Related toolkits and APIs

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Revision as of 12:36, 14 August 2014 by Cgcostume (talk | contribs) (move GLAUX to bottom of image loading libraries (due to strongly discouraged usage))
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Beginner frameworks

One-shot downloads that contain multiple tools, so as to make it easier for the user to get started with OpenGL.

Unofficial OpenGL SDK
A collection of several cross-platform libraries, using a common build system to simplify OpenGL development. It distributes several easy-to-use libraries for GL initialization. It also has a library for OpenGL loading, image loading, and more.
Graphics And Physics Framework
German OpenGL based graphics And physics framework.

OpenGL initialization

Creating an OpenGL context usually requires writing platform-specific code to create a window. It also requires loading OpenGL functions manually from that context. These tools simplify these tasks greatly, in most cases providing cross-platform solutions.

Context/Window Toolkits

The creation of a window to render stuff in is not covered in the OpenGL specification. This is handled by platform-specific APIs. These APIs have been abstracted in many toolkits.

These toolkits are designed specifically around creating and managing OpenGL windows. They also manage input, but little beyond that.

A crossplatform windowing and keyboard/mouse handler. Its API is a superset of the GLUT API, and it is more stable and up to date than GLUT. It supports creating a core OpenGL context.
A crossplatform windowing and keyboard/mouse/joystick handler. Is more aimed for creating games. Supports Windows, Mac OS X and *nix systems. Supports creating a core OpenGL context.
Very old, do not use.

Several "multimedia libraries" can create OpenGL windows, in addition to input, sound and other tasks useful for game-like applications.

Allegro version 5
A cross-platform multimedia library with a C API focused on game development. Supports core OpenGL context creation.
A cross-platform multimedia library with a C API. Supports creating a core OpenGL context.
A cross-platform multimedia library with a C++ API. Supports creating a core OpenGL context.

Many widget toolkits have the ability to create OpenGL windows, but their primary focus is on being widget toolkits.

A small C-based widget library.
A C++ toolkit which abstracts the Linux, MacOS X and Windows away. It provides a number of OpenGL helper objects, which even abstract away the difference between desktop GL and OpenGL ES.
A C++ cross-platform widget toolkit.

OpenGL loading libraries

OpenGL loading libraries handle the loading of OpenGL functions.

An OpenGL loading library for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD, Irix, and Solaris.
An OpenGL loading library, focusing on OpenGL3/4 Core context loading for Windows, Linux and FreeBSD.
OpenGL Loader Generator
A tool for generating OpenGL loaders that include the exact version/extensions you want, and only them.


There are many utilities that, while they don't rely on OpenGL very much, are useful in making OpenGL applications.

Image and Texture Libraries

  • DevIL: DevIL stands for Developers Image Library. It supports many image formats for reading and writing, it supports several compilers and OS (Win, Linux, Mac OSX). The library has a OpenGL-like syntax. It has not been updated recently.
  • FreeImage: FreeImage is an cross-platform image-loading library, with very wide support for image formats (including some HDR formats like OpenEXR).
  • SOIL: SOIL ( Simple OpenGL Image Loader ) is a public-domain cross-platform image loader that's extremely small.
  • GLI: GLI( OpenGL Image ) is a small cross-platform C++ image library able to load DDS textures (DDS9 and DDS10), compressed or uncompressed. It is licensed under the MIT license.
  • glraw: glraw provides a command-line tool that converts image files into raw files, directly containing plain OpenGL texture data (also allows for customizable file header). Thus, it allows for fast texture loading. It is licensed under the MIT license.
  • GLAUX : this is a very old library that should not be used anymore. Most people who encounter GLAUX are people who see the NeHe tutorials which haven't been updated in years. NeHe uses auxDIBImageLoad() in order to read BMP files. GLAUX is no longer available.

Math Libraries

  • GLM: GLM ( OpenGL Mathematics ) is a cross-platform C++ mathematics library designed to match the GLSL math functions. It also provides vectors and matrices classes and functions to replace the deprecated OpenGL functions and many more features from half-precision floating point or quaternions. It is licensed under the MIT license.
  • TVMet: The Tiny Vector Matrix library using Expression Templates. This math library is focused on performance via the use of expression template metaprogramming techniques and lazy evaluation. It is licensed under a modified from of the GNU LGPL license. The license modification specifically allows static linking without having the entire program be subject to LGPL. The library has not been updated since 2007.

3D File Libraries

  • Open Asset Import: The Open Asset Import Library can read a variety of 3D file formats such as COLLADA (often .dae), Blender3D native files (.blend), 3DS (.3ds), Wavefront Obj (.obj), and many more.
  • lib3ds: The lib3ds library is for reading 3ds files.

Toolkits that are Layered on top of OpenGL

Many programming interfaces are layered on top of OpenGL, providing rich and varied functionality. Not all can interoperate.

Scene Graphs Graphics Engines Game Engines/Toolkits
This scene graph works on all Windows platforms, OSX, GNU/Linux, iOS, Android and IRIX.
Open Scene Graph
This scene graph works on all Windows platforms, OSX, GNU/Linux, IRIX, Solaris and FreeBSD.
It's a scene graph which works on IRIX, Windows and Linux.
Open Inventor - by VSG
Object-oriented scene graph API. Commercial implementation. Supports Windows, Linux, OSX.
Crystal Space
A cross platform C++ toolkit library with a BSD style license. Essentially the library offers a series of different functionality under a streamlined API.
Game engine based on Open Scene Graph and ODE.
A C++ 3D game engine with Python bindings.


A crossplatform framework for the development and deployment of parallel OpenGL applications for large scale graphics clusters and multi-GPU workstations.
An open-source cross-platform framework using OpenGL.
An open-source header-only library which implements a thin object-oriented facade over the OpenGL (version 3 and higher) C-language API. It provides wrappers which automate resource management and make the use of OpenGL in C++ safer and easier.

Sound or Audio Libraries

OpenAL stands for Open Audio Library. It is maintained by people at Creative and nVidia and users. Multi OS support (Win, Linux, Mac OSX). The library has a OpenGL like syntax so it is easy to use. Closed source and open source portions. Access to special SoundBlaster features through extensions.
OpenAL Soft
OpenAL Software Renderer.
OpenAL Audio Framework
OpenAL based Audio Framework.