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What is Tcl?
Tool Command Language (Tcl) is an open source programming language. Originally designed as an embeddable command language, it has since evolved into a versatile scripting and application development language used by companies around the world.
Sometimes, website owners need support for more than just the standard suite of applications, plug-ins and scripts provided by their host. While many are content to purchase and install third-party applications to meet their needs, those with the know-how and a desire to keep their expenditures low will code their own applications, extensions and scripts in open source languages.
Tcl was developed in 1988 by John Ousterhout. His goal was to create a language that addressed what he perceived to be weaknesses in existing command line languages. To address these shortcomings, three primary goals were established:
- "The language must be extensible: it must be very easy for each application to add its own features to the basic features of the language, and the application-specific features should appear natural, as if they had been designed into the language from the start."
- "The language must be very simple and generic, so that it can work easily with many different applications and so that it doesn't restrict the features that applications can provide."
- "Since most of the interesting functionality will come from the application, the primary purpose of the language is to integrate or 'glue together' the extensions. Thus the language must have good facilities for integration."
In time, the ability to use extensions to expand Tcl was added. This also allowed Tcl to gain object-oriented syntax.
Where It Shines
Because of Tcl's simplicity, most individuals with previous programming experience should be able to pick up Tcl and be writing programs within a few hours.
Tk, the graphical user interface (GUI) kit that Tcl uses, makes it possible to create truly cross-platform applications that run unchanged on Mac OS X, Windows, Linux and more.
Tcl is a popular choice for those looking to build extensive applications, develop a custom GUI for their site, or write scripts to handle complex, but oft-repeated, database access and management tasks. In addition, in harmony with its intended goal, the language embeds well within other languages, making it a versatile add-on for scripting specific applications and server management tasks. It can even be used to code an entire Web server environment from scratch; Internet giant America Online depends on Tcl as the backbone of its open source Web server, AOLServer.
The Tcl language is also used by companies as varied as Pixar, Hewlett-Packard and BMW to create scripts, applications and GUIs. It currently runs NBC's control system 24x7. On the one hand, it has been instrumental in programming the Hubble Telescope. On the other hand, it helps control Tivo digital video recorders. Itâ€™s even been used on the International Space Station to control both experiments onboard the station and the station itself from mission control.
This small sampling of companies and products that rely on Tcl helps demonstrate its wide array of uses and applications.
Pricing and Availability
Given its extensive OS compatibility, Tcl should be supported by almost any hosting provider, but always check with your host before downloading and installing it onto your Web server.
And because itâ€™s open source and has high compatibility with all major programming languages (including Perl, Ruby on Rails, C and more), it shouldnâ€™t add a penny to your monthly hosting costs, but be aware applications you create may require additional resources (including database access, content management, etc.) that might necessitate a new plan tier or additional fees once installed.
Pros and Cons
- Free, BSD-style license
- Cross-platform development
- Widespread use
Points to Remember
If you're looking for a powerful command language that is highly embeddable and truly cross-platform, you'll be hard pressed to find a superior alternative to Tcl.
With its easy learning curve and powerful features, give it a try and see why many have referred to Tcl as the "best-kept secret in the software industry."
TCL Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
How has Tool Command Language changed over the years?
Since its creation in 1988, Tool Command Language has undergone a variety of changes. For example, TCL 8.0 introduced a bytecode compiler in 1997. More recently, in 2002, TCL 8.6 added built-in dynamic object system.
Is Tool Command Language as popular and widespread as it appears?
Not only are there millions of people relying on this scripting language, but workshops and conferences devoted to it are held throughout the world every year. This gives people the opportunity to discuss their own experiences with Tool Command Language and to learn from others.
What are some of the most powerful features of Tool Command Language?
These include but are not limited to: all operations are commands, everything is able to be dynamically overridden or redefined, full Unicode support, cross platform capabilities (Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac among others), and extensibility.
Is Tool Command Language similar to any others?
Who maintains Tool Command Language?
More than 25 years ago, Tool Command Language was developed by Dr. John Ousterhout. Now, it is maintained by Scriptics to ensure it remains up to date and full of the features users have come to expect.
What is Tool Kit?
Also known as Tk, this is a companion program that allows users to create a graphical user interface with Tool Command Language. Tool Kit provides a large collection of menus, buttons, scrollbars, and list boxes. Most developers who use Tool Command Language also get involved with Tool Kit at some point.
Are sample Tool Command Language programs available?
These are available from many sources. Those who want to learn more about Tool Command Language can benefit from viewing samples.
Is it true that it is slow when compared to other similar programs?
Yes and no. In an overall sense, Tool Command Language is not as fast as others, such as python and perl. However, it is anything but slow. Most users find that it is fast enough to accomplish their goals in a timely and efficient manner. The speed of Tool Command Language depends largely on what you are trying to accomplish.
How has Tool Command Language remained so attractive over the years, especially with other scripting languages being released?
Some of the primary reasons for the attraction include: GUI programming, ease of network, event model, and easy embeddability.
What is the process of running Tool Command Language?
Once you have installed Tool Command Language, you will call “tclsh” to get started. The version of Tool Command Language that you have installed could impact the name. For instance, it may be named tclsh86.exe or tclsh8.6 on Microsoft Windows. Once you run it one time you will know how to do so again in the future.
What are the primary uses of Tool Command Language?
Like most similar programs, there are many ways this scripting language can be used. It is suitable for a variety of uses, including desktop applications, web applications, administration, testing, and networking. As a business friendly, open source language, it attracts users from numerous backgrounds and industries.
What does it cost to use Tool Command Language?
As an open source scripting language, you do not have to pay any money to use Tool Command Language. Since it is compatible with most programming languages, including Ruby on Rails and Perl, you should not see your hosting cost rise. The only exception is the fact that some applications you create may take up additional resources, such as database access. This may result in an additional fee or the need for a more robust hosting plan.
How are others using Tool Command Language?
There are an infinite number of answers to this question. To name a few, it is responsible for NBC’s network control system, the interface of a Shell oilrig, and has been responsible at times for programming the Hubble Space Telescope.
What types of companies can use Tool Command Language?
Small, medium, and large companies all rely on this scripting language. Also, many educational institutions use it for a variety of tasks. A short list of some of the most well known users include: IBM, Pixar, Sybase, Motorola, and Nortel.
Can Tool Command Language be used with any hosting company and web server?
The general answer is yes, but don't assume this to be true. Even with its compatibility, there are hosting providers that do not support Tool Command Language. Before installing this scripting language on your web server, check with your hosting provider to ensure compatibility. Those who know they want to use Tool Command Language should search for hosting companies that provide compatible servers and support.