IDLE and tkinter with Tcl/Tk on Mac OS X

Important

If you are using Python from a python.org 64-bit/32-bit Python installer for Mac OS X 10.6 and later, you should only use IDLE or tkinter with an updated third-party Tcl/Tk 8.5, like ActiveTcl 8.5 installed.

If you are using OS X 10.9 Mavericks and a Python from a python.org 64-bit/32-bit installer, application windows may not update properly due to a Tk problem. Install the latest ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 if possible. (Also, a critical OS X 10.9 problem that could cause Python to crash when used interactively has been fixed as of the 3.4.0, 3.3.3, and 2.7.6 installers.)

If you are using Mac OS X 10.6, do not use IDLE or Tkinter from the Apple-supplied Python 2.6.1 in Mac OS X 10.6. If possible, install and use a newer version of Python and of Tcl/Tk.

Python's integrated development environment, IDLE, and the tkinter GUI toolkit it uses, depend on the Tk GUI toolkit which is not part of Python itself. For best results, it is important that the proper release of Tcl/Tk is installed on your machine. For recent Python installers for Mac OS X downloadable from this website, here is a summary of current recommendations followed by more detailed information.

Python Release Installer Variant Mac OS X Release Recommended Tcl/Tk Alternate Tcl/Tk Not Recommended
3.4.0, 3.3.5 64-/32-bit 10.9 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 Apple 8.5.9  
10.8 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 Apple 8.5.9  
10.7 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 Apple 8.5.9  
10.6 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0   Apple 8.5.7
32-bit-only 10.5 ActiveTcl 8.4.20 Apple 8.4.7  
2.7.6 64-/32-bit 10.9 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 Apple 8.5.9  
10.8 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 Apple 8.5.9  
10.7 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 Apple 8.5.9  
10.6 ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0   Apple 8.5.7
32-bit-only 10.5 ActiveTcl 8.4.20 Apple 8.4.7  
10.4 ActiveTcl 8.4.20 Apple 8.4.7  
10.3.9 ActiveTcl 8.4.20    

Tk On Mac OS X

There are currently three major variants of Tk in common use on Mac OS X:

Aqua Carbon Tk
This has been the most common native version on Mac OS X. Because is is implemented with older Mac OS X Carbon interfaces, it is only available as a 32-bit binary (usually for Intel and PowerPC processors). Aqua Carbon Tk 8.4 is included with Mac OS X releases 10.4 through 10.9 and is also available from ActiveState. Aqua Carbon variants of Tk 8.5 had been available as an ActiveState Community Download prior to ActiveTcl 8.5.9. As of 8.5.13, the Tk project no longer supports Carbon builds of Tk 8.5.
Aqua Cocoa Tk
A newer native implementation available as a universal 64-bit and 32-bit binary. This variant is the standard native OS X variant in Tk 8.6 and as of Tk 8.5.13. Aqua Cocoa support was backported to Tk 8.5 (prior to 8.5.13) and released by Apple starting with Mac OS X 10.6 and by ActiveState starting with their 8.5.9.1 release. While the Python installers downloadable from this website do not support Aqua Cocoa Tk 8.6, other distributors of Python for Mac OS X may do so.
X11 Tk
The traditional platform-independent UNIX Tk implementation which requires an X11 server, such as the Apple X11.app available as an optional component in all recent Mac OS X releases. 64-bit and 32-bit binaries can be built. While the Python installers downloadable from this website do not support X11 Tk, other distributors of Python for Mac OS X may do so.

Tcl/Tk Releases

ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0

ActiveState provides binary distributions of Tcl/Tk which are upward compatible with and generally more up-to-date than those provided by Apple in Mac OS X releases. This version of Tcl/Tk includes fixes for some critical problems that you may encounter using tkinter or IDLE (see Apple 8.5.9 below). Note that, while the ActiveState web site refers to 8.5.15.0, the installer dmg link has been updated to download ActiveTcl 8.5.15.1. The 8.5.15.1 update contains the fix for the OS X 10.9 Mavericks window update problem. You can download an installer for this release from the ActiveState web site. Note that ActiveState Community Edition binaries are not open source and are covered by an ActiveState license. You should read the license before downloading to verify that your usage complies with its terms of use. This is an Aqua Cocoa Tk.

Apple 8.5.9

This release is included in Mac OS X 10.9, 10.8, and 10.7. As of this writing, there are at least two known issues with Tk 8.5.9 that are present in Apple 8.5.9 Tk but fixed in more recent upstream 8.5 releases. The more serious problem is an immediate crash in Tk when entering a composition character, like Option-u on a US keyboard. (This problem is documented as Tk bug 2907388.) There is also the more general problem of input manager support for composite characters (Tk bug 3205153) which has also been fixed in more recent Tcl/Tk 8.5 releases. You can avoid these problems by using a current python.org installer that links with ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0. This is an Aqua Cocoa Tk.

Apple 8.5.7

This release is included in Mac OS X 10.6. IDLE is known to hang or crash when used with the Apple 8.5.7 included in all versions of Mac OS X 10.6.x. Because of this, we strongly recommend that you do not attempt to use Tkinter or IDLE with the Apple-supplied Python 2.6.1 in 10.6. Instead, install a newer version of Python that supports a newer version of Tk. This is an Aqua Cocoa Tk.

ActiveTcl 8.4.20

ActiveState provides binary distributions of Tcl/Tk which are upward compatible with and generally more up-to-date than those provided by Apple in Mac OS X releases. You can download an installer for this release from the ActiveState web site. Note that ActiveState Community Edition binaries are not open source and are covered by an ActiveState license. You should read the license before downloading to verify that your usage complies with its terms of use. This is an Aqua Carbon Tk.

Apple 8.4.19

This release is included in Mac OS X 10.9, 10.8, 10.7, and 10.6. This is an Aqua Carbon Tk.

Apple 8.4.7

This release is included in Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.4. This is an Aqua Carbon Tk.

How Python Chooses Which Tk Library To Use

Note

While Tcl and Tk are separate frameworks and libraries, they are closely related and are normally installed or updated simultaneously. You should not attempt to mix-and-match Tcl and Tk versions. References to a specific version of Tk assume the corresponding version of Tcl is installed as well.

The Python for Mac OS X installers downloaded from this website dynamically link at runtime to Tcl/Tk Mac OS X frameworks. The Tcl/Tk major version is determined when the installer is created and cannot be overridden. The Python 64-bit/32-bit Mac OS X installers for Python 3.4.x, 3.3.x, 3.2.x, and 2.7.x dynamically link to Tcl/Tk 8.5 frameworks. 32-bit-only Python installers for Mac OS X dynamically link to Tcl/Tk 8.4 frameworks.

In either case, the dynamically linking occurs when tkinter (Python 3) or Tkinter (Python 2) is first imported (specifically, the internal _tkinter C extension module). By default, the Mac OS X dynamic linker looks first in /Library/Frameworks for Tcl and Tk frameworks with the proper major version. This is the standard location for third-party or built from source frameworks, including the ActiveTcl releases. If frameworks of the proper major version are not found there, the dynamic linker looks for the same version in /System/Library/Frameworks, the location for Apple-supplied frameworks shipped with Mac OS X. (Note, you should normally not modify or delete files in /System/Library.)

As is common on Mac OS X, the installed Pythons and the Tcl and Tk frameworks are built to run on multiple CPU architectures (universal binaries) and across multiple Mac OS X levels (minimum deployment target). For Python to be able to dynamically link with a particular Tcl and Tk version, the available architectures in the Tcl/Tk frameworks must include the architecture that Python is running in and their minimum deployment target should be no greater than that of Python. The 64-bit/32-bit Mac OS X installers for Python 3.4.x, 3.3.x, 3.2.x, and 2.7.x are built with Intel-64 (x86_64) and Intel-32 (i386) architectures and a minimum deployment target of Mac OS X 10.6. The Apple 8.5.9 and ActiveTcl 8.5.15.0 releases discussed below are compatible with these installers. The 32-bit-only Python installers for Mac OS X from this web site are built with Intel-32 (i386) and PowerPC-32 (ppc) architectures and are compatible with all current releases of Apple 8.4.x and ActiveTcl 8.4.x. Starting with Python 3.3.0, the minimum deployment target for 32-bit-only installers is Mac OS X 10.5; for earlier releases, it is Mac OS X 10.3.9.

Revision history

  • 2014-03-16 - updated for 3.4.0 and 3.3.5
  • 2014-02-10 - updated for 3.3.4 and 3.4.0rc1
  • 2014-01-05 - updated for 3.4.0b2
  • 2013-11-24 - clarify that the ActiveState website still refers to 8.5.15.0
  • 2013-11-24 - removed built-in for 3.4.0b1, removed 3.3.2 and 2.7.5
  • 2013-11-10 - ActiveTcl 8.5.15.1; removed built-in for 3.3.3rc2 and 2.7.6.
  • 2013-10-27 - updated for 3.3.3rc1 and 2.7.6rc1 and their built-in 8.5.15.
  • 2013-10-24 - updated for OS X 10.9 and ActiveTcl 8.5.15, removed 3.2.5.
  • 2013-10-20 - updated for 3.4.0a4 and its built-in 8.5.15.
  • 2013-09-29 - updated for 3.4.0a3
  • 2013-09-09 - updated for 3.4.0a2 and its built-in 8.5.14.
  • 2013-08-03 - updated for 3.4.0a1 and ActiveTcl 8.4.20
  • 2013-05-18 - updated for ActiveTcl 8.5.14
  • 2013-05-15 - updated for 3.3.2, 2.7.5, and 3.2.5
  • 2013-04-06 - updated for 3.3.1, 2.7.4, and 3.2.4
  • 2012-12-26 - updated for ActiveTcl 8.5.13 and Issue 15853 patch installer
  • 2012-09-29 - updated for 3.3.0 final and reverted to ActiveTcl 8.5.11.1
  • 2012-08-02 - updated for ActiveTcl 8.5.12
  • 2012-07-28 - updated for OS X 10.8
  • 2012-04-11 - updated for 3.2.3 final and 2.7.3 final
  • 2012-03-18 - updated for 3.2.3rc2 and 2.7.3rc2
  • 2012-03-04 - updated for ActiveTcl 8.5.11.1, 3.2.3rc1, 2.7.3rc1, removed 3.1.4
  • 2011-11-12 - updated for ActiveTcl 8.5.11
  • 2011-09-04 - updated for 3.2.2 final
  • 2011-07-21 - updated for OS X 10.7 and ActiveTcl 8.5.10.1
  • 2011-07-09 - updated for 3.2.1 final and ActiveTcl 8.5.10
  • 2011-06-12 - updated for 2.7.2 final and 3.1.4 final
  • 2011-05-30 - updated for 3.2.1rc, 2.7.2rc, and 3.1.4rc
  • 2011-03-08 - add warnings and include details on how Python links with Tcl/Tk releases
  • 2011-02-20 - updated for 3.2 final
  • 2011-01-31 draft 1 - preliminary info for 3.2rc2
  • 2011-01-14 draft 0

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