TADS 2 is the older generation of TADS, but it's still very much alive. TADS 2 is a software development environment specially designed for creating Interactive Fiction. It features a high-level, object-oriented language, and a ready-to-use library of classes providing the basic building blocks of an adventure game world.
Note that TADS 2 and TADS 3 use similar-looking languages, and a lot of the basic knowledge needed to use one system applies equally well to the other. However, the two systems are quite different and aren't compatible at a source-code level. It's not possible to directly port a project from one version to the other - once you've started a project, you'll want to stick with your chosen version throughout that project. If you're a TADS 2 user and you're thinking about switching to TADS 3, the time to switch is when you're starting a new project.
IF Archive note: Major releases of TADS 2 for most systems
are also available on the IF Archive.
programming/tads2/executables directory for a list of available
files. The versions below might be more recent in some cases.
HTML TADS Player Kit.
The full HTML TADS interpreter, which can play TADS 2 and TADS
3 games and features full multimedia support.
[Version 3.1.3/2.5.17; May 16, 2013; 2.0 MB download, 5.1 MB installed]
TADS 2 Author's Kit with documentation.
The complete Workbench development environment, plus the
command-line tools. The manuals are included. This kit is packaged
as an automatic Windows installer for easy setup: just download and run
this file to install.
[Version 2.5.17; May 16, 2013; 6.8 MB download, 16 MB installed]
TADS 2 Author's Kit (no documentation).
The same Author's Kit as above, except that the manuals are
omitted to reduce the download size and install footprint. Links
to the online versions of the manuals are included, so you can still
view them through the Workbench doc viewer or a Web browser.
[Version 2.5.17; May 16, 2013; 5.6 MB download, 12 MB installed]
Macintosh: On Mac OS X, you have several
great options. For full Multimedia TADS support, you can
choose from CocoaTADS (download) or QTads. If you prefer the
old-school text-only terminal window style, there's FrobTADS.
There are also a couple of multi-system interpreters with TADS
and Zoom. Be
aware that Spatterlight and Zoom are text-only, though.
If you're running Mac OS 9 and
earlier, have a look at HyperTADS, a full Multimedia
interpreter for Mac OS 9; it's a little out of date as of this
writing, but it should play most TADS 2 games correctly.
Linux: For full Multimedia TADS support, use
QTads. If you prefer the
text-only style in a terminal window, there's FrobTADS. FrobTADS also includes the full
compiler package if you want to write your own TADS games.
MS-DOS: There are several packages for MS-DOS users.
If your computer has a 286 or later CPU, you can use the "protected
mode" version, which gives you access to memory installed in your
system beyond the DOS 640k limit. PCs with the original 8088 or 8086
CPU can't run in protected mode, and some older 286-based machines
have problems doing so. If you can't run the protected-mode version,
there's a standard DOS version available; this limits you to the
standard DOS 640k, but only a very few TADS 2 games are so large that
this is a problem.
Download from the
platforms: QTads is
a full Multimedia TADS interpreter that's portable to
most Unix GUI systems. If you want to run in a terminal window
(or with an actual character-mode terminal),
FrobTADS is portable to most Unix systems.
AmigaOS on PPC:
is available for AmigaOS on PPC.
FrobTADS is the version to use for
If you don't see your system listed above, check the Archive; executables for several other platforms are available and are easy to find in the Archive. Here are some more specific notes on how to pick a version for your system:
- TADS has been ported to many different computers, including MS-DOS, Windows (95, 98, ME, NT, 2000), Macintosh, Amiga, BeOS, Psion, and many versions of Unix. You'll only need to download the version for the type of computer you're using.
- For some types of computers, TADS is distributed in two main package types: one for people who want to write their own games, and another for people who want only to play TADS games written by others. The play-only version leaves out the authoring tools, so it's smaller and quicker to download. If there's only one package for your computer, it probably includes all of the programs for both the authoring and playing.
- For Windows, Macintosh, and Linux/Unix, you'll find the traditional text-only version as well as a multimedia version, also known as HTML TADS or HyperTADS. The multimedia versions are upwardly compatible with the text versions, but provide additional capabilities for displaying graphics, playing sounds and music, and controlling text formatting with fonts, colors, sizes, styles, alignment, and other effects. The multimedia versions are "universal" - in other words, they're compatible with all TADS games, whether written with multimedia extensions or not - so there's no need to download the text-only version when a multimedia version is available, unless you just prefer the look-and-feel of the text version and prefer to use it for games that don't have any graphics.
Manuals: You can view and search the official TADS 2 manuals on-line on our TADS 2 Bookshelf page.
The TADS Author's Manual is the official documentation for TADS. You can download this from the IF-Archive's programming/tads2/manuals directory. The manual is available in several formats, including PDF, Tex, and HTML. You might also want to pick up the TADS Parser Manual, which is a supplement that completely overhauls the sections in the Author's Manual that cover the player command parser, bringing it up to date with the latest parser features and presenting the material in a more organized fashion.
TADS Tutorial: Mark Engelberg's TADS Tutorial is an excellent way to get started with TADS. The Tutorial leads you through the process of creating a game, including all of the nuts-and-bolts details like setting up a text editor and running the compiler, and gives you a series of "lab assignments" so that you can apply what you learn in each chapter immediately. The Tutorial is aimed at DOS/Windows users, but that's only important in a few places. Note that the files are in Microsoft Word (".doc") format, so you'll need Word or a Word-compatible file viewer.
Examples: Authors might also find it helpful to see some example source code. You can find a great deal of sample code in the programming/tads2/examples directory at the IF-Archive. You can also find the complete source code to a few dozen games - some quite substantial - in the games/source/tads directory.
Bibliographic Metadata: TADS has a way to embed bibliographic information in a compiled game - things like the game's title, author, promotional blurb, date of release, and so on. The idea is that archivists and others can extract the biblio data automatically, for purposes such as building a catalog or displaying a game's description in a game browser. Details and instructions.
Old change logs: TADS 2 releases traditionally include a history of recent changes, in chronological order from most recent to oldest. Every so often, to keep the size of this file manageable, we truncated the old entries before a certain point in time. For historical reference, the truncated older sections are available here:
- tadsv240.txt - versions 2.2.3 through 2.4.0
- tadsv222.dos - versions 2.1.1 through 2.2.2
- tadsv200 - versions 2.0 through 2.1.0
The IF-Archive has a large collection of freeware and shareware games for downloading. You can find the TADS games in the games/tads folder.
In addition, some of the most acclaimed TADS games were originally entries in the annual IF Competition. These games can be found in the competition directories at the IF-Archive:
The competition directories from 1997 onward are organized by system type on the IF-Archive. For '95 and '96, you'll have to read the game descriptions to find out which games were written with TADS.
If the sheer number of games available through the links above is too overwhelming, you might find some of the review sites listed in our links page helpful in sorting things out.
See the TADS 2 Sources and Patches page for TADS and HTML TADS source code. That page sometimes also includes pre-release updates (known as patches), for times when serious bugs have been found and we want to make fixes available immediately without waiting for a full release.
If you're looking for TADS 3, which is a newer generation of the system with many improvements, visit our TADS 3 page.
TADS is freeware, which means that you can download it and use it without charge. The TADS software is copyrighted (it's not in the public domain), and there are a few restrictions on what you can do with it, but there there is no cost for using TADS and there are no restrictions on what you can do with games you create with it - you are free to give your games away for free, distribute them as shareware, sell them through commercial publishers, hide them in the bottom of a drawer, or anything else you can think of.
Each download package includes a license text file with full details.