You need to install an environment on your hardware where you can compile and
run OpenGL programs. OpenGL is supported on most modern operating systems, but
how to compile and link programs varies greatly. The description below assumes
that you already have a compilation environment set up.
Before asking for help, look at the
to localize the problem rather than asking a meaningless question like
It doesn't work.
OpenGL support is very easy to enable on current Linux distributions. For
distributions derived from RedHat Linux, the libraries and header files are
installed using the command
yum install freeglut-devel
Since GLUT depends on OpenGL and a number of other libraries, installing GLUT
will trigger the dependencies needed to install everything else. For
distributions derived from Debian such as Ubuntu, the installation command is
apt-get install freeglut3-dev
To compile and link your program on Ubuntu based distros you need to
explicitly grab every library using
gcc -o foo foo.c -lglut -lGLU -lGL -lm
I recommend that you use this full version even if not required on your system.
Older distributions may put the files in /usr/X11R6, in which case you need to
add -I and -L flags to pick up the header files and libraries.
Once installed, run the glxinfo program and look for direct rendering in the
output. If the result is YES, then hardware support for OpenGL is working. If
it is NO, some things are done in software and you may take a performance hit.
Depending on your hardware, you may want to work on your X server.
Specifically, the nVidia and AMD/ATI web sites contains updated drivers that
result in improved performance over the stock Xorg drivers. On Ubuntu using the
Additional Drivers integrates the vendor drivers with the Ubuntu kernels, which is
the recommended procedure to void manual updates when the kernel is upgraded.
The compiz window manager (which is an OpenGL window manager) makes applications
which use glutIdleFunc() run jerky unless you enable VSync. This seems to be an
issue especially with newer Ubuntu installs.
The OS/X Darwin environment is based on OpenGL. Therefore any compilation
environment for OS/X should already support compiling OpenGL programs.
To compile and link your program using the Apple SDK requires
gcc -o foo foo.c -framework GLUT -framework OpenGL
Note that under OS/X, the GLUT header files are in the subdirectory GLUT rather than
the GL subdirectory. The following code works on OSX and Linux
On recent versions of OSX, you will get many warnings indicating that GLUT is
deprecated. You can suppress these spurious warnings using the compiler flag
Various Windows versions support OpenGL natively, but graphics card
manufacturers often replace the native Windows OpenGL libraries with their own
libraries that support specific features of their hardware.
Since most Windows environments do not contain a native compilation suite,
installing the necessary header files and libraries differs depending on the
compiler used. You may also need to install
If you don't have a compiliation environment on Windows, the path of least resistance
is to install MinGW which provides the gcc and g++ compilers for Windows.
Download and install
Accept the default install location C:\MinGW and install
mingw32-base, mingw32-gcc-g++ and msys-base. After the
installation is completed, change directories to C:\MinGW\bin and rename
mingw32-make.exe to make.exe to avoid having to type mingw32-make
every time you want to use make. You should also add C:\MinGW\bin to
the beginning of your PATH.
Finally, install GLUT by unzipping
my version of GLUT
into C:\MinGW. It will provide include\GL\glut.h and
lib\libglut32cu.a needed to use GLUT. It also provides
bin\glut32.dll. To find glut32.dll at run time it must be in the PATH,
so including C:\MinGW\bin in the PATH is critical.
Note that my version of GLUT has been patched to provide glWindowPos2i which
otherwise would not be available on Windows systems which support OpenGL
To compile and link foo.c under MinGW you need
gcc -Wall -ofoo foo.c -lglut32cu -lglu32 -lopengl32
Note that my makefiles assumes that you have the MinGW environment.
Windows: MinGW and GLEW
In order to use more advanced features in OpenGL like shaders and frame buffers,
you need to get around the libraries provided by Microsoft, and use the vendor
supplied libraries instead. This is provided by the OpenGL Extension Wrangler
(GLEW). However, the GLEW libraries provided on the GLEW web site are for the
Microsoft compiler and is not compatible with MinGW. So for MinGW you must build
the libraries from source.
To compile and link foo.c using MinGW and GLEW you need
- Make sure that you have a working MinGW OpenGL environment as described above. These
instructions assume you installed it in the default location C:\MinGW\lib.
- Download the GLEW source from here and
- In order to build GLEW, you need a Unix shell. If you installed MinGW as described above,
it would have installed MSYS. To temporarily use MSYS add it to your path using the
command PATH=C:\MinGW\msys\1.0\bin;%PATH%. Then start a shell by typing bash.
- Use the cd command to change the current directory to where you unpacked GLEW.
Note the folder C:\foo\bar is called /c/foo/bar in MSYS.
- Compile GLEW using the command make. The makefile should automatically detect that
you are using MinGW. If you get a link error, you may need to edit the Makefile as shown
here to remove the
redunant -nostdlib reference.
- Install GLEW using the command make GLEW_DEST=/c/mingw install.
This will put the header files in C:\MinGW\include
and the libraries in C:\MinGW\lib.
- You can now close the window. GLEW will be available from a regular command prompt.
gcc -DUSEGLEW -Wall -ofoo foo.c -lglew32 -lglut32cu -lglu32 -lopengl32
The -DUSEGLEW compiler flag defines the USEGLEW variable which my codes use to
conditionally compile in GLEW.
Windows with VM
There are varias virtual machines available that allow you tu run Linux under Windows.
One is the CU CS VM.
This may provide a convenient method for running OpenGL under Windows at the
cost of performance.
Jeremy Salter provided this writup for installing OpenGL with
Your Windows system may provide OpenGL 1.1, which dates from 1995. This version
will not contain the glWindowPos2i function which I use a lot. You can provide
the same functionality in software by including
in your build. DO NOT include this code in what you submit, as it will result in
a conflict in Linux or OSX systems. You do not need to install this code if you
use the glut32cu library described above as this library already adds this
If you are having trouble getting the programs to compile, you may want to
consider these things to determine if the problem is in your compiler, header
files or linker/libraries.
- Try compiling the classic C program that prints Hello
World! to the screen to check that your compiler and linker works
in the absence of OpenGL. If this fails to compile and run, your compile
environment is broken and needs to be fixed before you can work on getting
OpenGL to work.
- Try compiling ex5.c. If you get errors like
error: GL/glut.h: No such file or directory
error: 'GL_COLOR_BUFFER_BIT' undeclared
the compiler cannot find your OpenGL header files. Check that the
files are in an expected place like /usr/include/GL or use
the -I compiler flag to tell the compiler where it is.
- Try linking ex5.c.
undefined reference to 'glut... means the GLUT library was not found.
undefined reference to 'glu... means the GLU library was not found.
undefined reference to 'gl... means the GL library was not found.
Make sure the libraries are in an expected place like /usr/lib or
/usr/lib64 or use the -L flag to tell the linker where it is.
- If you get warning: implicit declaration of function 'glWindowPos2i'
before any includes.
- If you get undefined reference to glWindowPos2i you may have an
old GL library. Link in my glWindowPos code or use glut32cu.a with