Tcl Scripting HOWTO


NOTA BENE: This documentation is badly out of date for 2.x.

The libpurple Tcl interface provides a Tcl API for many useful libpurple functions. Like the perl API, the Tcl API does not provide access to every corner of libpurple exposed by the C interface. It does, however, provide a very powerful interface to many of libpurple's functions through a simple to learn and extend scripting language.

If you are not familiar with Tcl, you will probably find it somewhat different from what you are used to. Despite being somewhat unique (more akin to shell programming than other traditional scripting languages such as perl or python), it is simple to learn for beginners and experienced programmers alike. There are numerous books on the subject; we will not discuss it any further here.

Getting Started

The only requirement placed on a purple Tcl script by libpurple is the existence of a procedure called plugin_init. This procedure has some limitations placed upon it; it will be parsed and evaluated before the rest of the Tcl script, so it cannot reference any other variables or procedures declared in the script. In practice this is not a problem, as the only thing this procedure should do is return a simple list containing five items: the name of the script, its version number, a summary (just a few words) of its function, a short (longer than the summary, but no more than a couple of sentences if possible) description, the author, and a URL to web page. For example:

proc plugin_init { } {
return [ list "Example Plugin" \
"1.0" \
"Example plugin registration" \
"Example of how to register a plugin for the Tcl HOWTO" \
"Ethan Blanton <>" \
"" ]

The rest of the script will generally be registration to recieve notification of various purple (or Pidgin, or finch, or ...) signals (more about this below) and definitions of procedures to be executed when those signals occur.

Interpreter Details

libpurple initializes and drives the Tcl event loop (similar to Tk), meaning that commands like fileevent and after are available and do not require vwait etc. The vwait actually seems to be somewhat broken due to a bug somewhere in the Tcl/Glib event loop glue, and it should not be used for now.

The purple-specific functions are provided in a statically-linked package called purple; this means that if you spawn a child interpreter and wish to use the purple-specific functions, you will need to execute load {} purple in that interpreter.

purple Internal Procedures and Variables

All of the information provided for your use by purple will be in the ::purple namespace. This means that in order to access it you will either have to import the purple namespace (e.g. via the command namespace import purple::*) or reference it explicitly. The following descriptions will reference it explicitly for clarity.

  • Variables

This contains the version of the libpurple library which loaded the script.

  • Commands
purple::account alias account
purple::account connect account
purple::account connection account
purple::account disconnect account
purple::account find username protocol
purple::account handle
purple::account isconnected account
purple::account list ?option?
purple::account protocol account
purple::account username account

The purple::account command consists of a set of subcommands pertaining to purple accounts.

alias returns the alias for the account account. If there is no alias for the given account, it returns the empty string.

The subcommand connect connects the named account if it is not connected, and does nothing if it is. In either case, it returns the gc for the account.

connection returns the gc of the given account if it is connected, or 0 if it is not. This gc is the gc used by purple::connection and other functions.

disconnect disconnects the given account if it is connected, or does nothing if it is.

find finds an account by its username and protocol (as returned by purple::account username and purple::account protocol) and returns the account if found, or 0 otherwise.

handle returns the instance handle required to connect to account signals. (See purple::signal connect).

The isconnected query returns true if the given account is connected and false otherwise.

The list subcommand returns a list of all of the accounts known to libpurple. The elements of this lists are accounts appropriate for the account argument of the other subcommands. The -all option (default) returns all accounts, while the -online option returns only those accounts which are online.

The protocol subcommand returns the protocol ID (e.g. "prpl-msn") for the given account.

The username subcommand returns the username for the account account.

purple::buddy alias buddy
purple::buddy handle
purple::buddy info ( buddy | account username )
purple::buddy list

purple::buddy is a set of commands for retrieving information about buddies and manipulating the buddy list. For the purposes of Tcl, a "buddy" is currently a list of several elements, the first of which being the type. The currently recognized types are "group", "buddy", and "chat". A group node looks like:

{ group name { buddies } }

A buddy node is:

{ buddy name account }

And a chat node is:

{ chat alias account }

The alias subcommand returns the alias for the given buddy if it exists, or the empty string if it does not.

handle returns the blist handle for the purposes of connecting signals to buddy list events. (See purple::signal connect).

info causes the purple-using UI to display the info dialog for the given buddy. Since it is possible to request user info for a buddy not in your buddy list, you may also specify a buddy by his or her username and the account through which you wish to retrieve info.

list returns a list of group structures, filled out with buddies and chats as described above.

purple::connection account gc
purple::connection displayname gc
purple::connection handle
purple::connection list
purple::connection state

purple::connection is a collection of subcommands pertaining to account connections.

account returns the purple account associated with gc. This account is the same account used by purple::account and other commands.

displayname returns the display name (duh) of gc as reported by purple_connection_get_display_name(gc).

handle returns the purple connections instance handle. (See purple::signal connect).

list returns a list of all known connections. The elements of this list are appropriate as gc arguments to the other purple::connection subcommands or other commands requiring a gc.

state returns the PurpleConnectionState of this account as one of the strings "connected", "disconnected", or "connecting".

purple::conv_send account who text

purple::conv is simply a convenience wrapper for purple::send_im and purple::conversation write. It sends the IM, determines the from and to arguments for purple::conversation write, and prints the text sent to the conversation as one would expect. For the curious, you may view the source for it by typing info body purple::conv_send at a Purple Commander prompt.

Note that an error in either purple::send_im or purple::conversation write will not be caught by this procedure, and will be propagated to the caller.

purple::conversation find ?-account account? name
purple::conversation handle
purple::conversation list
purple::conversation new ?-chat? ?-im? account name
purple::conversation write conversation style from to text

purple::conversation provides an API for dealing with conversations. Given that libpurple clients are instant messenger programs, you'll probably spend a lot of time here.

The command find attempts to find an existing conversation with username name. If the -account option is given, it refines its search to include only conversations on that account.

handle returns the conversations instance handle for the purposes of signal connection. (See purple::signal connect).

list returns a list of all currently open conversations.

The new subcommand can be used to create a new conversation with a specified user on a specified account if one does not exist, or retrieve the existing conversation if it does. The -chat and -im options specify whether the created conversation should be a chat or a standard IM, respectively.

write is used to write to the specified conversation. The style argument specifies how the text should be printed – as text coming from the purple user (style send), being sent to the purple user (style recv), or as a system message (such as "so-and-so has signed off", style system). From is the name to whom the text should be attributed – you probably want to check for aliases here, lest you confuse the user. text is the text to print.

purple::core handle
purple::core quit

This command exposes functionality provided by the purple core API.

purple::core handle returns a handle to the purple core for signal connection. (See purple::signal connect).

quit exits the libpurple client cleanly, and should be used in preference to the tcl exit command. (Note that exit has not been removed, however.)

purple::debug level category message

Equivalent to the C purple_debug function, this command outputs debugging information to the libpurple UI's debug window (or, typically, stdout if that UI is invoked with -d|–debug). The valid levels are, in increasing level of severity, -misc, -info, -warning, and, or -error. category is a short (a few characters ... for instance, "tcl" or "tcl plugin") "topic" type name for this message, and message is the text of the message. In the style of Tcl puts (and differing from purple_debug), no trailing \n is required. (However, embedded newlines may be generated with \n).

purple::notify ?type? title primary secondary

Also a direct equivalent to a C function, purple_notify, this command causes libpurple to present the provided notification information to the user via some appropriate UI method. The type argument, if present, must be one of -error, -warning, or -info. The following three arguments' absolute meanings may vary with the purple UI being used, but title should generally be the title of the window, and primary and secondary text within that window; in the Pidgin UI, primary is slightly larger than secondary and displayed in a boldface font.

purple::send_im gc who text

This sends an IM in the fashion of serv_send_im. gc is the GC of the connection on which you wish to send (as returned by most event handlers), who is the nick of the buddy to which you wish to send, and text is the text of the message.

purple::signal connect instance signal args proc
purple::signal disconnect instance signal

purple::signal is a set of subcommands for dealing with purple signals.

The connect subcommand registers the procedure proc as a handler for the signal signal on the instance instance. instance should be an instance handle as returned by one of the handle commands from the various parts of libpurple. args and @ proc are as in the Tcl proc command; note that the number of arguments in args must match the number of arguments emitted by the signal exactly, although you need not use them all. The procedure proc may be either a simple command or a procedure in curly brackets. Note that only one procedure may be associated with each signal; an attempt to connect a second procedure to the same signal will remove the existing binding and replace it with the new procedure. purple::signal connect returns 0 on success and 1 on failure.

disconnect removes any existing signal handler for the named signal and instance.


This unloads the current plugin. Note that preferences will not be updated (yet).


Check the signals documentation for the meaning of these signals; this is intended to be a list only of their arguments. Signal callbacks will be made in their own namespace, and arguments to those signal callbacks will live in the namespace event underneath that namespace. To briefly illustrate, the signal receiving-im-msg is provided with three arguments; the account on which the IM was received, the name of the buddy sending the IM, and the text of the IM. These arguments live in the variables event::account, event::sender, and event::buffer, respectively. Therefore a callback which notifies the user of an incoming IM containing the word 'shizzle' might look like this:

purple::signal connect [purple::conversation handle] receiving-im-msg {
if {[ string match "*shizzle*" $event::buffer ]} {
purple::notify -info "tcl plugin" "Fo' shizzle" \
"$event::sender is down with the shizzle"

Note that for some signals (notably receiving-im-msg, sending-im-msg, and their chat counterparts), changes to the event arguments will change the message itself from libpurple's vantage. For those signals whose return value is meaningful, returning a value from the Tcl event will return that value as it would in C.

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