Building programs that use GLFW

Table of Contents

This is about compiling and linking programs that use GLFW. For information on how to write such programs, start with the introductory tutorial. For information on how to compile the GLFW library itself, see the Compiling GLFW guide.

Including the GLFW header file

In the files of your program where you use OpenGL or GLFW, you should include the GLFW 3 header file, i.e.:

#include <GLFW/glfw3.h>

This defines all the constants, types and function prototypes of the GLFW API. It also includes the chosen client API header files (by default OpenGL), and defines all the constants and types necessary for those headers to work on that platform.

For example, under Windows you are normally required to include windows.h before including GL/gl.h. This would make your source file tied to Windows and pollute your code's namespace with the whole Win32 API.

Instead, the GLFW header takes care of this for you, not by including windows.h, but rather by itself duplicating only the necessary parts of it. It does this only where needed, so if windows.h is included, the GLFW header does not try to redefine those symbols.

In other words:

If you are using an OpenGL extension loading library such as GLEW, the GLEW header should also be included before* the GLFW one. The GLEW header defines macros that disable any OpenGL header that the GLFW header includes and GLEW will work as expected.

GLFW header option macros

These macros may be defined before the inclusion of the GLFW header and affect the behavior of the header. Note that GLFW does not provide any of the OpenGL or OpenGL ES headers mentioned below. These are provided by your development environment or your OpenGL or OpenGL ES SDK.

GLFW_INCLUDE_GLCOREARB makes the header include the modern GL/glcorearb.h header (OpenGL/gl3.h on OS X) instead of the regular OpenGL header.

GLFW_INCLUDE_ES1 makes the header include the OpenGL ES 1.x GLES/gl.h header instead of the regular OpenGL header.

GLFW_INCLUDE_ES2 makes the header include the OpenGL ES 2.0 GLES2/gl2.h header instead of the regular OpenGL header.

GLFW_INCLUDE_ES3 makes the header include the OpenGL ES 3.0 GLES3/gl3.h header instead of the regular OpenGL header.

GLFW_INCLUDE_NONE makes the header not include any client API header.

GLFW_INCLUDE_GLU makes the header include the GLU header in addition to the OpenGL header. This should only be used with the default GL/gl.h header (OpenGL/gl.h on OS X), i.e. if you are not using any of the above macros.

GLFW_DLL is necessary when using the GLFW DLL on Windows, in order to explain to the compiler that the GLFW functions will be coming from another executable. It has no function on other platforms.

Link with the right libraries

With MinGW or Visual C++ on Windows

The static version of the GLFW library is named glfw3. When using this version, it is also necessary to link with some libraries that GLFW uses.

When linking a program under Windows that uses the static version of GLFW, you must link with opengl32. On some versions of MinGW, you must also explicitly link with gdi32, while other versions of MinGW include it in the set of default libraries along with other dependencies like user32 and kernel32. If you are using GLU, you must also link with glu32.

The link library for the GLFW DLL is named glfw3dll. When compiling a program that uses the DLL version of GLFW, you need to define the GLFW_DLL macro before* any inclusion of the GLFW header. This can be done either with a compiler switch or by defining it in your source code.

A program using the GLFW DLL does not need to link against any of its dependencies, but you still have to link against opengl32 if your program uses OpenGL and glu32 if it uses GLU.

With CMake and GLFW source

You can use the GLFW source tree directly from a project that uses CMake. This way, GLFW will be built along with your application as needed.

Firstly, add the root directory of the GLFW source tree to your project. This will add the glfw target and the necessary cache variables to your project.


To be able to include the GLFW header from your code, you need to tell the compiler where to find it.


Once GLFW has been added to the project, the GLFW_LIBRARIES cache variable contains all link-time dependencies of GLFW as it is currently configured. To link against GLFW, link against them and the glfw target.

target_link_libraries(myapp glfw ${GLFW_LIBRARIES})

Note that GLFW_LIBRARIES does not include GLU, as GLFW does not use it. If your application needs GLU, you can add it to the list of dependencies with the OPENGL_glu_LIBRARY cache variable, which is implicitly created when the GLFW CMake files look for OpenGL.

target_link_libraries(myapp glfw ${OPENGL_glu_LIBRARY} ${GLFW_LIBRARIES})

With CMake on Unix and installed GLFW binaries

CMake can import settings from pkg-config, which GLFW supports. When you installed GLFW, the pkg-config file glfw3.pc was installed along with it.

First you need to find the PkgConfig package. If this fails, you may need to install the pkg-config package for your distribution.

find_package(PkgConfig REQUIRED)

This creates the CMake commands to find pkg-config packages. Then you need to find the GLFW package.

pkg_search_module(GLFW REQUIRED glfw3)

This creates the CMake variables you need to use GLFW. To be able to include the GLFW header, you need to tell your compiler where it is.


You also need to link against the correct libraries. If you are using the shared library version of GLFW, use the GLFW_LIBRARIES variable.

target_link_libraries(simple ${GLFW_LIBRARIES})

If you are using the static library version of GLFW, use the GLFW_STATIC_LIBRARIES variable instead.

target_link_libraries(simple ${GLFW_STATIC_LIBRARIES})

With pkg-config on OS X or other Unix

GLFW supports pkg-config, and the glfw3.pc file is generated when the GLFW library is built and installed along with it.
A typical compile and link command-line when using the static may look like this:

cc `pkg-config --cflags glfw3` -o myprog myprog.c `pkg-config --static --libs glfw3`

If you are using the shared library, simply omit the --static flag.

cc `pkg-config --cflags glfw3` -o myprog myprog.c `pkg-config --libs glfw3`

You can also use the glfw3.pc file without installing it first, by using the PKG_CONFIG_PATH environment variable.

env PKG_CONFIG_PATH=path/to/glfw/src cc `pkg-config --cflags glfw3` -o myprog myprog.c `pkg-config --static --libs glfw3`

The dependencies do not include GLU, as GLFW does not need it. On OS X, GLU is built into the OpenGL framework, so if you need GLU you don't need to do anything extra. If you need GLU and are using Linux or BSD, you should add -lGLU to your link flags.

See the manpage and other documentation for pkg-config and your compiler and linker for more information on how to link programs.

With Xcode on OS X

If you are using the dynamic library version of GLFW, simply add it to the project dependencies.

If you are using the static library version of GLFW, add it and the Cocoa, OpenGL, IOKit and CoreVideo frameworks to the project as dependencies.

With command-line on OS X

If you do not wish to use pkg-config, you need to add the required frameworks and libraries to your command-line using the -l and -framework switches, i.e.:

cc -o myprog myprog.c -lglfw -framework Cocoa -framework OpenGL -framework IOKit -framework CoreVideo

Note that you do not add the .framework extension to a framework when adding it from the command-line.

The OpenGL framework contains both the OpenGL and GLU APIs, so there is nothing special to do when using GLU. Also note that even though your machine may have libGL-style OpenGL libraries, they are for use with the X Window System and will not work with the OS X native version of GLFW.