SDL ttf

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I am attempting to use SDL_ttf for writing text to the screen. Currently, I just use bmps and pings for the menu text, but that process really isn't going to work when I want to write variable data (like FPS, level complete time, etc) to the screen.

Installing Development Files

Again, I am using cygwin with the gcc compiler under Windows.

Download SDL_ttf-2.0.9.tar.gz from

Rename to .tar.gz if Windows changed the extension to .tar.tar

  mv SDL_ttf-2.0.9.tar.tar SDL_ttf-2.0.9.tar.gz


 gzip -d SDL_ttf-2.0.9.tar.gz
 tar -xvf SDL_ttf-2.0.9.tar

If you get a permission denied error, then chmod the tar file

 chmod u+rw SDL_ttf-2.0.9.tar
 tar -xvf SDL_ttf-2.0.9.tar

Download the Freetype library at

Select "stable release" and pick the Source Forge link

Download freetype-2.3.11.tar.gz


 gzip -d freetype-2.3.11.tar.gz
 chmod u+wr freetype-2.3.11.tar
 tar -xvf freetype-2.3.11.tar

Build freetype

 cd freetype-2.3.11
 make install

Build the SDL_ttf library

 cd SDL_ttf-2.0.9
 make install

Not sure why, but it seemed like I had to run "make install" twice... or maybe I just forgot to run it the first time.

You can verify if it installed correctly entering the following:

 # ls -la /usr/local/include/SDL/SDL_ttf.h
 -rw-r--r-- 1 Foo        None 9829 Nov 22 15:27 /usr/local/include/SDL/SDL_ttf.h
 # ls -la /usr/local/lib/libSDL_ttf*
 -rw-r--r-- 1 Foo        None 85416 Nov 22 15:27 /usr/local/lib/libSDL_ttf.a
 -rwxr-xr-x 1 Foo        None 23440 Nov 22 15:27 /usr/local/lib/libSDL_ttf.dll.a
 -rwxr-xr-x 1 Foo        None   900 Nov 22 15:27 /usr/local/lib/

If something went wrong, then you will get a "No such file or directory" message

Write a simple test program that uses SDL_ttf.

 #include "SDL.h"
 #include "SDL_ttf.h"
 SDL_Surface *screen;
 SDL_Surface *imgText;
 int main (int argc, char **argv) {
   SDL_Color color = { 255, 255, 0 };
   SDL_Rect rect;
   screen = SDL_SetVideoMode(1024, 768, 0, 0);
   TTF_Font *font = TTF_OpenFont("Arial.ttf", 24);
   imgText = TTF_RenderText_Solid(font, "Hello World", color);
   rect.x = 200;
   rect.y = 200;
   SDL_BlitSurface(imgText, NULL, screen, &rect);
   return 0;


 gcc test.c `sdl-config --libs --cflags` -lSDL_ttf

Remember to link -lSDL_ttf on the compile command. Otherwise, you will get an error like this:

 /cygdrive/c/Users/GATECH~1/AppData/Local/Temp/cc1SGaYb.o:test.c:(.text+0x5a): un
 defined reference to `_TTF_OpenFont'
 /cygdrive/c/Users/GATECH~1/AppData/Local/Temp/cc1SGaYb.o:test.c:(.text+0x77): un
 defined reference to `_TTF_RenderText_Solid'
 collect2: ld returned 1 exit status



You should get a screen like this:

SDL ttf test.jpg

If you get a blank black window, then check the permissions on your ttf file:

 $ ls -la *.ttf
 ----------+ 1 GaTechGrad None 766656 Oct  9  2006 arial.ttf

If you don't have read permission, then chmod the file

 chmod u+r arial.ttf

Actually, I found that my real problem was that I didn't call TTF_Init(). My testing showed that the permissions on the ttf file really doesn't matter.

Next, I created a font.c file that where I put all of the font code. I created a "drawString(char *)" method that returns a SDL_Surface with the text passed in as a parameter. The prototype for that method is put into the globals.h file, so that the method can be called from my other files.


Download from

Extract the DLLs to the project directory