stuff you desire.

    I'd be interested in any reports of success, failure or just
    comments on this methodology. If this turns out to be of general
    interest I will document and package up the scripts needed to
    achieve the installation.
    -Steve Cassidy

    D-14: Making executable scripts on NT
    You can make a Tcl script into a direct executable following the
    guidelines on the Web at:


    Windows-Specific Bugs and Problems

    B-1: Puts bugs

    The following Tcl procedure may fail on Windows NT, depending on
    the amount of data written to the file:

    proc testPuts { fileName output times } {      
    set fileID [ open $fileName w ]      
    for { set i 0 } { $i < $times } { incr i } {      
    puts $fileID $output      
    close $fileID      

    When it fails, there are only a couple of characters in the output
    file (basically garbage). The Tcl error reports back:

    error writing "fileX": No error      

    For example, if I call:

    testPuts {C:/TestFile} {HI THERE} 455      

    it works perfectly well. However, if I call:

    testPuts {C:/TestFile} {HI THERE} 456      

    it fails.

    You can work around this bug by flushing the file descriptor after
    each puts call, like the following:

    proc testPuts { fileName output times } {      
    set fileID [ open $fileName w ]      
    for { set i 0 } { $i < $times } { incr i } {      
    puts $fileID $output      
    flush $fileID      
    close $fileID      

    The big question is whether this is a bug in Tcl or Windows NT
    3.51. Has anyone seen this before or have any related information?
    If it is a bug in Windows NT, will Tcl7.5b2 handle this?

    -Brian L. Rubow

    B-2: fileevent only supports sockets under Windows until 8.1

    Fileevents are supported on Win32 platforms for sockets only.

    With Tcl8.1, you can now call fileevent on pipes on Windows.

    In the expect for NT distribution the fileevent
    problem on windows is solved for tcl8.0p2 too.

    -Leo Schubert

    B-3: You need at least 256 colors and may have problems with more
    than 256

    A number of people have reported that wish simply won't work unless
    you set your screen resolution to have at least 256 colors and
    preferably, 1024x768 pixel resolution.

    If you have more than 256 colors, images may not display correctly
    under Tk 4.2.

    B-4: Problems with clock command on Windows

    Beware of clock format commands across operating systems

    Tcl's clock format command eventually passes it's format string to
    strftime(). strftime() may have different implementations depending
    on the underlying operating system.

    For example, Windows NT 3.51 doesn't implement the %D, %e, and %h
    directives. This can some interesting side effects.

    The bug report: If you do supply one of these unknown directives
    (and nothing else), Tcl can go into a loop. The FormatClock routine
    keeps calling strftime() because it mistakenly assumes that a 0
    return must mean that the target buffer is too small. Indeed, if
    you just pass it "%e", the strftime() function gets annoyed at it
    as a directive and erroneously returns 0. Oddly enough adding a bit
    of whitespace to the format command gets rid of the loop.

    This may be an NT oddity only, I don't think you can know for sure
    that it won't happen elsewhere.

    -Dave Griffin

    B-5: wm iconbitmap doesn't work on Windows

    The wm iconbitmap command does not work on Windows. if you execute
    the following command, you'll still see Tcl's icon for your

    wm iconbitmap . filename      

    To change this, you need to substitute your own .ico file and
    recompile the relevant parts of the Tk source code.

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    B-6: If you use a pipe (|) in open, until the child process has
    terminated no events will be processed

    If you start a process in a pipe, e.g., 'open "| ...."' until the
    child process has terminated no events will be processed.

    -John Robert LoVerso

    B-7: The rightmost mouse button is Button-3

    Even with a two-button mouse, the rigthmost mouse button is
    identified in Tk as Button-3.

    This really isn't bad, especially if you coded your pop-up menus to
    appear on Button-3 events, following the style of most Motif
    programs. Your scripts will continue to work on Windows.

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    B-8: Tk on Windows supports cursors

    The -cursor option should work on Windows now with all the built-in
    X Window cursors.

    B-9: Sockets are not available on the system error

    If you get an error like the above, chances are you have not
    installed the winsock.dll dynamic-link library that adds networking
    socket functionality to Windows.

    B-10: toplevel -container does not work

    The -container option is not fully implemented on Windows at
    present. The only functionally complete implementation is on X

    You can use the '-use' option as long as the supplied window ID
    identifies a window that is not managed by Tk. This is known to
    work on both Unix and Windows. The Mac implementation is not, as
    far as I know, able to handle this in the general case; we did
    something special (a hack :) for the Tcl plugin on the Mac.

    I cannot say when things will get better on this front. It's on our
    todo list and will percolate upwards according to demand etc etc..

    -Jacob Levy

    B-11: exec: couldn't create error file for command: Error 0

    If exec returns an error message of "couldn't create error file for
    command: Error 0", the following may help:

    This problem exists under Unix and Windows NT. I have conclusive
    proof that under Unix it was being caused by the temporary
    directory not being world writable, which explains why superusers
    were able to "exec" something but not a regular user. The "gotcha!"
    is that /tmp is not necessarily the temporary directory that is
    used, so people were not seeing an obvious problem. Tcl uses the
    tmpnam() system call, which on many systems actually uses /var/tmp,
    and on some systems that directory was not world writable. I would
    like to call this a problem with one's site administration.

    Here's a simple program to determine your temporary directory:

    char name[100];      

    which prints out the full pathname for a potential new temporary
    file. If the specified directory is not world writable, you can't
    create temp files.

    Now, the question turns to Windows. This I have not yet resolved.
    Under NT, which has users and directory permissions, it may be the
    same problem as under Unix. However, since this problem is also
    occurring under Windows 3.1 it may be another problem or
    combination of the two. I will post results as soon as possible.

    -Colin Stevens


    Old Bugs

    O-1: Wish uses a lot of system resources and doesn't free them.

    Wish does not release the system resources it uses even when it
    exits normally. Run through the widget demo, exit and look at the
    system resources count. You may find it dropped by 17%. During the
    widget demo, monitoring system resources found that wish does not
    seem to release system resources when it destroys widgets. During a
    wish session free resources just keep declining. Given this
    situation, large wish applications may slow down or crash.

    -Charles A. Shartsis

    O-2: Once exec fails, the next exec generates a fatal error.

    Tcl7.5a1/Tk4.1a1 bugs with exec on Windows.

    Once an exec command fails the next exec command results in a fatal
    error (when typing exec commands into the Console window). For

    tcl> exec xyzzy      
    Couldn't read output file "TMP37.$$$" for command: no such file or
    tcl> exec dir      

    and you will get a popup window about the fatal error...

    Other exec bugs on Windows:

    I'm using the recent b2 release with Windows 95 with tclsh75.

    Exec is not redirecting output properly. There seems to be a race

    When I try 'exec co -p foo.c > bar.c', co should write to stdout
    and tclsh75 should redirect the output to a new file.

    Instead, co -p writes to stdout and it appears on the console
    window. If I attempt to grab the output by doing:

    set result [exec co -p foo.c > bar.c ]      

    result is set to "" after the command, even though co writes out
    the file to stdout.

    Now it gets interesting: If I trace through Win32Pipeline() and
    stop at the CreateProcess() call, and then step through it closing
    the files, the whole thing works the way it should - that is, co
    writes to stdout, which goes into a file. If after it stops at
    CreateProcess() I hit the continue, everything breaks again. So it
    seems that tclsh needs to create the rpocess and close down the
    files before letting the child run. Very odd.

    -Josh Putnam

    - When you exec a command the screen blanks out (system -> DOS?)
    and then redraws as the command ends. Can this be stopped?

    - There is a resource leak somewhere in the exec command. If you do
    "exec dir" several times you will find that the Free Memory and
    Free System Resources (as in Program manager/Help/About) decrease
    each time.

    -Gordon Lack

    Calling exec brings on blank-screen mode

    In article <>, Shicheng Tian
    <> wrote:

    On my PC, from Windows, I run a tcl script file with the following
    one line code:

    exec del "c:/rubish.tcl"

    The file 'rubish.tcl' DOES get deleted, but the trouble is:

    the PC goes back to the DOS environment (i.e. a black screen!),
    then it comes back to Windows again.

    My enquiry is: is it possible to run the 'exec' command shown as
    above WITHOUT showing the DOS black screen?

    You can change this behavior by modifying the .PIF file for MS-DOS
    so that it does not use full-screen mode.

    -Scott Stanton

    Another way to call exec

    It wasn't obvious to me either how to get native DOS window
    commands to work and it sometimes hung on me as well. I recently
    got it working, however...

    exec cmd.exe >&@stdout <@stdin /c dir      

    will do the directory command for the current directory. Check out
    the Windows help for the switches available under cmd.exe. "/c"
    tells it to execute the command and then exit. "/k" tells it to
    execute the command and keep the DOS command interpreter active.
    (Note that cmd.exe is the name of the MS-DOS interpreter on Windows

    -Robert Philpott

    Only Call exec on 32-bit Applications

    Tcl 7.6 and Tk 4.2 seem to have solved the following problem.
    (Thanks to Colin Stevens.)

    Tcl/TK for Win32 is really rotten at doing an exec on DOS mode
    programs. This includes any of the DOS-like commands of the Win95
    shell! If you use exec with any of the DOS mode commands, the
    command might execute but control will never be returned to the
    WISH shell.

    However, 32 bit programs work just fine with WISH. To see what I
    mean, try the following command from the WISH console:

    exec notepad

    This command will run the Windows notepad editor and return control
    to WISH after the notepad program is exited. If you want to run
    notepad and return control immediately to WISH just use:

    exec notepad &

    This behavior is identical to the UNIX versions of Tcl/TK.

    So, the moral of the story is:

    Only "exec" 32 bit programs with the Win32 version of Tcl/TK.

    -Dennis R. LaBelle


    Compiling and Writing C and C++ Extensions

    C-1: Getting the source code

    The Tcl releases officially support UNIX, Windows and Macintosh
    platforms. The source code comes with a win/ directory with Windows
    code. You can get the source code release on the Internet via FTP
    from, in the directory /pub/tcl.

    For Windows users, you'll likely want the source code compressed in
    ZIP format, rather than GNU gzip. Pick up the files ending in .zip.

    The source code was compiled with Microsoft Visual C++ 5.0. For
    more on compiling the sources, see

    With MS VC++ 5.0, the default installation places the compiler in
    \Program Files\DevStudio\VC. Because of the space in the name
    Program Files the -I (include file) option in the makefiles may
    fail because spaces are used to separate command-line parameters.

    You can use the short (DOS) directory name in place of the Program
    Files, e.g. -Ic:\progra~1\devstudio\vc\include in place of
    c:\Program Files\DevStudio\VC\include. You can also place the
    commands in the files in quotes, e.g.:

    cc32           = "$(TOOLS32)\bin\cl.exe"      
    link32         = "$(TOOLS32)\bin\link.exe"      
    rc32           = "$(IDE32)\bin\rc.exe"      
    include32      = -I"$(TOOLS32)\include"      

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    C-2: Tcl no longer compiled with Borland C++

    Until about Tcl 8.0.3, Tcl was compiled with Borland's C++
    compiler. With 8.0.3 and beyond, the Scriptics team switched to
    Microsoft's C++ compiler, Visual C++.

    Michael I Schwartz has a good note at on how to continue
    using Borland's C++ compiler with DLLs compiled by Microsoft's

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    C-3: Tcl uses long file names

    Both Tcl and Tk use long file names. You'll need Windows 95 or
    Windows NT (with an NTFS file system) for the sources.

    You may also need a modern ZIP program to extract the archive and
    maintain its long file names. Older versions of pkzip, for example,
    only understand the old DOS eight character (with up to three
    characters for an extension) file names. I use WinZip, a shareware
    archiver program for Windows.

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    C-4: Where are the .lib files?

    When you install Tcl, you can specify that you want the library
    files installed. If you do so, you'll see the libraries in the lib
    subdirectory wherever you installed Tcl. For example, C:\Program

    C-5: Creating Dynamic Extensions on Windows

    See for more on
    building extensions for Windows.

    C-6: C++ and DLLs

    If you write your Tcl extensions in C++, you'll likely need to use
    the extern "C" { }; statement in C++ to use your functions in Tcl.
    This is due to the user of "name mangling" in most C++ compilers.

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    This especially true for your exported Init routine for the

    #ifdef __cplusplus
    extern "C"
    EXTERN int Foo_Init (Tcl_Interp *interp) {
      return TCL_OK;

    Where "Foo" is the DLL's name. If your extension is called
    calcBIG.dll, use "Calcbig_Init" for the function's name. Notice
    that the first letter is always capitalized and all following
    characters are lower case.

    -David Gravereaux

    C-7: Compiling with EGCS/Ming32

    To get Tcl/Tk to compile on Win32 systems with the EGCS compiler,
    you need patches available at

    See for more
    on Ming32, EGCS, and other free compilers for Win32 systems.

    C-8: Allocate memory with Tcl_Alloc

    If you allocate memory from within a C or C++ program and pass that
    memory on the the Tcl DLLs, you must allocate that memory with

    If you allocate memory via some other means, pass that memory to
    Tcl and later get a crash, you were warned.

    C-9: Tcl and Microsoft Foundation Classes

    CTkView is a C++ class which can be used in MFC SDI or MDI
    applications. An instance of CTkView hosts an embedded Tk toplevel
    widget and performs some management chores for the widget so that
    it can size, update and react correctly to Windows events.

    -David Shepherd

    For more information, see



    E-1: Expect

    Expect works on Windows NT. You can get it from:

    E-2: Tix works on Windows

    The Tix extension has been ported to windows.

    E-3: ODBC

    OdbcTcl 0.2 for Win32 provides a Tcl extension to call ODBC 2.0
    functions from Tcl.

    You can get it from in

    A common problem appears regarding the DSN value. A cample connect
    command is:

    odbc_connect sql "DSN=mydb;UID=foo;PWD=bar"

    -Jose L Porcayo

    An ODBC extension to Tcl is available at

    E-4: Network, Registry and ODBC Extensions

    NT, ODBC, network, and registry extensions available for the
    Windows version of TCL (7.6) are available at:

    -Christopher M Sedore (

    E-5: Itcl

    Itcl 2.2 and higher works on Windows.

    E-6: BLT Win32 Patches

    Patches for the BLT 2.1 extension for Win32 are available from:

    Status: Tiled widgets problematic, bgexec/busy not working,
    drag&drop ok with dde.

    In addition, you can get a Tcl Win32 Mem Debug patch, to allow for
    debugging output on memory allocations to get sent to the console.
    This is available from:

    E-7: VerTcl/TkCon Provides a Useful Console On Windows

    VerTcl (also called TkCon) provides an enhanced console window that
    proves very useful on systems that don't provide built-in consoles,
    such as Windows and MacOS.

    You can get more information on VerTcl/TkCon, and the code, too,

    E-8: OCX Extensions for Tcl

    There are a number of OCX extensions for Tcl, including:
            AxTcl (formerly TclOCX) is an ActiveX DLL extension. This
            enables Tcl to dynamically load command extensions from
            ActiveX DLL's.
            An ActiveX extension for Tcl. This extension allows you to
            use existing OCX or ActiveX controls in a widget-like way.

            An experimental ActiveX control.

    E-9: TkTable

    tkTable 2.3, an editable 2D table/matrix widget. Supports Unix
    Tcl/Tk variants and Windows, requires Tcl/Tk 8+.

    E-10: MDI (Muliple Document Interface)

    There is a very nice Tcl-only package called mdw-lib (Multi
    Document Windows) written by Thomas Schwarze
    ( that does that kinda stuff. You
    can find it at:

    -Frederic Bonnet

    E-11: Windows shortcuts extension

    This is an early release of a shortcut manipulation extension for
    tcl 7.6/tk 4.2. It allows you to create, modify, and get
    information from a NT 4.0 or Windows 95 shortcut.

    Docs are available at

    Download from:

    -Chris Sedore

    E-12: TclX

    Extended Tcl is a set of Tcl extensions and a shell that are
    oriented towards Unix system programming tasks and large
    application development. TclX 7.6.0 is compatible with Tcl7.6 and
    Tk 4.2 releases.

    This release includes incomplete support for Windows 95/NT as well
    as a binary release for Windows 95/NT.

    Full source for Unix and Windows:

    Windows 95/NT binary release, tar and gzip format:

    Windows 95/NT binary release, zip format:

    If you have any questions or problem, please remember to contact directly.

    E-13: Togl (Tk OpenGL)

    See for
    information on Togl for NT, for more on Togl.

    E-14: cc:Mail

    Electric Memo Ltd. has a shareware Tcl add-on called Xccm that
    allows access to cc:Mail via the VIM32 dlls.

    E-15: Tabbed dialogs, Combobox, etc.

    While this isn't an extension, Jeff Hobbs provides a number of
    widgets written in Tcl, including a tabbed dialog and combobox.

    E-16: DLL-Caller Extension

    Robin Becker's dll package, at, allows your Tcl
    scripts to call functions in Win32 DLLs (Dynamic Link Libraries).

    E-17: WinExec, Print, and Other Extensions

    Michael Schwartz offers a number of Windows extensions that include
    winexec to launch 16-bit Windows applications and print, which, as
    you'd expect, allows you to print from Tcl scripts.

    E-18: Winico Extension

    The Winico extension introduces one new command called "winico" to
    load .ico files from the harddisk or icon resources from the system
    and to set the taskbar-icon (when hitting Alt-Tab) and the icon in
    the caption of a Tk-toplevel. It can also display icons in the
    taskbar status area. Winico is available at Send bug reports to

    -Leo Schubert

    E-19: Img Image Extension

    The Img extension adds support for more image types to Tcl/Tk.
    available for Windows and UNIX from:

    E-20: ActiveTcl BGI Tcl Windows Extension

    A new version of ActiveTcl (a ActiveX wrapper for tcl8) is
    available free of charge (for non-commercial use) from BGI

    Two tcl loadable DLLs are also provided :

      *  tclwin is an interface for win32 to creates MDI interface and
        non-modal dialog boxes.

      *  Two sample scripts demonstrate the use of tclwin and tclodbc :

      *  Tclwined.tcl is a stand-alone dialog box editor and tcl

      *  Odbcwiz is a general purpose ODBC query tool.

    Everything can work stand-alone or combined. A help file is
    provided in the package.

    Works with : tcl8 for win32 (NT,95,98).

    - N. Frankinet


    Windows 3.1 Issues

    W-1: Windows 3.1

    If you run Windows 3.1, you will need to install the Win32s
    subsystem. You may have already done that. Check that you have the
    Win32s DLL (dynamic-link library) at version 1.30. If not, you can
    get a self-extracting archive, w32s130.exe, from:

    Extract this file in an empty directory.

    If you use Windows NT or 95, you won't need the Win32s subsystem.

      Note: If you're using an older version of Win32s, you must
      upgrade to version 1.30.

      Note: Tcl/Tk support for Windows 3.1 is gone with Tcl 8.0.3. To
      run under Windows 3.1, you need to use an older version of
      Tcl/Tk, such as 7.6p2 or 8.0p2. You really need to upgrade to a
      newer version of Windows.

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    W3-2: How to execute tclsh76.exe from Windows 3.1

    You can run tclsh76.exe under Windows 3.1, but not from a DOS
    shell. You can invoke tclsh76.exe by making a program manager icon
    for the command line that you want to execute. Since tclsh76.exe is
    not a DOS application, you can not invoke it from the shell.

    -Scott Stanton

    W3-3: Strange behaviour of exec under Win 3.1

    Unfortunately the support for exec under Win32s is very limited.
    Most of this is because of Win32s. There are definitely some
    improvements that could be made (e.g. letting you start Windows
    apps), but it is never going to be as good as the Windows 95 or NT
    versions. Basically Windows 3.1 doesn't have a very complete
    process model, and most of what you see in the DOS window is done
    using non-Windows APIs. I could probably get Tcl to do the same
    things, but it's going to require a lot of very Windows 3.1
    specific coding to get it to work. There are a number of other
    things that are higher priority, so it probably won't happen for a
    while. I would encourage anyone who really wants this feature to
    work on it and send me patches.

    -Scott Stanton

    W3-4: Windows 3 doesn't support help contents file

    The problem is that Win3.1/3.11 don't support the contents file. I
    think what is needed is an additional help page that lists the
    contents. This is redundant under Windows 95 and NT, but necessary
    for 3.1/3.11.

    For now, however, you should be able to use the keyword search
    facility to get to any of the man pages.

    -Scott Stanton

    W3-5: Wish generates a UAE error (Unhandled Win32s Exception) at

    If you get a UAE error when starting wish on Windows 3.1 (this
    problem does not appear on Windows NT), here's what you can do.

    1. Add the following lines to your autoexec.bat file:

    set tcl_library=/tcl/lib/tcl8.0      
    set tk_library=/tcl/lib/tk8.0      

    Note that these paths refer to the standard installation of wish,
    e.g., C:\tcl. If you installed in a non-standard location, you'll
    need to modify this. Also note the forward (/), not backward (\)
    slashes for directory separators.

    2. You can also type in the values at a shell (i.e., DOS) command
    line, but wish is a Windows program, so this must be placed into
    the environment for Windows. When I typed these commands in at the
    DOS level, I received an error that I had run out of environment
    space. This may also be a problem for you. DOS 5 only allows a
    small amount of space for environment variables. If this is the
    case, you'll need to remove other environment settings (I pared
    down my PATH, which came from the manufacturer with extraneous

    3. You must reboot, since the autoexec.bat is only read at

    -Eric Foster-Johnson

    W3-6: Increasing environment space in DOS.

    If you type in the tcl_library and tk_library environment variables
    and get an out of space error, you can increase the amount of
    memory allocated to the DOS environment through the COMMAND.COM
    command line options. For example, add the following line to your
    CONFIG.SYS file:

    shell=c:\ /e:1024 /p      

    This sets the environment space to 1K. Note that (on my system, at
    least) the /c autoexec command is needed to make DOS run the
    autoexec.bat file during booting.

    -Alex Hubbard


    Thanks To:
    Frederic Bonnet
    John Buckman
    Steve Cassidy
    Gordon Chaffee
    Joe English
    N. Frankinet
    David Gravereaux
    Dave Griffin
    Jon Herlocker
    Alex Hubbard
    Dennis R. LaBelle
    Gordon Lack
    Ioi Lam
    Jacob Levy
    Don Libes
    John Robert LoVerso
    Cristian Mata
    Ola Noss
    Robert Philpott
    Jose L Porcayo
    Josh Putnam
    Brian L. Rubow
    Bill Schongar
    Leo Schubert
    Michael Schwartz
    Christopher M Sedore
    Charles A. Shartsis
    David Shepherd
    Hume Smith
    Scott Stanton
    Colin Stevens
    Larry Virden
    John Waterson

    Compiled by Eric Foster-Johnson, author of Graphical Applications
    with Tcl and Tk. Please send updates to

    DISCLAIMER. This article is provided as is without any express or
    implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the
    accuracy of the information contained in this article, the
    maintainer assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or
    for damages resulting from the use of the information contained

Eric Foster-Johnson

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