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Although focus was and still is on graphical APIs, apitrace has a generic infrastructure to trace any kind of API:

  • the API's types and calls are specified in Python files in specs sub-directory;

    • there is a type hierarchy in specs/, capable of representing most types in C language, and additional semantic metadata
  • Python scripts generate C++ code to trace and serialize calls parameters to a file, and vice-versa.

    • The Visitor design pattern is used to navigate over the types.

    • The Template design pattern is used to enable any step of code generation to be overriden by derived classes, allowing to handle cases that need special treatment without sacrifycing code reuse.

apitrace's architecture is composed of several layers/components. There are too many to show in a single graph, so only those relevant for OpenGL API are illustrated below:

                               ^ ^ ^
                               | | |
                        /------/ | \--\
                        |        |    |
                     helpers     |    |
                      ^ ^ ^      |    |
                      | | |      |    |
             /--------/ | \----\ |    |
             |          |      | |    |
             |          |      | |    |
           trace     retrace glstate glws
             ^          ^       ^     ^
             |          |       |     |
             |          \-----\ | /---/
             |                | | |
             |                | | |
          gltrace           glretrace
           ^ ^ ^                ^
           | | |                |
    /------/ | \-----\          |
    |        |       |          |
    |        |       |          |
glxtrace wgltrace cgltrace  qapitrace

Here is a quick synopsis of what the layers do:

  • specs -- specifies the types, functions, and interfaces of the API, expressed as a hierarchy of Python objects

  • dispatch -- runtime dispatch of calls to DLLs (open the DLL, get the symbol address, and call it passing all arguments as-is)

    • glproc -- specialization of the dispatch generation for GL APIs
  • helpers -- helper functions to determine sizes of arrays, blobs, etc. It often needs to dispatch calls to give the answers.

  • trace -- generate C++ code for tracing an API based on its spec

    • gltrace -- specialization of the tracing generation for GL API, with extra code to generate

    • glxtrace, wgltrace, cgltrace -- specialization of the tracing code for the GLX, WGL, and CGL APIs.

  • retrace -- generate C++ code to interpret calls from trace, based on the API's spec

    • glretrace -- specialization of the retrace code for the GL API
  • glstate -- code to dump OpenGL state to a JSON file

  • glws -- abstraction of the window system specific APIs (GXL, WGL, CGL), to enable cross-platform portability of glretrace

  • qapitrace -- the GUI; it reads traces directly, and gets JSON state by invoking glretrace

The architecture for Direct3D APIs is similar, with the exception that, because it's not cross platform, there are less specialized variations.

Coding Style

These are guidelines for new code. Admittedly some of the existing code hasn't been updated to follow these conventions yet.

Whitespace (all languages):

  • indentation is 4 spaces

  • never use tabs as indents, except on Makefiles

  • otherwise tab equals to 8 spaces

  • separate classes with two empty lines

Naming convention:

  • camelCase for functions/methods

  • UpperCase for structures/classes

  • lowercase for namespaces/modules

  • UPPER_CASE for #defines

  • single underscore prefix for variables/functions in automatically generated code


  • enclose single statement if clauses in { }, specially for automatically generated code

  • } else {

  • use inline keyword for functions/methods which are called with high-frequency


  • lower_case commands

  • space between ( and precedent name

And when in doubt, be consistent with the existing code.

Commit policy

Feature development:

  • Existing features in master branch should not degrade at any time, for any platform. Unless they are seldom used or redundant, and there is agreement.

    • In particular, new features / changes must not introduce any sort of instability when tracing.

      While application developers and driver developers may be able to workaround quirks in apitrace, we want to be able to obtain traces from non-technical end-users with minimal intervention.

      This implies that tracing should not make any non-standard assumptions, and care must be taken to ensure the tracing code is robust against invalid parameters, multiple threads, etc.

  • It's fine to add new features for only some platforms or APIs.

  • Non-trivial changes should be staged in a branch, to allow review and regression testing. Feature branches should be deleted once they have been merged.

  • Releases are tagged commits from master. There are no stable branches.

Backwards compatibility:

  • Backwards binary compatibility with old traces must be always maintained: all tools, including glretrace, must handle old traces without regressions.

  • No backwards compatibility guarantees for derived data (ASCII dumps, state, images, etc).

  • There should be no gratuitous changes to command line tool interfaces, but no guarantees are given.

Regression testing

There is a regression test suite under development in .

Further reading

How to's

How to support a new OpenGL extension

All OpenGL (and OpenGL ES) function prototypes live in specs/ This file is semi-automatically derived from Khronos XML description of OpenGL / OpenGL ES. To refresh do

$ make -C specs/scripts/
$ meld specs/ specs/scripts/

and then port over new prototypes. See also specs/scripts/README.markdown.

The upstream XML description is not rich enough to describe all semantic details that apitrace needs, therefore one needs to manually tweak the specifications:

  • Fix-up the types of array, blob, and pointer arguments.

    • For glGet* you can use "_gl_param_size(pname)" for automatically determining the number of parameters written, e.g.

          GlFunction(Void, "glGetIntegerv", [(GLenum, "pname"), Out(Array(GLint, "_gl_param_size(pname)"), "params")], sideeffects=False),
  • Add the sideeffects=False keyword argument where appropriate, so that those calls can be merely ignored by glretrace.

  • Replace generically type GLuint object IDs with typed ones, (e.g., replace (GLuint, "texture") into (GLtexture, "texture"), so that glretrace can swizzle the objects IDs, when replaying on a different OpenGL implementation.

Dump more OpenGL state


Dump more D3D10/D3D11 parameter state

In short, to dump another piece of state (e.g., D3DXX_FOO_STATE) you need to:

  • declare a

      void dumpStateObject(JSONWriter &, const D3DXX_FOO_STATE &);

    in retrace/dxgistate_so.hpp

  • add


    to the bottom of retrace/ so that C++ code to dump that structure is generated.

  • add a new dumpFooState function to retrace/d3d10state.cpp or retrace/d3d11state.cpp, similar to the existing dumpBlendState function, which gets the state object, and then calls dumpStateObjectDesc template and the generated dumpStateObject functions to do the grunt work.

  • update dumpParameters to call dumpFooState