Re: [Rd] tcltk GUIs (was need gui matrix editor: does R Core team have advice on how?)

From: Gabor Grothendieck <>
Date: Sun, 29 Jan 2012 10:18:28 -0500

On Sun, Jan 29, 2012 at 7:10 AM, Prof Brian Ripley <> wrote:
> On 28/01/2012 22:04, John Fox wrote:
>> Dear Paul and Gabor,
>> The Rcmdr GUI uses the tcltk package, so I have some experience with
>> providing an R tcltk-based GUI for various platforms.
>> As Gabor says, everything works very smoothly on Windows because the R
>> Windows binary includes Tcl/Tk.
> Maybe, but getting it there was very far from smooth.  Tcl/Tk compiled under
> the compilers we used, but the resulting DLLs crashed R.  No one has ever
> found the cause and I used the system SDK (essentiallly a version of VC++)
> to build them.  And that puts us in a bind since the current system SDKs
> generate code depending on DLLs that are not part of the minimal OS versions
> we support (e.g. Windows XP and Server 2003, and the machine used to build
> was retired 2 years ago).
>> On Mac OS X, it's necessary for the user to
>> install Tcl/Tk for X Windows and to insure that X Windows is installed (as
>> it typically is in recent releases of Mac OS X). In my experience, most
>> Linux users already have Tcl/Tk and X Windows (or if they don't, they're
>> familiar with how to install software on their systems), so that things
>> work
>> smoothly there as well.
>> The upshot of this is that Mac OS X is the platform that seems to generate
>> the most problems for naive users, although installing Tcl/Tk for X
>> Windows
>> isn't that difficult. Take a look, e.g., at the Rcmdr installation notes
>> <>.
> If this were really a problem it could be resolved with far less effort than
> was needed on Windows.  The X11 version of Tk is only needed to get R's
> tcltk to play under  For those wanting a Tk-based front end for
> command-line R, it is easy to build R against the Tcl/Tk which ships with OS
> X (or an update of it) and get fully Aqua-themed widgets.  If I want to show
> Rcmdr to a Mac user, that is what I use.
> As various recent threads on R-sig-mac show, some useRs are capable of
> misconfiguring their Macs so that X11 does not work, does not find any fonts
> ... but maybe they could manage the same on any other Unix-alike.

Although it would be ideal if the tcltk package just worked out of the box on every platform so that cross platform GUIs "just worked" if that is too difficult to manage it would still be helpful if tcl without tk "just worked" on every platform out of the box for other applications not involving GUIs but still involving tcl.

Statistics & Software Consulting
GKX Group, GKX Associates Inc.
tel: 1-877-GKX-GROUP
email: ggrothendieck at

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