Introducing TkDesk

Don't want to give up your Macintosh or Window desktop for Linux? With TkDesk you don't have to.
Closing Thoughts

Despite this glowing review, TkDesk is not without its flaws. The most obvious complaint is its speed. One frequently notices operations that slow down because of the large amount of Tcl being interpreted behind the scenes. I usually choose not to display the icons in the file browser—updating the icons in a large file list often takes too long. However, this is likely to change very soon. Tcl 7.6 and earlier versions were internally based on no more than substituting strings over and over again. While this allows for the design of a very simple interpreter, it does cause a performance hit in frequently executed code. Tcl 8.0 has an internal byte-code interpreter and provides speed comparable to Perl. Unfortunately, the object-oriented extension to Tcl, [incr tcl], that TkDesk is written in, is not yet ported to Tcl 8.0. The work to port [incr tcl] to Tcl 8.0 is ongoing and may be finished by the times this article goes to press. Once [incr tcl] works with Tcl 8.0 we can expect a big speed increase in TkDesk.

I hope that TkDesk is not the last word in GUI desktop managers for Unix and, in particular, Linux. Several other projects, like the K Desktop Environment and GNUStep show much promise. Just as TkDesk currently demonstrates, I think the future of GUI design lies in tying the widgets that these projects provide to a flexible scripting language like Tcl, GUILE or other scheme variants, Python or some yet-to-be-invented scripting language. The success of the GIMP project is another testimony to the success of this type of design. For now, though, TkDesk is the ruler of my desktop.


John Blair is currently a system administrator in The University Computer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he tends several Unix and (shock, horror) Windows NT servers. By the time this article is published he may be working someplace else. John is also the author of SAMBA: Integrating Unix and Windows, published by the same people who bring you Linux Journal. Feel free to contact him via e-mail at


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