Object Oriented Support for Jim Tcl


The pure-Tcl oo package leverages Jim’s unique strengths to provide support for Object Oriented programming.

The oo package can be statically linked with Jim or installed as a separate Tcl package and loaded with:

package require oo


A class is declared with the class proc as follows.

class myclass ?baseclasses? classvars

This declares a class named myclass with the given dictionary, classvars, providing the initial state of all new objects. It is important to list all class variables in classvars, even if initialised only to the empty string, since the class makes these variables available in methods and via [myclass vars].

A list of zero or more base classes may also be specified from which methods and class variables are imported. See INHERITANCE below for more details.

Declaring a class creates a procedure with the class name along with some related procedures. For example:

. class Account {balance 0}
. info procs Account*
{Account get} {Account methods} {Account eval} Account {Account new} {Account destroy}
{Account vars} {Account classname} {Account classvars} {Account method}

Notice that apart from the main Account procedure, all the remaining procedures (methods) are prefixed with Account and a space.


Declaring a class pre-defines a number of “class” methods. i.e. those which don’t require an object and simply return or manipulate properties of the class. These are:

new ?instancevars?
Creates and returns new object, optionally overriding the default class variable values. Note that the class name is an alias for classname new {} and can be used as a shorthand for creating new objects with default values.
method name arglist body
Creates or redefines a method for the class with the given name, argument list and body.
Returns a list of the methods supported by this class, including both class methods and instance methods. Also includes base class methods.
Returns a list of the class variables for this class (names only). Also includes base class variables.
Returns a dictionary the class variables, including initial values, for this class. Also includes base class variables.
Returns the classname. This can be useful as [$self classname].

Class methods may be invoked either via the class name or via an object of the class. For example:

. class Account {balance 0}
. Account methods
classname classvars destroy eval get method methods new vars
. set a [Account]
. $a methods
classname classvars destroy eval get method methods new vars


Declaring a class pre-defines a number of “object” methods. i.e. those which operate on a specific object.

Destroys the object. This method may be overridden, but note that it should delete the object with {rename $self “”}. This method will also be called if the object is reaped during garbage collection.
get varname
Returns the value of the given instance variable.
eval ?locals? body
Makes any given local variables available to the body, along with the instance variables, and evaluate the body in that context. This can be used for one-off evaluation to avoid declaring a method.


An object is created with the new method, or simply by using the classname shortcut. If the new method is used, the variables for the newly created object (instance variables) may be initialised. Otherwise they are set to the default values specified when the class was declared.

For example:

. class Account {balance 0}
. set a [Account]
. set b [Account new {balance 1000}]
. $a get balance
. $b get balance


In addition to the predefined methods, new methods may be declared, or existing methods redefined with the class method, method.

Declaring a method is very similar to defining a proc, and the arglist has identical syntax. For example:

. Account method show {{chan stdout}} { $chan puts "Balance of account is $balance" }
. $b show
Balance of account is 1000

All instance variables are available within the method and any changes to these variables are maintained by the object.

In addition, the $self variables is defined and refers to the current object. This may be used to invoke further methods on the object. For example:

. Account method show {} { puts "Balance of account is [$self get balance]" }
. $b show
Balance of account is 1000



For each base class given in a new class declaration, the methods and variables of those classes are imported into the new class being defined. Base classes are imported in left to right order, so that if a method is defined in more than one base class, the later definition is selected. This applies similarly to class variables.

Within a method, super may be used to explicitly invoke a base class method on the object. This applies only to the last base class given. For example:

# Assumes the existence of classes Account and Client
. Account method debit {amount} { incr balance -$amount }
. class CreditAccount {Client Account} {type visa}
. CreditAccount method debit {amount} {
  puts "Debit $type card"
  super debit $amount
. set a [CreditAccount]
. $a debit 20
Debit visa card
. $a balance

In the CreditAccount debit method, the call to super debit invokes the method Account debit since Account is the last base class listed.


Objects are implemented as lambdas. That is, they are procedures with state and are named as references. This means that when an object is no longer reachable by any name and garbage collection runs, the object will be discarded and the destructor will be invoked. Note that the garbage collector can be invoked manually with collect if required.

. class Account {}
. Account method destroy {} { puts dying...; rename $self "" }
Account destroy
. proc a {} { set b [Account]; return "" }
. a
. collect


All methods defined with method operate on objects (instances). If a class method is required, it is possible to simply declare one with proc. The method dispatcher will automatically be able to dispatch to this method. Using this approach, it is also possible to add class static variables by defining static variables to the proc. Although strictly these variables are accessible only to that proc, not the class as a whole.

For example:

. class Account {}
. proc {Account nextid} {} {{id 0}} { incr id }
Account nextid
. Account nextid
. Account nextid
. set a [Account]
. $a nextid
. $a eval { $self nextid }


All class and object methods are name “classname methodname”.

The class method dispatcher is named “classname”. When invoked with a methodname, it simply invokes the method “classname methodname”.

The method dispatch is via a two step process. Firstly the object procedure is invoked with the method name. This procedure then invokes “classname method” which sets up the appropriate access to the object variables, and then invokes the method body.



The tree package is implemented using the oo package. See the source code in tree.tcl and a usage example in tests/tree.test

Of particular note is how callbacks and recursive invocation is used in the walk method.


A comprehensive OO example is provided in examples/ootest.tcl.

It can be run simply as:

$ ./jimsh examples/ootest.tcl