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DirectFB is a graphics library which was designed with embedded systems in mind. It offers maximum hardware accelerated performance at a minimum of resource usage and overhead.

Check for more and up to date infos.

Supported Operating Systems

  • GNU/Linux

Using SDL (without acceleration support), DirectFB also supports the following operating systems:

  - FreeBSD (last tested: DirectFB 0.9.21 on FreeBSD 5.2)
  - NetBSD  (tested on NetBSD 1.6)
  - OpenBSD (tested on OpenBSD 3.2)
       (If you have problems, try ./configure --disable-mmx)

Please note that SDL support is experimental and incomplete. It is intended for developers to allow development of DirectFB applications in various environments.

Native (non SDL) support for the following operating systems is in progress:

  • Mac OS X (tested on Mac OS X 10.3.5)

We do not have the resources to ensure that every release of DirectFB works on all supported platforms. If you are a user of one of the operating system listed above, and have the time to test the CVS or GIT version regularly, your help is greatly appreciated.

Build Requirements

Mandatory are - libc - libpthread - libm - libdl

For regenerating autofoo (./ or autoreconf) - autoconf - automake - libtool - pkg-config

Optionally, depending on the configuration you want:

FBDev - Linux kernel 2.2.x or newer with working frame buffer device (check /proc/fb) for the fbdev system.

SDL - libSDL (Simple Direct Media Layer) for the sdl system.

X11 - libX11 (X11 client library) for the X11 system (libx11-dev and libxext-dev packages).

The following libraries are optional, but important (Debian package names):

Fonts - libfreetype6-dev for TrueType and other fonts

Images - libjpeg-dev for Joint Picture Expert Group images - libpng-dev for Portable Network Graphics

Extra - zlib1g-dev for compressed screenshot support (also needed by libpng)

The multi application core also requires , see the section "Running multiple DirectFB applications" for more details.

The build of the image and font providers can be disabled but we strongly suggest that you don't do this since the code examples and a lot of DirectFB applications depend on the functionality provided by them.

The libmpeg3 video provider requires the libmpeg3 library which is not commonly installed. We provide this package on our web-site at

The avifile and flash video providers that used to be shipped with DirectFB have been moved to the DirectFB-extra package.

We suggest you also install pkg-config available from It will help you to compile applications based on DirectFB.

Usage Requirements

Depending on the DirectFB application you want to run, you need some or all of these:

  • A working frame buffer device (check the output of 'fbset -i').
  • A keyboard (if it works on the console, everything should be fine).
  • A PS/2 or serial mouse for windowing. USB and ADB mice do also work via PS/2 emulation.

Using the single application core you always need access to /dev/tty0, /dev/fb0 and the mouse device (/dev/psaux, /dev/mouse). You can either run all DirectFB applications as root or allow users to access these devices. A reasonable way to do this is to add users to the group tty (or some other group) and allow this group to read and write the files in /dev:

   crw-rw----    1 root     tty       29,   0  /dev/fb0
   crw-rw----    1 root     tty       10,   1  /dev/psaux
   crw-r-----    1 root     tty        4,   0  /dev/tty0

If you are using the multi application core, only the master process needs access to all of these devices. Additional processes (slaves) just need access to /dev/fb0 and:

   crw-rw----    1 root     fusion    29,   0  /dev/fusion/0

Note that the master creates a shared memory file, probably in '/dev/shm/fusion.0'. It's read/writeable for anyone matching the master process' user or group.

Some applications from the DirectFB-examples package have additional requirements:

  • A video card supported by video4linux for df_video.
  • A joystick for df_joystick.

Running multiple DirectFB applications at the same time

With the default build of the DirectFB library, only one DirectFB application may be running. However you have the option to use the multi application core of DirectFB which allows multiple DirectFB applications to run at the same time within a session.

DirectFB applications communicate through a layer we call "Fusion". This layer was previously implemented completely in user space using semaphores and message queues. But since 0.9.15 the Fusion Kernel Device is required which implements critical parts of Fusion and thus lead to better performance and decent stability. To install this kernel module (only available for Linux yet), find the linux-fusion module in our CVS or GIT repository or on the DirectFB website. For DirectFB 1.4.x releases you should use linux-fusion 8.1.1 or newer.

Compile DirectFB with multi-application core enabled:

 ./configure --enable-multi

Make sure your Linux kernel supports tmpfs. This is explained in the kernel sources in Documentation/filesystems/tmpfs.txt. Mount a tmpfs filesystem as /dev/shm:

 mount tmpfs /dev/shm -ttmpfs

Optionally a mount point can be specified via the "tmpfs" option, see directfbrc(5). The option has to be the same for all processes.

A good way to test the multi-application core is to install the lite toolkit and DFBTerm, a DirectFB terminal (both available in the DirectFB CVS/GIT repository). You can then start DirectFB applications from dfbterm.


To take full advantage of hardware acceleration, a Matrox G200/G400/G450/G550 graphics card is recommend for this version of DirectFB. The drivers for ATI128, Voodoo 3/4/5/Banshee, NeoMagic and S3 Savage cards included with this release are work in progress and only yet support a subset of the possible accelerations.


1) In the DirectFB directory type:

make install (as superuser)

Use './configure --help' to get a list of possible configure options.

Imported options include: --enable-multi Enables the Multi Application Core --enable-debug Enables many debug messages and assertions --enable-trace Enables run time stack trace information

Debugging and especially stack trace support are a performance impact. It may be noticably slower in some areas, e.g. text drawing.

You may use the options "no-debug" and "no-trace" by default, e.g. in '/etc/directfbrc', and use "--dfb:debug,trace" on the command line if needed.

2) Make sure that "/lib" is listed in your /etc/ The default prefix is "/usr/local". After adding it you have to run 'ldconfig' as superuser.

  Alternatively, you can add the path to the environment
  variable LD_LIBRARY_PATH. This is useful for temporarily
  switching to another installed version.

3) You might want to copy fb.modes to /etc or merge it with your existing /etc/fb.modes file. The first entry will be used by default - copy other entries you may need.

4) If you want to use a serial mouse, create a link called /dev/mouse that points to serial device (e.g. /dev/ttyS0). Then add a line describing your mouse-protocol to /etc/directfbrc or ~/.directfbrc: "mouse-protocol=[ms|ms3|mouseman|mousesystems]".

5) If you are cross compiling and have installed the required libraries someplace other than /usr/local/lib be sure to add the bin directory for those libraries to the front of your 'PATH'.

    For instance if you configured using:
    then be sure to
      export PATH=/dfb/usr/local/bin:$PATH
    before compiling and installing.

Configuring DirectFB

There are lots of things that can be configured. We try to ship DirectFB with reasonable defaults but you might have to tweak things. There are several ways to do this. You may edit the system-wide configuration file /etc/directfbrc or the user-specific $HOME/.directfbrc. There's a manual page called directfbrc(5) that documents all the settings. The same manual page also explains how DirectFB application can be configured via the command-line.

Configuring the Linux frame buffer device

DirectFB's prefered way-of-working needs a Linux kernel with frame buffer support. Check the documentation in the kernel tree (/usr/src/linux/Documentation/fb/) on how to enable the frame buffer device for your graphics card.

The generic VESA frame buffer device does not support mode switching and you will not get hardware acceleration. To make DirectFB work with veasfb, you should add the following lines to /etc/lilo.conf:


'ywrap' enables panning with wraparound. 'mtrr' enables setting caching type for the frame buffer to write-combining.


This sets the mode on startup. 791 means [email protected], 788 means [email protected]

All VESA Video Modes:

Bits 640x480 800x600 1024x768 1280x1024 1600x1200 8 769 771 773 775 796 16 785 788 791 794 798 32 786 789 792 795 799

Other frame buffer devices support mode switching. DirectFB will only support modes listed in your /etc/fb.modes file. By default the first entry found is used.

If you have a Matrox card you may want to try the vsync patch found in the patches directory that enables applications to "idle wait" for the vertical retrace.

Using the builtin "window manager"

Since DirectFB lacks a real window manager, we added a hack to the window stack to allow for basic window management. While pressing the (or Windows) key or alternatively you can do the following:

 - Drag your mouse to move the focused window.
 - Drag and press  to resize the focused window.
 - Drag and press  to change the opacity of the focused window.
 - Press C to close the focused window.
 - Press A to lower the focused window to the bottom.
 - Press X to cycle the focus through the windows.
 - Press S to raise the lowest window to the top.
 - Press P to enable and show the mouse cursor.
 - Press R to rotate the focused window by 90 degree.
 - Press E to focus the window currently under the mouse cursor,
   useful in conjunction with 'X'.
 - Press Escape to return from fullscreen mode to the desktop.
   (currently not advisable if the fullscreen app is still flipping)
 - Press F12 to redraw the whole window stack.

You might want to use the "capslock-meta" option (see directfbrc(5)) if you don't have a key.


A complete API reference documentation in HTML format is created during the build in the docs directory. You may also access the API reference as well as a concepts overview, tutorials and the FAQ online at

Thanks to

Johannes Zellner [email protected] Till Adam [email protected] Joachim Steiger [email protected] Felix von Leitner [email protected] Johannes Stezenbach [email protected] Michael Natterer [email protected] Holger Waechtler [email protected] Kim JeongHoe [email protected] Jason Gaiser [email protected] W. Michael Petullo [email protected] Jiri Svoboda [email protected] Hallvar Helleseth [email protected] Topi Kanerva [email protected] Daniel Mack [email protected] Ara Hacopian [email protected] Mike Haertel [email protected] Enno Brehm [email protected] Martin Mueller [email protected] Sebastian Klemke [email protected] Fredrik Hallenberg [email protected] Antonino Daplas [email protected] Scott A McConnell [email protected] Alex SONG zzaleson[email protected] Ville Syrjälä [email protected] Brian J. Murrell [email protected] Tim Janik [email protected] Billy Biggs [email protected] Andreas Oberritter [email protected] Simon Ueng [email protected] Scott Brumbaugh [email protected] Sebastian Ley [email protected] James Su [email protected] Sarma Kolluru [email protected] Oliver Schwartz [email protected] Florian [email protected] J.P. Delport [email protected] Michel Dänzer [email protected] Maurizio Monge [email protected] Tim Wright [email protected] Liam Girdwood [email protected] Andreas Robinson Michael Hunold [email protected] Brandon M. Reynolds [email protected] Micha Nelissen [email protected] Vadim Catana [email protected] Henning Glawe [email protected] Ed Millard [email protected] Claudio Ciccani [email protected] Tom Bridgwater [email protected] Oskar Liljeblad [email protected] Bryce Nichols [email protected] Stefan Lucke [email protected] Mws [email protected] Ivan Daniluk [email protected] Mark Salter [email protected] Martin Lütken [email protected] Sylvain Meyer [email protected] Mark Adams [email protected] Damian Kowalewski [email protected] Jakub Bogusz [email protected] Nathanael D. Noblet [email protected] Ryan Burns [email protected] Colin Watson [email protected] Guillem Jover [email protected] Jeff Bailey [email protected] Andreas Jochens [email protected] Daniel J Laird [email protected] Marko Mäkelä [email protected] Nils Magnus Larsgard [email protected] Pär Degerman [email protected] Michel van Noorloos [email protected] Gery [email protected] Shane [email protected] Paul Mackerras [email protected] Attilio Fiandrotti [email protected] Vaclav Slavik [email protected] Philip Jägenstedt [email protected] sridewa [email protected] Eugene Everson [email protected] Mike Crowe [email protected] Kieran Bingham [email protected] Luis Mondesi +lemsx1 +gmail,com Keith Mok [email protected] GARDET Guillaume [email protected] Phil Endecott Brian Austin [email protected] Keith Mok [email protected] Young Hoon [email protected]

Special thanks to Ville Syrjala for his great work on the Matrox TV-Out support and for his several patches including fixes and enhancements for the whole library. He also did several ports like UAE or mplayer for DirectFB. Check out his site at ''.

Legal stuff

(c) Copyright 2012-2013 DirectFB integrated media GmbH (c) Copyright 2001-2013 The world wide DirectFB Open Source Community ( (c) Copyright 2000-2004 Convergence (integrated media) GmbH

All rights reserved.

Written by Denis Oliver Kropp [email protected], Andreas Shimokawa [email protected], Marek Pikarski [email protected], Sven Neumann [email protected], Ville Syrjälä [email protected] and Claudio Ciccani [email protected].

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This library is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU Lesser General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Lesser General Public License along with this library; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.

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