A Simple C++ OpenGL Shader Loader – Improved

I wrote one back in 2013, but I’ve learnt some things since then, so I’ve re-written it all with some changes. You can still load/compile shaders from strings or files, and then link/validate/use the resulting shader programs, only this time its all a little bit cleaner and more robust.

The main deficiencies of the previous incarnation were:

  • The Shader class wasn’t required for what I was using this stuff for, so I stripped it out – now you just create a ShaderProgram directly,
  • Error logs weren’t shown for any shader or shader program errors,
  • The shader program didn’t get validated,
  • Abuse of exit(-1) rather than throwing unchecked runtime_errors,
  • Inclusion of using clauses in headers, and
  • Possible wonky static declaration and initialisation of const_iterator error in uniform location getter meant that it might have only “got” the uniform location correcty on first run, when the const_iterator was declared – but in practice I haven’t seen any issues, perhaps because I spotted and fixed it but forgot to update article though…

Anyway, below is an improved version that fixes all of the above – here’s how you use it…


ShaderProgram Class Source Code

Here’s the code for the class itself:

Note: I’m not convinced that the compiler will even consider inlining the use() and disable() methods when the program is built as a hpp – I think I’d have to break it into .h and .cpp files for that… other than that I’m thinking the above code is pretty clean, robust and usable.

How To: Load an OpenGL Texture using the FreeImage library (or FreeImagePlus, technically)

I’d been using DevIL (or OpenIL if you prefer) as my image loader library, only it hasn’t been updated in a long time and can be a pain to build properly, so I’ve needed to move onto something else. The DevIL fork, ResIL, isn’t quite ready for prime-time and my attempts to build it have resulted in wasted hours and failure (I’ve fixed multiple build errors on the way – but then I hit stuff I can’t see how to fix without trying to re-package the entire thing).

So, new image library, huh? I had a google and saw the FreeImage library (and it’s FreeImagePlus version for C++ – documentation for which can be found here) – and it just happens to be in the Arch community repos so a quick sudo pacman -S freeimage later and we’re ready to rock… Only it didn’t come with any examples, so I dug around on forums and found some code that just about worked, but I wasn’t a big fan of it – so I thought I’d rewrite it into a nicer, more robust method – and I think I’ve achieved just that.

A textured quad at an angle.

The loadTexture Method


To use the method, just set up your code something like this – in your main .cpp file at the top have:

In your initialisation/setup method add something like this:

In your main method, once you’ve create an OpenGL context (i.e. window) and called your initialise/setup method, then you can load a texture to use like this:

Finally, on shutdown you may (optionally, as long as you’re not using the Linux/Mac .a version of the library) like to add the following:


Not a great deal to say – it works, it should be relatively robust, it doesn’t leak memory (or at least none that we control), and the code is commented to the hilt and explains why it’s doing things instead of just what it’s doing (some people don’t like verbose code like this – but I teach a lot of programming so I just try to explain everything as clearly as possible as I go – and find I prefer it to ‘terse’ code that I have no idea WTF it’s up to or why it’s bothering).

Many thanks to the FreeImage devs for the library – it’s rather feature-packed and I quite like it (some good example code wouldn’t go amiss though!) =D

Hope you find the code useful! (Bugs? Comments? Suggestions? Feedback always welcome!).

A Simple C++ OpenGL Shader Loader

Update: There’s a re-worked and improved version of this shader loading code here: http://r3dux.org/2015/01/a-simple-c-opengl-shader-loader-improved/ – you should probably use that instead of this.

I’ve been doing a bunch of OpenGL programming recently and wanted to create my own shader classes to make setting up shaders as easy as possible – so I did ;-) To create vertex and fragment shaders and tie them into a shader program you can just import the Shader.hpp and ShaderProgram.hpp classes and use code like the following:

There’s also a loadFromString(some-string-containing-GLSL-source-code) method, if that’s your preference.

The ShaderProgram class uses a string/int map as a key/value pair, so to add attributes or uniforms you just specify their name and they’ll have a location assigned to them:

The ShaderProgram class then uses two methods called attribute and uniform to return the bound locations (you could argue that I should have called these methods getAttribute and getUniform – but I felt that just attribute and uniform were cleaner in use. Feel free to mod if you feel strongly about it). When binding vertex attribute pointers you can use code like this:

Finally, when drawing your geometry you can get just enable the shader program, provide the location and data for bound uniforms, and then disable it like this (I’m using the GL Mathematics library for matrices – you can use anything you fancy):

That’s pretty much it – nice and simple. I haven’t done anything with geometry shaders yet so I’ve no idea if there’s anything else you’ll need, but if so it likely won’t be too tricky a job to implement it yourself. Anyways, you can look at the source code for the classes themselves below, and I’ll put the two classes in a zip file here: ShaderHelperClasses.zip.

As a final note, you can’t create anything shader-y without having a valid OpenGL rendering context (i.e. a window to draw stuff to) or the code will segfault – that’s just how it works. The easiest way around this if you want to keep a global ShaderProgram object around is to create it as a pointer (i.e. ShaderProgram *shaderProgram;) and then initialise it later on when you’ve got the window open with shaderProgram = new ShaderProgram(); like I’ve done above.

Cheers! =D

Source code after the jump…