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How Do I Choose the Best OpenGL® Books?

By Eugene P.
Updated May 16, 2024
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There are many OpenGL® books available, ranging from introductory tutorials for learning OpenGL® to very detailed specifications of the library and the abstract programming interface (API). Different factors can determine what books are the best for a particular OpenGL® project, including the actual type of application being developed. Important facts to consider when choosing the best OpenGL® books are the operating system that is being used for development and the programming language that will be used. The type of application also is important, because programming three-dimensional (3D) graphics for a video game is much different from writing a program to be used for scientific visualization. The depth of the information needed also should be considered because, for example, some books will not cover how to use the OpenGL® shading language, while others might provide very in-depth coverage of developing a scene graph where one is not needed.

One of the most common uses for OpenGL® books is learning how to program with the library and the API. Even though the core library is supposed to be identical across different languages and operating systems, this is not always the case in practice. When searching for the best OpenGL® books for learning the API, it is important to choose books that cover using and installing the libraries on the operating system to be used, and those that are either exclusively about programming in a single language or which provide multiple examples from different languages.

For advanced programmers, or programmers working with OpenGL® on a regular basis, some of the best OpenGL® books are the specifications and reference manuals that are published by the developers of the libraries and API. These books provide very detailed information about how the language is assembled, how it is intended to be used, and some of the coded limitations. These references do not always include actual programming examples, though, and are generally used in tandem with other books. Another aspect of official reference manuals is that they sometimes do not detail real-world inconsistencies between implementations of the library.

A number of OpenGL® books are dedicated to specific topics and can be used along with reference manuals and tutorial books. These include books that cover how to assemble fully operational applications around an OpenGL® rendering core or books that provide extensive details about new features to the language. When choosing books that give such broad examples, it is important to make sure they are current and allow one to keep up with changes to the API. Another reason to find books that are not too old is that they will sometimes use development tools or other programs that have fallen out of use or have been completely discontinued.

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