Last year we did a research into GUI libraries for our tools. From this research we gained Dear ImGui to be our best contender. Therefore we have started testing integrating this library into our tools.

First thing we needed is to be able to use Dear ImGui in openFrameworks. We could have implemented our own addon but luckily someone had already done that in the ofxImGui addon.

Dear ImGui is an Immediate Mode gui library. This takes time getting used to. The general idea is to do all GUI logic as you are defining it. This means the GUI will be defined every iteration. This might feel counter intuitive at first but it has its advantages:

  • the gui doesn’t need to maintain state with the application as the gui is redefined every iteration
  • what the gui needs to do is directly defined, no need for callbacks and sorts
  • Dear ImGui does no drawing, instead it maintains a drawlist. You can draw whenever you want as is done by ofxImGui

The hard thing about Dear ImGui is that it is not really documented. You’ll need to figure out how it works by reading example sources and the source code of the library. You can find lots of pointers there but it’s not really developer friendly that way. Best approach is just by doing and finding your way as you go. This is how we approach it.

Our first test, besides provided examples, is to implement a new GUI for our MOCAP_CSV2OSC tool. Here’s how it looks currently: Current GUI

We try to mimic the current GUI using Dear ImGui. First we define a MainMenuBar:

if (ImGui::BeginMainMenuBar())
        if (ImGui::BeginMenu("File"))
            if (ImGui::MenuItem("Open CSV..", "Ctrl+O")) { loadAFile(); }
            if (ImGui::MenuItem("Save Setup", "Ctrl+S"))   {saveData(); }
            if (ImGui::MenuItem("Exit", "Ctrl+W"))  { ofExit(0); }
        mainmenu_height = ImGui::GetWindowSize().y;

we then define the clients panel as a window:

ImGui::Begin("clientspanel", NULL,  ImGuiWindowFlags_NoTitleBar | ImGuiWindowFlags_NoMove | ImGuiWindowFlags_HorizontalScrollbar | ImGuiWindowFlags_NoBringToFrontOnFocus);
    for (int i = 0; i < clients.size(); i++)
        bool enabled = true;
        if ( ImGui::CollapsingHeader(clients[i]->getName().data(), &enabled, ImGuiTreeNodeFlags_DefaultOpen) )
        if ( ! enabled )

In here you can see the Immediate Mode UI approach. We define a collapsing header which we provide the ‘enabled’ boolean. This boolean will capture whether we have clicked the close button of the collapsing header indicating we want to delete the client. The collapsing header is also defined within an if statement. The collapsing header method returns whether the header is collapsed (false) or not. If the header is collapsed we don’t need to define its contents.

The clients[i]->draw() method is defined in the client class which will draw a widget for the client:

void client::draw()
    ImGui::TextColored(ImVec4(0.5f,0.3f,1.0f,1.0f), "%d", port);
    ImGui::Checkbox("Rigid", &isRigid);
    ImGui::Checkbox("Mark", &isMarker);
    ImGui::Checkbox("Skel", &isSkeleton);
    ImGui::Checkbox("Hierarchy", &deepHierarchy);

We finally define the panel on the right. We now have a GUI looking like this:

New GUI using Dear Imgui

This is a first test of Dear ImGui which already looks promising. For a more long term perspective we’ve also experimented using nodal logic for our tools. Although this is very advanced use of Dear ImGui it does show Dear ImGui to be very versatile:

Node Editor test using Dear Imgui

It indeed takes a while getting used to Dear ImGui but has already started to payoff.