OpenGL-Related Libraries

OpenGL provides a powerful but primitive set of rendering commands, and all higher-level drawing must be done in terms of these commands. Also, OpenGL programs have to use the underlying mechanisms of the windowing system. A number of libraries exist to allow you to simplify your programming tasks, including the following:

  • The OpenGL Utility Library (GLU) contains several routines that use lower-level OpenGL commands to perform such tasks as setting up matrices for specific viewing orientations and projections, performing polygon tessellation, and rendering surfaces. This library is provided as part of every OpenGL implementation. Portions of the GLU are described in the OpenGL Reference Manual. The more useful GLU routines are described in this guide, where they're relevant to the topic being discussed, such as in all of Chapter 11 and in the section "The GLU NURBS Interface" in Chapter 12. GLU routines use the prefix glu.
  • For every window system, there is a library that extends the functionality of that window system to support OpenGL rendering. For machines that use the X Window System, the OpenGL Extension to the X Window System (GLX) is provided as an adjunct to OpenGL. GLX routines use the prefix glX. For Microsoft Windows, the WGL routines provide the Windows to OpenGL interface. All WGL routines use the prefix wgl. For IBM OS/2, the PGL is the Presentation Manager to OpenGL interface, and its routines use the prefix pgl.

All these window system extension libraries are described in more detail in both Appendix C. In addition, the GLX routines are also described in the OpenGL Reference Manual.

  • The OpenGL Utility Toolkit (GLUT) is a window system-independent toolkit, written by Mark Kilgard, to hide the complexities of differing window system APIs. GLUT is the subject of the next section, and it's described in more detail in Mark Kilgard's book OpenGL Programming for the X Window System (ISBN 0-201-48359-9). GLUT routines use the prefix glut. "How to Obtain the Sample Code" in the Preface describes how to obtain the source code for GLUT, using ftp.
  • Open Inventor is an object-oriented toolkit based on OpenGL which provides objects and methods for creating interactive three-dimensional graphics applications. Open Inventor, which is written in C++, provides prebuilt objects and a built-in event model for user interaction, high-level application components for creating and editing three-dimensional scenes, and the ability to print objects and exchange data in other graphics formats. Open Inventor is separate from OpenGL.

Include Files

For all OpenGL applications, you want to include the gl.h header file in every file. Almost all OpenGL applications use GLU, the aforementioned OpenGL Utility Library, which requires inclusion of the glu.h header file. So almost every OpenGL source file begins with

#include <GL/gl.h>
#include <GL/glu.h>

If you are directly accessing a window interface library to support OpenGL, such as GLX, AGL, PGL, or WGL, you must include additional header files. For example, if you are calling GLX, you may need to add these lines to your code

#include <X11/Xlib.h>
#include <GL/glx.h>

If you are using GLUT for managing your window manager tasks, you should include

#include <GL/glut.h>

Note that glut.h includes gl.h, glu.h, and glx.h automatically, so including all three files is redundant. GLUT for Microsoft Windows includes the appropriate header file to access WGL.

GLUT, the OpenGL Utility Toolkit

As you know, OpenGL contains rendering commands but is designed to be independent of any window system or operating system. Consequently, it contains no commands for opening windows or reading events from the keyboard or mouse. Unfortunately, it's impossible to write a complete graphics program without at least opening a window, and most interesting programs require a bit of user input or other services from the operating system or window system. In many cases, complete programs make the most interesting examples, so this book uses GLUT to simplify opening windows, detecting input, and so on. If you have an implementation of OpenGL and GLUT on your system, the examples in this book should run without change when linked with them.

In addition, since OpenGL drawing commands are limited to those that generate simple geometric primitives (points, lines, and polygons), GLUT includes several routines that create more complicated three-dimensional objects such as a sphere, a torus, and a teapot. This way, snapshots of program output can be interesting to look at. (Note that the OpenGL Utility Library, GLU, also has quadrics routines that create some of the same three-dimensional objects as GLUT, such as a sphere, cylinder, or cone.)

GLUT may not be satisfactory for full-featured OpenGL applications, but you may find it a useful starting point for learning OpenGL. The rest of this section briefly describes a small subset of GLUT routines so that you can follow the programming examples in the rest of this book. (See Appendix D for more details about this subset of GLUT, or see Chapters 4 and 5 of OpenGL Programming for the X Window System for information about the rest of GLUT.)

Window Management

Five routines perform tasks necessary to initialize a window.

  • glutInit(int *argc, char **argv) initializes GLUT and processes any command line arguments (for X, this would be options like -display and -geometry). glutInit() should be called before any other GLUT routine.
  • glutInitDisplayMode(unsigned int mode) specifies whether to use an RGBA or color-index color model. You can also specify whether you want a single- or double-buffered window. (If you're working in color-index mode, you'll want to load certain colors into the color map; use glutSetColor() to do this.) Finally, you can use this routine to indicate that you want the window to have an associated depth, stencil, and/or accumulation buffer. For example, if you want a window with double buffering, the RGBA color model, and a depth buffer, you might call glutInitDisplayMode(GLUT_DOUBLE | GLUT_RGB | GLUT_DEPTH).
  • glutInitWindowPosition(int x, int y) specifies the screen location for the upper-left corner of your window.
  • glutInitWindowSize(int width, int size) specifies the size, in pixels, of your window.
  • int glutCreateWindow(char *string) creates a window with an OpenGL context. It returns a unique identifier for the new window. Be warned: Until glutMainLoop() is called (see next section), the window is not yet displayed.

The Display Callback

glutDisplayFunc(void (*func)(void)) is the first and most important event callback function you will see. Whenever GLUT determines the contents of the window need to be redisplayed, the callback function registered by glutDisplayFunc() is executed. Therefore, you should put all the routines you need to redraw the scene in the display callback function.

If your program changes the contents of the window, sometimes you will have to call glutPostRedisplay(void), which gives glutMainLoop() a nudge to call the registered display callback at its next opportunity.

Running the Program

The very last thing you must do is call glutMainLoop(void). All windows that have been created are now shown, and rendering to those windows is now effective. Event processing begins, and the registered display callback is triggered. Once this loop is entered, it is never exited!

Example 1-2 shows how you might use GLUT to create the simple program shown in Example 1-1. Note the restructuring of the code. To maximize efficiency, operations that need only be called once (setting the background color and coordinate system) are now in a procedure called init(). Operations to render (and possibly re-render) the scene are in the display() procedure, which is the registered GLUT display callback.

Example 1-2 : Simple OpenGL Program Using GLUT: hello.c

#include <GL/gl.h>
#include <GL/glut.h>
void display(void)
/*  clear all pixels  */
    glClear (GL_COLOR_BUFFER_BIT);
/*  draw white polygon (rectangle) with corners at
 *  (0.25, 0.25, 0.0) and (0.75, 0.75, 0.0) 
    glColor3f (1.0, 1.0, 1.0);
        glVertex3f (0.25, 0.25, 0.0);
        glVertex3f (0.75, 0.25, 0.0);
        glVertex3f (0.75, 0.75, 0.0);
        glVertex3f (0.25, 0.75, 0.0);
/*  don't wait! 
 *  start processing buffered OpenGL routines
    glFlush ();
void init (void) 
/*  select clearing (background) color       */
    glClearColor (0.0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0);
/*  initialize viewing values  */
    glOrtho(0.0, 1.0, 0.0, 1.0, -1.0, 1.0);
 *  Declare initial window size, position, and display mode
 *  (single buffer and RGBA).  Open window with "hello"
 *  in its title bar.  Call initialization routines.
 *  Register callback function to display graphics.
 *  Enter main loop and process events.
int main(int argc, char** argv)
    glutInit(&argc, argv);
    glutInitDisplayMode (GLUT_SINGLE | GLUT_RGB);
    glutInitWindowSize (250, 250);
    glutInitWindowPosition (100, 100);
    glutCreateWindow ("hello");
    init ();
    return 0;   /* ISO C requires main to return int. */

Handling Input Events

You can use these routines to register callback commands that are invoked when specified events occur.

  • glutReshapeFunc(void (*func)(int w, int h)) indicates what action should be taken when the window is resized.
  • glutKeyboardFunc(void (*func)(unsigned char key, int x, int y)) and glutMouseFunc(void (*func)(int button, int state, int x, int y)) allow you to link a keyboard key or a mouse button with a routine that's invoked when the key or mouse button is pressed or released.
  • glutMotionFunc(void (*func)(int x, int y)) registers a routine to call back when the mouse is moved while a mouse button is also pressed.

Managing a Background Process

You can specify a function that's to be executed if no other events are pending - for example, when the event loop would otherwise be idle - with glutIdleFunc(void (*func)(void)). This routine takes a pointer to the function as its only argument. Pass in NULL (zero) to disable the execution of the function.

Drawing Three-Dimensional Objects

GLUT includes several routines for drawing these three-dimensional objects:










You can draw these objects as wireframes or as solid shaded objects with surface normals defined. For example, the routines for a cube and a sphere are as follows:

void glutWireCube(GLdouble size);

void glutSolidCube(GLdouble size);

void glutWireSphere(GLdouble radius, GLint slices, GLint stacks);

void glutSolidSphere(GLdouble radius, GLint slices, GLint stacks);

All these models are drawn centered at the origin of the world coordinate system. (See for information on the prototypes of all these drawing routines.)