OpenGL Loading Library

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Revision as of 21:13, 5 September 2011 by Zyx 2000 (talk | contribs) (→‎GL3W: Changed variable names in example)
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An Extension Loading Library is a library that loads pointers to OpenGL functions at runtime, core as well as extensions. This is required to access functions from OpenGL versions above 1.1 on most platforms. Extension loading libraries also abstracts away the difference between the loading mechanisms on different platforms.

Most extension loading libraries override the need to include gl.h at all. Instead, they provide their own header that must be used. Most extension loading libraries use code generation to construct the code that loads the function pointers and the included headers.


The OpenGL Extension Wrangler library provides access to all GL entrypoints. It supports Windows, MacOS X, Linux, and FreeBSD.

GLEW's problem is that it calls glGetString(GL_EXTENSIONS) which causes GL_INVALID_ENUM on GL 3.2 forward compatible context as soon as glewInit() is called. It also doesn't fetch the function pointers. The solution is for GLEW to use glGetStringi instead. The current version of GLEW is 1.6.0 but they still haven't corrected it. The only fix is to use glewExperimental for now :

  GLenum err=glewInit();
    //Problem: glewInit failed, something is seriously wrong.
    cout<<"glewInit failed, aborting."<<endl;

You might still get GL_INVALID_ENUM (depending on the version of GLEW you use), but at least GLEW ignores glGetString(GL_EXTENSIONS) and gets all function pointers.

If you are creating a GL context the old way or if you are creating a backward compatible context for GL 3.2+, then you don't need glewExperimental.


Currently seems defunct. Hasn't been updated in a while.


The GL3W library focuses on the core profile of OpenGL 3 and 4. It only loads the core entrypoints for these OpenGL versions (and the extensions, of course). It supports Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD.

GL3W relies on Python 2.6 for its code generation. Unlike other extension loaders, GL3W actually does the code generation on your machine. This is based on downloading and parsing the gl3.h file from the OpenGL Registry website.

On the one hand, this means that it is always up-to-date, more or less. On the other hand, this also makes it beholden to the format of gl3.h (which has no true format), as well as requiring that the user of GL3W have a Python 2.6 installation.

GL3W is used like this

//****Create a GL 3.x or GL 4.x core context
//****Make the context current (for example, on Windows you need to call wglMakeCurrent())
//****Now let's have GL3W get the GL function pointers
GLint GLMajorVer, GLMinorVer;
  cout<<"GL3W failed to get GL function pointers."<<endl;
glGetIntegerv(GL_MAJOR_VERSION, &GLMajorVer);
glGetIntegerv(GL_MINOR_VERSION, &GLMinorVer);