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About apitrace

apitrace consists of a set of tools to:

  • trace OpenGL, D3D9, D3D8, D3D7, and DDRAW APIs calls to a file;

  • retrace OpenGL calls from a file;

  • inspect OpenGL state at any call while retracing;

  • visualize and edit trace files.

Basic usage


Run the application you want to trace as

 LD_PRELOAD=/path/to/ /path/to/application

and it will generate a trace named application.trace in the current directory. You can specify the written trace filename by setting the TRACE_FILE environment variable before running.

View the trace with

/path/to/tracedump application.trace | less -R

Replay the trace with

/path/to/glretrace application.trace

Pass the -sb option to use a single buffered visual. Pass --help to glretrace for more options.

Start the GUI as

/path/to/qapitrace application.trace

The LD_PRELOAD mechanism should work with most applications. There are some applications, e.g., Unigine Heaven, which global function pointers with the same name as GL entrypoints, living in a shared object that wasn't linked with -Bsymbolic flag, so relocations to those globals function pointers get overwritten with the address to our wrapper library, and the application will segfault when trying to write to them. For these applications it is possible to trace by using as an ordinary and injecting into LD_LIBRARY_PATH:

ln -s
ln -s
ln -s
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/path/to/directory/where/glxtrace/is:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH
export TRACE_LIBGL=/path/to/real/

See the man page for more information about LD_PRELOAD and LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment flags.

Mac OS X

Usage on Mac OS X is similar to Linux above, except for the tracing procedure, which is instead:

DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH=/path/to/apitrace/wrappers /path/to/application

Note that although Mac OS X has an LD_PRELOAD equivalent, DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES, it is mostly useless because it only works with DYLD_FORCE_FLAT_NAMESPACE=1 which breaks most applications. See the dyld man page for more details about these environment flags.


  • Copy opengl32.dll, d3d8.dll, or d3d9.dll from build/wrappers directory to the directory with the application you want to trace.

  • Run the application.

  • View the trace with

    \path\to\tracedump application.trace
  • Replay the trace with

    \path\to\glretrace application.trace

Advanced command line usage

Emitting annotations to the trace from GL applications

You can emit string and frame annotations through the GL_GREMEDY_string_marker and GL_GREMEDY_frame_terminator GL extensions.

apitrace will advertise and intercept these GL extensions independently of the GL implementation. So all you have to do is to use these extensions when available.

For example, if you use GLEW to dynamically detect and use GL extensions, you could easily accomplish this by doing:

void foo() {

  if (GLEW_GREMEDY_string_marker) {
    glStringMarkerGREMEDY(0, __FUNCTION__ ": enter");


  if (GLEW_GREMEDY_string_marker) {
    glStringMarkerGREMEDY(0, __FUNCTION__ ": leave");


This has the added advantage of working equally well with gDEBugger.

Dump GL state at a particular call

You can get a dump of the bound GL state at call 12345 by doing:

/path/to/glretrace -D 12345 application.trace > 12345.json

This is precisely the mechanism the GUI obtains its own state.

You can compare two state dumps with the script:

./scripts/ 12345.json 67890.json

Comparing two traces side by side

./scripts/ trace1.trace trace2.trace

This works only on Unices, and it will truncate the traces due to performance limitations.

Recording a video with FFmpeg

You can make a video of the output by doing

/path/to/glretrace -s - application.trace \
| ffmpeg -r 30 -f image2pipe -vcodec ppm -i pipe: -vcodec mpeg4 -y output.mp4

Advanced usage for OpenGL implementors

There are several advanced usage examples meant for OpenGL implementors.

Regression testing

These are the steps to create a regression test-suite around apitrace:

  • obtain a trace

  • obtain reference snapshots, by doing:

    mkdir /path/to/snapshots/
    /path/to/glretrace -s /path/to/reference/snapshots/ application.trace

    on reference system.

  • prune the snapshots which are not interesting

  • to do a regression test, do:

    /path/to/glretrace -c /path/to/reference/snapshots/ application.trace

    Alternatively, for a HTML summary, use the snapdiff script:

      /path/to/glretrace -s /path/to/current/snapshots/ application.trace
      ./scripts/ --output summary.html /path/to/reference/snapshots/ /path/to/current/snapshots/

Automated git-bisection

With it is possible to automate git bisect and pinpoint the commit responsible for a regression.

Below is an example of using to bisect a regression in the Mesa-based Intel 965 driver. But the procedure could be applied to any GL driver hosted on a git repository.

First, create a build script, named, containing:

set -e
export PATH=/usr/lib/ccache:$PATH
export CFLAGS='-g'
export CXXFLAGS='-g'
./ --disable-egl --disable-gallium --disable-glut --disable-glu --disable-glw --with-dri-drivers=i965
make clean
make "$@"

It is important that builds are both robust, and efficient. Due to broken dependency discovery in Mesa's makefile system, it was necessary invoke make clean in every iteration step. ccache should be installed to avoid recompiling unchanged source files.

Then do:

cd /path/to/mesa
export LIBGL_DEBUG=verbose
git bisect start \
    6491e9593d5cbc5644eb02593a2f562447efdcbb 71acbb54f49089b03d3498b6f88c1681d3f649ac \
    -- src/mesa/drivers/dri/intel src/mesa/drivers/dri/i965/
git bisect run /path/to/ \
    --precision-threshold 8.0 \
    --build /path/to/ \
    --gl-renderer '.*Mesa.*Intel.*' \
    --retrace=/path/to/glretrace \
    -c /path/to/reference/snapshots/ \

The script will skip automatically when there are build failures.

The --gl-renderer option will also cause a commit to be skipped if the GL_RENDERER is unexpected (e.g., when a software renderer or another GL driver is unintentionally loaded due to missing symbol in the DRI driver, or another runtime fault).

Side by side retracing

In order to determine which draw call a regression first manifests one could generate snapshots for every draw call, using the -S option. That is, however, very inefficient for big traces with many draw calls.

A faster approach is to run both the bad and a good GL driver side-by-side. The latter can be either a previously known good build of the GL driver, or a reference software renderer.

This can be achieved with script, which invokes glretrace with different environments, allowing to choose the desired GL driver by manipulating variables such as LD_LIBRARY_PATH or LIBGL_DRIVERS_DIR.

For example:

./scripts/ \
    --ref-env LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/path/to/reference/GL/implementation \
    -r ./glretrace \
    --diff-prefix=/path/to/output/diffs \


About apitrace:







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