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Getting started

Get started with Magnum in matter of minutes.

Setting up a new project can be pretty gruesome and nobody likes repeating the same process every time. Magnum provides "bootstrap" project structures for many use cases, helping you get up and running in no time.

Download the bootstrap project

The bootstrap repository is located on GitHub. The master branch contains just a README file and the actual bootstrap projects are in various other branches, each covering some particular use case. For the first project you need the base branch, which contains only the essential files. Download the branch as an archive and extract it somewhere. Do it rather than cloning the full repository, as it's better to init your new project from scratch with clean Git history.

Download, build and install Corrade and Magnum

Magnum libraries support both separate compilation/installation and CMake subprojects. If you are lucky, you may already have Magnum packages ready for your platform and you can skip the rest of this section:

If you don't, don't worry, let's use the subproject approach instead. Adding the dependencies means just cloning them into your project tree:

cd /path/to/the/extracted/bootstrap/project
git clone git://
git clone git://

Then open the CMakeLists.txt file in the root of bootstrap project and add these two new subdirectories using add_subdirectory() so the file looks like this:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 2.8.12)



Review project structure

The base project consists of just six files in two subfolders. Magnum uses the CMake build system, you can read more about it in Usage with CMake.


In root there is the project-wide CMakeLists.txt, which you have seen above. It just sets up project name, specifies module directory and delegates everything important to CMakeLists.txt in the src/ subdirectory.

The modules/ directory contains CMake modules for finding the needed dependencies. Unlike modules for finding e.g. OpenGL, which are part of standard CMake installation, these aren't part of it and thus must be distributed with the project. These files are just verbatim copied from Magnum repository.

The src/ directory contains the actual project. To keep things simple, the project consists of just a single MyApplication.cpp file with the most minimal code possible:

#include <Magnum/DefaultFramebuffer.h>
#include <Magnum/Platform/Sdl2Application.h>

using namespace Magnum;

class MyApplication: public Platform::Application {
        explicit MyApplication(const Arguments& arguments);

        void drawEvent() override;

MyApplication::MyApplication(const Arguments& arguments): Platform::Application{arguments} {
    // TODO: Add your initialization code here

void MyApplication::drawEvent() {

    // TODO: Add your drawing code here



The application essentially does nothing, just clears the screen framebuffer to default (dark gray) color and then does buffer swap to actually display it on the screen. The src/CMakeLists.txt file finds Magnum, creates the executable and links it to all needed libraries:

find_package(Magnum REQUIRED Sdl2Application)


add_executable(MyApplication MyApplication.cpp)

In the following tutorials the code will be explained more thoroughly.

Build it and run

Linux, macOS and other Unix-based OSes

In Linux (and other Unix-based OSs) you can build the application along with the subprojects using the following three commands: create out-of-source build directory, run cmake, enable SDL2 application in the Magnum subproject and then build everything. The compiled application binary will then appear in src/ subdirectory of the build dir:

mkdir -p build && cd build
cmake --build .


On Windows you can use either MSVC 2015+ or MinGW-w64. Prebuilt SDL2 binaries can be downloaded at, dependeding on where you extract them you may need to specify CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH so CMake is able to find them. For running the executable properly, Windows also need to have all dependency DLLs copied along it. That can be done by setting CMAKE_RUNTIME_OUTPUT_DIRECTORY. It's then up to you whether you will use a command line, Visual Studio or for example QtCreator. With Visual Studio the most straightforward way to generate the project file is via the command line:

mkdir build && cd build
cmake .. ^
    -DCMAKE_PREFIX_PATH="C:/Users/you/where/you/extracted/SDL2-2.0.5" ^

You can also use CMake GUI. Then open the MyApplication.sln project file generated by CMake in the build/ directory.

With QtCreator just open project's root CMakeLists.txt file. It then asks you where to create build directory, allows you to specify initial CMake parameters (-DWITH_SDL2APPLICATION=ON and others) and then you can just press Configure and everything is ready to be built.

Running the application

If everything went well and the application starts, you will see a blank window like this:


Now you can try to change something in the code. Without going too deep into the concepts of graphics programming, we can change the clear color to something else and also print basic information about the GPU the engine is running on. First include the needed headers:

#include <Magnum/Context.h>
#include <Magnum/Renderer.h>
#include <Magnum/Version.h>
#include <Magnum/Math/Color.h>

And in the constructor (which is currently empty) change the clear color and print something to debug output:

MyApplication::MyApplication(const Arguments& arguments): Platform::Application{arguments} {
    using namespace Magnum::Math::Literals;


    Debug{} << "Hello! This application is running on" << Context::current().version()
            << "using" << Context::current().rendererString();

After rebuilding and starting the application, the clear color changes to blueish one and something like this would be printed to the console:

$ ./MyApplication
Hello! This application is running on OpenGL 4.5 using GeForce GT 740M

Follow tutorials and learn the principles

Now that you have your first application up and running, the best way to continue is to render your first triangle in a step-by-step tutorial. Then you can dig deeper and try other examples, read about fundamental principles in the documentation and start experimenting on your own!

Additional information