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OpenGLAda – OpenGL binding for Ada


OpenGLAda is a thick OpenGL binding for the Ada 2005 programming language. Unlike other, thin, bindings (see the project's homepage for a list), OpenGLAda enriches the original API with concepts and features provided by Ada, like object orientation, type safety and generics.

Besides standard OpenGL functionality, OpenGLAda optionally provides bindings to the following OpenGL-related libraries:

  • GLFW (opengl-glfw.gpr): This is a library for creating windows with an OpenGL context on them. It also provides functionality for capturing user input on keyboard, mouse and joystick. Having a window with an OpenGL context is the prerequisite for using any OpenGL functionality. The GLFW binding comes in two flavors: One for GLFW 2.x and one for GLFW 3+. There are significant differences between these two, the most prominent being that GLFW 3 can handle multiple windows. You can set the desired GLFW version for the binding at compile time.
  • FreeType (deps/FreeTypeAda/freetype.gpr): A library for loading TrueType and OpenType fonts. OpenGLAda includes FreeTypeAda, a wrapper for the FreeType library. The project opengl-text.gpr provides an original higher-level API for rendering text based on FreeTypeAda.
  • GID (deps/gid/gid.gpr): The Generic Image Decoder. This is an original Ada library for loading common image formats, which is included in OpenGLAda. The project opengl-images.gpr provides an original higher-level API for generating OpenGL textures with GID.

OpenGLAda supports macOS, Windows and X11-based systems. API documentation can be found on the project's homepage.

Migrating from C

Compared to C, OpenGLAda provides the features of the following C libraries:

  • OpenGL

  • GLEW: OpenGLAda loads all post-OpenGL 1.1 subroutines dynamically via pointers, so that available features may be queried at runtime.

  • GLUT: Long deprecated, yet still referenced from articles about OpenGL. OpenGLAda provides an optional wrapper for the GLFW library that provides functionality similar to GLUT.

    Text rendering functionality superior to what GLUT provides are supplied by opengl-text.gpr with the help of the FreeType library.

  • Image loading: OpenGLAda includes the GID library for image loading.

Building & Installation


There is an installer available for 64bit Windows + GNAT Community in the repository's releases section which includes all optional dependencies.


In order to build OpenGLAda, you need to have:

  • A GNAT compiler¹. Compilers known to work well with OpenGLAda are GnuAda, GNAT Community 2020, and TDM-GCC. More information is available on the GCC website.
  • GPRBuild (is bundled with AdaCore's GNAT distribution). TDM-GCC users can get it from here (NOTE: The gprbuild bundled in this zip is known not to work. For the time being, if you're using TDM-GCC, replace gprbuild with gnatmake in all commands even though that will tell you that project support in gnatmake is deprecated and will soon be removed. The reason for this incompatibility has not been found yet).
  • An OpenGL implementation (usually comes bundled with your graphics driver)
  • Optionally GLFW (OpenGLAda is pretty useless without the ability to create an OpenGL context.)
  • Optionally FreeType

¹: You may also be able to build OpenGLAda with another Ada compiler and/or without using the *.gpr files. You just have to import the sources to your project and whichever build system you are using. I never used other Ada compilers apart from GNAT, so if I accidentally used some GNAT-specific features in the code, open an issue.


To install OpenGLAda with all optional libraries, execute

$ gprbuild -p [options] openglada.gpr
$ gprinstall [options] openglada.gpr

Where [options] is the set of scenario variables you want to use (generally in the form of -Xname=value`). The available variables are:

  • Windowing_System: Sets the backend windowing system. Used for GLFW and also for system-dependent parts of the API (GLX, WGL, CGL):

    • x11: X Windowing System (Linux, BSD, etc)
    • windows: Microsoft Windows
    • quartz: Quartz Compositor (macOS)
  • mode: May take one of the following values:

    • debug (default): Compile the project with debugging symbols and without optimization.
    • release: Compile the project for a release environment.
  • Auto_Exceptions: Configures exception handling:

    • enabled (default): After each call to OpenGL, OpenGLAda checks whether OpenGL has set an error flag and if it had, raises the corresponding exception.
    • disabled: The user has to query the error flag on their own.
  • GLFW_Version: Sets the version of the GLFW library to link against. See here for a detailed comparison of the two API versions.

    • 2: GLFW 2.x. Only one window.
    • 3 (default): GLFW 3+. Multiple windows, multiple monitor support, etc.
  • GLFW_Linker_Param: Define how you will link to GLFW. Default is -lglfw everywhere but on Windows with GLFW 3, in which case it is -lglfw3.

  • FreeType_Linker_Param: Define how you will link to FreeType. Default is -lfreetype.

For example, a typical Windows installation would be

$ gprbuild -p -XWindowing_System=windows -Xmode=release openglada.gpr
$ gprinstall -XWindowing_System=windows -Xmode=release openglada.gpr

Installing OpenGLAda makes its projects available to gprbuild and also to GNAT Studio. You can now import it like this:

with "opengl";
with "opengl-glfw";
with "opengl-text";
-- and so on

Note: The project file openglada.gpr is just an aggregate project used for installation. In your projects, depend on opengl.gpr and its child projects.

If you are having trouble getting OpenGLAda to compile in your environment, please refer to the detailed guides on the website.


The tests in this repository are small programs that are mainly used to check if the basic system is working. You can build them with

$ make tests

If you're on Windows and do not have the make utility available, do this instead:

$ gprbuild -P opengl-glfw-test.gpr -XWindowing_System=windows
$ gprbuild -P opengl-test.gpr -XWindowing_System=windows
$ gprbuild -P opengl-text-test.gpr -XWindowing_System=windows
$ gprbuild -P opengl-images-test.gpr -XWindowing_System=windows

The tests require GLFW, because they need to create windows. By default, they try to link against GLFW 3+. You can instead build the tests against GLFW 2.x by adding the parameter -XGLFW_Version=2.


Examples are available in this repository.

Developer Documentation

I have written an article about the development of OpenGLAda on AdaCore's blog:

Binding Generation

OpenGL implementations do not necessarily provide the newest OpenGL version, but possibly some older one with some functionality of the newer versions provided as extensions. For OpenGLAda, this means that most OpenGL functionality cannot be linked against via the library loader, since loading the library would immediately fail if any function is not available, even if the user never calls it. Most notoriously, Windows does not provide any OpenGL functionality newer than 1.1 via library loading.

The remedy for this is that function pointers of newer OpenGL functions must be queried at runtime. This is a tedious process and similar for each function. For this reason, OpenGLAda uses a code generator to autogenerate the function pointer types and the code loading each function, as well as the code importing OpenGL 1.1 functions via library loading.

The code generator can be found in src/generator. It processes the files found in src/gl/specs and creates the files found in src/gl/generated. The generator is a tool used at compile-time for building OpenGLAda and of no interest to the general user. The generated files are checked in to version control. The generator also generates the markdown file which is the base for the function mapping list on the website.

The process of wrapping a new OpenGL function is:

  • Add the function specification to one of the *.spec files in src/gl/specs.
  • Run make generate, which builds the generator and generates the Ada code.
  • Check in the newly generated code along with the changed spec.

The *.spec files use a syntax similar to Ada.

Building the Windows Installer

The Windows installer is generated with the WiX Toolset. You'll need its executables heat.exe, candle.exe and light.exe in your PATH. Executing the script create-msi.ps1 in the install directory containing it will

  • download binaries of the GLFW and FreeType libraries
  • build OpenGLAda with GNAT
  • install OpenGLAda in a temporary directory
  • Build an MSI installer that will copy OpenGLAda's binaries as well as the GLFW and FreeType libraries into the installation directory of a GNAT Community installation.


OpenGLAda, as well as the included libraries FreeTypeAda and GID, are distributed under the terms of the MIT License.

The Ada 2012 logo that is used in the images tests is distributed under the terms of the CC BY-ND 3.0 license, the original author is AdaCore.