OpenGL for Windows


Open GL(Free)

User rating7

Interact with a system's Graphics Processing Unit

OpenGL is an open standard maintained by the Khronos Group, not controlled by any single corporation. It is used to render graphics in many desktop computers, mobile devices and video game consoles, and many other types of embedded devices ranging from medical equipment to aerospace instrumentation. 

It's often compared to DirectX, which is a proprietary API by Microsoft. It serves the same purpose as OpenGL but for Windows platforms only. DirectX is generally more prevalent on PC gaming systems than OpenGL because originally, DirectX was exclusive to Windows operating systems, while many other operating systems have access to OpenGL drivers.

What is OpenGL architecture?

The architecture of OpenGL consists of a generic function library, which handles graphics rendering in general, and an API that defines the platform specifics. The library allows programmers to use it with any supported operating system or windowing system. 


The API makes it easier to use OpenGL functions by removing cross-platform issues such as different graphics hardware capabilities, different windowing systems and operating system graphics device drivers. In addition, the architecture of OpenGL takes advantage of a layered design that makes it easier to extend it in the future without breaking support for older hardware devices.

OpenGL interface functions with the ‘client-side’ API library in basic implementations, which does not include hardware-specific code. The library is composed of the necessary state-setting steps, utility routines for managing resources and access to other functions in the system. In addition, it provides a software abstraction of graphics devices by rendering them onto a local area 2D memory bitmap.

Hardware that supports it, or using vendor-specific OpenGL extensions, OpenGL functions use platform-specific graphics APIs that allow the programmer to access the graphics hardware's capabilities.

Even on hardware that supports it, many functions are still not implemented by all of the available devices. In these cases, the generic implementation of an OpenGL function is used. For example, in some cases, low-level 3D scenes need to be rendered from more than one primitive type (triangles, lines, points). OpenGL lets the user code supply a custom callback function which the system then calls to determine how each primitive is drawn.

How is OpenGL's API organized?

The organization of OpenGL's API is broken up into distinct modules defined by separate headers. All header files containing references to externally accessible functions are collected in a top-level directory gl. The naming convention for functions is the name of the header file minus the extension, so for example, ‘gl.h’ contains all of OpenGL's core API. This includes definitions for each symbol and type used in the API header files contained in this directory.

Each OpenGL extension (each distinct feature that you can add to OpenGL) defines its own set of functions grouped together into an extension library. Core extensions are part of the official OpenGL specification, and this list is frequently updated with the latest industry standards.

There are many other vendor-specific or open-source extensions that you can use to expand the functionality of OpenGL, such as the ‘GL_EXT_debug_marker’ extension provided by the Mesa Graphics Library and used by a number of Linux distributions.

What is OpenGL not good at?

Using the OpenGL API is slow compared to lower-level APIs, making it unfeasible for games requiring real-time performance. However, you can use OpenGL in combination with lower-level APIs to improve the speed of certain rendering tasks.

OpenGL also has a number of dangerous features for developers without the right level of experience, creating easy ways to get into bugs, such as race conditions and inconsistent rendering between window-system specific back-ends.

What is OpenGL used for in C++?

In C++, OpenGL can be used to create high-performance graphics applications, such as games, simulations, and scientific visualizations. C++ provides a low-level, platform-agnostic language that can directly interact with the graphics hardware, making it an ideal choice for developing performance-critical graphics applications.

To use OpenGL in C++, developers typically create an OpenGL context, which is a handle to the graphics hardware. They then use the OpenGL API functions to draw graphics elements, such as points, lines, triangles, and text. The OpenGL API provides a wide range of functions for manipulating the graphics pipeline, including setting up vertex buffers, vertex arrays, textures, and shaders.

Some common uses of OpenGL in C++ include:

  • Game development: OpenGL is widely used in game development for creating 3D graphics, physics simulations, and game engines
  • Scientific visualization: OpenGL can be used to create interactive 3D visualizations of scientific data, such as medical imaging, astrophysics, and engineering simulations
  • Computer-aided design (CAD): OpenGL can be used to create 2D and 3D CAD software for architectural visualization, mechanical engineering, and product design
  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR): OpenGL can be used to create immersive VR and AR experiences, including 3D rendering, physics simulations, and user interface
  • Graphics software: OpenGL can be used to create graphics software, such as photo editors, video editors, and animation software 

What is the OpenGL Rendering Pipeline?

The OpenGL rendering pipeline works on blocks of data called "primitives". Primitives are drawn as meshes composed of one or more vertices, with each vertex containing its own position, colour and texture coordinate data. The core of the OpenGL rendering pipeline is the vertex processing stage. It is here that vertex data specified by the application is transformed and projected onto the 2D plane of the window.

The next steps in the pipeline are performed on a per-fragment basis, rather than per-vertex or per-primitive. These steps involve up to four more calculations: interpolation, clipping, viewport transformation, and finally, the rasterization stage.

The final step in the rendering pipeline, the fragment processing stage, is where most of the graphics state is held so that subsequent steps in the rendering pipeline can use this information. The data for each fragment generated during rasterization is read back from memory and passed to this function.

Does OpenGL run a CPU or GPU? 

OpenGL is a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) API, which means that it is designed to run on the graphics processing unit (GPU) rather than the central processing unit (CPU). 

The GPU is a specialized processor designed specifically for handling the complex mathematical calculations required for 3D graphics rendering. OpenGL takes advantage of the massively parallel architecture of modern GPUs to achieve high performance and efficiency in rendering 2D and 3D graphics. 

When an OpenGL application is run, the CPU's role is limited to preparing the data to be rendered and providing it to the GPU. The GPU then takes over, executing the instructions needed to render the scene and produce the final output. This separation of duties between the CPU and GPU allows for faster and more efficient rendering of complex graphics scenes. 

It's accessible and comprehensive

OpenGL is undoubtedly comprehensive. It provides access to virtually any graphics-related feature imaginable (including things like rendering fonts), and the number of extensions continues to grow. It provides a standard interface for all programs written in OpenGL, which makes writing portable software easy.

Over time OpenGL has grown beyond its low-level roots driven by efficiency and has transformed into a real-time high-level rendering API.



OpenGL 4.6 for Windows
  • Windows 10,
  • Windows 8.1,
  • Windows 8,
  • Windows 7,
  • Windows 95
Latest update:
Thursday, December 14th 2023
Open GL


OpenGL for PC


Open GL(Free)

User rating7


We don't have any change log information yet for version 4.6 of OpenGL. Sometimes publishers take a little while to make this information available, so please check back in a few days to see if it has been updated.

Can you help?

If you have any changelog info you can share with us, we'd love to hear from you! Head over to ourContact pageand let us know.

Explore Apps

Related Software