Using SDL with Microsoft Visual C++ 5 and 6

by Lion Kimbro

You can either use the precompiled libraries from the SDL Download web site , or you can build SDL yourself.

Building SDL

Unzip the file into the directory that contains this file (VisualC.html).

Be certain that you unzip into this directory and not any other directory. If you are using WinZip, be careful to make sure that it extracts to this folder, because it's convenient feature of unzipping to a folder with the name of the file currently being unzipped will get you in trouble if you use it right now. And that's all I have to say about that.

Now that it's unzipped, go into the VisualC directory that is created, and double-click on the VC++ workspace file "SDL.dsw". This should open up VisualC.

You may be prompted at this point to upgrade the workspace, should you be using a more recent version of Visual C++. If so, allow the workspace to be upgraded.

Build the .dll and .lib files.

This is done by right clicking on each project in turn (Projects are listed in the Workspace panel in the FileView tab), and selecting "Build".

You may get a few warnings, but you should not get any errors. You do have to have at least the DirectX 5 SDK installed, however. (I believe...) The latest version of DirectX can be downloaded or purchased on a cheap CD (my recommendation) from Microsoft .

Later, we will refer to the following .lib and .dll files that have just been generated:

  • SDL.dll
  • SDL.lib
  • SDLmain.lib

    Search for these using the Windows Find (Windows-F) utility, if you don't already know where they should be. For those of you with a clue, look inside the Debug or Release directories of the subdirectories of the VisualC folder. (It might be easier to just use Windows Find if this sounds confusing. And don't worry about needing a clue; we all need visits from the clue fairy frequently.)

    Creating a Project with SDL

    Create a project as a Win32 Application.

    Create a C++ file for your project.

    Set the C runtime to "Multi-threaded DLL" in the menu: Project|Settings|C/C++ tab|Code Generation|Runtime Library .

    Add the SDL include directory to your list of includes in the menu: Project|Settings|C/C++ tab|Preprocessor|Additional include directories .

    The "include directory" I am referring to is the include folder within the main SDL directory (the one that this HTML file located within.

    Now we're going to use the files that we had created earlier in the Build SDL step.

    Copy the following files into your Project directory:

  • SDL.dll
  • Copy the following files into your Project directory, and add them to your Project as well:

  • SDL.lib
  • SDLmain.lib
  • (To add them to your project, right click on your project, and select "Add files to project")

    (I believe that it's not necessary to actually copy the .lib files into your directory; you only have to be certain that you add them to your Project. If someone is so inclined, correct this document, or e-mail me , and I'll fix this document.)

    SDL 101, First Day of Class

    Now create the basic body of your project. The body of your program should take the following form:

    #include "SDL.h"
    int main( int argc, char* argv[] )
      // Body of the program goes here.
      return 0;

    That's it!

    I hope that this document has helped you get through the most difficult part of using the SDL: installing it. Suggestions for improvements to this document should be sent to the writers of this document.

    Thanks to Paulus Esterhazy (, for the work on VC++ port.

    This document was originally called "VisualC.txt", and was written by Sam Lantinga.

    Later, it was converted to HTML and expanded into the document that you see today by Lion Kimbro.