The Tkinter Cookbook

This post will help with small, basic questions you may have about how to do a specific thing in tkinter with python.

If you want an in-depth breakdown of creating useful apps with tkinter check out my free book - Tkinter by Example:

Get Tkinter By Example on Github

Creating a window

To show a window, create a Tk() object and call its mainloop method.

mainloop is blocking, so almost always will be the last line in your code.

win = tk.Tk()
# Create widgets here

Creating a widget inside a window

To add a widget into a window, simply instantiate the widget and pass the window as the first argument. Note that the Widget class in this example is not real. See following examples for actual widgets.

w = Widget(window, keyword="argument")

This first argument is often referred to as the "master" or "parent".

Displaying a widget

To display a widget inside its master, you need to assign it some space using a geometry manager.

There are three geometry managers to choose from: pack, grid and place. Place is rarely used, pack vs grid is personal preference. Pack

Common arguments to pack include side, fill and expand.

w.pack(side=tk.LEFT, fill=tk.X, expand=1)

side determines which side of the remaining space you wish to allocate your widget to, options include tk.LEFT, tk.RIGHT, tk.TOP and tk.BOTTOM.

fill determines which way to "stretch" out your widget. tk.X will stretch it horizontally and tk.Y vertically.

expand tells the geometry manager whether you want the widget to change size with the window. Options are True or False (or 1 and 0).


Common arguments to grid include row, column, rowspan, columnspan and sticky.

w.grid(row=1, column=2, rowspan=2, columnspan=3, sticky="nsew")

row and column define which cell to place the widget into``.

rowspan and columnspan determine how many rows or columns the widget should occupy.

sticky allows you to choose which sides of the cell the widget should stick to. It defaults to none, so the widget stays in the center of its cell. Arguments are variations of n,s,e,w (north, south, east, west) eg "ew" will stick horizontally and "ns" vertically.


Common arguments to place are x, y, relx and rely, y=12), rely=0.5)

x and y are the coordinates you wish to place the widget at.

relx and rely are relative coordinates to the master. 0.5 for both would be the center, as in the example above. Choosing a widget

The widget you need depends on what you are trying to add to your window. Here are all of the widgets:

I want to

Show some text

In order to show text, create a Label widget and pass in the text to display as the "text" argument.

label = tk.Label(master, text="hello")

Collect user input (text)

To allow the user to enter text, you can use either an Entry or a Text widget. An Entry will collect a single line of text, whereas a Text can collect multiple lines.

entry = tk.Entry(master)
text = tk.Text(master)

Collect user input (number)

To collect a number from the user, use a Spinbox widget. This widget also has arrows to allow the user to increment or decrement the number by clicking.

spinbox = tk.Spinbox(master)

Add a button

To add a button, use a Button widget. The text on the button is set with the "text" argument, and the function to run when the button is pressed is passed via the "command" argument.

Do not put the parentheses after the function passed to "command" as this will call the function and bind the result instead of binding the function itself.

submit_button = tk.Button(master, text="submit", command=submit_answer)

Add a checkbox

A checkbox can be created using the Checkbutton widget.

The text displayed by the Checkbutton can be passed with the "text" argument.

show_line_numbers = tk.Checkbutton(master, text="Show line numbers?")

Letting the user make a choice

Add radio buttons

A radiobutton can be created using the Radiobutton widget. The chosen value is stored in a tkinter variable (see tkinter variables)

Radiobuttons are very similar to Checkbuttons in terms of arguments.

choice = tk.IntVar(master)
one_box = tk.Radiobutton(master, text="one box", value=1, variable=choice)
two_boxes = tk.Radiobutton(master, text="two boxes", value=2, variable=choice)
three_boxes = tk.Radiobutton(master, text="three boxes", value=3, variable=choice)

Add a list box

A Listbox widget is sort of like an expanded dropdown. The user can select one or more choices depending on configuration

choices = ("small", "medium", "large")
choice_display = tk.Listbox(master, selectmode=tk.SINGLE)
choices.insert(tk.END, *choices)

Add a dropdown menu

The OptionMenu widget functions like a dropdown box.

Unlike a Listbox you can only select one item at a time

The OptionMenu widget requires a tkinter variable (see tkinter variables)

choices = ("small", "medium", "large")
var = tk.StringVar(master)
choice_display = tk.OptionMenu(master, var, *choices)

Group some widgets

To group widgets, create a Frame widget and use it as the widgets' master. This allows for greater control with the pack geometry manager and allows you to set the background colour of certain sections of your application (with the bg argument).

left_frame = tk.Frame(master, bg="red")
button = tk.Button(left_frame, text="hello", command=say_hello)

Using variables in widgets

Types of tkinter variables

There are four variables in tkinter - BooleanVar, DoubleVar, IntVar and StringVar. Create one like so:

bv = tk.BooleanVar(master)
dv = tk.DoubleVar(master)
iv = tk.IntVar(master)
sv = tk.StringVar(master)

Setting the value manually

set the value using the set method.

sv = tk.StringVar(master)

Getting the value

get the value using the get method.

hello_text = sv.get()

Attaching variables to widgets

I want to use a variable with a


You can attach a StringVar to a Label using the textvar argument.

Attaching a StringVar to a Label allows you to dynamically update the text displayed by the Label each time you call set().

sv = tk.StringVar(master)
label = tk.Label(master, textvar=sv)


You can attach a StringVar to an Entry using the textvar argument.

The value of the StringVar will update when the user types into the Entry.

sv = tk.StringVar(master)
entry = tk.Entry(master, textvar=sv)


You can attach a variable to a Checkbutton using the variable argument.

The value of the variable defaults to 1 when checked and 0 when not. You can change this by passing the onvalue and offvalue arguments.

iv = tk.IntVar(master)
chk = tk.Checkbox(master, text="display line numbers", variable=iv)


sv = tk.StringVar()
chk = tk.Checkbox(master, text="go north?", variable=sv, onvalue="yes", offvalue="no")


You can attach a variable to a Spinbox using the textvar argument.

This is the way to set a default value to a Spinbox too.

iv = tk.IntVar(master)
spin = tk.Spinbox(master, text="display line numbers", textvar=iv)

Radiobutton and OptionMenu

See radio buttons and dropdown menu widget recipes.

Changing Window Attributes

Changing the window's titlebar text

To change the text in the titlebar of your application, use the title method.

window.title("My Text Editor")

Changing the window's size

To change the size, use the geometry method. Pass in a string formatted as "widthxheight". You don't need to use the format method here, but it could increase readability.

width = 200
height = 100
geometry_string = "{}x{}".format(width, height)

Changing the window's position

To change the position, use the geometry method once again. Pass in a string formatted as "widthxheight+x+y".

width = 200
height = 100
x_pos = 300
y_pos = 400
geometry_string = "{}x{}+{}+{}".format(width, height, x_pos, y_pos)

Prevent Resizing

You can allow or prevent resizing with resizable.

window.resizable(False, False)  # Not resizable
window.resizable(True, False)   # cannot resize in Y direction
window.resizable(False, True)   # cannot resize in X direction

Minimum and maximum size

You can force a minumum and maximum size with minsize and maxsize.

window.minsize(width=200, height=400)
window.maxsize(width=600, height=1200)

Adding a Top Menu

Creating the Menu Bar

To add a menu bar to your application, first you need to create a Menu widget. You then assign this to your window's menu attribute. This will add a blank menu bar to the top of your window.

menubar = tk.Menu(window)

Adding Menu Buttons

In order to add single menu items, use add_command. The text displayed on the item is passed in via the label argument, and the function to run by the command argument.

def say_hi():

menubar.add_command(label="greet me", command=say_hi)

Adding Sub-Menus

To add a sub-menu (like the "file" or "edit" menus you may be used to) create another instance of a Menu widget and pass it to the add_cascade method of your main menu bar. The label argument will be the text displayed, and the menu argument will be the sub-menu to add. By default, the sub-menu can be pulled off of the main menu bar. To prevent this, use tearoff=0.

file_menu = tk.Menu(window, tearoff=0)
file_menu.add_command(label="open", command=open)
file_menu.add_command(label="save", command=save)

menubar.add_cascade(label="File", menu=file_menu)

Adding a Checkbutton or Radiobutton in a Menu

You can add Checkbutton and Radiobutton widgets into menus with add_checkbutton and add_radiobutton.

show_line_nums = IntVar(window)
file_menu.add_checkbutton(label="Show Line Numbers", variable=show_line_nums)


text_colour = StringVar(window)
file_menu.add_radiobutton(label="black text", variable=text_colour, value="black")
file_menu.add_radiobutton(label="white text", variable=text_colour, value="white")
file_menu.add_radiobutton(label="grey text", variable=text_colour, value="grey")

Adding a Separator

You can add a space between menu items with add_separator().


Dynamic Content

Swapping the contents of a window

To easily swap the contents of a window, for example if emulating a paged interface, create each "page" inside a separate Frame. Then, use frame.pack_forget() or frame.grid_forget() (depending on your choice of geometry manager) to un-display the first frame. Follow up by using pack or grid to display the next.

def show_page_two():

def show_page_one():

page_one = tk.Frame(master)
button_one = tk.Button(page_one, text="page two", command=show_page_two)
label_one = tk.Label(page_one, text="on page one")

page_two = tk.Frame(master)
button_two = tk.Button(page_two, text="page one", command=show_page_one)
label_two = tk.Label(page_two, text="on page two")
# don't pack page_two

Creating a second window

If you need another window, use a Toplevel widget. This can be built up in the same way as a normal Tk or Frame widget. A Toplevel displays upon creation, so typically I will subclass it (e.g. class MySubclass(tk.Toplevel):), create its child widgets within __init__, then display it by calling MySubclass(master).

popup = tk.Toplevel(master)
label = tk.Label(popup, text="look at this popup window!")

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