MetaCard Corporation

Interactive GUI Development Environments

A comparison of Tcl/Tk, the Desktop KornShell, and MetaCard

This series of articles compares and contrasts three popular interactive development environments for UNIX/X11 workstations: Tcl/Tk, the COSE Desktop KornShell, and MetaCard. The Perl language is also included in some comparisons.

Portions of these articles originally appeared in The X Journal which is published by SIGS Publications. Others were published as Interactive GUI Development Environments which originally appeared in the in The X Resource, Issue 11, published by O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.


Developing graphical applications in C is a laborious process, and it is very difficult to generate high-quality applications when you have to spend much of your development time tracking down memory leaks and segmentation faults and waiting for compile/link cycles to finish. These three tools offer a way out of this predicament.

Each of these tools has an interpreted scripting language with powerful string-manipulation features and all make access to the components in the user interface simple and efficient. They promise to free developers from the drudgery of GUI application development, and to greatly increase their productivity.

Table of Contents

Overview of interactive GUI development environments
Origins and general description of the environments
Architecture of the languages
Architecture of the language/GUI interface
Sample application (font chooser)
Performance benchmarks <- Significant differences here
Application deployment, documentation, and support
Best use of the tools and conclusion
Acknowledgements and references

For more information on the strengths and weaknesses of Tcl with respect to other languages, see A comparison of Tcl with other systems.

For a special note to those considering Java for application development, see Java is taking us in the wrong direction.

For more information on MetaCard, see MetaCard's Home Page.

Copyright © 1996 MetaCard Corporation.

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