How Do I Choose the Best OpenGL® Toolkit?

Alex Newth

Open Graphics Library® (OpenGL®) is a program for building and rendering two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) graphics; while this can be done without any assistance, an OpenGL® toolkit provides extra features to help programmers build graphics. The complexity of an OpenGL® toolkit should be considered, because a massive 3D rendering toolkit may not be necessary or suitable if programmers want to make simple 2D graphics. Some toolkit programs have a user interface with buttons and slides, while other toolkits run on text commands. An OpenGL® toolkit may require previous knowledge of OpenGL® programming and text commands, while another toolkit may be more accessible for new programmers. Whether the toolkit affects high- or low-level aspects of the computer also will be important, depending on what programmers want to create.

OpenGL is a program for building and rendering two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) graphics.
OpenGL is a program for building and rendering two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) graphics.

The coding for OpenGL® can become very complex, because the program is made for precise rendering and building of graphics. A complex OpenGL® toolkit will have 3D rendering and modeling constructs, while a simple toolkit will be used for simple shapes with little rendering. Programmers should not mix complexities, because a complex toolkit will usually not have the tools necessary for simple jobs, and vice-versa.

A user interface makes it easier to operate an OpenGL® toolkit, because this gives programmers buttons and slides to help create and render graphics. Some toolkit programs come with a simple graphic user interface (GUI), but most only accept text commands. While text commands are more difficult to use, especially for new programmers, it gives programmers more freedom to work.

OpenGL® is not a simple program that average computer users can pick up and start using, because it requires substantial knowledge of coding and programming to precisely create and render graphics. Many OpenGL® toolkit programs do not help programmers, and programmers are expected to know how to use OpenGL® before starting. At the same time, some toolkit programs are friendly to new users and may help create coding or give extra assistance. Users should select a toolkit based on their programming experience.

Without a toolkit, OpenGL® is a low-level program, meaning it affects hardware. While most OpenGL® toolkit programs also are made to affect low-level programming, there are some that are able to affect high-level programming, or aspects that are directly seen by the end-user. If programmers are more interested in changing hardware, stereo and overlay levels, then low-level may be better; if programmers are more interested in making scenes and applications, then high-level is likely better.

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