Version 75 of Starkit

Updated 2004-04-26 13:12:35

A Starkit is a single-file packaging of Tcl scripts, platform-specific compiled code and application data; designed to facilitate simple deployment of cross platform applications. The name comes from STandAlone Runtime.

Starkits are interpreted using Tclkit - a single file Tcl/Tk interpreter. You will need a version of Tclkit for each platform that you want to run a Starkit on. Have a look at the Tclkit download area where there are versions for over a dozen platforms.

A Starpack is a single (platform-specific) executable file containing both Tclkit and a Starkit. They are useful when you want to deploy a single executable for an application. Starpacks can be built on any platform supporting Tclkit.

The Starkit home page is

The best reference for starkits, starpacks, and tclkits is the paper Steve Landers presented at the Tcl/Tk 2002 conference in Vancouver - on his site at [L1 ]. Also online at [L2 ].

Build Your Own Starkits

Building a Starkit is very easy. Tclkit provides all the infrastructure, and sdx provides the tools.

See for information concerning a mailing list specifically to discuss tclkit/starkit/starpack ideas, development, use.

But what is a Starkit? Quoting Scripted Documents Are Obscure: what we have here is simply a Tcl version of Java ".jar" files, with the runtime environment optionally bound in. ... As for "simply jar files": not quite, SD's are r/w with transaction-safe commit/rollback because there's a database engine underneath. That means they can also store config info, update themselves, and store extensive datasets. -jcw

In other words: a way of distributing a Tcl/Tk app as a single file, instead of as a bunch of files. And, the user doesn't have to unpack it before it can be used. (But is it still convenient for users to study/edit?

Could someone list here the various starkit namespace procs that are available for use?

For instance, there is:

  • starkit::pload - use like this:
        package ifneeded Mk4tcl "package require starkit [list starkit::pload $dir Mk4tcl Mk4tcl]"

stevel: See Demonstrating Starkits for some ideas on how to present Starkits to the uninitiated.

David Zolli mentiones, on the starkit mailing list, these steps for adding encodings (since tclkit only has a subset of the encodings that normal tcl has - one of the (few) differences between Tcl and Tclkit...)

I've tried and tested this, and it's works :

 1) Unpack your starkit if is not already done.
 2) Create this directory : .../appname.vfs/lib/tcl8.4/encoding
 3) Copy the needed encoding(s) .enc file(s) in this directory (from an
 existing tcl installation or from tcl CVS repository here :
 if you using the last tclkit).
 4) re-wrap your starkit with these new files.

Then, these encoding are available in you starkit/starpack and your starkit can be launched with a 'standard' tclkit.

Harald Oehlmann I use the following way more natural for me:

 1) Add the following path to your application before wrapping and put the encodings in:
 2) Wrap with the standard starkit

In case you're wondering

  • The term scripted document is obsolete - it's now a Starkit
  • The term custom tclkit is obsolete - it's now a Starpack

When storing Starkits on a MacOS machine, to what are people generally setting the type and creator values?

Try type "TEXT" and creator "Tkd4" (sdx sets them that way too) -jcw

Recently while playing with kitten, I was seeing an error when I attemped to package require one of the extensions, but was getting an error. I mused to jcw that it would be nice if there were a way to cd into the directory where tclkit was reporting a problem to browse, and he replied that I should be able to do just that. After some experimenting (and a false trail due to my forgetfulness) I found this indeed works:

 $ tclkit
 % source /home/lwv26/kitten.kit
 % cd /home/lwv26/kitten.kit/lib
 % glob *
 Class1.0 ClassyTk1.0 Extral2.0 Mpexpr10 Tktable2.7 app-kitten ascenc-0.11 autoproxy autoscroll blowfish-0.10 bwidget-1.3.0 cgi1.6 dyncall-0.11 efftcl-1.0 expect-5.31 gbutton gk5.1 hexdump-0.10 ihash-0.11 itcl-3.2 itk-3.2 itk-3.3 iwidgets3.0.1 iwidgets4.0.1 lzrw1-0.10 mathf-0.11 mclistbox-1.02 md5c-0.11 mentry2.4 mkWidgets1.3 mvec-0.12 narray-0.81 scratch-0.10 supertext-1.0.1 tablelist2.7 tcldom-2.0 tclexpat1.1 tcllib1.3 tclsoap1.6.5 tclx8.4 tclxml2.0 tdom0.7 tix8.2 tkhtml0.0 tls-1.4 wcb2.8 wikit

This may help you when attempting to debug strange errors.

Also, note that when I tried doing ls or exec ls, the ls command did not see the directories, etc. within the lib. This seems to me to be bad news for someone wanting to merge using exec, open |, or other external calls with VFS mounted filesystems.

(See VFS, exec and command pipelines for discussion on this issue; if someone wants to contribute the time/code, at least some sort of functionality ought to be possible and useful there).

Check out my hints on Sexy Starkits --Ro

LV I discovered this week that ActiveTcl ships with the necessary framework to allow one to say:

  /path/to/activetcl8.4.1.0/bin/tclsh sdx.kit

or any other starkit, and the starkit executes. No requirement for a Tclkit. The Tclkit, of course, is still a superior distribution mechanism. Hopefully there will be tools one day that one can use to generate a starkit based on the Tcl environment available and the script(s) being wrapped.

Dossy - Hey, is there a standalone Starkit package out there? One that you could 'package require starkit' within a vanilla tclsh, and then go sourcing your Starkits? I was hoping to start using Starkits under AOLserver, so "use Tclkit" is not an acceptable solution, here. So, is there a starkit.tcl and corresponding pkgIndex.tcl that one can drop in their $TCL_LIBRARY and just "package require starkit" with?

LV Hmm - let's think this one through. what is the difference between a tclsh and a tclkit? A package that resulted in the difference being applied to a tclsh is what we are talking about. I presume that one difference is the set of packages that need to be package required. What els?

17sep03 jcw - That's what ActiveTcl does. There is a package "starkit" and you need things like Metakit, trf-or-zlib, memchan-or-rechan, and of course the tclvfs package (C and scripts).

LV: JCW, I am trying to locate this package. I downloaded the latest Solaris Activetcl - I install it. I then type this:

 $ gfind . -name '*tarki*' -print
 lwv26awu (2044) $ pwd
 lwv26awu (2047) $ gfind . -type f -print | xargs grep -l -i starkit

 $ /tmp/ActiveTcl/bin/tclsh
 % package require starkit

That starkit is the vfs 1.2 code. To end up with the same environment as a tclkit, I presume that I need to do some other package requires.

When I start a tclkit, and do a package names, I see:

 rechan pwb zlib vfslib vfs::mk4 mk4vfs vfs Mk4tcl Tcl

When I start an ActiveTcl tclsh, and do a package names, I see: ActiveTcl Tcl

Inside the ActiveTcl tclsh, I see:

 % package require rechan
 can't find package rechan
 % package require pwb
 can't find package pwb
 % package require zlib
 can't find package zlib
 % package require vfslib
 % package require vfs::mk4
 % package require mk4vfs
 % package require vfs
 % package require Mk4tcl
 % package require Tcl

So, are rechan, pwb, and zlib not important?

Dossy - Is there an easy way to "reload" a Starkit at runtime? In other words, suppose I have a long-running (daemon) Starkit. I want to modify some code, re-wrap the Starkit, then signal the currently running process to reload itself (or at least, its code) from the Starkit. I suppose I could mount the VFS and just 'source' the necessary files (or 'package forget' and 'package require'), but I'm wondering if this functionality already exists. Thanks.

17sep03 jcw - There's no magic in starkits, it's simply a VFS-mounted area. You can umount, remount, etc. You can even - with care - leave mounted, close the MK db, and re-open the MK db (but there's some caching going on in the mk4vfs.tcl script). Personally, I'd not go through this trouble: hook to the running process, and have *it* write the modified files into the starkit it is holding open. Compare it to a Unix mount: to change a file on the disk, you don't unmount, change it some other way, and remount - you simply write while it's mounted. If more complex scenario's are needed - why not run unwrapped? I mean, what are you trying to accomplish here, in terms of a higher-level perspective?

LV The impression I got from reading Dossy's description was a scenario like this. However, I'm certain Dossy can explain it better if I am off base.

I have a starkit that I launch on a regular basis. I discover it has need of some modifications. I modify the file that I launch - this way, next time the changes are in place. Now, I want the running process to reflect the new version as well. I'd rather not take the process down - if it is a web server, I'd possibly terminate a user's session. What I want to do is signal the running process in some way that it would update itself when convenient.

20sep03 Dossy - Jean-Claude, yes, I could run unwrapped. But, Starkits are convenient: after developing, I can 'sdx wrap' all the code into one file, and deploy it where it needs to run. One file to push around, instead of a tarball that needs to be untarred before it can be run. Larry, you had the right idea. Implementing some kind of service as a Starkit, such as a webserver, where restarting the process is a nuisance (in my case, the process has persistent TCP connections to other servers -- process restarts means re-establishing those network connections). So, it'd be nice to be able to just modify code, re-wrap a new .kit, copy the new .kit over the old .kit then send a HUP signal to the running Starkit to go and reload any changed files (using 'source', perhaps?) ... of course, it'd mean writing your code in such a way that it could tolerate a warm restart, but that's the price we'll have to pay to get this kind of functionality, I guess. Or, we'll just have to keep hard-restarting these Starkits to get changes to be picked up, which is annoying but acceptable. But, I think a dynamic update of a running Starkit is a neato feature. :-)

jcw - Fair enough... so why not unmount/remount to pick up the changes?

28sep03 Dossy - Is there an easy way? If I 'sdx wrap foo.vfs' while tclkit is running with foo.kit, it causes a Bus Error. If I 'vfs::unmount foo.kit' at runtime, then 'sdx wrap foo.vfs' then try to 'starkit::remount', on the remount it gives an error along the lines of 'no such mount /path/to/foo.kit'. I can manually 'package require vfs::mk4' then 'vfs::mk4::Mount foo.kit foo.kit' ... but that seems klunky.

What would be nice is a starkit::rewrap that did the unmount, wrap, and remount all in one shot. Hmm ... in the meantime, is there a hook into 'sdx wrap' from within tclkit or must I exec the 'sdx' Starkit? 'source sdx.kit' expects args - other than clobbering $argv, is there a better way of doing this? 'vfs::mk4::Mount /path/to/sdx.kit sdx.kit -readonly' then 'source sdx.kit/lib/app-sdx/wrap.tcl' still requires clobbering $argv. Guess I'll just exec, for now.

Thanks for entertaining my foolish idea, though. Starkits are still immensely useful, even without a really easy on-the-fly code update mechanism. :-)

As it is not mentioned on the sdarchive page I thought I would add that on windows, you can of course as usual "register" the extension kit, as an alternative to writing bat files, hence enabling the windows-double click behaviour. - VL

One would presume some a similar setup could be made on MacOS, or for that matter the X Window based platforms, in relation to the appropriate GUI file manager.

If someone is wondering about using starkits for tclblend applications - that's really going to take some work. Tclblend requires one to use a threaded tcl - and tclkit doesn't by default build with threads. Then, to make use of tclblend, there's a start up 'wrapper' that I seem to understand one should use to start up the threaded tclsh, that ensures that various environment variables, etc. are set appropriately.

One of the hardest things to wrap are applications which make use of Tcl extensions which are dependant on compiled libraries (regardless of whether they are written in C, C++, etc.). There are a variety of issues that need to be resolved by these things. Is this part of building starkits documented anywhere?

See - stevel

See also TclApp, a part of ActiveState's Tcl Dev Kit.

Category Tclkit | Category Glossary |