Home > Store

OpenGL® Reference Manual: The Official Reference Document to OpenGL, Version 1.2, 3rd Edition

Register your product to gain access to bonus material or receive a coupon.

OpenGL® Reference Manual: The Official Reference Document to OpenGL, Version 1.2, 3rd Edition


  • Sorry, this book is no longer in print.
Not for Sale


  • Copyright 2000
  • Dimensions: 7-3/8x9-1/8
  • Pages: 704
  • Edition: 3rd
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-201-65765-1
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-201-65765-4

OpenGL is a powerful software interface used to produce high-quality computer generated images and interactive graphics applications by rendering 2D and 3D geometric objects, bitmaps, and color images.

Officially sanctioned by the OpenGL Architecture Review Board (ARB), the OpenGL® Reference Manual, Third Edition, is the comprehensive and definitive documentation of all OpenGL functions. This third edition covers OpenGL Version 1.2, including its newest features: 3D texture mapping; multitexturing; mipmapped texture level-of-detail control; new pixel storage formats, including packed and reversed (BGRA) formats; rescaling vertex normals; and specular lighting after texturing. In addition, this book documents the newest routines in the OpenGL Utility Library (GLU 1.3) and added functionality in the OpenGL extension to the X Window System (GLX 1.3).

The comprehensive reference section documents each set of related OpenGL commands. Each reference page contains:

  • A description of the command's parameters
  • The effects on rendering and the OpenGL state by the command
  • Examples
  • Errors generated by functions
  • References to related functions

This book also includes a conceptual overview of OpenGL, a summary of commands and routines, a chapter on defined constants and associated commands, and a description of the ARB extensions, including multitexture and the imaging subset.

The OpenGL Technical Library provides tutorial and reference books for OpenGL. The Library enables programmers to gain a practical understanding of OpenGL and shows them how to unlock its full potential. Originally developed by SGI, the Library continues to evolve under the auspices of the Architecture Review Board (ARB), an industry consortium responsible for guiding the evolution of OpenGL and related technologies. The OpenGL ARB is composed of industry leaders, such as 3Dlabs, Compaq, Evans & Sutherland, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Intergraph, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and SGI.

The OpenGL® Reference Manual, Third Edition, has been completely revised and updated for OpenGL, Version 1.2, by Dave Shreiner, in collaboration with the ARB.


Sample Content

Table of Contents


What You Should Know Before Reading This Manual.

Style Conventions.


1. Introduction to OpenGL.

OpenGL Fundamentals.

OpenGL Primitives and Commands.

OpenGL as a Procedural Language.

The OpenGL Execution Model.

Basic OpenGL Operation.

2. Overview of Commands and Routines.

The OpenGL Processing Pipeline.


ARB Imaging Subset.


Additional OpenGL Commands.

Using Evaluators.

Performing Selection and Feedback.

Using Display Lists.

Managing Modes and Execution.

Obtaining State Information.

OpenGL Utility Library.

Manipulating Images for Use in Texturing.

Transforming Coordinates.

Polygon Tessellation.

Rendering Spheres, Cylinders, and Disks.

NURBS Curves and Surfaces.

Handling Errors.

OpenGL Extension to the X Window System.


Controlling Rendering.

3. Summary of Commands and Routines.


OpenGL Commands.


Vertex Arrays.

Coordinate Transformation.

Coloring and Lighting.



Pixel Operations.



Frame Buffer Operations.


Selection and Feedback.

Display Lists.

Modes and Execution.

State Queries.

ARB Extensions.


Imaging Subset.

GLU Routines.

Texture Images.

Coordinate Transformation.

Polygon Tessellation.

Quadric Objects.

NURBS Curves and Surfaces.

State Queries.

GLX Routines.


Controlling Rendering.

4. Defined Constants and Associated Commands.

5. OpenGL Reference Pages.

6. GLU Reference Pages.

7. GLX Reference Pages. 0201657651T04062001


OpenGL is a software interface to graphics hardware (the "GL" stands for Graphics Library). This interface consists of several hundred functions that allow graphics programmers to specify the objects and operations needed to produce high-quality color images of three-dimensional objects. Many of the functions are actually simple variations of each other, so in reality there are only about 180 substantially different functions.

The OpenGL Utility Library (GLU) and the OpenGL Extension to the X Window System (GLX) provide useful supporting features and complement the core OpenGL set of functions. This manual explains what all these functions do. The following list summarizes the contents of each chapter.

  • Chapter 1, Introduction to OpenGL, provides a conceptual overview of OpenGL. It uses a high-level block diagram to explain all the major stages of processing OpenGL performs.
  • Chapter 2, Overview of Commands and Routines, describes in more detail how OpenGL processes input data (in the form of vertices specifying a geometric object or of pixels defining an image) and how you can control this processing using OpenGL functions. GLU and GLX functions are also discussed.
  • Chapter 3, Summary of Commands and Routines, lists the OpenGL commands in groups according to the tasks they perform. The full prototypes provided in this chapter allow you to use it as a quick reference once you understand what the commands accomplish.
  • Chapter 4, Defined Constants and Associated Commands, lists the constants defined in OpenGL and the commands that use them.
  • Chapter 5, OpenGL Reference Pages, which forms the bulk of this manual, contains reference pages describing each set of related OpenGL commands. Commands with parameters that differ only in data type are described together. Each reference page describes the parameters, the effect of the commands, and what errors might result from using the commands. Additionally, this section contains the reference pages for the OpenGL ARB extensions: multitexture and the imaging subset. Not all OpenGL implementations may include support for the ARB extensions.
  • Chapter 6, GLU Reference Pages, contains reference pages for all GLU commands.
  • Chapter 7, GLX Reference Pages, contains reference pages for all GLX commands.

What You Should Know Before Reading This Manual

This manual is intended as the companion reference volume to the OpenGL Programming Guide, Third Edition, by Mason Woo, Jackie Neider, Tom Davis, and Dave Shreiner (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1999). Both books assume that you know how to program in C.

While the focus of the OpenGL Programming Guide is on how to use OpenGL, the focus of this reference manual is on how OpenGL works. For a complete understanding of OpenGL, you need both types of information. Another difference between the two books is that most of the content of this manual is organized alphabetically, based on the assumption that you know what you don't know and therefore need only to look up a description of a particular command. The OpenGL Programming Guide is organized like a tutorial: it explains the simpler OpenGL concepts first and builds up to the more complex ones. Although you don't have to read the OpenGL Programming Guide to understand the command descriptions in this manual, your understanding of their intended use will be much more complete if you have read it.

If you don't know much about computer graphics, start with the programming guide rather than this reference manual. In addition, consider these books.

  • Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice by James D. Foley, Andries van Dam, Steven K. Feiner, and John F. Hughes (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company)--This book is an encyclopedic treatment of the subject of computer graphics. It includes a wealth of information but is probably best read after you have some experience with the subject.
  • 3D Computer Graphics: A User's Guide for Artists and Designers by Andrew S. Glassner (New York: Design Press)--This book is a nontechnical, gentle introduction to computer graphics. It focuses on the visual effects that can be achieved rather than on the techniques needed to achieve them.
  • The Way Computer Graphics Work by Olin Lathrop (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.)--This book is a general introduction to computer graphics directed at the beginner to intermediate level computer users. It describes the general principles required for understanding computer graphics.

Style Conventions

This guide uses the following style conventions:

  • Bold--Command and routine names
  • Italics--Variables, arguments, parameter names, spatial dimensions, and document names
  • Regular--Enumerated types and defined constants
  • Monospace font--Code examples

Note that this manual uses abbreviations for command names. Many OpenGL commands are just variations of each other. For simplicity, only the base name of the command is used, and an asterisk is included to indicate that there may be more to the actual command name than is being shown. For example, glVertex* stands for all variations of the command available to specify vertices.

The commands differ mostly in the data type of arguments. Some commands differ in the number of related arguments and whether those arguments can be specified as a vector or whether they must be specified separately in a list. For example, if you use the glVertex2f command, you must supply x and y coordinates as floating-point numbers; with glVertex3sv, you must supply an array of three short integer values for x, y, and z.



Submit Errata

More Information

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020