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Keywords: Graphics programming, OpenGL
Title: OpenGL 1.4 Reference Manual (4th Edition)
Author: Dave Shreiner, OpenGL Architecture Review Board
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Verdict: An essential reference, though not a tutorial
First introduced in 1992, OpenGL is an industry standard graphical application programming interface (API) that supports 2D and 3D rendering across a host of platforms. Functions (or commands) within the API are usually simple and discrete. A developer calls a series of these small functions in sequence to specify rendering operations. To help utilize the library, the 'OpenGL Reference Manual' supplies key functional documentation in a uniform manner. This fourth edition of the reference manual, edited by Dave Shreiner, provides an official command reference for the OpenGL graphics library version 1.4.
The first two chapters provide an introduction to OpenGL with an overview of the architecture. This information is largely for reference rather than instruction. Generally, it is assumed the reader has a working knowledge of the pipeline already.
The third and fourth chapters contain different groupings of the functional commands to provide the reader with several methods to index and reference functions. The third chapter details each official OpenGL command, categorized by functionality. The fourth chapter lists the various OpenGL constants that are compatible with each command.
Beginning with the fifth chapter, 160 official OpenGL commands are described. Listed alphabetically, every command has the following sections: Name, Function Prototype, Parameters, Description, Notes, Errors, See Also, and (sometimes when appropriate) Associated Gets. The coverage of each command spans an average of 3 pages.
The last two chapters describe fifty-two of the OpenGL Utility Library (GLU) and thirty-five OpenGL X-Windows extension commands. The reference format is identical but slightly shorter (averaging about 2 pages per command).
Overall, the organization and consistency is excellent. Often, material is duplicated per command to save the reader cross-referencing other sections of the book. Throughout the text, the wording is clear and unambiguous (if a bit dry) ? exactly what you?d expect from a reference book of this nature.
The book does have a few shortcomings, however. There is only a small trace of sample source code. While the commands are presented alphabetically by class, the book contains no overall index. OpenGL Extensions (pixel and vertex shader commands, etc.) are not provided since they?re not officially part of the Standard. Finally, having an electronic version of the text would have been a nice touch ? especially one that integrated with the common development environments to provide context sensitive help or electronic searching.
Overall, the latest edition of the Reference Manual is a great companion for OpenGL developers. To get the most from this book, readers unfamiliar or interested in learning the API should first read the 'OpenGL Programming Guide, 4th Edition' (ISBN 0-3-211-73491) also published by Addison Wesley.