OpenGL - The Industry's Foundation for High Performance Graphics

OpenGL® is the most widely adopted 2D and 3D graphics API in the industry, bringing thousands of applications to a wide variety of computer platforms. It is window-system and operating-system independent as well as network-transparent. OpenGL enables developers of software for PC, workstation, and supercomputing hardware to create high-performance, visually compelling graphics software applications, in markets such as CAD, content creation, energy, entertainment, game development, manufacturing, medical, and virtual reality. OpenGL exposes all the features of the latest graphics hardware.

OpenGL 4.2 at a glance

The OpenGL 4.2 and OpenGL Shading Language 4.20 Specifications were released on August 8, 2011.

OpenGL 4.2 continues support for both the Core and Compatibility profiles first introduced with OpenGL 3.2, enabling developers to use a streamlined API or retain backwards compatibility for existing OpenGL code, depending on their market needs, as well as continued compatibility with OpenGL ES 2.0 for easier porting between mobile and desktop platforms

New features of OpenGL 4.2 include:

  • Enabling shaders with atomic counters and load/store/atomic read-modify-write operations to a single level of a texture. These capabilities can be combined, for example, to maintain a counter at each pixel in a buffer object for single-rendering-pass order-independent transparency.
  • Capturing GPU-tessellated geometry and drawing multiple instances of the result of a transform feedback to enable complex objects to be efficiently repositioned and replicated.
  • Modifying an arbitrary subset of a compressed texture, without having to re-download the whole texture to the GPU for significant performance improvements.
  • Packing multiple 8 and 16 bit values into a single 32-bit value for efficient shader processing with significantly reduced memory storage and bandwidth, especially useful when transferring data between shader stages.

The new features are also available individually as ARB extensions, making it possible to support them selectively on pre-OpenGL 4.2 implementations.

API & GLSL specifications

Additional Links

Specifications and documentation for the OpenGL API and OpenGL Shading Language, as well as related APIs such as GLX, are available from