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Native File Dialog

A tiny, neat C library that portably invokes native file open, folder select and save dialogs. Write dialog code once and have it pop up native dialogs on all supported platforms. Avoid linking large dependencies like wxWidgets and qt.


  • Lean C API, static library -- no ObjC, no C++, no STL.
  • Zlib licensed.
  • Consistent UTF-8 support on all platforms.
  • Simple universal file filter syntax.
  • Paid support available.
  • Multiple file selection support.
  • 64-bit and 32-bit friendly.
  • GCC, Clang, Xcode, Mingw and Visual Studio supported.
  • No third party dependencies for building or linking.
  • Support for Vista's modern IFileDialog on Windows.
  • Support for non-deprecated Cocoa APIs on OS X.
  • GTK3 dialog on Linux.
  • Optional Zenity support on Linux to avoid linking GTK.
  • Tested, works alongside on all platforms, for the game developers out there.

Example Usage

#include <nfd.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>

int main( void )
    nfdchar_t *outPath = NULL;
    nfdresult_t result = NFD_OpenDialog( NULL, NULL, &outPath );
    if ( result == NFD_OKAY ) {
    else if ( result == NFD_CANCEL ) {
        puts("User pressed cancel.");
    else {
        printf("Error: %s\n", NFD_GetError() );

    return 0;

See self-documenting API NFD.h for more options.


Windows rendering a dialog GTK3 on Linux rendering a dialog Cocoa on MacOS rendering a dialog


  • Major version increments denote API or ABI departure.
  • Minor version increments denote build or trivial departures.
  • Micro version increments just recompile and drop-in.
release what's new date
1.0.0 initial oct 2014
1.1.0 premake5; scons deprecated aug 2016
1.1.1 mingw support, build fixes aug 2016
1.1.2 test_pickfolder() added aug 2016
1.1.3 zenity linux backend added nov 2017
fix char type in decls nov 2017
1.1.4 fix win32 memleaks dec 2018
improve win32 errorhandling dec 2018
macos fix focus bug dec 2018
1.1.5 win32 fix com reinitialize aug 2019
1.1.6 fix osx filter bug aug 2019
remove deprecated scons aug 2019
fix mingw compilation aug 2019
-Wextra warning cleanup aug 2019


NFD uses Premake5 generated Makefiles and IDE project files. The generated project files are checked in under build/ so you don't have to download and use Premake in most cases.

If you need to run Premake5 directly, further build documentation is available.

Previously, NFD used SCons to build. As of 1.1.6, SCons support has been removed entirely.

nfd.a will be built for release builds, and nfd_d.a will be built for debug builds.


The makefile offers up to four options, with release_x64 as the default.

make config=release_x86
make config=release_x64
make config=debug_x86
make config=debug_x64

Compiling Your Programs

  1. Add src/include to your include search path.
  2. Add nfd.lib or nfd_d.lib to the list of list of static libraries to link against (for release or debug, respectively).
  3. Add build/<debug|release>/<arch> to the library search path.

Linux GTK

apt-get libgtk-3-dev installs the gtk dependency for library compilation.

On Linux, you have the option of compiling and linking against GTK. If you use it, the recommended way to compile is to include the arguments of pkg-config --cflags --libs gtk+-3.0.

Linux Zenity

Alternatively, you can use the Zenity backend by running the Makefile in build/gmake_linux_zenity. Zenity runs the dialog in its own address space, but requires the user to have Zenity correctly installed and configured on their system.


On Mac OS, add AppKit to the list of frameworks.


On Windows, ensure you are linking against comctl32.lib.


See NFD.h for API calls. See tests/*.c for example code.

After compiling, build/bin contains compiled test programs. The appropriate subdirectory under build/lib contains the built library.

File Filter Syntax

There is a form of file filtering in every file dialog API, but no consistent means of supporting it. NFD provides support for filtering files by groups of extensions, providing its own descriptions (where applicable) for the extensions.

A wildcard filter is always added to every dialog.


  • ; Begin a new filter.
  • , Add a separate type to the filter.


txt The default filter is for text files. There is a wildcard option in a dropdown.

png,jpg;psd The default filter is for png and jpg files. A second filter is available for psd files. There is a wildcard option in a dropdown.

NULL Wildcard only.

Iterating Over PathSets

See test_opendialogmultiple.c.

Known Limitations

I accept quality code patches, or will resolve these and other matters through support. See contributing for details.

  • No support for Windows XP's legacy dialogs such as GetOpenFileName.
  • No support for file filter names -- ex: "Image Files" (*.png, *.jpg). Nameless filters are supported, however.
  • GTK Zenity implementation's process exec error handling does not gracefully handle numerous error cases, choosing to abort rather than cleanup and return.
  • GTK 3 spams one warning per dialog created.

Copyright and Credit

Copyright © 2014-2019 Frogtoss Games, Inc. File LICENSE covers all files in this repo.

Native File Dialog by Michael Labbe

Tomasz Konojacki for microutf8

Denis Kolodin for mingw support.

Tom Mason for Zenity support.


Directed support for this work is available from the original author under a paid agreement.

Contact Frogtoss Games.