opengl: glFlush() vs. glFinish()


I'm having trouble distinguishing the practical difference between calling glFlush() and glFinish().

The docs say that glFlush() and glFinish() will push all buffered operations to OpenGL so that one can be assured they will all be executed, the difference being that glFlush() returns immediately where as glFinish() blocks until all the operations are complete.

Having read the definitions, I figured that if I were to use glFlush() that I would probably run into the problem of submitting more operations to OpenGL than it could execute. So, just to try, I swapped out my glFinish() for a glFlush() and lo and behold, my program ran (as far as I could tell), the exact same; frame rates, resource usage, everything was the same.

So I'm wondering if there's much difference between the two calls, or if my code makes them run no different. Or where one should be used vs. the other. I also figured that OpenGL would have some call like glIsDone() to check whether or not all the buffered commands for a glFlush() are complete or not (so one doesn't send operations to OpenGL faster than they can be executed), but I could find no such function.

My code is the typical game loop:

while (running) {
3/14/2019 10:34:45 PM

Accepted Answer

Mind that these commands exist since the early days of OpenGL. glFlush ensures that previous OpenGL commands must complete in finite time (OpenGL 2.1 specs, page 245). If you draw directly to the front buffer, this shall ensure that the OpenGL drivers starts drawing without too much delay. You could think of a complex scene that appears object after object on the screen, when you call glFlush after each object. However, when using double buffering, glFlush has practically no effect at all, since the changes won't be visible until you swap the buffers.

glFinish does not return until all effects from previously issued commands [...] are fully realized. This means that the execution of your program waits here until every last pixel is drawn and OpenGL has nothing more to do. If you render directly to the front buffer, glFinish is the call to make before using the operating system calls to take screenshots. It is far less useful for double buffering, because you don't see the changes you forced to complete.

So if you use double buffering, you probably won't need neither glFlush nor glFinish. SwapBuffers implicitly directs the OpenGL calls to the correct buffer, there's no need to call glFlush first. And don't mind stressing the OpenGL driver: glFlush will not choke on too many commands. It is not guaranteed that this call returns immediately (whatever that means), so it can take any time it needs to process your commands.

6/26/2017 11:09:24 PM

As the other answers have hinted, there really is no good answer as per the spec. The general intent of glFlush() is that after calling it, the host CPU will have no OpenGL-related work to do -- the commands will have been pushed to the graphics hardware. The general intent of glFinish() is that after it returns, no remaining work is left, and the results should be available too all appropriate non-OpenGL APIs (e.g. reads from the framebuffer, screenshots, etc...). Whether that is really what happens is driver-dependent. The specification allows a ton of latitude as to what is legal.

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