Getting started with tkinter

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Remarks

Tkinter ("Tk Interface")is python's standard cross-platform package for creating graphical user interfaces (GUIs). It provides access to an underlying Tcl interpreter with the Tk toolkit, which itself is a cross-platform, multilanguage graphical user interface library.

Tkinter isn't the only GUI library for python, but it is the one that comes standard. Additional GUI libraries that can be used with python include wxPython, PyQt, and kivy.

Tkinter's greatest strength is its ubiquity and simplicity. It works out of the box on most platforms (linux, OSX, Windows), and comes complete with a wide range of widgets necessary for most common tasks (buttons, labels, drawing canvas, multiline text, etc).

As a learning tool, tkinter has some features that are unique among GUI toolkits, such as named fonts, bind tags, and variable tracing.

Differences between python 2 and 3

Tkinter is largely unchanged between python 2 and python 3, with the major difference being that the tkinter package and modules were renamed.

Importing in python 2.x

In python 2.x, the tkinter package is named Tkinter, and related packages have their own names. For example, the following shows a typical set of import statements for python 2.x:

import Tkinter as tk
import tkFileDialog as filedialog
import ttk

Importing in python 3.x

Although functionality did not change much between python 2 and 3, the names of all of the tkinter modules have changed. The following is a typical set of import statements for python 3.x:

import tkinter as tk
from tkinter import filedialog
from tkinter import ttk

Further Reading

Versions

Tcl

VersionRelease Date
8.62016-07-27
8.52016-02-12
8.42013-06-01
8.32002-10-18
8.21999-12-16
8.11999-05-26
8.01999-03-09

Python

VersionRelease Date
3.62016-12-23
3.52015-09-13
3.42014-03-17
3.32012-09-29
3.22011-02-20
3.12009-06-26
3.02008-12-03
2.72010-07-03
2.62008-10-02
2.52006-09-19
2.42004-11-30
2.32003-07-29
2.22001-12-21
2.12001-04-15
2.02000-10-16

Hello, World! (minimal)

Let's test our basic knowledge of tkinter by creating the classic "Hello, World!" program.

First, we must import tkinter, this will vary based on version (see remarks section about "Differences between Python 2 and 3")

In Python 3 the module tkinter has a lowercase t:

import tkinter as tk
 

In Python 2 the module Tkinter has a uppercase T:

import Tkinter as tk 
 

Using as tk isn't strictly necessary but we will use it so the rest of this example will work the same for both version.

now that we have the tkinter module imported we can create the root of our application using the Tk class:

root = tk.Tk()
 

This will act as the window for our application. (note that additional windows should be Toplevel instances instead)

Now that we have a window, let's add text to it with a Label

label = tk.Label(root, text="Hello World!") # Create a text label
label.pack(padx=20, pady=20) # Pack it into the window
 

Once the application is ready we can start it (enter the main event loop) with the mainloop method

root.mainloop()
 

This will open and run the application until it is stopped by the window being closed or calling exiting functions from callbacks (discussed later) such as root.destroy() .

Putting it all together:

import tkinter as tk # Python 3.x Version
#import Tkinter as tk # Python 2.x Version

root = tk.Tk()

label = tk.Label(root, text="Hello World!") # Create a text label
label.pack(padx=20, pady=20) # Pack it into the window

root.mainloop()
 

And something like this should pop up:

tkinter window

Hello, World! (modular, object-oriented)

import tkinter as tk

class HelloWorld(tk.Frame):
    def __init__(self, parent):
        super(HelloWorld, self).__init__(parent)

        self.label = tk.Label(self, text="Hello, World!")
        self.label.pack(padx=20, pady=20)
        
if __name__ == "__main__":
    root = tk.Tk()

    main = HelloWorld(root)
    main.pack(fill="both", expand=True)

    root.mainloop()
 

Note: It's possible to inherit from just about any tkinter widget, including the root window. Inheriting from tkinter.Frame is at least arguably the most flexible in that it supports multiple document interfaces (MDI), single document interfaces (SDI), single page applications, and multiple-page applications.

Installation or Setup

Tkinter comes pre-installed with the Python installer binaries for Mac OS X and the Windows platform. So if you install Python from the official binaries for Mac OS X or Windows platform, you are good to go with Tkinter.

For Debian versions of Linux you have to install it manually by using the following commands.

For Python 3

sudo apt-get install python3-tk

For Python 2.7

sudo apt-get install python-tk

Linux distros with yum installer can install tkinter module using the command:

yum install tkinter

Verifying Installation

To verify if you have successfully installed Tkinter, open your Python console and type the following command:

import tkinter as tk # for Python 3 version
 

or

import Tkinter as tk # for Python 2.x version
 

You have successfully installed Tkinter, if the above command executes without an error.

To check the Tkinter version, type the following commands in your Python REPL:

For python 3.X

import tkinter as tk
tk._test()
 

For python 2.X

import Tkinter as tk
tk._test()
 

Note: Importing Tkinter as tk is not required but is good practice as it helps keep things consistent between version.

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Saturday, July 1, 2017
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