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How to add OpenGL support to ATL controls

, 28 Sep 2002 CPOL
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An article describing the step-by-step process of adding basic OpenGL support to an ATL control


This tutorial will demonstrate how to add OpenGL support to an ATL control, and constitutes a cut-down, organized version of the ATL OpenGL demo that comes with Visual C++ in a more printable and easier-to-digest format. In order to work with this tutorial, you must create an ATL control in your project. What follows below is a step-by-step guide to adding the most basic OpenGL support to an ATL control.

Note: though I prefix function declarations with CMyControl::, I would recommend writing these functions inline (in the header file) and if you do that, the prefix must be removed.

  1. Add support for headers <gl/gl.h> and <gl/glu.h>; Add support for opengl32.lib and glu32.lib libraries.

    This can be done by adding the following four lines at the end of your stdafx.h file:

    #include <gl/gl.h>
    #include <gl/glu.h>
    #pragma comment(lib, "opengl32.lib")
    #pragma comment(lib, "glu32.lib")
  2. Add an OpenGL rendering context variable to your control class:
    // OpenGL rendering context
    HGLRC m_hRC;
    Now make a function to choose the OpenGL pixel format. This function will take a device context handle as a parameter and would set pixel format specifically for this device context. The function should look like the following:
    // Set OpenGL pixel format for given DC
    BOOL MyControl::SetupPixelFormat(HDC hdc)
        static PIXELFORMATDESCRIPTOR pfd =
            sizeof(PIXELFORMATDESCRIPTOR),   // size of this pfd
                1,                           // version number
                PFD_DRAW_TO_WINDOW |         // support window
                PFD_SUPPORT_OPENGL |         // support OpenGL
                PFD_DOUBLEBUFFER,            // double buffered
                PFD_TYPE_RGBA,               // RGBA type
                24,                          // 24-bit color depth
                0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0,            // color bits ignored
                0,                           // no alpha buffer
                0,                           // shift bit ignored
                0,                           // no accumulation buffer
                0, 0, 0, 0,                  // accum bits ignored
                32,                          // 32-bit z-buffer
                0,                           // no stencil buffer
                0,                           // no auxiliary buffer
                PFD_MAIN_PLANE,              // main layer
                0,                           // reserved
                0, 0, 0                      // layer masks ignored
        int pixelformat;
        if ((pixelformat = ChoosePixelFormat(hdc, &pfd)) == 0)
            return FALSE;
        if (SetPixelFormat(hdc, pixelformat, &pfd) == FALSE)
            return FALSE;
        return TRUE;
  3. Make a function that would create an OpenGL rendering context and initialize the viewport. Note that after setting the current rendering context, we can begin calling OpenGL functions such as glViewport.
    // Create rendering context given device context and control bounds
    void MyControl::CreateContext(HDC hdc, RECT& rc)
        if (!SetupPixelFormat(hdc))
        int n = GetPixelFormat(hdc);
        DescribePixelFormat(hdc, n, sizeof(pfd), &pfd);
        m_hRC = wglCreateContext(hdc);
        wglMakeCurrent(hdc, m_hRC);
        // OpenGL code starts here - below is an example
        int width = rc.right - rc.left;
        int height = rc.bottom -;
        glViewport(0, 0, width, height);
        gluOrtho2D(-width/2, width/2, -height/2, height/2);
  4. Add a call to the above function from OnCreate. To do that, you first have to create a WM_CREATE handler. Use the Messages button on the Properties toolbar to add a handler. Then, find the function and add code similar to the following:
    LRESULT CMyControl::OnCreate(UINT /*uMsg*/, WPARAM /*wParam*/,
        LPARAM /*lParam*/, BOOL& /*bHandled*/)
        HDC hdc = GetDC();
        RECT rc;
        CreateContext(hdc, rc);
        return 0;
  5. In a similar fashion, add code for OnDestroy (WM_DESTROY) to clear the rendering context and delete it.
    LRESULT CMyControl::OnDestroy(UINT /*uMsg*/, WPARAM /*wParam*/, LPARAM /*lParam*/, BOOL& /*bHandled*/)
      wglMakeCurrent(NULL, NULL);
      if (m_hRC)
        m_hRC = NULL;
      return 0;
  6. Handling WM_SIZE is also important. Whenever the window resizes, we must nullify the current OpenGL rendering context and recreate it from scratch.
    LRESULT CMyControl::OnSize(UINT /*uMsg*/, WPARAM /*wParam*/,
        LPARAM /*lParam*/, BOOL& /*bHandled*/)
        // when resized, recreate the device context
        wglMakeCurrent(NULL,    NULL);
        if (m_hRC)
            m_hRC = NULL;
        HDC hdc = GetDC();
        RECT rc;
        CreateContext(hdc, rc);
        return 0;

    All done. Remember! You can use glaux library (glaux32.lib, <glaux.h>) to implement functionality equivalent to the GLUT library (though you probably won't need the windowing functions). For example, you can use auxDIBImageLoad to load bitmaps to use as textures. However, I would recommend using more advanced methods of texturing, for example using PNG files for textures that have an alpha channel.

  7. Rendering can be done in OnDraw. Here is an example:
        HDC hdc = di.hdcDraw;
        RECT& rc = *(RECT*)di.prcBounds;
        wglMakeCurrent(hdc, m_hRC);
        glClearColor(1.0f, 0.0f, 0.0f, 10.0f);
        // compute dimensions of a quarter of the control
        SIZE qtrSize = { 
            (rc.right - rc.left) / 2, 
            (rc.bottom - / 2 };
            glColor3ub(255, 0, 0);
            glVertex3s(,, 0);
            glColor3ub(0, 255, 0);
            glVertex3s(,, 0);
            glColor3ub(0, 0, 255);
            glVertex3s(,, 0);
            glColor3ub(255, 255, 255);
            glVertex3s(,, 0);
        return S_OK;

Possible Improvements

I believe it is possible to create a mixin class/abstract superclass that will add OpenGL functionality to an ATL control in a much cleaner fashion than a bunch of functions/message handlers inside every control class. Writing all this code for each ATL control (if you have many in your project) is tedious: it would be better if you could specify that your control inherits from some CControlOpenGL<YourControl> class. This functionality, as well as more advanced OpenGL modes and options may make up material for another tutorial.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Dmitri Nеstеruk
Founder ActiveMesa
United Kingdom United Kingdom
I work primarily with the .NET technology stack, and specialize in accelerated code production via code generation (static or dynamic), aspect-oriented programming, MDA, domain-specific languages and anything else that gets products out the door faster. My languages of choice are C# and F#, though I'm open to suggestions.

I'm a Microsoft MVP (Visual C#) since 2009. I run a collective tech blog at I use my own editor called TypograFix to typeset articles and blog posts.

Like the article and want this implemented in your product? Got a project that can benefit from Microsoft.Net goodness? Then get in touch!

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionDoesn't render anything Pin
DrkAngr7-Jan-09 13:21
memberDrkAngr7-Jan-09 13:21 
QuestionNo hardware acceleration Pin
blaless27-Aug-07 6:22
memberblaless27-Aug-07 6:22 
QuestionActiveX control crashes Pin
PabloMano22-Sep-06 6:04
memberPabloMano22-Sep-06 6:04 
When I execute the sample activeX control in Visual Studio 2005 it crashes in ActiveX Control Test Container and Internet Explorer.
Here is the point where it crashes:

if(!wglMakeCurrent(hdc, m_hRC))
MessageBox(_T("Failed creating window: Can't activate the OpenGL Rendering Context."), _T("SHUTDOWN ERROR"), MB_OK | MB_ICONINFORMATION);
int b = 0;
int a = 1/b;

The function wglMakeCurrent returns NULL meaning something went wrong.

Even if I use only wglMakeCurrent(hdc, m_hRC) the activeX still crashes in Internet Explorer.

What to do now?

AnswerRe: ActiveX control crashes Pin
Dmitri Nesteruk27-Feb-07 20:15
memberDmitri Nesteruk27-Feb-07 20:15 
GeneralRe: ActiveX control crashes Pin
vyacheslav avdeyev4-Nov-07 23:11
membervyacheslav avdeyev4-Nov-07 23:11 
GeneralRe: ActiveX control crashes Pin
Dmitri Nesteruk5-Nov-07 2:20
memberDmitri Nesteruk5-Nov-07 2:20 
AnswerRe: ActiveX control crashes Pin
luisperdigao26-Jul-08 1:29
memberluisperdigao26-Jul-08 1:29 
Questionhow to create a activex control that can be used in vb6? such as an example of atlopengldemo Pin
ictory18-May-05 3:40
memberictory18-May-05 3:40 
GeneralAdding ATL wizard setup Pin
rbtoaks4-Jun-04 7:14
memberrbtoaks4-Jun-04 7:14 
GeneralRe: Adding ATL wizard setup Pin
Anonymous23-Jul-04 2:08
sussAnonymous23-Jul-04 2:08 
GeneralRe: Adding ATL wizard setup Pin
rbtoaks23-Jul-04 7:31
memberrbtoaks23-Jul-04 7:31 
Questionpossible to create transparent opengl windows? Pin
BugByter23-Feb-04 12:14
memberBugByter23-Feb-04 12:14 
AnswerRe: possible to create transparent opengl windows? Pin
Anonymous25-May-04 2:09
sussAnonymous25-May-04 2:09 
Generalresize Pin
Mikko Mononen29-Sep-02 23:43
memberMikko Mononen29-Sep-02 23:43 
QuestionWindowOnly ? Pin
Anonymous29-Sep-02 13:24
sussAnonymous29-Sep-02 13:24 
AnswerRe: WindowOnly ? Pin
Anonymous4-Feb-03 2:06
sussAnonymous4-Feb-03 2:06 

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