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Quill is a project automation tool for Tcl/Tk projects, inspired by Leiningen. It is intended to make it easy to build and deploy Tcl applications and libraries. In particular, Quill:

  • Creates new skeleton project trees.
  • Runs test suites
  • Formats HTML documentation
  • Manages dependencies
    • External and internal
  • Executes your project in development
  • Supports interactive development
  • Executes arbitrary scripts in the context of your project's code base
  • Builds deployment targets:
    • Standalone executables ("starpacks")
    • Lightweight executables ("starkits")
    • Reusable packages (teapot .zip modules)
  • Builds distribution .zip files
  • Runs cross-platform (Windows, OS X, Linux)

As such, it is intended to reduce the ancillary costs of defining and deploying a Tcl package or executable to as close to zero as possible, by automating everything but the actual writing of the code and documentation.

You can follow Quill development at GitHub; also, I'm posting occasional development notes and questions for the Quill users on my blog.

Building and Installation

To install Quill, see docs/

To build Quill from scratch, see docs/

Basic Use Case

Assuming you have ActiveTcl 8.5 or later installed, with the installation's tclsh on your path, you should be able to do the following:

Download and install quill.exe in your ~/bin directory (or wherever). See docs/

Create a new skeleton project tree:

$ cd ~/work
$ quill new app my-application myapp

Run your new application:

$ cd my-application
$ ./bin/myapp.tcl a b c
my-application 0.0a0

Args: <a b c>

Run the application test suite:

$ quill test
... Runs dummy test (which will fail)

Build the project's HTML documentation:

$ quill docs
... (You'll have to write some)

Build the Application (if TDK is installed) as a .kit or standalone executable:

$ quill build
$ ./bin/myapp.kit a b c
my-application 0.0a0

Args: <a b c>

Load the application and its libraries into Tkcon for interactive testing:

$ quill shell
... (Invokes Tkcon; does not run the application's "main" proc)

** Install your application and libraries for local use:**

$ quill install
... (Copies the executable to your ~/bin, and libraries to your teapot)

Other Features

Quill can also build library packages and install them into your local teapot repository for general use; and if your local teapot is located somewhere that requires "root" or "admin" privileges to touch, it can also create a new teapot repository for you in your home directory.

Then, you can add require statements to your project.quill file (created for you by quill new), and Quill will take care of downloading the required packages into your local teapot when you execute quill deps update.

Finally, if you define a distribution in project.quill, Quill will build the distribution .zip file for you.

See the project(5) man page for information about the contents of the project.quill file, and enter quill help at the command line for help on Quill and its subcommands.


How much Quill can do for you depends on what ancillary tools you have installed. You will need a Tcl interpreter at the very least.

With just an arbitrary Tcl interpreter, Quill can:

  • Create new project trees for you.
  • Run your tests
  • Format your documentation
  • Make it easier to run your code, either from the system command line or from an interactive Tcl shell.
  • Create distribution .zip files.

With ActiveTcl, Quill can:

  • Manage external dependencies, pulling packages from ActiveState's teapot repository and keeping them up to date in your environment.

With TclDevKit 5.3, Quill can:

  • Build standalone executables for Linux, OS X, and Windows
  • Build libraries as teapot packages, for installation into a local teapot repository.

Ways to Help

I'm developing Quill on OS X, but I'm trying to write it so that will work on OS X, Linux, and Windows, and on Unix in general. For Windows I'm expecting that Quill is being used from a MinGW bash shell rather than PowerShell or the basic Command Shell, but I'm trying not to rely on that.

However, I only have access to OS X. Thus, it would be a great help to me to have users try it out on other platforms and submit bug reports and patches.

In addition, I've focussed on using ActiveState's "teapot" package repository and TclDevKit tool chain, because I have access to those. I'm open to extending Quill to use other tool chains as well; and help with that is also welcome.


Thanks to the following people who have contributed bug reports, patches, or ideas to Quill, or helped in other ways:

  • Ted Brunzie
  • Stephan Effelsberg
  • Andreas Kupries


Build tool for Tcl/Tk projects




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