Re: [Rd] tcltk capability

From: Gabor Grothendieck <>
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2012 15:48:17 -0400

On Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 2:18 PM, Paul Johnson <> wrote:
> Sorry I did not see this sooner. Response below:
> On Thu, Aug 30, 2012 at 2:48 PM, Gabor Grothendieck
> <> wrote:
>> There are quite a few packages that make use of tcltk and although
>> - most R distributions have tcltk capability
>> - its possible to query this via capabilities()[["tcltk"]]
>> - attempting to build a package that needs it on such an R
>> distribution will give a message letting one know
>> users still seem to have problems with this.
> I agree that packages are using tcltk, but users do so at their peril.
> Just loading tcltk breaks multicore functions like mclapply. I don't
> understand why, you might be able to explain it to me.
> tcltk is discouraged, at least to some in R core.
> I would really appreciate some guidance on what graphics library I
> should use to develop GUI for R programs. There's no future in tcltk,
> apparently, but I don't know what to work with.

R aside, tcl/tk itself is far from dead. Although not as popular as in its heyday there is still a core group that works on it and keeps issuing new versions. The versions are quite a few years apart but on the other hand they tend to have major improvements to them which would seem to justify a longer cycle. In terms of the tcl/tk community, new or updated packages for tcl/tk keep coming out. Looking at some of the tcl/tk packages that I have used in the last year I notice that several of them have a last release date of this year. Also at least some books on tcl/tk keep coming out, the tcltk mailing list is active, there continues to be tcl/tk conferences and there is a very active tcl/tk wiki.

The above was for the tcl/tk language only but if we look at the tcltk R package then its bundled with most versions of R so its the easiest way to have a GUI with minimal installation hassle on most platforms. On Windows and most Linux distributions just issue library(tcltk) in your session and you have it with nothing else to do in terms of installation. Furthermore there is a reasonably large infrastructure of R packages either built on tcltk or that can use tcltk as well as a number of addon R packages that can ease development.

If you can't decide on which GUI toolkit to use have a look at gWidgets. It provides a common layer over multiple GUI toolkits which subject to some limitations based on which features were used lets the user switch at will among the various toolkits.

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

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