Compiling GLFW

Table of Contents

This is about compiling the GLFW library itself. For information on how to build programs that use GLFW, see the Building programs that use GLFW guide.


To compile GLFW and the accompanying example programs, you will need CMake, which will generate the project files or makefiles for your particular development environment. If you are on a Unix-like system such as Linux or FreeBSD or have a package system like Fink, MacPorts, Cygwin or Homebrew, you can simply install its CMake package. If not, you can get installers for Windows and OS X from the CMake website.

Additional dependencies are listed below.

If you wish to compile GLFW without CMake, see Compiling GLFW manually.

Dependencies using Visual C++ on Windows

The Microsoft Platform SDK that is installed along with Visual C++ contains all the necessary headers, link libraries and tools except for CMake.

Dependencies with MinGW or MinGW-w64 on Windows

Both the MinGW and the MinGW-w64 packages contain all the necessary headers, link libraries and tools except for CMake.

Dependencies using MinGW or MinGW-w64 cross-compilation

Both Cygwin and many Linux distributions have MinGW or MinGW-w64 packages. For example, Cygwin has the mingw64-i686-gcc and mingw64-x86_64-gcc packages for 32- and 64-bit version of MinGW-w64, while Debian GNU/Linux and derivatives like Ubuntu have the mingw-w64 package for both.

GLFW has CMake toolchain files in the CMake/ directory that allow for easy cross-compilation of Windows binaries. To use these files you need to add a special parameter when generating the project files or makefiles:

cmake -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE=<toolchain-file> .

The exact toolchain file to use depends on the prefix used by the MinGW or MinGW-w64 binaries on your system. You can usually see this in the /usr directory. For example, both the Debian/Ubuntu and Cygwin MinGW-w64 packages have /usr/x86_64-w64-mingw32 for the 64-bit compilers, so the correct invocation would be:

cmake -DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE=CMake/x86_64-w64-mingw32.cmake .

For more details see the article CMake Cross Compiling on the CMake wiki.

Dependencies using Xcode on OS X

Xcode contains all necessary tools except for CMake. The necessary headers and libraries are included in the core OS frameworks. Xcode can be downloaded from the Mac App Store or from the ADC Member Center.

Dependencies using Linux and X11

To compile GLFW for X11, you need to have the X11 and OpenGL header packages installed, as well as the basic development tools like GCC and make. For example, on Ubuntu and other distributions based on Debian GNU/Linux, you need to install the xorg-dev and libglu1-mesa-dev packages. The former pulls in all header packages and the latter pulls in the Mesa OpenGL and GLU packages. GLFW itself doesn't need or use GLU, but some of the examples do. Note that using header files and libraries from Mesa during compilation will not tie your binaries to the Mesa implementation of OpenGL.

Generating files with CMake

Once you have all necessary dependencies it is time to generate the project files or makefiles for your development environment. CMake needs to know two paths for this: the path to the root directory of the GLFW source tree (i.e. not* the src subdirectory) and the target path for the generated files and compiled binaries. If these are the same, it is called an in-tree build, otherwise it is called an out-of-tree build.

One of several advantages of out-of-tree builds is that you can generate files and compile for different development environments using a single source tree.

Generating files with the CMake command-line tool

To make an in-tree build, enter the root directory of the GLFW source tree (i.e. not the src subdirectory) and run CMake. The current directory is used as target path, while the path provided as an argument is used to find the source tree.

cd <glfw-root-dir>
cmake .

To make an out-of-tree build, make another directory, enter it and run CMake with the (relative or absolute) path to the root of the source tree as an argument.

cd <glfw-root-dir>
mkdir build
cd build
cmake ..

Generating files with the CMake GUI

If you are using the GUI version, choose the root of the GLFW source tree as source location and the same directory or another, empty directory as the destination for binaries. Choose Configure, change any options you wish to, Configure* again to let the changes take effect and then Generate.

CMake options

The CMake files for GLFW provide a number of options, although not all are available on all supported platforms. Some of these are de facto standards among CMake users and so have no GLFW_ prefix.

If you are using the GUI version of CMake, these are listed and can be changed from there. If you are using the command-line version, use the ccmake tool. Some package systems like Ubuntu and other distributions based on Debian GNU/Linux have this tool in a separate cmake-curses-gui package.

Shared CMake options

BUILD_SHARED_LIBS determines whether GLFW is built as a static library or as a DLL / shared library / dynamic library.

LIB_SUFFIX affects where the GLFW shared /dynamic library is installed. If it is empty, it is installed to ${CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX}/lib. If it is set to 64, it is installed to ${CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX}/lib64.

GLFW_CLIENT_LIBRARY determines which client API library to use. If set to opengl the OpenGL library is used, if set to glesv1 for the OpenGL ES 1.x library is used, or if set to glesv2 the OpenGL ES 2.0 library is used. The selected library and its header files must be present on the system for this to work.

GLFW_BUILD_EXAMPLES determines whether the GLFW examples are built along with the library.

GLFW_BUILD_TESTS determines whether the GLFW test programs are built along with the library.

GLFW_BUILD_DOCS determines whether the GLFW documentation is built along with the library.

OS X specific CMake options

GLFW_USE_CHDIR determines whether glfwInit changes the current directory of bundled applications to the Contents/Resources directory.

GLFW_USE_MENUBAR determines whether the first call to glfwCreateWindow sets up a minimal menu bar.

GLFW_BUILD_UNIVERSAL determines whether to build Universal Binaries.

Windows specific CMake options

USE_MSVC_RUNTIME_LIBRARY_DLL determines whether to use the DLL version or the static library version of the Visual C++ runtime library. If set to ON, the DLL version of the Visual C++ library is used. It is recommended to set this to ON, as this keeps the executable smaller and benefits from security and bug fix updates of the Visual C++ runtime.

GLFW_USE_DWM_SWAP_INTERVAL determines whether the swap interval is set even when DWM compositing is enabled. If this is ON, the swap interval is set even if DWM is enabled. It is recommended to set this to OFF, as doing otherwise can lead to severe jitter.

GLFW_USE_OPTIMUS_HPG determines whether to export the NvOptimusEnablement symbol, which forces the use of the high-performance GPU on nVidia Optimus systems.

EGL specific CMake options

GLFW_USE_EGL determines whether to use EGL instead of the platform-specific context creation API. Note that EGL is not yet provided on all supported platforms.

Compiling GLFW manually

If you wish to compile GLFW without its CMake build environment then you will have to do at least some of the platform detection yourself. GLFW needs a number of configuration macros to be defined in order to know what it's being compiled for and has many optional, platform-specific ones for various features.

When building with CMake, the glfw_config.h configuration header is generated based on the current platform and CMake options. The GLFW CMake environment defines _GLFW_USE_CONFIG_H, which causes this header to be included by internal.h. Without this macro, GLFW will expect the necessary configuration macros to be defined on the command-line.

Three macros must be defined when compiling GLFW: one for selecting the window creation API, one selecting the context creation API and one client library. Exactly one of each kind must be defined for GLFW to compile and link.

The window creation API is used to create windows, handle input, monitors, gamma ramps and clipboard. The options are:

The context creation API is used to enumerate pixel formats / framebuffer configurations and to create contexts. The options are:

The client library is the one providing the OpenGL or OpenGL ES API, which is used by GLFW to probe the created context. This is not the same thing as the client API, as many desktop OpenGL client libraries now expose the OpenGL ES API through extensions. The options are:

Note that _GLFW_USE_GLESV1 and _GLFW_USE_GLESV2 may only be used with EGL, as the other context creation APIs do not interface with OpenGL ES client libraries.

If you are building GLFW as a shared library / dynamic library / DLL then you must also define _GLFW_BUILD_DLL. Otherwise, you may not define it.

If you are using the X11 window creation API then you must also select an entry point retrieval mechanism.

If you are using the Cocoa window creation API, the following options are available: