Example of GtkGLArea use
C Makefile GLSL
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Using GtkGLArea

A simple example of how to use OpenGL and the GtkGLArea widget available since GTK+ 3.16.

See also: https://www.bassi.io/articles/2015/02/17/using-opengl-with-gtk/

Building and running

You will need GTK+ 3.16 or later to build this example.

Clone the repository, as usual:

$ git clone https://github.com/ebassi/glarea-example

Then run make inside the cloned repository:

$ cd glarea-example
$ make

Finally, run the example:

$ ./glarea

If everything worked as it should, you should see this:


Use the range widgets to control the rotation of the triangle, and feel free to play around with the source.

What goes where

This is a simple example, but it's been broken down in a way that allows easy reuse of the parts.

  • glarea-app.[ch] - This is the main application singleton; just a thin wrapper around GtkApplication which creates an application window of the GlareaAppWindow class on activation, unless one is already present, in which case it just brings up into focus the existing instance
  • glarea-app-menu.ui - The GMenu XML description of the application menu, loaded by the application singleton instance
  • glarea-app-window.[ch] - This is the main application window, and where the real magic happens
  • glarea-app-window.ui - The GtkBuilder XML description of the GlareaAppWindow class
  • glarea-error.[ch] - A GError error domain, for our internal use
  • glarea-fragment.glsl - The GLSL fragment shader source, which we embed into the executable binary by way of GResource
  • glarea-vertex.glsl - The GLSL vertex shader source, which we embed into the executable binary by way of GResource
  • glarea.gresource.xml - The list of resources we want to embed into the executable binary
  • main.c - The main entry point, which creates the application singletong and spins the main loop

The whole application logic can be broken down into roughly four separate parts:

  1. Initialization
  2. State updates
  3. Drawing
  4. Deinitialization


We use the GtkWidget::realize signal to know when the GtkGLArea widget has created the windowing system resources associated with the GL context; in order to use the signal, we connect the gl_init function to it inside the UI description.

The basic step is to make the GL context current, so we can use the GL API:

  gtk_gl_area_make_current (GTK_GL_AREA (self->gl_drawing_area));
  if (gtk_gl_area_get_error (GTK_GL_AREA (self->gl_drawing_area)) != NULL)

We check if the GtkGLArea widget is in an error state to decide whether to bail out and not use GL API on an invalid context.

After that, we initialize our vertex and fragment shaders, as well as the buffer objects.

State updates

Every time the user changes the value of the three GtkRange widgets, the corresponding GtkAdjustment is also updated; we catch the value change in the adjustment_changed signal handler, which we connected using the UI description.

The adjustment_changed signal recomputes the modelview-projection matrix using a rotation transformation, and calls gtk_widget_queue_draw() on the GtkGLArea widget, signalling that the contents of the widget should be updated, i.e. redrawn.


The gl_draw function is connected to the GtkGLArea::render signal by way of the UI description.

We do not need to call gtk_gl_area_make_current(), as the context is made current before emitting the signal; we also do not need to check for an error state, because the signal will not be emitted in that case.

We load the various GL objects we created inside gl_init(), like the vertex array object and the program; we upload the mvp matrix to the location of the mvp uniform in the vertex shader; and we call the glDrawArrays() function to draw the vertices of the triangle. At the end of the process, we reset the state.


We use the GtkWidget::unrealize signal to release the resources we allocated inside the gl_init() function. As with the initialization process, we need to check if the GtkGLArea widget is in an error state after making the GL context current.

Copyright and License

Copyright 2015 Emmanuele Bassi

Released under the terms of the CC0. See the LICENSE file for more details.