visual How to build & install GLFW 3 and use it in a Linux project

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Last night I was working late trying to build the GLFW 3 packages for Linux from source. This process took me a very long time, about 3 hours in total, partly because I am unfamiliar with CMake, and partly because I am was unfamiliar with GLFW.

I hope that this post will save you from the difficulty I had yesterday! I thought I should make a short write-up, and hopefully save you several hours of your life...

Thanks to "urraka", "b6" and "niklas" on the #glfw IRC channel, I have been able to get glfw version 3.0.1 working.

It turns out this is not a trivial process (certainly not for me, I am no expert) as there is not much documentation on the web about glfw3, particularly about setting it up with CMake.

I was asked to split this into a question and answer section, and so I have done that, and the answer parts are now below.

Are you a maintainer of GLFW, or a member of the GLFW team?

If any of the maintainers of GLFW3 see this, then my message to them is please add a "setting up GLFW3 on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux" section to your website! It is quite easy to write programs with GLFW, since the online documentation is quite good, a quick scan of all the available classes and modules and you'll be ready to go. The example of a test project featured here is also very good. The two main problems I found were, firstly how do I set up GLFW3 on my system, and secondly how to I build a GLFW3 project? These two things perhaps aren't quite clear enough for a non-expert.


Had a brief look today (Date: 2014-01-14) it looks as if the GLFW website has undergone heavy changes since I last looked and there is now a section on compiling GLFW and buliding programs with GLFW, which I think are new.

Step 1: Installing GLFW 3 on your system with CMAKE

For this install, I was using KUbuntu 13.04, 64bit.

The first step is to download the latest version (assuming versions in the future work in a similar way) from, probably using this link.

The next step is to extract the archive, and open a terminal. cd into the glfw-3.X.X directory and run cmake -G "Unix Makefiles" you may need elevated privileges, and you may also need to install build dependencies first. To do this, try sudo apt-get build-dep glfw or sudo apt-get build-dep glfw3 or do it manually, as I did using sudo apt-get install cmake xorg-dev libglu1-mesa-dev... There may be other libs you require such as the pthread libraries... Apparently I had them already. (See the -l options given to the g++ linker stage, below.)

Now you can type make and then make install, which will probably require you to sudo first.

Okay, you should get some verbose output on the last three CMake stages, telling you what has been built or where it has been placed. (In /usr/include, for example.)

Step 2: Create a test program and compile

The next step is to fire up vim ("what?! vim?!" you say) or your preferred IDE / text editor... I didn't use vim, I used Kate, because I am on KUbuntu 13.04... Anyway, download or copy the test program from here (at the bottom of the page) and save, exit.

Now compile using g++ -std=c++11 -c main.cpp - not sure if c++11 is required but I used nullptr so, I needed it... You may need to upgrade your gcc to version 4.7, or the upcoming version 4.8... Info on that here.

Then fix your errors if you typed the program by hand or tried to be "too clever" and something didn't work... Then link it using this monster! g++ main.o -o main.exec -lGL -lGLU -lglfw3 -lX11 -lXxf86vm -lXrandr -lpthread -lXi So you see, in the "install build dependencies" part, you may also want to check you have the GL, GLU, X11 Xxf86vm (whatever that is) Xrandr posix-thread and Xi (whatever that is) development libraries installed also. Maybe update your graphics drivers too, I think GLFW 3 may require OpenGL version 3 or higher? Perhaps someone can confirm that? You may also need to add the linker options -ldl -lXinerama -lXcursor to get it to work correctly if you are getting undefined references to dlclose (credit to @user2255242).

And, yes, I really did need that many -ls!

Step 3: You are finished, have a nice day!

Hopefully this information was correct and everything worked for you, and you enjoyed writing the GLFW test program. Also hopefully this guide has helped, or will help, a few people in the future who were struggling as I was today yesterday!

By the way, all the tags are the things I searched for on looking for an answer that didn't exist. (Until now.) Hopefully they are what you searched for if you were in a similar position to myself.

I solved it in this way

A pkg-config file describes all necessary compile-time and link-time flags and dependencies needed to use a library.

pkg-config --static --libs glfw3

shows me that

-L/usr/local/lib -lglfw3 -lrt -lXrandr -lXinerama -lXi -lXcursor -lGL -lm -ldl -lXrender -ldrm -lXdamage -lX11-xcb -lxcb-glx -lxcb-dri2 -lxcb-dri3 -lxcb-present -lxcb-sync -lxshmfence -lXxf86vm -lXfixes -lXext -lX11 -lpthread -lxcb -lXau -lXdmcp  

I don't know if all these libs are actually necessary for compiling but for me it works...

Note that you do not need that many -ls if you install glfw with the BUILD_SHARED_LIBS option. (You can enable this option by running ccmake first).
This way sudo make install will install the shared library in /usr/local/lib/ You can then compile the example file with a simple:

g++ main.cpp -L /usr/local/lib/ -lglfw

Then do not forget to add /usr/local/lib/ to the search path for shared libraries before running your program. This can be done using:

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/local/lib:${LD_LIBRARY_PATH}

And you can put that in your ~/.bashrc so you don't have to type it all the time.

Since the accepted answer does not allow more edits, I'm going to summarize it with a single copy-paste command (Replace 3.2.1 with the latest version available in the first command):

version="3.2.1" && \
wget "${version}/glfw-${version}.zip" && \
unzip glfw-${version}.zip && \
cd glfw-${version} && \
sudo apt-get install cmake xorg-dev libglu1-mesa-dev && \
sudo cmake -G "Unix Makefiles" && \
sudo make && \
sudo make install

If you want to compile a program use the following commands:

g++ -std=c++11 -c main.cpp && \
g++ main.o -o main.exec -lGL -lGLU -lglfw3 -lX11 -lXxf86vm -lXrandr -lpthread -lXi -ldl -lXinerama -lXcursor

If you are following the tutorial you may have to set up GLAD as well. In such case click on this link

and then click on the "Generate" button at the bottom right corner of the website and download the zip file. Extract it and compile the sources with the following command:

g++ glad/src/glad.c -c -Iglad/include

Now, the commands to compile your program become like this:

g++ -std=c++11 -c main.cpp -Iglad/include && \
g++ main.o glad.o -o main.exec -lGL -lGLU -lglfw3 -lX11 -lXxf86vm -lXrandr -lpthread -lXi -ldl -lXinerama -lXcursor