Microsoft DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) for handling tasks related to multimedia, especially game programming and video, on Microsoft platforms. Originally, the names of these APIs all began with Direct, such as Direct3D, DirectDraw, DirectMusic, DirectPlay, DirectSound, and so forth. The name DirectX was coined as a shorthand term for all of these APIs (the X standing in for the particular API names) and soon became the name of the collection. When Microsoft later set out to develop a gaming console, the X was used as the basis of the name Xbox to indicate that the console was based on DirectX technology.[1] The X initial has been carried forward in the naming of APIs designed for the Xbox such as XInput and the Cross-platform Audio Creation Tool (XACT), while the DirectX pattern has been continued for Windows APIs such as Direct2D and DirectWrite.

Direct3D (the 3D graphics API within DirectX) is widely used in the development of video games for Microsoft Windows and the Xbox line of consoles. Direct3D is also used by other software applications for visualization and graphics tasks such as CAD/CAM engineering. As Direct3D is the most widely publicized component of DirectX, it is common to see the names "DirectX" and "Direct3D" used interchangeably.

The DirectX software development kit (SDK) consists of runtime libraries in redistributable binary form, along with accompanying documentation and headers for use in coding. Originally, the runtimes were only installed by games or explicitly by the user. Windows 95 did not launch with DirectX, but DirectX was included with Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2.[2] Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 both shipped with DirectX, as has every version of Windows released since. The SDK is available as a free download. While the runtimes are proprietary, closed-source software, source code is provided for most of the SDK samples. Starting with the release of Windows 8 Developer Preview, DirectX SDK has been integrated into Windows SDK.[3]

DirectX logo since DirectX 9
DirectX logo since DirectX 9
Operating systemMicrosoft Windows

Development history

In late 1994, Microsoft was ready to release Windows 95, its next operating system. An important factor in the value consumers would place on it was the programs that would be able to run on it. Three Microsoft employees—Craig Eisler, Alex St. John, and Eric Engstrom—were concerned because programmers tended to see Microsoft's previous operating system, MS-DOS, as a better platform for game programming, meaning few games would be developed for Windows 95 and the operating system would not be as much of a success. This was compounded by negative reception surrounding the Windows port of the video game The Lion King. The game used WinG, which crashed on Compaq Presarios that came shipped with it following a partnership between Compaq and Disney, as the Cirrus Logic display drivers used by the Presarios were not thoroughly tested with the API.[4]

DOS allowed direct access to video cards, keyboards, mice, sound devices, and all other parts of the system, while Windows 95—with its protected memory model—restricted access to all of these, working on a much more standardized model. Microsoft needed a quick solution for programmers; the operating system was only months away from being released. Eisler (development lead), St. John, and Engstrom (program manager) worked together to fix this problem, with a solution that they eventually named DirectX.

The first version of DirectX was released in September 1995 as the Windows Games SDK. It was the Win32 replacement for the DCI[5] and WinG APIs for Windows 3.1. DirectX allowed all versions of Microsoft Windows, starting with Windows 95, to incorporate high-performance multimedia. Eisler wrote about the frenzy to build DirectX 1 through 5 in his blog.[6]

DirectX 2.0 became a component of Windows itself with the releases of Windows 95 OSR2 and Windows NT 4.0 in mid-1996. Since Windows 95 was itself still new and few games had been released for it, Microsoft engaged in heavy promotion of DirectX to developers who were generally distrustful of Microsoft's ability to build a gaming platform in Windows. Alex St. John, the evangelist for DirectX, staged an elaborate event at the 1996 Computer Game Developers Conference which game developer Jay Barnson described as a Roman theme, including real lions, togas, and something resembling an indoor carnival.[7] It was at this event that Microsoft first introduced Direct3D and DirectPlay, and demonstrated multiplayer MechWarrior 2 being played over the Internet.

The DirectX team faced the challenging task of testing each DirectX release against an array of computer hardware and software. A variety of different graphics cards, audio cards, motherboards, CPUs, input devices, games, and other multimedia applications were tested with each beta and final release. The DirectX team also built and distributed tests that allowed the hardware industry to confirm that new hardware designs and driver releases would be compatible with DirectX.

Prior to DirectX, Microsoft had included OpenGL on their Windows NT platform.[8] At the time, OpenGL required "high-end" hardware and was focused on engineering and CAD uses. Direct3D was intended to be a Microsoft controlled alternative to OpenGL, focused initially on game use. As 3D gaming grew, OpenGL developed to include better support for programming techniques for interactive multimedia applications like games, giving developers choice between using OpenGL or Direct3D as the 3D graphics API for their applications. At that point a "battle" began between supporters of the cross-platform OpenGL and the Windows-only Direct3D. Incidentally, OpenGL was supported at Microsoft by the DirectX team. If a developer chose to use OpenGL 3D graphics API, the other APIs of DirectX are often combined with OpenGL in computer games because OpenGL does not include all of DirectX's functionality (such as sound or joystick support).

In a console-specific version, DirectX was used as a basis for Microsoft's Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One console API. The API was developed jointly between Microsoft and Nvidia, which developed the custom graphics hardware used by the original Xbox. The Xbox API was similar to DirectX version 8.1, but is non-updateable like other console technologies. The Xbox was code named DirectXbox, but this was shortened to Xbox for its commercial name.[9]

In 2002, Microsoft released DirectX 9 with support for the use of much longer shader programs than before with pixel and vertex shader version 2.0. Microsoft has continued to update the DirectX suite since then, introducing Shader Model 3.0 in DirectX 9.0c, released in August 2004.

As of April 2005, DirectShow was removed from DirectX and moved to the Microsoft Platform SDK instead.

DirectX has been confirmed to be present in Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.[10]

Real-time raytracing was announced as DXR in 2018.


The original logo resembled a deformed radiation warning symbol. Controversially, the original name for the DirectX project was the "Manhattan Project", a reference to the US nuclear weapons initiative. Alex St. John, head of Microsoft DirectX evangelism at the time, claims[11] that the connotation of the ultimate outcome of the Manhattan Project (the nuclear bombing of Japan) is intentional, and that DirectX and its sister project, the Xbox (which shares a similar logo), were meant to displace Japanese videogame-makers from their dominance of the video-game industry.[12] However, Microsoft publicly denies this account, instead claiming that the logo is merely an artistic design.[12]

DirectX 1 logo

DirectX 1.0–8.2


DirectX 9.0–12


DirectX is composed of multiple APIs:

  • Direct3D (D3D): for drawing 3D graphics.
  • DXGI: for enumerating adapters and monitors and managing swap chains for Direct3D 10 and up.
  • Direct2D: for 2D graphics.
  • DirectWrite: for fonts.
  • DirectCompute: for GPU Computing.
  • DirectX Diagnostics (DxDiag): a tool for diagnosing and generating reports on components related to DirectX, such as audio, video, and input drivers.
  • DirectX Media Objects: support for streaming objects such as encoders, decoders, and effects.
  • DirectSetup: for the installation of DirectX components, and the detection of the current DirectX version.
  • XACT3 higher-level audio API.
  • XAudio2: low-level API for audio.
  • DirectX Raytracing (DXR): real-time raytracing for DirectX 12.

Microsoft has deprecated, but still supports, these DirectX components:

DirectX functionality is provided in the form of COM-style objects and interfaces. Additionally, while not DirectX components themselves, managed objects have been built on top of some parts of DirectX, such as Managed Direct3D[14] and the XNA graphics library[15] on top of Direct3D 9.


DirectX 9

DirectX 9 was released in 2002 for Windows 98 through XP, and currently on or supported by all subsequent versions. Microsoft continues to make changes in DirectX 9c, causing support to be dropped for some of the aforementioned operating systems. As of January 2007, Windows 2000 or XP is required. This also introduced Pixel Shader 2.0.

DirectX 10

Microsoft DirectX 10 logo wordmark

A major update to DirectX API, DirectX 10 ships with and is only available with Windows Vista and later; previous versions of Windows such as Windows XP are not able to run DirectX 10-exclusive applications. Rather, programs that are run on a Windows XP system with DirectX 10 hardware simply resort to the DirectX 9.0c code path, the latest available for Windows XP computers.[16]

Changes for DirectX 10 were extensive. Many former parts of DirectX API were deprecated in the latest DirectX SDK and are preserved for compatibility only: DirectInput was deprecated in favor of XInput, DirectSound was deprecated in favor of the Cross-platform Audio Creation Tool system (XACT) and additionally lost support for hardware accelerated audio, since the Vista audio stack renders sound in software on the CPU. The DirectPlay DPLAY.DLL was also removed and was replaced with dplayx.dll; games that rely on this DLL must duplicate it and rename it to dplay.dll.

In order to achieve backwards compatibility, DirectX in Windows Vista contains several versions of Direct3D:[17]

  • Direct3D 9: emulates Direct3D 9 behavior as it was on Windows XP. Details and advantages of Vista's Windows Display Driver Model are hidden from the application if WDDM drivers are installed. This is the only API available if there are only XP graphic drivers (XDDM) installed, after an upgrade to Vista for example.
  • Direct3D 9Ex (known internally during Windows Vista development as 9.0L or 9.L): allows full access to the new capabilities of WDDM (if WDDM drivers are installed) while maintaining compatibility for existing Direct3D applications. The Windows Aero user interface relies on D3D 9Ex.
  • Direct3D 10: Designed around the new driver model in Windows Vista and featuring a number of improvements to rendering capabilities and flexibility, including Shader Model 4.

Direct3D 10.1 is an incremental update of Direct3D 10.0 which shipped with, and required, Windows Vista Service Pack 1.[18] This release mainly sets a few more image quality standards for graphics vendors, while giving developers more control over image quality.[19] It also adds support for cube map arrays, separate blend modes per-MRT, coverage mask export from a pixel shader, ability to run pixel shader per sample, access to multi-sampled depth buffers[20] and requires that the video card supports Shader Model 4.1 or higher and 32-bit floating-point operations. Direct3D 10.1 still fully supports Direct3D 10 hardware, but in order to utilize all of the new features, updated hardware is required.[21]

DirectX 11

Microsoft DirectX 11 logo wordmark

Microsoft unveiled DirectX 11 at the Gamefest 08 event in Seattle, with the major scheduled features including GPGPU support (DirectCompute), and Direct3D 11 with tessellation support[22][23] and improved multi-threading support to assist video game developers in developing games that better utilize multi-core processors.[24] Direct3D 11 runs on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. Parts of the new API such as multi-threaded resource handling can be supported on Direct3D 9/10/10.1-class hardware. Hardware tessellation and Shader Model 5.0 require Direct3D 11 supporting hardware.[25] Microsoft has since released the Direct3D 11 Technical Preview.[26] Direct3D 11 is a strict superset of Direct3D 10.1 — all hardware and API features of version 10.1 are retained, and new features are added only when necessary for exposing new functionality. This helps to keep backwards compatibility with previous versions of DirectX.

Microsoft released the Final Platform Update for Windows Vista on October 27, 2009, which was 5 days after the initial release of Windows 7 (launched with Direct3D 11 as a base standard).

Since then, four updates for DirectX 11 were released:

  • DirectX 11.1 is included in Windows 8. It supports WDDM 1.2 for increased performance, features improved integration of Direct2D (now at version 1.1), Direct3D, and DirectCompute, and includes DirectXMath, XAudio2, and XInput libraries from the XNA framework. It also features stereoscopic 3D support for gaming and video.[27] DirectX 11.1 was also partially backported to Windows 7, via the Windows 7 platform update.[28][29]
  • DirectX 11.2 is included in Windows 8.1 (including the RT version) and Windows Server 2012 R2.[30] It added some new features to Direct2D like geometry realizations.[31] It also added swap chain composition, which allows some elements of the scene to be rendered at lower resolutions and then composited via hardware overlay with other parts rendered at higher resolution.[32]
  • DirectX 11.X is a superset of DirectX 11.2 running on the Xbox One.[33] It actually includes some features, such as draw bundles, that were later announced as part of DirectX 12.[34]
  • DirectX 11.3 was announced along with DirectX 12 at GDC and released in 2015. It is meant to complement DirectX 12 as a higher-level alternative.[35] It is included with Windows 10.[30]

DirectX 12

DirectX 12 was announced by Microsoft at GDC on March 20, 2014, and was officially launched alongside Windows 10 on July 29, 2015.

The primary feature highlight for the new release of DirectX was the introduction of advanced low-level programming APIs for Direct3D 12 which can reduce driver overhead. Developers are now able to implement their own command lists and buffers to the GPU, allowing for more efficient resource utilization through parallel computation. Lead developer Max McMullen stated that the main goal of Direct3D 12 is to achieve "console-level efficiency on phone, tablet and PC".[36] The release of Direct3D 12 comes alongside other initiatives for low-overhead graphics APIs including AMD's Mantle for AMD graphics cards, Apple's Metal for iOS and macOS and Khronos Group's cross-platform Vulkan.

Multiadapter support will feature in DirectX 12 allowing developers to utilize multiple GPUs on a system simultaneously; multi-GPU support was previously dependent on vendor implementations such as AMD CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI.[37][38][39][40]

Implicit Multiadapter support will work in a similar manner to previous versions of DirectX where frames are rendered alternately across linked GPUs of similar compute-power.
Explicit Multiadapter will provide two distinct API patterns to developers. Linked GPUs will allow DirectX to view graphics cards in SLI or CrossFireX as a single GPU and use the combined resources. Whereas Unlinked GPUs will allow GPUs from different vendors to be utilized by DirectX, such as supplementing the dedicated GPU with the integrated GPU on the CPU, or combining AMD and NVIDIA cards. However, elaborate mixed multi-GPU setups requires significantly more attentive developer support.

DirectX 12 is supported on all Fermi and later Nvidia GPUs, on AMD's GCN-based chips and on Intel's Haswell and later processors' graphics units.[41]

At SIGGRAPH 2014, Intel released a demo showing a computer generated asteroid field, in which DirectX 12 was claimed to be 50–70% more efficient than DirectX 11 in rendering speed and CPU power consumption.[42][43]

Ashes of the Singularity was the first publicly available game to utilize DirectX 12. Testing by Ars Technica in August 2015 revealed slight performance regressions in DirectX 12 over DirectX 11 mode for the Nvidia GeForce 980 Ti, whereas the AMD Radeon R9 290x achieved consistent performance improvements of up to 70% under DirectX 12, and in some scenarios the AMD outperformed the more powerful Nvidia under DirectX 12. The performance discrepancies may be due to poor Nvidia driver optimizations for DirectX 12, or even hardware limitations of the card which was optimized for DirectX 11 serial execution, however the exact cause remains unclear.[44]

DirectX 12 APIs are also featured on the Xbox, however the DirectX 12 code is not directly portable between PC and Xbox One due to inherent differences between the two platforms.[45][46] The performance improvements of DirectX 12 on the Xbox are not as substantial as on the PC.[47]

In March 2018, DirectX Raytracing (DXR) was announced, capable of real-time ray-tracing on supported hardware,[48] and the DXR API was added in the Windows 10 October 2018 update.

In 2019 Microsoft announced the arrival of DirectX 12 to Windows 7[49]

Release history

Table of DirectX versions
DirectX version Version number Release date Notes
1.0 4.02.0095 September 30, 1995
2.0 1996 Was shipped only with a few 3rd party applications
2.0a June 5, 1996 Windows 95 OSR2 and Windows NT 4.0
3.0 September 15, 1996 1996 Later package of DirectX 3.0 included Direct3D
3.0a December 1996 Windows NT 4.0 SP3 (and above)
Last supported version of DirectX for Windows NT 4.0
3.0b December 1996 This was a very minor update to 3.0a that fixed a cosmetic problem with the Japanese version of Windows 95
4.0 Never launched DirectX 4 was never released. Raymond Chen of Microsoft explained in his book, The Old New Thing, that after DirectX 3 was released, Microsoft began developing versions 4 and 5 at the same time. Version 4 was to be a shorter-term release with small features, whereas version 5 would be a more substantial release. The lack of interest from game developers in the features stated for DirectX 4 resulted in it being shelved, and the corpus of documents that already distinguished the two new versions resulted in Microsoft choosing to not re-use version 4 to describe features intended for version 5.[50][51]
5.0 (RC55) August 4, 1997 Available as a beta for Windows 2000 that would install on Windows NT 4.0
5.2 (RC00) May 5, 1998 DirectX 5.2 release for Windows 95 (RC0) June 25, 1998 Windows 98 exclusive
6.0 (RC3) August 7, 1998 Windows CE as implemented on Dreamcast
6.1 (RC0) February 3, 1999
6.1a (RC0) May 5, 1999 Windows 98 Second Edition exclusive
7.0 (RC1) September 22, 1999 February 17, 2000 Windows 2000
7.0a (RC0) March 8, 2000 (RC1) 2000
7.1 (RC1) September 14, 2000 Windows ME exclusive. Last version to have built-in RGB software rendering support
8.0 (RC10) November 12, 2000
8.0a (RC14) February 5, 2001 Last supported version for Windows 95 and last version to have software rendering support in dxdiag.exe
8.1 October 25, 2001 Windows XP, Windows XP SP1, Windows Server 2003 and Xbox exclusive (RC7) November 8, 2001 This version is for the down level operating systems (Windows 98, Windows ME and Windows 2000)
8.1a (RC?) 2002 This release includes an update to Direct3D (D3d8.dll)
8.1b (RC7) June 25, 2002 This update includes a fix to DirectShow on Windows 2000 (Quartz.dll)
8.2 (RC0) 2002 Same as the DirectX 8.1b but includes DirectPlay 8.2
9.0 (RC4) December 19, 2002 Periodic updates were released for DirectX 9, starting from (RC0 for DX 9.0c) in October 2004, released bimonthly until August 2007, and quarterly thereafter. The last periodic update was released in June 2010[52]

The February 9, 2005 release is the first 64-bit capable build.[53] The last build for Windows 98SE/Me is the redistributable from December 13, 2006.[54][55] The last build for Windows 2000 is the redistributable from February 5, 2010.[56] April 2006 is the first official support to Windows Vista[57] and August 2009 is the first official support to Windows 7 and DX11 update[58]

9.0a (RC6) March 26, 2003
9.0b (RC2) August 13, 2003
9.0c[59] July 22, 2004 First 9.0c version and last supported version for Windows 98[60] Windows XP SP2 exclusive (RC0) August 4, 2004
December 8, 2006 Last supported version for Windows 98 Second Edition[60] August 6, 2004 / April 21, 2008* Xbox 360, Windows XP SP2, SP3*, Windows Server 2003 SP1 and Windows Server 2003 R2
October 27, 2008 Last supported version for Windows ME
10 6.00.6000.16386 November 30, 2006 Windows Vista exclusive
10.1 6.00.6001.18000 February 4, 2008 Windows Vista SP1, Windows Server 2008
Includes Direct3D 10.1
6.00.6002.18005 April 28, 2009 Windows Vista SP2, Windows Server 2008 SP2
Includes Direct3D 10.1
11 6.01.7600.16385 October 22, 2009 Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2
6.00.6002.18107 October 27, 2009 Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2, through the Platform Update for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008[61]
6.01.7601.17514 February 16, 2011 Windows 7 SP1, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
11.1 6.02.9200.16384 August 1, 2012 Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Server 2012
11.2 6.03.9600.16384 October 18, 2013 Windows 8.1, Windows RT, Windows Server 2012 R2, Xbox One
12.0 10.00.10240.16384 July 29, 2015 Windows 10, Xbox One
10.00.15063.0000 March 20, 2017 Windows 10, Depth Bounds Testing and Programmable MSAA added[62][63]
10.00.17763.0001 October 2, 2018 Windows 10, DirectX Raytracing support added[64]

The version number as reported by Microsoft's DxDiag tool (version 4.09.0000.0900 and higher) use the x.xx.xxxx.xxxx format for version numbers. However, the DirectX and Windows XP MSDN page claims that the registry always has been in the x.xx.xx.xxxx format. Put another way, when the above table lists a version as '' Microsoft's DxDiag tool may have it as '4.09.0000.0904'.[65]


Various releases of Windows have included and supported various versions of DirectX, allowing newer versions of the operating system to continue running applications designed for earlier versions of DirectX until those versions can be gradually phased out in favor of newer APIs, drivers, and hardware.

APIs such as Direct3D and DirectSound need to interact with hardware, and they do this through a device driver. Hardware manufacturers have to write these drivers for a particular DirectX version's device driver interface (or DDI), and test each individual piece of hardware to make them DirectX compatible. Some hardware devices have only DirectX compatible drivers (in other words, one must install DirectX in order to use that hardware). Early versions of DirectX included an up-to-date library of all of the DirectX compatible drivers currently available. This practice was stopped however, in favor of the web-based Windows Update driver-update system, which allowed users to download only the drivers relevant to their hardware, rather than the entire library.

Prior to DirectX 10, DirectX runtime was designed to be backward compatible with older drivers, meaning that newer versions of the APIs were designed to interoperate with older drivers written against a previous version's DDI. The application programmer had to query the available hardware capabilities using a complex system of "cap bits" each tied to a particular hardware feature. Direct3D 7 and earlier would work on any version of the DDI, Direct3D 8 requires a minimum DDI level of 6 and Direct3D 9 requires a minimum DDI level of 7.[66] However, the Direct3D 10 runtime in Windows Vista cannot run on older hardware drivers due to the significantly updated DDI, which requires a unified feature set and abandons the use of "cap bits".

Direct3D 10.1 introduces "feature levels" 10_0 and 10_1, which allow use of only the hardware features defined in the specified version of Direct3D API. Direct3D 11 adds level 11_0 and "10 Level 9" - a subset of the Direct3D 10 API designed to run on Direct3D 9 hardware, which has three feature levels (9_1, 9_2 and 9_3) grouped by common capabilities of "low", "med" and "high-end" video cards; the runtime directly uses Direct3D 9 DDI provided in all WDDM drivers. Feature level 11_1 has been introduced with Direct3D 11.1.

.NET Framework

In 2002, Microsoft released a version of DirectX compatible with the Microsoft .NET Framework, thus allowing programmers to take advantage of DirectX functionality from within .NET applications using compatible languages such as managed C++ or the use of the C# programming language. This API was known as "Managed DirectX" (or MDX for short), and claimed to operate at 98% of performance of the underlying native DirectX APIs. In December 2005, February 2006, April 2006, and August 2006, Microsoft released successive updates to this library, culminating in a beta version called Managed DirectX 2.0. While Managed DirectX 2.0 consolidated functionality that had previously been scattered over multiple assemblies into a single assembly, thus simplifying dependencies on it for software developers, development on this version has subsequently been discontinued, and it is no longer supported. The Managed DirectX 2.0 library expired on October 5, 2006.

During the GDC 2006, Microsoft presented the XNA Framework, a new managed version of DirectX (similar but not identical to Managed DirectX) that is intended to assist development of games by making it easier to integrate DirectX, High-Level Shader Language (HLSL) and other tools in one package. It also supports the execution of managed code on the Xbox 360. The XNA Game Studio Express RTM was made available on December 11, 2006, as a free download for Windows XP. Unlike the DirectX runtime, Managed DirectX, XNA Framework or the Xbox 360 APIs (XInput, XACT etc.) have not shipped as part of Windows. Developers are expected to redistribute the runtime components along with their games or applications.

No Microsoft product including the latest XNA releases provides DirectX 10 support for the .NET Framework.

The other approach for DirectX in managed languages is to use third-party libraries like:

  • SlimDX, an open source library for DirectX programming on the .NET Framework
  • SharpDX,[67][68] which is an open source project delivering the full DirectX API for .NET on all Windows platforms, allowing the development of high performance game, 2D and 3D graphics rendering as well as real-time sound applications
  • DirectShow.NET for the DirectShow subset
  • Windows API CodePack for .NET Framework, which is an open source library from Microsoft.


There are alternatives to the DirectX family of APIs, with OpenGL, its successor Vulkan, Metal and Mantle having the most features comparable to Direct3D. Examples of other APIs include SDL, Allegro, OpenMAX, OpenML, OpenAL, OpenCL, FMOD, SFML etc. Many of these libraries are cross-platform or have open codebases. There are also alternative implementations that aim to provide the same API, such as the one in Wine. Furthermore, the developers of ReactOS are trying to reimplement DirectX under the name "ReactX".

See also


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  6. ^ Craig Eisler's blog post about the frenzy to build DirectX 1 through 5 on
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  22. ^ "What's next for DirectX? A DirectX 11 overview — A DirectX 11 overview". Elite Bastards. September 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-04.
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  34. ^ Chris Tector's segment of (starting approx. 18 minute in.)
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External links


ActiveMovie was the immediate ancestor of Windows Media Player 6.x, and was a streaming media technology now known as DirectShow, developed by Microsoft to replace Video for Windows. ActiveMovie allows users to view media streams, whether distributed via the Internet, an intranet or CD-ROMs.

Originally announced in March 1996, the first version was released in May 1996 bundled with the beta version of Internet Explorer 3.0.When ActiveMovie was installed an option was added to the Start Menu to launch the ActiveMovie Control. This allowed users to play multimedia files and thus was a rudimentary media player.

In March 1997, Microsoft announced that ActiveMovie was going to become part of the DirectX set of technologies, and by July it was being referred to as DirectShow.Version 5.2 of Windows Media Player would remove the ActiveMovie Control icon from the Start Menu upon installation. Microsoft provided instructions for reinstalling the icon on its website.

Desktop Window Manager

Desktop Window Manager (DWM, previously Desktop Compositing Engine or DCE) is the window manager in Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 that enables the use of hardware acceleration to render the graphical user interface of Windows.

It was originally created to enable portions of the new "Windows Aero" user experience, which allowed for effects such as transparency, 3D window switching and more. It is also included with Windows Server 2008, but requires the "Desktop Experience" feature and compatible graphics drivers to be installed.


Direct2D is a 2D vector graphics application programming interface (API) designed by Microsoft and implemented in Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, and also Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 (with Platform Update installed).Direct2D takes advantage of hardware acceleration via the graphics processing unit (GPU) found in compatible graphics cards within personal computer, tablet, smartphone and modern graphical device. It offers high visual quality and fast rendering performance while maintaining full interoperability with classic Win32 graphics APIs such as GDI/GDI+ and modern graphics APIs such as Direct3D.


Direct3D is a graphics application programming interface (API) for Microsoft Windows. Part of DirectX, Direct3D is used to render three-dimensional graphics in applications where performance is important, such as games. Direct3D uses hardware acceleration if it is available on the graphics card, allowing for hardware acceleration of the entire 3D rendering pipeline or even only partial acceleration. Direct3D exposes the advanced graphics capabilities of 3D graphics hardware, including Z-buffering, W-buffering, stencil buffering, spatial anti-aliasing, alpha blending, color blending, mipmapping, texture blending, clipping, culling, atmospheric effects, perspective-correct texture mapping, programmable HLSL shaders and effects. Integration with other DirectX technologies enables Direct3D to deliver such features as video mapping, hardware 3D rendering in 2D overlay planes, and even sprites, providing the use of 2D and 3D graphics in interactive media ties.

Direct3D contains many commands for 3D computer graphics rendering; however, since version 8, Direct3D has superseded the DirectDraw framework and also taken responsibility for the rendering of 2D graphics. Microsoft strives to continually update Direct3D to support the latest technology available on 3D graphics cards. Direct3D offers full vertex software emulation but no pixel software emulation for features not available in hardware. For example, if software programmed using Direct3D requires pixel shaders and the video card on the user's computer does not support that feature, Direct3D will not emulate it, although it will compute and render the polygons and textures of the 3D models, albeit at a usually degraded quality and performance compared to the hardware equivalent. The API does include a Reference Rasterizer (or REF device), which emulates a generic graphics card in software, although it is too slow for most real-time 3D applications and is typically only used for debugging. A new real-time software rasterizer, WARP, designed to emulate complete feature set of Direct3D 10.1, is included with Windows 7 and Windows Vista Service Pack 2 with the Platform Update; its performance is said to be on par with lower-end 3D cards on multi-core CPUs.As part of DirectX, Direct3D is available for Windows 95 and above, and is the base for the vector graphics API on the different versions of Xbox console systems. The Wine compatibility layer, a free software reimplementation of several Windows APIs, includes an implementation of Direct3D.

Direct3D's main competitor is Khronos' OpenGL and its follow-on Vulkan. Fahrenheit was an attempt by Microsoft and SGI to unify OpenGL and Direct3D in the 1990s, but was eventually cancelled.

DirectDraw Surface

The DirectDraw Surface container file format (uses the filename extension DDS), is a Microsoft format for storing data compressed with the proprietary S3 Texture Compression (S3TC) algorithm, which can be decompressed in hardware by GPUs. This makes the format useful for storing graphical textures and cubic environment maps as a data file, both compressed and uncompressed. The file extension for this data format is '.dds'.


In computing, DirectInput is a legacy Microsoft API for collecting input from a computer user, via input devices such as the mouse, keyboard, joystick or other game controllers. It also provides a system for action mapping, which allows the user to assign specific actions within a game to the buttons and axes of the input devices. Additionally it handles haptic feedback (input/output) devices. Microsoft introduced a new input library called XInput specifically for the Xbox 360 controller.

DirectInput and XInput provide benefits over normal Win32 input events:

they enable an application to retrieve data from input devices even when the application is in the background

they provide full support for any type of input device, as well as for haptic feedback

through action mapping, applications can retrieve input data without needing to know what kind of device generated that inputWhile DirectInput forms a part of the DirectX library, it has not been significantly revised since DirectX 8 (2001–2002). Microsoft recommends that new applications make use of the Windows message loop for keyboard and mouse input instead of DirectInput (as indicated in the Meltdown 2005 slideshow), and to use XInput instead of DirectInput for Xbox 360 controllers.


DirectMusic is a deprecated component of the Microsoft DirectX API that allows music and sound effects to be composed and played and provides flexible interactive control over the way they are played. Architecturally, DirectMusic is a high-level set of objects, built on top of DirectSound, that allow the programmer to play sound and music without needing to get quite as low-level as DirectSound. DirectSound allows for the capture and playback of digital sound samples, whereas DirectMusic works with message-based musical data. Music can be synthesized either in hardware, in the Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth, or in a custom synthesizer.


DirectPlay is a deprecated API that was part of Microsoft's DirectX API. DirectPlay is a network communication library intended for computer game development, although its general nature allows it to be used for other purposes.

DirectPlay is a high-level software interface between applications and communication services that makes it easy to connect games over the Internet, a modem link, or a network. DirectPlay features a set of tools that allow players to find game sessions and sites to manage the flow of information between hosts and players. It provides a way for applications to communicate with each other, regardless of the underlying online service or protocol. DirectPlay also resolves many connectivity issues, such as NAT.

DirectPlay, like the rest of DirectX, runs in COM and it is accessed through COM (Component Object Model) interfaces. By default, DirectPlay uses multi-threaded programming techniques and requires careful thought to avoid the usual threading issues. Since DirectX version 9, this issue can be alleviated at the expense of efficiency.


DirectShow (sometimes abbreviated as DS or DShow), codename Quartz, is a multimedia framework and API produced by Microsoft for software developers to perform various operations with media files or streams. It is the replacement for Microsoft's earlier Video for Windows technology. Based on the Microsoft Windows Component Object Model (COM) framework, DirectShow provides a common interface for media across various programming languages, and is an extensible, filter-based framework that can render or record media files on demand at the request of the user or developer. The DirectShow development tools and documentation were originally distributed as part of the DirectX SDK. Currently, they are distributed as part of the Windows SDK (formerly known as the Platform SDK).Microsoft plans to completely replace DirectShow gradually with Media Foundation in future Windows versions. One reason cited by Microsoft is to provide "much more robust support for content protection systems" (see digital rights management). Microsoft's MSFT Becky Weiss also confirms that "you'll notice that working with the Media Foundation requires you to work at a slightly lower level than working with DirectShow would have. And there are still DirectShow features that aren't (yet) in Media Foundation". As described in the Media Foundation article, Windows Vista and Windows 7 applications use Media Foundation instead of DirectShow for several media related tasks.


DirectSound is a deprecated software component of the Microsoft DirectX library for the Windows operating system. DirectSound provides a low-latency interface to sound card drivers written for Windows 95 through Windows XP and can handle the mixing and recording of multiple audio streams.

Besides providing the essential service of passing audio data to the sound card, DirectSound provides other essential capabilities such as recording and mixing sound, adding effects to sound (e.g., reverb, echo, or flange), using hardware accelerated buffers in Windows 95 through XP, and positioning sounds in 3D space. DirectSound also provides a means to capture sounds from a microphone or other input and controlling capture effects during audio capture.After many years of development, today DirectSound is a mature API, and supplies many other useful capabilities, such as the ability to play multichannel sounds at high resolution. While DirectSound was designed to be used by games, today it is used to play audio in a large number of audio applications. DirectShow uses DirectSound's hardware audio acceleration capabilities if the sound card's hardware audio acceleration capabilities exist and are exposed by the audio driver.

DirectX Graphics Infrastructure

DirectX Graphics Infrastructure (DXGI) is a user-mode component of Windows Vista and above which provides a mapping between particular graphics APIs such as Direct3D 10.0 and above (known in DXGI parlance as producers) and the graphics kernel, which in turn interfaces with the user-mode Windows Display Driver Model driver. DXGI provides objects to handle tasks such as enumerating graphics adapters and monitors, enumerating display modes, choosing buffer formats, sharing resources between processes (such as between applications and the Desktop Window Manager), and presenting rendered frames to a window or monitor for display.

Both Direct3D 10 and OpenGL applications in Windows Vista work through DXGI.

DXGI 1.1 added surface sharing between the various Windows graphics API. The newest version is DXGI 1.6, introduced with Windows 10 Creators Update and updated with Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.DXGI 2 preview has been released with the Oculus Rift SDK; it contains improvements for stereoscopic rendering.

DirectX Media

DirectX Media is a set of multimedia-related APIs for Microsoft Windows complementing DirectX. It included DirectAnimation for 2D/3D web animation, DirectShow for multimedia playback and streaming media, DirectX Transform for web interactivity, and Direct3D Retained Mode for higher level 3D graphics. DirectShow additionally contained DirectX plugins for audio signal processing and DirectX Video Acceleration for accelerated video playback.

DirectX Media runtime components were distributed as part of Internet Explorer. DirectX Media SDK and DirectX SDK existed as two separate SDKs until DirectX 6.0. Later on, Microsoft deprecated DirectX Media and integrated DirectShow, the key part of DirectX Media, into DirectX. As of April 2005, DirectShow was removed from DirectX and moved to the Microsoft Platform SDK instead. DirectX is, however, still required to build the DirectShow samples. DirectShow and its components are to be gradually deprecated in favor of the newer Media Foundation.

Retained Mode was used by a variety of applications and can still be implemented on systems newer than XP by copying the d3drm.dll file from an older version of Windows to the system32 directory (for 32 bit Windows) or SysWOW64 directory (for 64 bit Windows) to regain system-wide support.

DirectX Video Acceleration

DirectX Video Acceleration (DXVA) is a Microsoft API specification for the Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360 platforms that allows video decoding to be hardware accelerated. The pipeline allows certain CPU-intensive operations such as iDCT, motion compensation and deinterlacing to be offloaded to the GPU. DXVA 2.0 allows more operations, including video capturing and processing operations, to be hardware accelerated as well.

DXVA works in conjunction with the video rendering model used by the video card. DXVA 1.0, which was introduced as a standardized API with Windows 2000 and is currently available on Windows 98 or later, can use either the overlay rendering mode or VMR 7/9. DXVA 2.0, available only on Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and later OSs, integrates with Media Foundation (MF) and uses the Enhanced Video Renderer (EVR) present in MF.

DirectX plugin

In computer music and professional audio creation, a DirectX plugin is a software processing component that can be loaded as a plugin into host applications to allow real-time processing, audio effects, mixing audio or act as virtual synthesizers. DirectX plugins allow the replacement of traditional recording studio hardware and rack units used in professional studios with software-based counterparts that can be connected together in a modular way. This allows host manufacturers to focus on the conviviality and efficiency of their products while specialized manufacturers can focus on the digital signal processing aspect. For example, there are plugins for effects boxes, such as reverbs and delays, effects pedals, like guitar distortion, flange and chorus, and for mixing and mastering processors such as compressors, limiters, exciters, sub bass enhancers, stereo imagers and many more.

High-Level Shading Language

The High-Level Shader Language or High-Level Shading Language (HLSL) is a proprietary shading language developed by Microsoft for the Direct3D 9 API to augment the shader assembly language, and went on to become the required shading language for the unified shader model of Direct3D 10 and higher.

HLSL is analogous to the GLSL shading language used with the OpenGL standard. It is very similar to the Nvidia Cg shading language, as it was developed alongside it. HLSL shaders can enable profound speed and detail increases as well as many special effects in both 2d and 3d computer graphics.HLSL programs come in five forms: pixel shaders (fragment in GLSL), vertex shaders, geometry shaders, compute shaders and tessellation shaders (Hull and Domain shaders). A vertex shader is executed for each vertex that is submitted by the application, and is primarily responsible for transforming the vertex from object space to view space, generating texture coordinates, and calculating lighting coefficients such as the vertex's tangent, binormal and normal vectors. When a group of vertices (normally 3, to form a triangle) come through the vertex shader, their output position is interpolated to form pixels within its area; this process is known as rasterisation. Each of these pixels comes through the pixel shader, whereby the resultant screen colour is calculated.

Optionally, an application using a Direct3D 10/11/12 interface and Direct3D 10/11/12 hardware may also specify a geometry shader. This shader takes as its input some vertices of a primitive (triangle/line/point) and uses this data to generate/degenerate (or tessellate) additional primitives or to change the type of primitives, which are each then sent to the rasterizer.

D3D11.3 and D3D12 introduced Shader Model 5.1 and later 6.0.

Managed DirectX

Managed DirectX (MDX) is Microsoft's deprecated API for DirectX programming on .NET Framework. MDX can be used from any language on .NET Framework (via the CLR). MDX can be used to develop multimedia and interactive applications (e.g. games, compiled only to x86), enabling high performance graphical representation and enabling the programmer to make use of modern graphical hardware while working inside the .NET framework.

Managed DirectX was first released in 2002 to allow less complicated access to the DirectX API through the .NET framework. The Managed DirectX SDK allows developers access to numerous classes which allow the rendering of 3D graphics (Direct3D) and the other DirectX API's in a much easier, object-oriented manner. MDX, however, does not support the newer APIs such as Direct3D 10, XInput, and XAudio 2.

MDX is deprecated in favor of XNA Game Studio Express. It is, however, possible to use some other, more direct APIs to the DirectX framework such as the open-source SlimDX and SharpDX project.

Reality Lab

Reality Lab was a 3D computer graphics API created by RenderMorphics to provide a standardized interface for writing games. It was one of the main contenders in the realtime 3D middleware marketplace at the time, alongside Criterion Software's RenderWare and Argonaut Software's BRender.

Reality Lab was a scene graph API that would run with acceptable performance on graphics cards or the host computer's CPU.

"Reality Lab(TM), provides high-performance 3-D graphics technology for a variety of personal computer-based games and

multimedia applications. Reality Lab has been acclaimed by a wide range of developers, including Autodesk, Creative Labs,

Kaleida Labs and Virgin Entertainment."After a short time on the market, RenderMorphics was purchased by Microsoft in February 1995 and Reality Lab formed the basis for Direct3D (splitting into separate immediate mode and retained mode APIs). Direct3D shipped for the first time in the DirectX 2.0 SDK in June 1996.


Truevision3D is a commercial computer software 3D engine first created by Sylvain Dupont in 1999.

The Truevision3D (commonly abbreviated as TV3D) engine is written in Visual Basic 6 and C++ and layered on top of the Microsoft DirectX API, currently supporting DirectX version 8. The engine is accessible from a number of programming languages including C++, C#, Delphi and Visual Basic (6 and .NET). The current version of Truevision3D is 6.3. Version 6.5, currently in public prerelease and very stable, includes significant updates to the engine, including DirectX 9 and shader support, as well as being rewritten in 100% C++. There are no plans to support DirectX 10 or XNA until a new version is worked on (TV7).

Xbox (console)

The Xbox is a home video game console and the first installment in the Xbox series of consoles manufactured by Microsoft. It was released as Microsoft's first foray into the gaming console market on November 15, 2001, in North America, followed by Australia, Europe and Japan in 2002. It is classified as a sixth generation console, competing with Sony's PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube. It was also the first console produced by an American company since the Atari Jaguar ceased production in 1996.

Announced in 2000, the Xbox was graphically powerful compared to its rivals, featuring a 733 MHz Intel Pentium III processor, a processor that could be found on a standard PC. It was also noted for its PC-like size and weight, and was the first console to feature a built-in hard disk. In November 2002, Microsoft launched Xbox Live, a fee-based online gaming service that enabled subscribers to download new content and connect with other players through a broadband connection. Unlike online services from Sega and Sony, Xbox Live had support in the original console design through an integrated Ethernet port. The service gave Microsoft an early foothold in online gaming and would help the Xbox become a competitor in the sixth-generation of consoles. The popularity of blockbuster titles such as Bungie's Halo 2 contributed to the popularity of online console gaming, and in particular first-person shooters. Despite this, and being in second position by the sales numbers—ahead of Nintendo's GameCube and Sega's Dreamcast—sales of the Xbox were always well behind Sony's PlayStation 2.Xbox's successor and the next console in the series, the Xbox 360, was launched in November 2005 as part of the seventh generation. The Xbox was discontinued soon after, beginning with Japan, Microsoft's worst-performing market, in 2005. Other countries followed suit in 2006. The last Xbox game in Europe was Xiaolin Showdown, released in June 2007, and the last game in North America was Madden NFL 09 from EA Sports, released in August 2008. Support for out-of-warranty Xbox consoles was discontinued on March 2, 2009. Support for Xbox Live on the console ended on April 15, 2010.

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