Pugl is an API for writing portable and embeddable GUIs. Pugl is not a toolkit or framework, but a minimal portability layer that sets up a drawing context and delivers events.

Compared to other libraries, Pugl is particularly suitable for use in plugins or other loadable modules. There is no implicit context or static data in the library, so it may be statically linked and used multiple times in the same process.

Pugl has a modular design that separates the core library from graphics backends. The core library is graphics agnostic, it implements platform support and depends only on standard system libraries. MacOS, Windows, and X11 are currently supported as platforms.

Graphics backends are separate so that applications only depend on the API that they use. Pugl includes graphics backends for Cairo, OpenGL, and Vulkan. It is also possible to use some other graphics API by implementing a custom backend, or simply accessing the native platform handle for a window.


Building Against Pugl

When Pugl is installed, pkg-config packages are provided that link with the core platform library and desired backend:

  • pugl-cairo-0

  • pugl-gl-0

  • pugl-vulkan-0

Depending on one of these packages should be all that is necessary to use Pugl, but details on the individual libraries that are installed are available in the README.

If you are instead including the source directly in your project, the structure is quite simple and hopefully obvious. It is only necessary to copy the platform and backend implementations that you need.


The Pugl API revolves around two main objects: the world and the view. An application creates a world to manage top-level state, then creates one or more views to display.

The core API (excluding backend-specific components) is declared in pugl.h:

#include <pugl/pugl.h>

Creating a World

The world is the top-level object which represents an instance of Pugl. It handles the connection to the window system, and manages views and the event loop.

An application typically has a single world, which is constructed once on startup and used to drive the main event loop.


A world must be created before any views, and it must outlive all of its views. A world is created with puglNewWorld(), for example:

PuglWorld* world = puglNewWorld(PUGL_PROGRAM, 0);

For a plugin, specify PUGL_MODULE instead. In some cases, it is necessary to pass additional flags. For example, Vulkan requires thread support:

PuglWorld* world = puglNewWorld(PUGL_MODULE, PUGL_WORLD_THREADS)

It is a good idea to set a class name for your project with puglSetClassName(). This allows the window system to distinguish different applications and, for example, users to set up rules to manage their windows nicely:

puglSetClassName(world, "MyAwesomeProject")

Setting Application Data

Pugl will call an event handler in the application with only a view pointer and an event, so there needs to be some way to access the data you use in your application. This is done by setting an opaque handle on the world with puglSetWorldHandle(), for example:

puglSetWorldHandle(world, myApp);

The handle can be later retrieved with puglGetWorldHandle():

MyApp* app = (MyApp*)puglGetWorldHandle(world);

All non-constant data should be accessed via this handle, to avoid problems associated with static mutable data.

Creating a View

A view is a drawable region that receives events. You may think of it as a window, though it may be embedded and not represent a top-level system window. 1

Creating a visible view is a multi-step process. When a new view is created with puglNewView(), it does not yet represent a “real” system view:

PuglView* view = puglNewView(world);

Configuring the Frame

Before display, the necessary frame and window attributes should be set. These allow the window system (or plugin host) to arrange the view properly. For example:

const double defaultWidth  = 1920.0;
const double defaultHeight = 1080.0;

puglSetWindowTitle(view, "My Window");
puglSetDefaultSize(view, defaultWidth, defaultHeight);
puglSetMinSize(view, defaultWidth / 4.0, defaultHeight / 4.0);
puglSetAspectRatio(view, 1, 1, 16, 9);

There are also several hints for basic attributes that can be set:

puglSetViewHint(view, PUGL_RESIZABLE, PUGL_TRUE);


To embed the view in another window, you will need to somehow get the native view handle for the parent, then set it with puglSetParentWindow(). If the parent is a Pugl view, the native handle can be accessed with puglGetNativeWindow(). For example:

puglSetParentWindow(view, puglGetNativeWindow(parent));

Setting an Event Handler

In order to actually do anything, a view must process events from the system. Pugl dispatches all events to a single event handling function, which is set with puglSetEventFunc():

puglSetEventFunc(view, onEvent);

See Handling Events for details on writing the event handler itself.

Setting View Data

Since the event handler is called with only a view pointer and an event, there needs to be some way to access application data associated with the view. Similar to setting application data, this is done by setting an opaque handle on the view with puglSetHandle(), for example:

puglSetHandle(view, myViewData);

The handle can be later retrieved, likely in the event handler, with puglGetHandle():

MyViewData* data = (MyViewData*)puglGetHandle(view);

All non-constant data should be accessed via this handle, to avoid problems associated with static mutable data.

If data is also associated with the world, it can be retrieved via the view using puglGetWorld():

PuglWorld* world = puglGetWorld(view);
MyApp*     app   = (MyApp*)puglGetWorldHandle(world);

Setting a Backend

Before being realized, the view must have a backend set with puglSetBackend().

The backend manages the graphics API that will be used for drawing. Pugl includes backends and supporting API for Cairo, OpenGL, and Vulkan.

Using Cairo

Cairo-specific API is declared in the cairo.h header:

#include <pugl/cairo.h>

The Cairo backend is provided by puglCairoBackend():

puglSetBackend(view, puglCairoBackend());

No additional configuration is required for Cairo. To draw when handling an expose event, the Cairo context can be accessed with puglGetContext():

cairo_t* cr = (cairo_t*)puglGetContext(view);
Using OpenGL

OpenGL-specific API is declared in the gl.h header:

#include <pugl/gl.h>

The OpenGL backend is provided by puglGlBackend():

puglSetBackend(view, puglGlBackend());

Some hints must also be set so that the context can be set up correctly. For example, to use OpenGL 3.3 Core Profile:

puglSetViewHint(view, PUGL_CONTEXT_VERSION_MAJOR, 3);
puglSetViewHint(view, PUGL_CONTEXT_VERSION_MINOR, 3);

If you need to perform some setup using the OpenGL API, there are two ways to do so.

The OpenGL context is active when PUGL_CREATE and PUGL_DESTROY events are dispatched, so things like creating and destroying shaders and textures can be done then.

Alternatively, if it is cumbersome to set up and tear down OpenGL in the event handler, puglEnterContext() and puglLeaveContext() can be used to manually activate the OpenGL context during application setup. Note, however, that unlike many other APIs, these functions must not be used for drawing. It is only valid to use the OpenGL API for configuration in a manually entered context, rendering will not work. For example:


while (!myApp->quit) {
  puglUpdate(world, 0.0);

Using Vulkan

Vulkan-specific API is declared in the vulkan.h header. This header includes Vulkan headers, so if you are dynamically loading Vulkan at runtime, you should define VK_NO_PROTOTYPES before including it.


#include <pugl/vulkan.h>

The Vulkan backend is provided by puglVulkanBackend():

puglSetBackend(view, puglVulkanBackend());

Unlike OpenGL, almost all Vulkan configuration is done using the Vulkan API directly. Pugl only provides a portable mechanism to load the Vulkan library and get the functions used to load the rest of the Vulkan API.

Loading Vulkan

For maximum compatibility, it is best to not link to Vulkan at compile-time, but instead load the Vulkan API at run-time. To do so, first create a PuglVulkanLoader:

PuglVulkanLoader* loader = puglNewVulkanLoader(world);

The loader manages the dynamically loaded Vulkan library, so it must be kept alive for as long as the application is using Vulkan. You can get the function used to load Vulkan functions with puglGetInstanceProcAddrFunc():

PFN_vkGetInstanceProcAddr vkGetInstanceProcAddr =

This vkGetInstanceProcAddr function can be used to load the rest of the Vulkan API. For example, you can use it to get the vkCreateInstance function, then use that to create your Vulkan instance. In practice, you will want to use some loader or wrapper API since there are many Vulkan functions.

For advanced situations, there is also puglGetDeviceProcAddrFunc() which retrieves the vkGetDeviceProcAddr function instead.

The Vulkan loader is provided for convenience, so that applications to not need to write platform-specific code to load Vulkan. Its use it not mandatory and Pugl can be used with Vulkan loaded by some other method.

Linking with Vulkan

If you do want to link to the Vulkan library at compile time, note that the Pugl Vulkan backend does not depend on it, so you will have to do so explicitly.

Creating a Surface

The details of using Vulkan are far beyond the scope of this documentation, but Pugl provides a portable function, puglCreateSurface(), to get the Vulkan surface for a view. Assuming you have somehow created your VkInstance, you can get the surface for a view using puglCreateSurface():

VkSurfaceKHR* surface = NULL;

Showing the View

Once the view is configured, it can be “realized” with puglRealize(). This creates a “real” system view, for example:

PuglStatus status = puglRealize(view);
if (status) {
  fprintf(stderr, "Error realizing view (%s)\n", puglStrerror(status));

Note that realizing a view can fail for many reasons, so the return code should always be checked. This is generally the case for any function that interacts with the window system. Most functions also return a PuglStatus, but these checks are omitted for brevity in the rest of this documentation.

A realized view is not initially visible, but can be shown with puglShow():


To create an initially visible view, it is also possible to simply call puglShow() right away. The view will be automatically realized if necessary.



MacOS has a strong distinction between views, which may be nested, and windows, which may not. On Windows and X11, everything is a nestable window, but top-level windows are configured differently.

Handling Events

Events are sent to a view when it has received user input, must be drawn, or in other situations that may need to be handled such as resizing.

Events are sent to the event handler as a PuglEvent union. The type field defines the type of the event and which field of the union is active. The application must handle at least PUGL_CONFIGURE and PUGL_EXPOSE to draw anything, but there are many other event types.

For example, a basic event handler might look something like this:

static PuglStatus
onEvent(PuglView* view, const PuglEvent* event)
  MyApp* app = (MyApp*)puglGetHandle(view);

  switch (event->type) {
    return setupGraphics(app);
    return teardownGraphics(app);
    return resize(app, event->configure.width, event->configure.height);
    return draw(app, view);
  case PUGL_CLOSE:
    return quit(app);
     return onButtonPress(app, view, event->button);

  return PUGL_SUCCESS;

Using the Graphics Context


Note that Pugl uses a different drawing model than many libraries, particularly those designed for game-style main loops like SDL and GLFW.

In that style of code, drawing is performed imperatively in the main loop, but with Pugl, the application must draw only while handling an expose event. This is because Pugl supports event-driven applications that only draw the damaged region when necessary, and handles exposure internally to provide optimized and consistent behavior across platforms.

Cairo Context

A Cairo context is created for each PuglExposeEvent, and only exists during the handling of that event. Null is returned by puglGetContext() at any other time.

OpenGL Context

The OpenGL context is only active during the handling of these events:

As always, drawing is only possible during an expose.

Vulkan Context

With Vulkan, the graphics context is managed by the application rather than Pugl. However, drawing must still only be performed during an expose.

Driving the Event Loop

Pugl does not contain any threads or other event loop “magic”. For flexibility, the event loop is driven explicitly by repeatedly calling puglUpdate(), which processes events from the window system and dispatches them to views when necessary.

The exact use of puglUpdate() depends on the application. Plugins should call it with a timeout of 0 in a callback driven by the host. This avoids blocking the main loop, since other plugins and the host itself need to run as well.

A program can use whatever timeout is appropriate: event-driven applications may wait forever by using a timeout of -1, while those that draw continuously may use a significant fraction of the frame period (with enough time left over to render).


Occasional redrawing can be requested by calling puglPostRedisplay() or puglPostRedisplayRect(). After these are called, a PuglExposeEvent will be dispatched on the next call to puglUpdate().

For continuous redrawing, call puglPostRedisplay() while handling a PuglUpdateEvent event. This event is sent just before views are redrawn, so it can be used as a hook to expand the update region right before the view is exposed. Anything else that needs to be done every frame can be handled similarly.

Event Dispatching

Ideally, pending events are dispatched during a call to puglUpdate(), directly within the scope of that call.

Unfortunately, this is not universally true due to differences between platforms.


On MacOS, drawing is handled specially and not by the normal event queue mechanism. This means that configure and expose events, and possibly others, may be dispatched to a view outside the scope of a puglUpdate() call. In general, you can not rely on coherent event dispatching semantics on MacOS: the operating system can call into application code at “random” times, and these calls may result in Pugl events being dispatched.

An application that follows the Pugl guidelines should work fine, but there is one significant inconsistency you may encounter on MacOS: posting a redisplay will not wake up a blocked puglUpdate() call.


On Windows, the application has relatively tight control over the event loop, so events are typically dispatched explicitly by puglUpdate(). Drawing is handled by events, so posting a redisplay will wake up a blocked puglUpdate() call.

However, it is possible for the system to dispatch events at other times. So, it is possible for events to be dispatched outside the scope of a puglUpdate() call, but this does not happen in normal circumstances and can largely be ignored.


On X11, the application strictly controls event dispatching, and there is no way for the system to call into application code at surprising times. So, all events are dispatched in the scope of a puglUpdate() call.

Recursive Event Loops

On Windows and MacOS, the event loop is stalled while the user is resizing the window or, on Windows, has displayed the window menu. This means that puglUpdate() will block until the resize is finished, or the menu is closed.

Pugl dispatches PuglLoopEnterEvent and PuglLoopLeaveEvent events to notify the application of this situation. If you want to continuously redraw during resizing on these platforms, you can schedule a timer with puglStartTimer() when the recursive loop is entered, and post redisplays when handling the PuglTimerEvent. Be sure to remove the timer with puglStopTimer() when the recursive loop is finished.

On X11, there are no recursive event loops, and everything works as usual while the user is resizing the window. There is nothing special about a “live resize” on X11, and the above loop events will never be dispatched.

Shutting Down

When a view is closed, it will receive a PuglCloseEvent. An application may also set a flag based on user input or other conditions, which can be used to break out of the main loop and stop calling puglUpdate().

When the main event loop has finished running, any views and the world need to be destroyed, in that order. For example:


Pugl C API

Pugl C API.


Cairo graphics support.

const PuglBackend *puglCairoBackend(void)

Cairo graphics backend accessor.

Pass the returned value to puglSetBackend() to draw to a view with Cairo.


OpenGL graphics support.

typedef void (*PuglGlFunc)(void)

OpenGL extension function.

PuglGlFunc puglGetProcAddress(const char *name)

Return the address of an OpenGL extension function.

PuglStatus puglEnterContext(PuglView *view)

Enter the OpenGL context.

This can be used to enter the graphics context in unusual situations, for doing things like loading textures. Note that this must not be used for drawing, which may only be done while processing an expose event.

PuglStatus puglLeaveContext(PuglView *view)

Leave the OpenGL context.

This must only be called after puglEnterContext().

const PuglBackend *puglGlBackend(void)

OpenGL graphics backend.

Pass the returned value to puglSetBackend() to draw to a view with OpenGL.


All updates to the view happen via events, which are dispatched to the view’s event function.

Most events map directly to one from the underlying window system, but some are constructed by Pugl itself so there is not necessarily a direct correspondence.

struct PuglAnyEvent

Common header for all event structs.

PuglEventType type

Event type.

PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

struct PuglConfigureEvent

View resize or move event.

A configure event is sent whenever the view is resized or moved. When a configure event is received, the graphics context is active but not set up for drawing. For example, it is valid to adjust the OpenGL viewport or otherwise configure the context, but not to draw anything.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double x

New parent-relative X coordinate.

double y

New parent-relative Y coordinate.

double width

New width.

double height

New height.

struct PuglExposeEvent

Expose event for when a region must be redrawn.

When an expose event is received, the graphics context is active, and the view must draw the entire specified region. The contents of the region are undefined, there is no preservation of anything drawn previously.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double x

View-relative X coordinate.

double y

View-relative Y coordinate.

double width

Width of exposed region.

double height

Height of exposed region.

struct PuglFocusEvent

Keyboard focus event.

This event is sent whenever the view gains or loses the keyboard focus. The view with the keyboard focus will receive any key press or release events.

PuglEventType type

PuglEventType.PUGL_FOCUS_IN or PuglEventType.PUGL_FOCUS_OUT

PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

PuglCrossingMode mode

Reason for focus change.

struct PuglKeyEvent

Key press or release event.

This event represents low-level key presses and releases. This can be used for “direct” keyboard handing like key bindings, but must not be interpreted as text input.

Keys are represented portably as Unicode code points, using the “natural” code point for the key where possible (see PuglKey for details). The key field is the code for the pressed key, without any modifiers applied. For example, a press or release of the ‘A’ key will have key 97 (‘a’) regardless of whether shift or control are being held.

Alternatively, the raw keycode can be used to work directly with physical keys, but note that this value is not portable and differs between platforms and hardware.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double time

Time in seconds.

double x

View-relative X coordinate.

double y

View-relative Y coordinate.

double xRoot

Root-relative X coordinate.

double yRoot

Root-relative Y coordinate.

PuglMods state

Bitwise OR of PuglMod flags.

uint32_t keycode

Raw key code.

uint32_t key

Unshifted Unicode character code, or 0.

struct PuglTextEvent

Character input event.

This event represents text input, usually as the result of a key press. The text is given both as a Unicode character code and a UTF-8 string.

Note that this event is generated by the platform’s input system, so there is not necessarily a direct correspondence between text events and physical key presses. For example, with some input methods a sequence of several key presses will generate a single character.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double time

Time in seconds.

double x

View-relative X coordinate.

double y

View-relative Y coordinate.

double xRoot

Root-relative X coordinate.

double yRoot

Root-relative Y coordinate.

PuglMods state

Bitwise OR of PuglMod flags.

uint32_t keycode

Raw key code.

uint32_t character

Unicode character code.

char string

UTF-8 string.

struct PuglCrossingEvent

Pointer enter or leave event.

This event is sent when the pointer enters or leaves the view. This can happen for several reasons (not just the user dragging the pointer over the window edge), as described by the mode field.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double time

Time in seconds.

double x

View-relative X coordinate.

double y

View-relative Y coordinate.

double xRoot

Root-relative X coordinate.

double yRoot

Root-relative Y coordinate.

PuglMods state

Bitwise OR of PuglMod flags.

PuglCrossingMode mode

Reason for crossing.

struct PuglButtonEvent

Button press or release event.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double time

Time in seconds.

double x

View-relative X coordinate.

double y

View-relative Y coordinate.

double xRoot

Root-relative X coordinate.

double yRoot

Root-relative Y coordinate.

PuglMods state

Bitwise OR of PuglMod flags.

uint32_t button

Button number starting from 1.

struct PuglMotionEvent

Pointer motion event.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double time

Time in seconds.

double x

View-relative X coordinate.

double y

View-relative Y coordinate.

double xRoot

Root-relative X coordinate.

double yRoot

Root-relative Y coordinate.

PuglMods state

Bitwise OR of PuglMod flags.

struct PuglScrollEvent

Scroll event.

The scroll distance is expressed in “lines”, an arbitrary unit that corresponds to a single tick of a detented mouse wheel. For example, dy = 1.0 scrolls 1 line up. Some systems and devices support finer resolution and/or higher values for fast scrolls, so programs should handle any value gracefully.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

double time

Time in seconds.

double x

View-relative X coordinate.

double y

View-relative Y coordinate.

double xRoot

Root-relative X coordinate.

double yRoot

Root-relative Y coordinate.

PuglMods state

Bitwise OR of PuglMod flags.

PuglScrollDirection direction

Scroll direction.

double dx

Scroll X distance in lines.

double dy

Scroll Y distance in lines.

struct PuglClientEvent

Custom client message event.

This can be used to send a custom message to a view, which is delivered via the window system and processed in the event loop as usual. Among other things, this makes it possible to wake up the event loop for any reason.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

uintptr_t data1

Client-specific data.

uintptr_t data2

Client-specific data.

struct PuglTimerEvent

Timer event.

This event is sent at the regular interval specified in the call to puglStartTimer() that activated it.

The id is the application-specific ID given to puglStartTimer() which distinguishes this timer from others. It should always be checked in the event handler, even in applications that register only one timer.

PuglEventType type


PuglEventFlags flags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

uintptr_t id

Timer ID.

union PuglEvent

View event.

This is a union of all event types. The type must be checked to determine which fields are safe to access. A pointer to PuglEvent can either be cast to the appropriate type, or the union members used.

The graphics system may only be accessed when handling certain events. The graphics context is active for PuglEventType.PUGL_CREATE, PuglEventType.PUGL_DESTROY, PuglEventType.PUGL_CONFIGURE, and PuglEventType.PUGL_EXPOSE, but only enabled for drawing for PuglEventType.PUGL_EXPOSE.

PuglAnyEvent any

Valid for all event types.

PuglEventType type

Event type.

PuglButtonEvent button


PuglConfigureEvent configure


PuglExposeEvent expose


PuglKeyEvent key


PuglTextEvent text


PuglCrossingEvent crossing


PuglMotionEvent motion


PuglScrollEvent scroll


PuglFocusEvent focus


PuglClientEvent client


PuglTimerEvent timer


enum PuglMod

Keyboard modifier flags.

enumerator PUGL_MOD_SHIFT

Shift key.

enumerator PUGL_MOD_CTRL

Control key.

enumerator PUGL_MOD_ALT

Alt/Option key.

enumerator PUGL_MOD_SUPER

Mod4/Command/Windows key.

enum PuglKey

Keyboard key codepoints.

All keys are identified by a Unicode code point in PuglKeyEvent.key. This enumeration defines constants for special keys that do not have a standard code point, and some convenience constants for control characters. Note that all keys are handled in the same way, this enumeration is just for convenience when writing hard-coded key bindings.

Keys that do not have a standard code point use values in the Private Use Area in the Basic Multilingual Plane (U+E000 to U+F8FF). Applications must take care to not interpret these values beyond key detection, the mapping used here is arbitrary and specific to Pugl.

enumerator PUGL_KEY_ESCAPE
enumerator PUGL_KEY_DELETE
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F1
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F2
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F3
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F4
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F5
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F6
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F7
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F8
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F9
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F10
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F11
enumerator PUGL_KEY_F12
enumerator PUGL_KEY_LEFT
enumerator PUGL_KEY_UP
enumerator PUGL_KEY_RIGHT
enumerator PUGL_KEY_DOWN
enumerator PUGL_KEY_PAGE_UP
enumerator PUGL_KEY_HOME
enumerator PUGL_KEY_END
enumerator PUGL_KEY_INSERT
enumerator PUGL_KEY_SHIFT
enumerator PUGL_KEY_SHIFT_L
enumerator PUGL_KEY_SHIFT_R
enumerator PUGL_KEY_CTRL
enumerator PUGL_KEY_CTRL_L
enumerator PUGL_KEY_CTRL_R
enumerator PUGL_KEY_ALT
enumerator PUGL_KEY_ALT_L
enumerator PUGL_KEY_ALT_R
enumerator PUGL_KEY_SUPER
enumerator PUGL_KEY_SUPER_L
enumerator PUGL_KEY_SUPER_R
enumerator PUGL_KEY_MENU
enumerator PUGL_KEY_NUM_LOCK
enumerator PUGL_KEY_PAUSE
enum PuglEventType

The type of a PuglEvent.

enumerator PUGL_NOTHING

No event.

enumerator PUGL_CREATE

View created, a PuglCreateEvent.

enumerator PUGL_DESTROY

View destroyed, a PuglDestroyEvent.


View moved/resized, a PuglConfigureEvent.

enumerator PUGL_MAP

View made visible, a PuglMapEvent.

enumerator PUGL_UNMAP

View made invisible, a PuglUnmapEvent.

enumerator PUGL_UPDATE

View ready to draw, a PuglUpdateEvent.

enumerator PUGL_EXPOSE

View must be drawn, a PuglExposeEvent.

enumerator PUGL_CLOSE

View will be closed, a PuglCloseEvent.

enumerator PUGL_FOCUS_IN

Keyboard focus entered view, a PuglFocusEvent.

enumerator PUGL_FOCUS_OUT

Keyboard focus left view, a PuglFocusEvent.

enumerator PUGL_KEY_PRESS

Key pressed, a PuglKeyEvent.


Key released, a PuglKeyEvent.

enumerator PUGL_TEXT

Character entered, a PuglTextEvent.

enumerator PUGL_POINTER_IN

Pointer entered view, a PuglCrossingEvent.


Pointer left view, a PuglCrossingEvent.


Mouse button pressed, a PuglButtonEvent.


Mouse button released, a PuglButtonEvent.

enumerator PUGL_MOTION

Pointer moved, a PuglMotionEvent.

enumerator PUGL_SCROLL

Scrolled, a PuglScrollEvent.

enumerator PUGL_CLIENT

Custom client message, a PuglClientEvent.

enumerator PUGL_TIMER

Timer triggered, a PuglTimerEvent.

enumerator PUGL_LOOP_ENTER

Recursive loop entered, a PuglLoopEnterEvent.

enumerator PUGL_LOOP_LEAVE

Recursive loop left, a PuglLoopLeaveEvent.

enum PuglEventFlag

Common flags for all event types.


Event is synthetic.

enumerator PUGL_IS_HINT

Event is a hint (not direct user input)

enum PuglCrossingMode

Reason for a PuglCrossingEvent.


Crossing due to pointer motion.


Crossing due to a grab.


Crossing due to a grab release.

enum PuglScrollDirection

Scroll direction.

Describes the direction of a PuglScrollEvent along with whether the scroll is a “smooth” scroll. The discrete directions are for devices like mouse wheels with constrained axes, while a smooth scroll is for those with arbitrary scroll direction freedom, like some touchpads.

enumerator PUGL_SCROLL_UP

Scroll up.


Scroll down.


Scroll left.


Scroll right.


Smooth scroll in any direction.

typedef uint32_t PuglMods

Bitwise OR of PuglMod values.

typedef uint32_t PuglEventFlags

Bitwise OR of PuglEventFlag values.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglCreateEvent

View create event.

This event is sent when a view is realized before it is first displayed, with the graphics context entered. This is typically used for setting up the graphics system, for example by loading OpenGL extensions.

This event type has no extra fields.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglDestroyEvent

View destroy event.

This event is the counterpart to PuglCreateEvent, and it is sent when the view is being destroyed. This is typically used for tearing down the graphics system, or otherwise freeing any resources allocated when the create event was handled.

This is the last event sent to any view, and immediately after it is processed, the view is destroyed and may no longer be used.

This event type has no extra fields.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglMapEvent

View show event.

This event is sent when a view is mapped to the screen and made visible.

This event type has no extra fields.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglUnmapEvent

View hide event.

This event is sent when a view is unmapped from the screen and made invisible.

This event type has no extra fields.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglUpdateEvent

View update event.

This event is sent to every view near the end of a main loop iteration when any pending exposures are about to be redrawn. It is typically used to mark regions to expose with puglPostRedisplay() or puglPostRedisplayRect(). For example, to continuously animate, a view calls puglPostRedisplay() when an update event is received, and it will then shortly receive an expose event.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglCloseEvent

View close event.

This event is sent when the view is to be closed, for example when the user clicks the close button.

This event type has no extra fields.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglLoopEnterEvent

Recursive loop enter event.

This event is sent when the window system enters a recursive loop. The main loop will be stalled and no expose events will be received while in the recursive loop. To give the application full control, Pugl does not do any special handling of this situation, but this event can be used to install a timer to perform continuous actions (such as drawing) on platforms that do this.

  • MacOS: A recursive loop is entered while the window is being live resized.

  • Windows: A recursive loop is entered while the window is being live resized or the menu is shown.

  • X11: A recursive loop is never entered and the event loop runs as usual while the view is being resized.

This event type has no extra fields.

typedef PuglAnyEvent PuglLoopLeaveEvent

Recursive loop leave event.

This event is sent after a loop enter event when the recursive loop is finished and normal iteration will continue.

This event type has no extra fields.


Most functions return a status code which can be used to check for errors.

enum PuglStatus

Return status code.

enumerator PUGL_SUCCESS


enumerator PUGL_FAILURE

Non-fatal failure.


Unknown system error.


Invalid or missing backend.


Invalid view configuration.


Invalid parameter.


Backend initialization failed.


Class registration failed.


System view realization failed.


Failed to set pixel format.


Failed to create drawing context.


Unsupported data type.

const char *puglStrerror(PuglStatus status)

Return a string describing a status code.


The top-level context of a Pugl application or plugin.

The world contains all library-wide state. There is no static data in Pugl, so it is safe to use multiple worlds in a single process. This is to facilitate plugins or other situations where it is not possible to share a world, but a single world should be shared for all views where possible.

enum PuglWorldType

The type of a World.

enumerator PUGL_PROGRAM

Top-level application.

enumerator PUGL_MODULE

Plugin or module within a larger application.

enum PuglWorldFlag

World flags.


Set up support for threads if necessary. - X11: Calls XInitThreads() which is required for some drivers.

typedef struct PuglWorldImpl PuglWorld

The “world” of application state.

The world represents everything that is not associated with a particular view. Several worlds can be created in a single process, but code using different worlds must be isolated so they are never mixed. Views are strongly associated with the world they were created in.

typedef void *PuglWorldHandle

Handle for the world’s opaque user data.

typedef uint32_t PuglWorldFlags

Bitwise OR of PuglWorldFlag values.

PuglWorld *puglNewWorld(PuglWorldType type, PuglWorldFlags flags)

Create a new world.

  • type – The type, which dictates what this world is responsible for.

  • flags – Flags to control world features.


A new world, which must be later freed with puglFreeWorld().

void puglFreeWorld(PuglWorld *world)

Free a world allocated with puglNewWorld()

void puglSetWorldHandle(PuglWorld *world, PuglWorldHandle handle)

Set the user data for the world.

This is usually a pointer to a struct that contains all the state which must be accessed by several views.

The handle is opaque to Pugl and is not interpreted in any way.

PuglWorldHandle puglGetWorldHandle(PuglWorld *world)

Get the user data for the world.

void *puglGetNativeWorld(PuglWorld *world)

Return a pointer to the native handle of the world.

X11: Returns a pointer to the Display.

MacOS: Returns a pointer to the NSApplication.

Windows: Returns the HMODULE of the calling process.

PuglStatus puglSetClassName(PuglWorld *world, const char *name)

Set the class name of the application.

This is a stable identifier for the application, used as the window class/instance name on X11 and Windows. It is not displayed to the user, but can be used in scripts and by window managers, so it should be the same for every instance of the application, but different from other applications.

double puglGetTime(const PuglWorld *world)

Return the time in seconds.

This is a monotonically increasing clock with high resolution. The returned time is only useful to compare against other times returned by this function, its absolute value has no meaning.

PuglStatus puglUpdate(PuglWorld *world, double timeout)

Update by processing events from the window system.

This function is a single iteration of the main loop, and should be called repeatedly to update all views.

If timeout is zero, then this function will not block. Plugins should always use a timeout of zero to avoid blocking the host.

If a positive timeout is given, then events will be processed for that amount of time, starting from when this function was called.

If a negative timeout is given, this function will block indefinitely until an event occurs.

For continuously animating programs, a timeout that is a reasonable fraction of the ideal frame period should be used, to minimize input latency by ensuring that as many input events are consumed as possible before drawing.


PuglStatus.PUGL_SUCCESS if events are read, PuglStatus.PUGL_FAILURE if no events are read, or an error.


A drawable region that receives events.

A view can be thought of as a window, but does not necessarily correspond to a top-level window in a desktop environment. For example, a view can be embedded in some other window, or represent an embedded system where there is no concept of multiple windows at all.


Functions for creating and destroying a view.

PuglView *puglNewView(PuglWorld *world)

Create a new view.

A newly created view does not correspond to a real system view or window. It must first be configured, then the system view can be created with puglRealize().

void puglFreeView(PuglView *view)

Free a view created with puglNewView()

PuglWorld *puglGetWorld(PuglView *view)

Return the world that view is a part of.

void puglSetHandle(PuglView *view, PuglHandle handle)

Set the user data for a view.

This is usually a pointer to a struct that contains all the state which must be accessed by a view. Everything needed to process events should be stored here, not in static variables.

The handle is opaque to Pugl and is not interpreted in any way.

PuglHandle puglGetHandle(PuglView *view)

Get the user data for a view.

PuglStatus puglSetBackend(PuglView *view, const PuglBackend *backend)

Set the graphics backend to use for a view.

This must be called once to set the graphics backend before calling puglRealize().

Pugl includes the following backends:

Note that backends are modular and not compiled into the main Pugl library to avoid unnecessary dependencies. To use a particular backend, applications must link against the appropriate backend library, or be sure to compile in the appropriate code if using a local copy of Pugl.

PuglStatus puglSetEventFunc(PuglView *view, PuglEventFunc eventFunc)

Set the function to call when an event occurs.

PuglStatus puglSetViewHint(PuglView *view, PuglViewHint hint, int value)

Set a hint to configure view properties.

This only has an effect when called before puglRealize().

int puglGetViewHint(const PuglView *view, PuglViewHint hint)

Get the value for a view hint.

If the view has been realized, this can be used to get the actual value of a hint which was initially set to PUGL_DONT_CARE, or has been adjusted from the suggested value.


Functions for working with the position and size of a view.

PuglRect puglGetFrame(const PuglView *view)

Get the current position and size of the view.

The position is in screen coordinates with an upper left origin.

PuglStatus puglSetFrame(PuglView *view, PuglRect frame)

Set the current position and size of the view.

The position is in screen coordinates with an upper left origin.


PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR on failure, in which case the view frame is unchanged.

PuglStatus puglSetDefaultSize(PuglView *view, int width, int height)

Set the default size of the view.

This should be called before puglResize() to set the default size of the view, which will be the initial size of the window if this is a top level view.


PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR on failure, but always succeeds if the view is not yet realized.

PuglStatus puglSetMinSize(PuglView *view, int width, int height)

Set the minimum size of the view.

If an initial minimum size is known, this should be called before puglRealize() to avoid stutter, though it can be called afterwards as well.


PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR on failure, but always succeeds if the view is not yet realized.

PuglStatus puglSetMaxSize(PuglView *view, int width, int height)

Set the maximum size of the view.

If an initial maximum size is known, this should be called before puglRealize() to avoid stutter, though it can be called afterwards as well.


PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR on failure, but always succeeds if the view is not yet realized.

PuglStatus puglSetAspectRatio(PuglView *view, int minX, int minY, int maxX, int maxY)

Set the view aspect ratio range.

The x and y values here represent a ratio of width to height. To set a fixed aspect ratio, set the minimum and maximum values to the same ratio.

Note that setting different minimum and maximum constraints does not currenty work on MacOS (the minimum is used), so only setting a fixed aspect ratio works properly across all platforms.

If an initial aspect ratio is known, this should be called before puglRealize() to avoid stutter, though it can be called afterwards as well.


PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR on failure, but always succeeds if the view is not yet realized.


Functions to control the top-level window of a view.

PuglStatus puglSetWindowTitle(PuglView *view, const char *title)

Set the title of the window.

This only makes sense for non-embedded views that will have a corresponding top-level window, and sets the title, typically displayed in the title bar or in window switchers.

PuglStatus puglSetParentWindow(PuglView *view, PuglNativeView parent)

Set the parent window for embedding a view in an existing window.

This must be called before puglRealize(), reparenting is not supported.

PuglStatus puglSetTransientFor(PuglView *view, PuglNativeView parent)

Set the transient parent of the window.

Set this for transient children like dialogs, to have them properly associated with their parent window. This should be called before puglRealize().

A view can either have a parent (for embedding) or a transient parent (for top-level windows like dialogs), but not both.

PuglStatus puglRealize(PuglView *view)

Realize a view by creating a corresponding system view or window.

After this call, the (initially invisible) underlying system view exists and can be accessed with puglGetNativeWindow(). There is currently no corresponding unrealize function, the system view will be destroyed along with the view when puglFreeView() is called.

The view should be fully configured using the above functions before this is called. This function may only be called once per view.

PuglStatus puglShow(PuglView *view)

Show the view.

If the view has not yet been realized, the first call to this function will do so automatically.

If the view is currently hidden, it will be shown and possibly raised to the top depending on the platform.

PuglStatus puglHide(PuglView *view)

Hide the current window.

bool puglGetVisible(const PuglView *view)

Return true iff the view is currently visible.

PuglNativeView puglGetNativeWindow(PuglView *view)

Return the native window handle.


Functions for working with the graphics context and scheduling redisplays.

void *puglGetContext(PuglView *view)

Get the graphics context.

This is a backend-specific context used for drawing if the backend graphics API requires one. It is only available during an expose.

Cairo: Returns a pointer to a cairo_t.

All other backends: returns null.

PuglStatus puglPostRedisplay(PuglView *view)

Request a redisplay for the entire view.

This will cause an expose event to be dispatched later. If called from within the event handler, the expose should arrive at the end of the current event loop iteration, though this is not strictly guaranteed on all platforms. If called elsewhere, an expose will be enqueued to be processed in the next event loop iteration.

PuglStatus puglPostRedisplayRect(PuglView *view, PuglRect rect)

Request a redisplay of the given rectangle within the view.

This has the same semantics as puglPostRedisplay(), but allows giving a precise region for redrawing only a portion of the view.


Functions for interacting with the user and window system.

enum PuglCursor

A mouse cursor type.

This is a portable subset of mouse cursors that exist on X11, MacOS, and Windows.


Default pointing arrow.


Caret (I-Beam) for text entry.




Hand with a pointing finger.

enumerator PUGL_CURSOR_NO

Operation not allowed.


Left/right arrow for horizontal resize.


Up/down arrow for vertical resize.

PuglStatus puglGrabFocus(PuglView *view)

Grab the keyboard input focus.

Note that this will fail if the view is not mapped and so should not, for example, be called immediately after puglShow().


PuglStatus.PUGL_SUCCESS if the focus was successfully grabbed, or an error.

bool puglHasFocus(const PuglView *view)

Return whether view has the keyboard input focus.

PuglStatus puglSetClipboard(PuglView *view, const char *type, const void *data, size_t len)

Set the clipboard contents.

This sets the system clipboard contents, which can be retrieved with puglGetClipboard() or pasted into other applications.

  • view – The view.

  • type – The MIME type of the data, “text/plain” is assumed if NULL.

  • data – The data to copy to the clipboard.

  • len – The length of data in bytes (including terminator if necessary).

const void *puglGetClipboard(PuglView *view, const char **type, size_t *len)

Get the clipboard contents.

This gets the system clipboard contents, which may have been set with puglSetClipboard() or copied from another application.

  • view – The view.

  • type – Set to the MIME type of the data.

  • len – Set to the length of the data in bytes.


The clipboard contents, or null.

PuglStatus puglSetCursor(PuglView *view, PuglCursor cursor)

Set the mouse cursor.

This changes the system cursor that is displayed when the pointer is inside the view. May fail if setting the cursor is not supported on this system, for example if compiled on X11 without Xcursor support.


PuglStatus.PUGL_BAD_PARAMETER if the given cursor is invalid, PuglStatus.PUGL_FAILURE if the cursor is known but loading it system fails.

PuglStatus puglRequestAttention(PuglView *view)

Request user attention.

This hints to the system that the window or application requires attention from the user. The exact effect depends on the platform, but is usually something like a flashing task bar entry or bouncing application icon.

PuglStatus puglStartTimer(PuglView *view, uintptr_t id, double timeout)

Activate a repeating timer event.

This starts a timer which will send a PuglTimerEvent to view every timeout seconds. This can be used to perform some action in a view at a regular interval with relatively low frequency. Note that the frequency of timer events may be limited by how often puglUpdate() is called.

If the given timer already exists, it is replaced.

  • view – The view to begin sending PuglEventType.PUGL_TIMER events to.

  • id – The identifier for this timer. This is an application-specific ID that should be a low number, typically the value of a constant or enum that starts from 0. There is a platform-specific limit to the number of supported timers, and overhead associated with each, so applications should create only a few timers and perform several tasks in one if necessary.

  • timeout – The period, in seconds, of this timer. This is not guaranteed to have a resolution better than 10ms (the maximum timer resolution on Windows) and may be rounded up if it is too short. On X11 and MacOS, a resolution of about 1ms can usually be relied on.


PuglStatus.PUGL_FAILURE if timers are not supported by the system, PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR if setting the timer failed.

PuglStatus puglStopTimer(PuglView *view, uintptr_t id)

Stop an active timer.

  • view – The view that the timer is set for.

  • id – The ID previously passed to puglStartTimer().


PuglStatus.PUGL_FAILURE if timers are not supported by this system, PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR if stopping the timer failed.

PuglStatus puglSendEvent(PuglView *view, const PuglEvent *event)

Send an event to a view via the window system.

If supported, the event will be delivered to the view via the event loop like other events. Note that this function only works for certain event types.

Currently, only PuglEventType.PUGL_CLIENT events are supported on all platforms.

X11: A PuglEventType.PUGL_EXPOSE event can be sent, which is similar to calling puglPostRedisplayRect(), but will always send a message to the X server, even when called in an event handler.


PuglStatus.PUGL_UNSUPPORTED_TYPE if sending events of this type is not supported, PuglStatus.PUGL_UNKNOWN_ERROR if sending the event failed.

enum PuglViewHint

A hint for configuring a view.


Use compatible (not core) OpenGL profile.


True to use a debug OpenGL context.


OpenGL context major version.


OpenGL context minor version.

enumerator PUGL_RED_BITS

Number of bits for red channel.

enumerator PUGL_GREEN_BITS

Number of bits for green channel.

enumerator PUGL_BLUE_BITS

Number of bits for blue channel.

enumerator PUGL_ALPHA_BITS

Number of bits for alpha channel.

enumerator PUGL_DEPTH_BITS

Number of bits for depth buffer.


Number of bits for stencil buffer.

enumerator PUGL_SAMPLES

Number of samples per pixel (AA)


True if double buffering should be used.


Number of frames between buffer swaps.


True if view should be resizable.


True if key repeat events are ignored.


Refresh rate in Hz.

enum PuglViewHintValue

A special view hint value.

enumerator PUGL_DONT_CARE

Use best available value.

enumerator PUGL_FALSE

Explicitly false.

enumerator PUGL_TRUE

Explicitly true.

typedef struct PuglViewImpl PuglView

A drawable region that receives events.

typedef struct PuglBackendImpl PuglBackend

A graphics backend.

The backend dictates how graphics are set up for a view, and how drawing is performed. A backend must be set by calling puglSetBackend() before realising a view.

If you are using a local copy of Pugl, it is possible to implement a custom backend. See the definition of PuglBackendImpl in the source code for details.

typedef uintptr_t PuglNativeView

A native view handle.

X11: This is a Window.

MacOS: This is a pointer to an NSView*.

Windows: This is a HWND.

typedef void *PuglHandle

Handle for a view’s opaque user data.

typedef PuglStatus (*PuglEventFunc)(PuglView *view, const PuglEvent *event)

A function called when an event occurs.


Native graphics support.

const PuglBackend *puglStubBackend(void)

Stub graphics backend accessor.

This backend just creates a simple native window without setting up any portable graphics API.


Vulkan graphics support.

Vulkan support differs from OpenGL because almost all most configuration is done using the Vulkan API itself, rather than by setting view hints to configure the context. Pugl only provides a minimal loader for loading the Vulkan library, and a portable function to create a Vulkan surface for a view, which hides the platform-specific implementation details.

typedef struct PuglVulkanLoaderImpl PuglVulkanLoader

Dynamic Vulkan loader.

This can be used to dynamically load the Vulkan library. Applications or plugins should not link against the Vulkan library, but instead use this at runtime. This ensures that things will work on as many systems as possible, and allows errors to be handled gracefully.

This is not a “loader” in the sense of loading all the required Vulkan functions (which is the application’s responsibility), but just a minimal implementation to portably load the Vulkan library and get the two functions that are used to load everything else.

Note that this owns the loaded Vulkan library, so it must outlive all use of the Vulkan API.


PuglVulkanLoader *puglNewVulkanLoader(PuglWorld *world)

Create a new dynamic loader for Vulkan functions.

This dynamically loads the Vulkan library and gets the load functions from it.


A new Vulkan loader, or null on failure.

void puglFreeVulkanLoader(PuglVulkanLoader *loader)

Free a loader created with puglNewVulkanLoader().

Note that this closes the Vulkan library, so no Vulkan objects or API may be used after this is called.

PFN_vkGetInstanceProcAddr puglGetInstanceProcAddrFunc(const PuglVulkanLoader *loader)

Return the vkGetInstanceProcAddr function.


Null if the Vulkan library does not contain this function (which is unlikely and indicates a broken system).

PFN_vkGetDeviceProcAddr puglGetDeviceProcAddrFunc(const PuglVulkanLoader *loader)

Return the vkGetDeviceProcAddr function.


Null if the Vulkan library does not contain this function (which is unlikely and indicates a broken system).

const char *const *puglGetInstanceExtensions(uint32_t *count)

Return the Vulkan instance extensions required to draw to a PuglView.

This simply returns static strings, it does not access Vulkan or the window system. The returned array always contains at least “VK_KHR_surface”.

  • count – The number of extensions in the returned array.


An array of extension name strings.

VkResult puglCreateSurface(PFN_vkGetInstanceProcAddr vkGetInstanceProcAddr, PuglView *view, VkInstance instance, const VkAllocationCallbacks *allocator, VkSurfaceKHR *surface)

Create a Vulkan surface for a Pugl view.

  • vkGetInstanceProcAddr – Accessor for Vulkan functions.

  • view – The view the surface is to be displayed on.

  • instance – The Vulkan instance.

  • allocator – Vulkan allocation callbacks, may be NULL.

  • surface – Pointed to a newly created Vulkan surface.


VK_SUCCESS on success, or a Vulkan error code.

const PuglBackend *puglVulkanBackend(void)

Vulkan graphics backend.

Pass the returned value to puglSetBackend() to draw to a view with Vulkan.

struct PuglRect

A rectangle.

This is used to describe things like view position and size. Pugl generally uses coordinates where the top left corner is 0,0.

double x
double y
double width
double height