Cameron Laird's personal notes on Tcl books

2005 update: while I'm happy for anyone who finds this useful, I've moved most of my Tcl comments to the Wiki; here, in particular, is where I recommend readers with an interest in Tcl books start.

Table of Contents:


Tcl and the Tk Toolkit is what I most often recommend. Some people specifically avoid it because it refers to software versions that are now so far out of date (Tk 3.6); this appears to be a particular difficulty for those binding Tk and C together, because that's the interface whose simplest elements have most changed. Why do I favor it, then? It's a "clean" book, one that is utterly straightforward with the reader, and simply the classic on the motivations and potentials of Tcl.

Phil Ehrens confirms this judgment in his Usenet posting.


Although Exploring Expect is about the Expect extension to Tcl, and not strictly about Tcl itself, it's wise and well-written. It introduces Tcl entertainingly. Many Tcl workers have bookshelves with no Tcl book except Exploring Expect.


Clif does a good job describing his own Tcl/Tk For Real Programmers.

Abelson, Greenspun, and Sandon

Tcl for Web Nerds is, among other things, a compact but complete on-line introduction to Tcl as a language. As of October 1999, it's also rather buggy--there are factual errors which presumably will be worked out someday. More permanent is the attitude that Tcl poorly imitates LISP.

December 1999 update: PhilG has been fixing it. More details, soon.


Brent Welch's Practical Programming ... has a lot of fans; I'm among them. It certainly refers to more recent versions (the second edition is nearly current with Tcl 8.0) than Ousterhout's book. The problem with Practical Programming is that it's written for Unixoids like me, and the examples are too big; it overpowers newcomers, and is unsuitable as a tutorial for many neophytes.


Eric Johnson's Graphical Applications with Tcl and Tk appeared in 1996, and applies to Tcl 7.5 and Tk4.1. The second edition is current through 8.0b2. This book is the most diligent in stepping readers through everything they need for their applications to work; it details all the background--about windowing managers, storage formats, operating systems, compilers, and more--that other books assume. The examples are more schematic than those in ... Effective ....


The first book to mention 8.0 features was CGI Developer's Resource: Web Programming Using Tcl and Perl, by J. M. Ivler.


In a special category is the Tcl and Tk Reference Manual, an indexed hard-copy rendition of the on-line manual pages for Tcl7.5 (is this the right version?).


Flash! Tcl/Tk Tools just made it into distribution at the end of September 1997. I posted my first review of it two weeks later. As I continue to use it, I'm feeling more and more keenly the absence of an online nexus for updates--particularly to cover features which the profiled extensions picked up in the many months since the text was written. Also, I want to make completely clear that the book simply is not current with 8.0.

Tcl/Tk Tools would benefit from a more detailed table of contents, perhaps implemented as outlines at the beginning of each chapter.

Harrison and McLennan

Rod Slade reviewed Effective Tcl ..., and I commented on his review. Sean McGrath wrote a delightfully wise review for Dr. Dobbs Journal which features Effective Tcl ... prominently. Jason Bennett does his usual treatment for SlashDot. Chris Nelson and I later called attention to the exposition of networking in Chapter 7, and other comp.lang.tcl posters have often recommended it since.


Although I haven't read it, George A. Howlett, whom I know to be reliable, writes
For those just starting with Tcl/Tk, I really like Tcl/TK for Dummies.
Others, though, have told me the book has a high density of technical errors. I haven't yet seen it for myself.


Christopher Nelson's Tcl/Tk Programmer's Reference is the Tcl book on my desk most often. I explain why in a review for Amazon.

Zeltserman and Puoplo

I really like what I've seen of Building Network Management Tools With Tcl. Co-author Gerard Puoplo explains the book in a Usenet posting. Jeff Bewley raves about it for Amazon.


Tcl/Tk for Programmers

Sastry and Sastry

Tcl/Tk Cookbook

Schroeder and Burns

Interactive Web Applications with Tcl/Tk


[incr Tcl/Tk]


[AW, Macmillan, ORA, Web Complete, ... Explain.]


One curious fact about Tcl is that it's introduced capably in a number of books--the Expect book, Rose and McLoghrie, ... [finish explanation]

Other references

I index other references elsewhere.

The best single site for information on Tcl books used to be Larry Virden's FAQ. Start there.

As 1998 begins, the Tcl Consortium has begun an initiative to maintain a comprehensive bibliography of books which mention Tcl. The Consortium welcomes volunteers for any part of these efforts, by the way. Scriptics is doing much the same.

Cameron Laird's personal notes on Tcl books