DirectX® is a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) created for enhancing games, active web pages and other multimedia applications running on Windows® operating systems. It provides a bridge for hardware and software to connect or “talk” to each other. The collection of these APIs includes Direct3D, DirectDraw, DirectSound, and DirectPlay. Generally, the names of these components begin with the word Direct.
The five important components of DirectX® include:
- Direct3D: Helps developers create 3D graphics.
- DirectPlay: Developers use this API for testing applications. It is also used as a plug-in by end-users.
- DirectSound: An interface for incorporating sound with images.
- DirectInput: Used for input from I/O devices.
- DirectDraw: This lets developers define two-dimensional images, helps in managing double buffers and specifies images.
DirectX® was developed by Microsoft® to ensure multimedia programmers have easy access to hardware functions. Prior to the release of Windows® 95 operating system, DOS was the best alternative for game programming. The MS-DOS platform allowed direct access to hardware components such as video cards, sound devices and input devices.
The Windows® 95 operating system had some restrictions. The operating system’s protected memory model restricted access to hardware functions. Programmers were discouraged to maintain creative freedom over their code. Microsoft® felt the need to solve this problem quickly before the official launch of operating system. To provide a comprehensive solution to this problem, DirectX® was introduced. It allowed programmers to access graphics, sound and input components with ease.
The first DirectX® version was released in September 1995 as a software development Kit for Windows® games. It allowed programmers to integrate or create graphic images, sprites, overlays and game elements including sound. Later, more and more versions were released, the latest being DirectX® 10.
One of the key APIs of DirectX® is Direct3D. It is widely used for the development of Microsoft Windows® and Microsoft® Xbox 360 games. The 3D graphics API is also used by other software applications such as CAD/CAM engineering.
The latest DirectX® version boasts many benefits for average users as well as developers. It is designed as the next generation graphics technology for Windows® Vista. In addition, it provides a detailed experience to video game players and encourages developers to increase the realism in games. The software development kit (SDK) contains tools to build multimedia applications. It also includes samples, libraries and runtimes. Developers can download DirectX SDK to create drivers for audio, display and other I/O devices.