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Window handling guide

Table of Contents

The primary purpose of GLFW is to provide a simple interface to window management and OpenGL and OpenGL ES context creation. GLFW supports multiple windows, which can be either a normal desktop window or a full screen window.

Window handles

The GLFWwindow object encapsulates both a window and a context. They are created with glfwCreateWindow and destroyed with glfwDestroyWindow (or glfwTerminate, if any remain). As the window and context are inseparably linked, the object pointer is used as both a context and window handle.

Window creation

The window and its context are created with glfwCreateWindow, which returns a handle to the created window object. For example, this creates a 640 by 480 windowed mode window:

GLFWwindow* window = glfwCreateWindow(640, 480, "My Title", NULL, NULL);

If window creation fails, NULL will be returned, so you need to check whether it did.

This handle is then passed to all window related functions, and is provided to you along with input events, so you know which window received the input.

To create a full screen window, you need to specify which monitor the window should use. In most cases, the user's primary monitor is a good choice. For more information about monitors, see the Multi-monitor guide.

GLFWwindow* window = glfwCreateWindow(640, 480, "My Title", glfwGetPrimaryMonitor(), NULL);

Full screen windows cover the entire display area of a monitor, have no border or decorations, and change the monitor's resolution to the one most closely matching the requested window size.

For more control over how the window and its context are created, see Window creation hints below.

Window destruction

When you are done with the window, destroy it with the glfwDestroyWindow function.

Once this function is called, no more events will be delivered for that window and its handle becomes invalid.

Window user pointer

Each window has a user pointer that can be set with glfwSetWindowUserPointer and fetched with glfwGetWindowUserPointer. This can be used for any purpose you need and will not modified by GLFW throughout the life-time of the window.

Window creation hints

There are a number of hints that can be set before the creation of a window and context. Some affect the window itself, others affect the framebuffer or context. These hints are set to their default values each time the library is initialized with glfwInit, can be set individually with glfwWindowHint and reset all at once to their defaults with glfwDefaultWindowHints.

Note that hints need to be set before the creation of the window and context you wish to have the specified attributes.

Hard and soft constraints

Some window hints are hard constraints. These must match the available capabilities exactly for window and context creation to succeed. Hints that are not hard constraints are matched as closely as possible, but the resulting window and context may differ from what these hints requested. To find out the actual attributes of the created window and context, use the glfwGetWindowAttrib function.

The following hints are hard constraints:

The following additional hints are hard constraints if requesting an OpenGL context:

Hints that do not apply to a given type of window or context are ignored.

Window related hints

The GLFW_RESIZABLE hint specifies whether the window will be resizable by the user. The window will still be resizable using the glfwSetWindowSize function. This hint is ignored for full screen windows.

The GLFW_VISIBLE hint specifies whether the window will be initially visible. This hint is ignored for full screen windows.

The GLFW_DECORATED hint specifies whether the window will have window decorations such as a border, a close widget, etc. This hint is ignored for full screen windows. Note that even though a window may lack a close widget, it is usually still possible for the user to generate close events.

Framebuffer related hints

The GLFW_RED_BITS, GLFW_GREEN_BITS, GLFW_BLUE_BITS, GLFW_ALPHA_BITS, GLFW_DEPTH_BITS and GLFW_STENCIL_BITS hints specify the desired bit depths of the various components of the default framebuffer.

The GLFW_ACCUM_RED_BITS, GLFW_ACCUM_GREEN_BITS, GLFW_ACCUM_BLUE_BITS and GLFW_ACCUM_ALPHA_BITS hints specify the desired bit depths of the various components of the accumulation buffer.

The GLFW_AUX_BUFFERS hint specifies the desired number of auxiliary buffers.

The GLFW_STEREO hint specifies whether to use stereoscopic rendering.

The GLFW_SAMPLES hint specifies the desired number of samples to use for multisampling. Zero disables multisampling.

The GLFW_SRGB_CAPABLE hint specifies whether the framebuffer should be sRGB capable.

The GLFW_REFRESH_RATE hint specifies the desired refresh rate for full screen windows. If set to zero, the highest available refresh rate will be used. This hint is ignored for windowed mode windows.

Context related hints

The GLFW_CLIENT_API hint specifies which client API to create the context for. Possible values are GLFW_OPENGL_API and GLFW_OPENGL_ES_API.

The GLFW_CONTEXT_VERSION_MAJOR and GLFW_CONTEXT_VERSION_MINOR hints specify the client API version that the created context must be compatible with.

For OpenGL, these hints are not hard constraints, as they don't have to match exactly, but glfwCreateWindow will still fail if the resulting OpenGL version is less than the one requested. It is therefore perfectly safe to use the default of version 1.0 for legacy code and you may still get backwards-compatible contexts of version 3.0 and above when available.

While there is no way to ask the driver for a context of the highest supported version, most drivers provide this when you ask GLFW for a version 1.0 context.

For OpenGL ES, these hints are hard constraints.

If an OpenGL context is requested, the GLFW_OPENGL_FORWARD_COMPAT hint specifies whether the OpenGL context should be forward-compatible, i.e. one where all functionality deprecated in the requested version of OpenGL is removed. This may only be used if the requested OpenGL version is 3.0 or above. If another client API is requested, this hint is ignored.

If an OpenGL context is requested, the GLFW_OPENGL_DEBUG_CONTEXT hint specifies whether to create a debug OpenGL context, which may have additional error and performance issue reporting functionality. If another client API is requested, this hint is ignored.

If an OpenGL context is requested, the GLFW_OPENGL_PROFILE hint specifies which OpenGL profile to create the context for. Possible values are one of GLFW_OPENGL_CORE_PROFILE or GLFW_OPENGL_COMPAT_PROFILE, or GLFW_OPENGL_ANY_PROFILE to not request a specific profile. If requesting an OpenGL version below 3.2, GLFW_OPENGL_ANY_PROFILE must be used. If another client API is requested, this hint is ignored.

The GLFW_CONTEXT_ROBUSTNESS hint specifies the robustness strategy to be used by the context. This can be one of GLFW_NO_RESET_NOTIFICATION or GLFW_LOSE_CONTEXT_ON_RESET, or GLFW_NO_ROBUSTNESS to not request a robustness strategy.

Supported and default values

Name Default value Supported values
GLFW_RESIZABLE GL_TRUE GL_TRUE or GL_FALSE
GLFW_VISIBLE GL_TRUE GL_TRUE or GL_FALSE
GLFW_DECORATED GL_TRUE GL_TRUE or GL_FALSE
GLFW_RED_BITS 8 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_GREEN_BITS 8 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_BLUE_BITS 8 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_ALPHA_BITS 8 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_DEPTH_BITS 24 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_STENCIL_BITS 8 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_ACCUM_RED_BITS 0 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_ACCUM_GREEN_BITS 0 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_ACCUM_BLUE_BITS 0 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_ACCUM_ALPHA_BITS 0 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_AUX_BUFFERS 0 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_SAMPLES 0 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_REFRESH_RATE 0 0 to INT_MAX
GLFW_STEREO GL_FALSE GL_TRUE or GL_FALSE
GLFW_SRGB_CAPABLE GL_FALSE GL_TRUE or GL_FALSE
GLFW_CLIENT_API GLFW_OPENGL_API GLFW_OPENGL_API or GLFW_OPENGL_ES_API
GLFW_CONTEXT_VERSION_MAJOR 1 Any valid major version number of the chosen client API
GLFW_CONTEXT_VERSION_MINOR 0 Any valid minor version number of the chosen client API
GLFW_CONTEXT_ROBUSTNESS GLFW_NO_ROBUSTNESS GLFW_NO_ROBUSTNESS, GLFW_NO_RESET_NOTIFICATION or GLFW_LOSE_CONTEXT_ON_RESET
GLFW_OPENGL_FORWARD_COMPAT GL_FALSE GL_TRUE or GL_FALSE
GLFW_OPENGL_DEBUG_CONTEXT GL_FALSE GL_TRUE or GL_FALSE
GLFW_OPENGL_PROFILE GLFW_OPENGL_ANY_PROFILE GLFW_OPENGL_ANY_PROFILE, GLFW_OPENGL_COMPAT_PROFILE or GLFW_OPENGL_CORE_PROFILE

Window close flag

When the user attempts to close the window, for example by clicking the close widget or using a key chord like Alt+F4, the close flag of the window is set. The window is however not actually destroyed and, unless you watch for this state change, nothing further happens.

The current state of the close flag is returned by glfwWindowShouldClose and can be set or cleared directly with glfwSetWindowShouldClose. A common pattern is to use the close flag as a main loop condition.

while (!glfwWindowShouldClose(window))
{
render(window);
glfwSwapBuffers(window);
}

If you wish to be notified when the user attempts to close a window, you can set the close callback with glfwSetWindowCloseCallback. This callback is called directly after the close flag has been set.

glfwSetWindowCloseCallback(window, window_close_callback);

The callback function can be used for example to filter close requests and clear the close flag again unless certain conditions are met.

void window_close_callback(GLFWwindow* window)
{
if (!time_to_close)
glfwSetWindowShouldClose(window, GL_FALSE);
}

Window size

The size of a window can be changed with glfwSetWindowSize. For windowed mode windows, this resizes the specified window so that its client area has the specified size. Note that the window system may put limitations on size. For full screen windows, it selects and sets the video mode most closely matching the specified size.

void glfwSetWindowSize(window, 640, 480);

If you wish to be notified when a window is resized, whether by the user or the system, you can set the size callback with glfwSetWindowSizeCallback.

glfwSetWindowSizeCallback(window, window_size_callback);

The callback function receives the new size of the client area of the window.

void window_size_callback(GLFWwindow* window, int width, int height)
{
}

There is also glfwGetWindowSize for directly retrieving the current size of a window.

int width, height;
glfwGetWindowSize(window, &width, &height);

Window framebuffer size

While the size of a window is measured in screen coordinates, OpenGL works with pixels. The size you pass into glViewport, for example, should be in pixels and not screen coordinates. On some platforms screen coordinates and pixels are the same, but this is not the case on all platforms supported by GLFW. There is a second set of functions to retrieve the size in pixels of the framebuffer of a window.

If you wish to be notified when the framebuffer of a window is resized, whether by the user or the system, you can set the size callback with glfwSetFramebufferSizeCallback.

glfwSetFramebufferSizeCallback(window, framebuffer_size_callback);

The callback function receives the new size of the client area of the window, which can for example be used to update the OpenGL viewport.

void framebuffer_size_callback(GLFWwindow* window, int width, int height)
{
glViewport(0, 0, width, height);
}

There is also glfwGetFramebufferSize for directly retrieving the current size of the framebuffer of a window.

int width, height;
glfwGetFramebufferSize(window, &width, &height);
glViewport(0, 0, width, height);

Note that the size of a framebuffer may change independently of the size of a window, for example if the window is dragged between a regular monitor and a high-DPI one.

Window position

The position of a windowed-mode window can be changed with glfwSetWindowPos. This moves the window so that the upper-left corner of its client area has the specified screen coordinates. Note that the window system may put limitations on placement.

glfwSetWindowPos(window, 100, 100);

If you wish to be notified when a window is moved, whether by the user or the system, you can set the position callback with glfwSetWindowPosCallback.

glfwSetWindowPosCallback(window, window_pos_callback);

The callback function receives the new position of the upper-left corner of its client area.

void window_size_callback(GLFWwindow* window, int xpos, int ypos)
{
}

There is also glfwGetWindowPos for directly retrieving the current position of the client area of the window.

int xpos, ypos;
glfwGetWindowPos(window, &xpos, &ypos);

Window title

All GLFW windows have a title, although undecorated or full screen windows may not display it or only display it in a task bar or similar interface. To change the title of a window, use glfwSetWindowTitle.

glfwSetWindowTitle(window, "My Window");

The window title is a regular C string using the UTF-8 encoding. This means for example that, as long as your source file is encoded as UTF-8, you can use any Unicode characters.

glfwSetWindowTitle(window, "さよなら絶望先生");

Window attributes

Windows have a number of attributes that can be returned using glfwGetWindowAttrib. Some reflect state that may change during the lifetime of the window, while others reflect the corresponding hints and are fixed at the time of creation.

{
// window has input focus
}

Window attributes

The GLFW_FOCUSED attribute indicates whether the specified window currently has input focus.

The GLFW_ICONIFIED attribute indicates whether the specified window is currently iconified, whether by the user or with glfwIconifyWindow.

The GLFW_VISIBLE attribute indicates whether the specified window is currently visible. Window visibility can be controlled with glfwShowWindow and glfwHideWindow and initial visibility is controlled by the window hint with the same name.

The GLFW_RESIZABLE attribute indicates whether the specified window is resizable by the user. This is controlled by the window hint with the same name.

The GLFW_DECORATED attribute indicates whether the specified window has decorations such as a border, a close widget, etc. This is controlled by the window hint with the same name.

Context attributes

The GLFW_CLIENT_API attribute indicates the client API provided by the window's context; either GLFW_OPENGL_API or GLFW_OPENGL_ES_API.

The GLFW_CONTEXT_VERSION_MAJOR, GLFW_CONTEXT_VERSION_MINOR and GLFW_CONTEXT_REVISION attributes indicate the client API version of the window's context.

The GLFW_OPENGL_FORWARD_COMPAT attribute is GL_TRUE if the window's context is an OpenGL forward-compatible one, or GL_FALSE otherwise.

The GLFW_OPENGL_DEBUG_CONTEXT attribute is GL_TRUE if the window's context is an OpenGL debug context, or GL_FALSE otherwise.

The GLFW_OPENGL_PROFILE attribute indicates the OpenGL profile used by the context. This is GLFW_OPENGL_CORE_PROFILE or GLFW_OPENGL_COMPAT_PROFILE if the context uses a known profile, or GLFW_OPENGL_ANY_PROFILE if the OpenGL profile is unknown or the context is for another client API. Note that the returned profile may not match the profile bits of the context flags, as GLFW will try other means of detecting the profile when no bits are set.

The GLFW_CONTEXT_ROBUSTNESS attribute indicates the robustness strategy used by the context. This is GLFW_LOSE_CONTEXT_ON_RESET or GLFW_NO_RESET_NOTIFICATION if the window's context supports robustness, or GLFW_NO_ROBUSTNESS otherwise.

Swapping buffers

GLFW windows are always double buffered. That means that you have two rendering buffers; a front buffer and a back buffer. The front buffer is the one being displayed and the back buffer the one you render to.

When the entire frame has been rendered, it is time to swap the back and the front buffers in order to display what has been rendered and begin rendering a new frame. This is done with glfwSwapBuffers.

Sometimes it can be useful to select when the buffer swap will occur. With the function glfwSwapInterval it is possible to select the minimum number of monitor refreshes the driver should wait before swapping the buffers:

If the interval is zero, the swap will take place immediately when glfwSwapBuffers is called without waiting for a refresh. Otherwise at least interval retraces will pass between each buffer swap. Using a swap interval of zero can be useful for benchmarking purposes, when it is not desirable to measure the time it takes to wait for the vertical retrace. However, a swap interval of one lets you avoid tearing.

Note that this may not work on all machines, as some drivers have user-controlled settings that override any swap interval the application requests. It is also by default disabled on Windows Vista and later when using DWM (Aero), as using it there sometimes leads to severe jitter. You can forcibly enable it for machines using DWM using Windows specific CMake options.