FAQ: Lisp Window Systems and GUIs 7/7 [Monthly posting]
X Window System, GUIs and other Window Systems in Lisp
Last-Modified: Fri Mar 22 16:00:46 1996 by Mark Kantrowitz
Maintainer: Mark Kantrowitz and Barry Margolin <email@example.com>
Size: 18249 bytes, 320 lines
;;; Lisp Window Systems and GUIs ***********************************
;;; Written by Mark Kantrowitz and Barry Margolin
This post contains Part 7 of the Lisp FAQ.
If you think of questions that are appropriate for this FAQ, or would
like to improve an answer, please send email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Topics Covered (Part 7):
[7-1] How can I use the X Window System or other GUIs from Lisp?
[7-2] What Graphers/Browsers are available?
Search for \[#\] to get to question number # quickly.
Subject: [7-1] How can I use the X Window System or other GUIs from Lisp?
There are several GUI's and Lisp interfaces to the X Window System. Mailing
lists for these systems are listed in the answer to question [4-7].
Various vendors also offer their own interface-building packages.
CLX provides basic Common Lisp/X functionality. It is a de facto standard
low-level interface to X, providing equivalent functionality to XLib, but
in Lisp. It is also a good source for comparing the foreign function calls
in various Lisps. Does *not* depend on CLOS. Available free as part of the
X release in the contrib directory. Also available by anonymous ftp from
ftp.x.org:/R5contrib/ as the files CLX.Manual.tar.Z and CLX.R5.02.tar.Z.
[Note: The new version of CLX for X11R6 can be found (untarred) in
with documentation in
and includes some slight modifications for CLtL2 compatability. You
can get it in tarred form from the CMU AI Repository, Lisp section.]
Primary Interface Author: Robert W. Scheifler <email@example.com>
Send bug reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 232 page manual is available in /pub/R5untarred/mit/hardcopy/CLX
(PostScript format) and /pub/R5untarred/mit/doc/CLX (Interleaf source).
CLIM (Common Lisp Interface Manager) is a portable, graphical user
interface toolkit originally developed by International Lisp
Associates, Symbolics, and Xerox PARC, and now under joint development
by several Lisp vendors, including Symbolics, Franz, Lucid, Illudium,
and Harlequin. It is intended to be a portable successor of Symbolics
UIMS (Dynamic Windows, Presentations Types). CLIM 2.0 also supports
more traditional toolkit-style programming. It runs on Symbolics Lisp
Machines; Allegro, Lucid, and Harlequin on several Unix platforms;
Symbolics CLOE on 386/486 IBM PCs running Windows; and MCL on Apple
Macintoshes. It is *not* free, and with the exception of
Macintoshes, if it is available it can be purchased from the vendor
of the Lisp system you are using. For the Macintosh version write
Contact: Dennis Doughty - Doughty@ileaf.com
or contact: Bill York - email@example.com
Illidium has signed a distribution agreement for MCL CLIM with
Lucid. [Contact Harlequin for information about Lucid.]
CLIM includes a general purpose grapher. The CLIM 2.0 SPECIFICATION
is available by anonymous ftp from ftp.franz.com:/pub/clim/clim.ps.Z.
To be added to the mailing list send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLUE (Common Lisp User-Interface Environment) is from TI, and extends CLX
to provide a simple, object-oriented toolkit (like Xt) library that uses
CLOS. Provides basic window classes, some stream I/O facilities, and a few
other utilities. Still pretty low level (it's a toolkit, not widget
library). Available free by anonymous ftp from csc.ti.com:/pub/clue.tar.Z
Written by Kerry Kimbrough. Send bug reports to email@example.com.
CLIO (Common Lisp Interactive Objects) is a GUI from the people who created
CLUE. It provides a set of CLOS classes that represent the standard
components of an object-oriented user interface -- such as text, menus,
buttons, scroller, and dialogs. It is included as part of the CLUE
distribution, along with some packages that use it, both sample and real.
Allegro Common Windows provides a front end to CLX. Uses CLOS.
It is *not* free. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
[Intellicorp's KEE4.0 comes with Common Windows also. They've
implemented the CW spec to run on Lucid 4.0 on Sparcs, HP300/400s,
HP700/800s, and IBM RS6000s. Contact email@example.com for more
The LispWorks Toolkit is an extensible CLOS-based widget set that uses
CLX and CLUE. The LispWorks programming environment has been written
using the toolkit and includes: an Emacs-like editor, listener,
debugger, profiler, and operating system shell; browsers/graphers for
classes, generic functions, processes, windows, files, compilation
errors, source code systems, and setting LispWorks parameters; and an
interactive interface builder and complete online hypertext
documentation. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
CLM (Common Lisp Motif) and GINA (Generic Interactive Application) and
IB (Interface Builder). CLM runs Motif widgets in a separate C
process, with minimal work on the Lisp side and communicates between C
and Lisp using TCP sockets. Runs in Allegro CL, Sun CL, CMU CL, Lucid
CL, and Symbolics Genera. GINA uses CLOS. Available free in the X
contrib directory or by anonymous ftp from either
ftp.x.org:/contrib (formerly export.lcs.mit.edu) or
as the files CLM+GINA.README, CLM2.2.tar.Z and GINA2.2.tar.Z. CLM was
written by Andreas Baecker <email@example.com>, GINA by Mike Spenke
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, and IB by Thomas Berlage <email@example.com>.
Contact Mike Spenke for more info. To be added to the mailing list,
send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
EW (Express Windows) is intended to mimic Symbolics' Dynamic Windows user
and programmer interfaces. It is available free in the Common Lisp
It is no longer under active development. Runs on Sun/Lucid, Franz
Allegro, and Symbolics. Should port easily to other Lisps with CLX.
Written by Andrew L. Ressler <email@example.com>.
Garnet is a large and flexible GUI. Lots of high-level features. Does
*not* depend on CLOS, but does depend on CLX. Garnet (version 2.0 and
after) is now in the public domain, and has no licensing restrictions,
so it is available to all foreign sites and for commercial uses.
Detailed instructions for obtaining it by anonymous ftp are available
by anonymous ftp as
Garnet includes the Lapidiary interactive design tool, C32 constraint
editor, spreadsheet object, Gilt Interface Builder, automatic display
management, two widget sets (Motif look-and-feel and Garnet
look-and-feel), support for gesture recognition, and automatic
constraint maintenance, application data layout and PostScript
generation. Runs in virtually any Common Lisp environment, including
Allegro, Lucid, CMU, and Harlequin Common Lisps on Sun, DEC, HP,
Apollo, IBM 6000, and many other machines. Garnet helps implement
highly-interactive, graphical, direct manipulation programs for X/11
in Common Lisp. Typical applications include: drawing programs
similar to Macintosh MacDraw, user interfaces for expert systems and
other AI applications, box and arrow diagram editors, graphical
programming languages, game user interfaces, simulation and process
monitoring programs, user interface construction tools, CAD/CAM
programs, etc. Contact Brad Myers (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more
information. Bug reports should be sent to email@example.com.
Administrative questions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or
email@example.com. Garnet is discussed on the newsgroup
comp.windows.garnet (which is gatewayed to firstname.lastname@example.org for
those without access to netnews).
LISP2WISH is a very simple demonstration of how to connect and
communicate SYNCHRONOUSLY between a lisp process and a C process
running a Tcl/Tk executable. The demo uses the vanilla 'wish'
executable that is included with the Tcl/Tk distribution. Tcl/Tk is a
very flexible system for building Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs),
with the look-and-feel of Motif. One writes scripts in a high-level,
C-like language, and an interpreter evaluates the commands and passes
execution either to a built-in function (and there are many), or to
your own C routines. Tcl/Tk is becoming increasingly popular because
of its ease of use, and because it is freely distributable (even
commercially, I believe). For more information on Tcl/Tk, look on the
USENET newsgroup comp.lang.tcl, or get the distribution from the
archive (listed below) or ftp.cs.berkeley.edu. The Tcl/Tk archive
also has many user-contributed extensions which make Tcl/Tk even more
desirable. Tcl/Tk was originally written by Dr. John Ousterhout, at
Berkeley. LISP2WISH lets you make a window/menu/drawing interface for
your lisp routines, where you can take advantage of all the stuff
written for Tcl/Tk (and build your own!).
LISP2WISH has only been tested under X-Windows and Lucid Common Lisp
4.0 and 4.1, but should work on other platforms that support Lucid
(or Allegro) and Tcl/Tk. LISP2WISH is available at the Tcl/Tk archive
from the author through the WWW at the URL
by anonymous ftp from
or in the GUI section of the Lisp Repository as
For more information, contact Jonathan Kaye <email@example.com>.
LispView is a GUI written at Sun that does not use CLX. Instead it
converts Xlib.h directly into Lucid foreign function calls. It is intended
to be fast and tight. Uses CLOS. Available for anonymous ftp from
ftp.x.org:/contrib/lispview1.1 (formerly export.lcs.mit.edu) and
Includes a general-purpose 2D grapher library.
Written by Hans Muller (firstname.lastname@example.org). Runs in Sun CL and Lucid CL.
Direct questions about the source provision to lispview@Eng.Sun.Com.
WINTERP (Widget INTERPreter) is an application development environment
developed at HP. It enables the rapid prototyping of graphical
user-interfaces through direct manipulation of user interface objects
and their attached actions. WINTERP provides an interface to the X11
toolkit (Xt) and the OSF/Motif widget set and a built-in RPC mechanism
for inter-application communication. It includes an object-oriented
2.5D graphics and animation widget based on the Xtango path transition
animation system, the XmGraph graph browser (with graph nodes as
arbitrary WINTERP widgets), and GIF image support. The interpreter is
based on David Betz's XLISP interpreter, which implements a small
subset of Common Lisp and runs on PCs, IBM RS/6000, Decstation 3100s,
HP9000s, Sun3, Sparcs, SGI, and NeXT. XLISP provides a simple
Smalltalk-like object system, with OSF/Motif widgets as real XLISP
objects -- they can be specialized via subclassing, methods added
or altered, etc. WINTERP includes an interface to GNU-Emacs which
allows code to be developed and tested without leaving the editor.
WINTERP is a free-standing Lisp-based tool for setting up window
applications. WINTERP is available free in X contrib directory, or
by anonymous ftp from
as winterp-???.tar.gz (formerly export.lcs.mit.edu) where ??? is the
version number. The current version is 2.03 (X11r6 support). If you
do not have Internet access you may request the source code to be
mailed to you by sending a message to email@example.com.
The WWW home page for WINTERP is accessible via the URL
or mirrored on
Contact Niels Mayer <firstname.lastname@example.org> for more information. To be
added to the mailing list, send mail to email@example.com.
Xgcl provides an interface to X Windows for GCL (GNU Common Lisp),
formerly Austin Kyoto Common Lisp (AKCL). It includes a low-level
interface to the Xlib routines, and an interface that provides
graphics, menus, and mouse interaction via functions that are called
from Lisp. Xgcl is built on top of GCL, and it is somewhat larger
(e.g. 6.7 MB for Xgcl vs. 4.9 MB for GCL) because it incorporates
Xlib. To make Xgcl, you must first obtain and make GCL. The code
was written by Gordon Novak, Hiep Nguyen, and William Schelter. Xgcl
is available by anonymous FTP from
and on the Web from
as the file xgcl-2.tgz. To use, put the xgcl-2.tgz file in the same
directory as gcl-1.1.tgz and uncompress it with
gzip -dc xgcl-2.tgz | tar xvf -
Then see the README in the directory xgcl-2. For more information,
write to Gordon Shaw Novak, Jr. <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
YYonX is a port of the YY system to X windows. Runs in Lucid CL, Allegro
CL, and Symbolics Genera. Supports kanjii. Developed at Aoyama Gakuin
University. Available free by anonymous ftp from
Written by Masayuki Ida <email@example.com>
Picasso is a CLOS based GUI, and is available from
It runs on DecStation 3100s, Sun3 (SunOs), Sun4 (Sparc), and Sequent
Symmetry in Allegro CL. The file pub/xcl.tar.Z contains X-Common Lisp
interface routines. Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for
more information. [Picasso is no longer an actively supported system.]
XIT (X User Interface Toolkit) is an object-oriented user interface
development environment for the X Window System based on Common Lisp,
CLOS, CLX, and CLUE. It has been developed by the Research Group
DRUID at the Department of Computer Science of the University of
Stuttgart (email@example.com) as a framework for
Common Lisp/CLOS applications with graphical user interfaces for the X
Window System. XIT contains user interface toolkits, including
general building blocks and mechanisms for building arbitrary user
interface elements and a set of predefined common elements (widgets),
as well as high-level interactive tools for constructing, inspecting,
and modifying user interfaces by means of direct manipulation.
Although the system kernel is quite stable, XIT is still under active
development. XIT can be obtained free by anonymous ftp from
Subject: [7-2] What Graphers/Browsers are available?
Most of the graphics toolkits listed above include graphers. In
particular, CLIM, LispWorks, Garnet, and Lispview all include
graphers. The ISI grapher used to be in fairly widely used, but the
CLIM grapher seems to be overtaking it in popularity.
A simple grapher like the one described in "Lisp Lore" by Bromeley and
Lamson is available by anonymous ftp from
as the file graphers.tar.Z.uu. It includes versions for CLX, Express
Windows, NCW, CLUE, CLM/GINA, Common Windows, LispView, Winterp, CLIM
and YY. Several implementations have a mouse sensitivity feature and
others have implementation-specific features. A copy has been made
available from the Lisp Utilities Repository. For further information,
contact Masayuki Ida <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Grasper-CL is a system for viewing and manipulating graph-structured
information. Grasper-CL includes procedures for graph construction,
modification, and queries as well as a menu-driven, interactive,
layout and drawing package (implemented using CLIM) that allows graphs
to be constructed, modified, and viewed through direct pictorial
manipulation. Grasper-CL nodes include simple geometric figures, such
as circles, rectangles, and diamonds, as well as user-defined icons.
Grasper-CL links include piecewise linear and arbitrarily curved
arrows between nodes. User-definable actions can be associated with
every graphical object. The Grasper-CL system consists of several
different components: a core procedure library for programmatically
manipulating the graph abstract datatype, a graph-display module for
producing drawings of graphs, a graph editor that allows users to
interactively draw and edit arbitrary graphs, and a suite of automatic
graph-layout algorithms. Grasper-CL is available under license from
SRI; contact email@example.com for licensing information. For
additional technical information see
P. D. Karp, J. D. Lowrance, T. M. Strat, and D. E. Wilkins, "The
Grasper-CL Graph Management System", LISP and Symbolic Computation: An
International Journal, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 7:251-290, 1994.
and the Grasper-CL home page,