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SDL 1.2 to 2.0 Migration Guide


This page describes what changed from SDL 1.2 to SDL 2.0, the new features, and upgrade tips.

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Hardware surfaces

The main change is the separation between software surfaces and hardware (accelerated) surfaces. Previously both were SDL_Surface structures, and hardware surfaces had the SDL_HWSURFACE flag on.

Now, we have two structures:

  • SDL_Surface: software surfaces, working like in 1.2, but never accelerated

  • SDL_Texture: hardware surfaces, whose pixels are not directly accessible (no ->pixels field)

Textures are typically OpenGL textures or X11 pixmaps, stored as near to the graphics hardware as possible.

Textures cannot be blit on each others. They can be blit to the screen using SDL_RenderCopy.

Textures are created with a SDL_TextureAccess SDL_TEXTUREACCESS_STATIC or SDL_TEXTUREACCESS_STREAMING. Static means the texture doesn't change often, streaming means you can access its pixels using SDL_QueryTexturePixels. It's used by the SDL engine to manage memory.

Textures may be stored in unaccelerated memory, for instance if there's not enough memory in the graphics card.


You now can create multiple screens (for instance: multiple windows). Each window has an associated Renderer. Each Renderer is managed by one of the built-in graphics drivers.

There is a complete example at SDL_RenderPresent.

The renderer replaces your previous SDL_Surface *screen object. It has a few methods to draw points, lines, rectangles, blit textures, etc. It also has a few dedicated post-processors for alpha-blending, masks, as well as add/multiply mode, cf. SDL_BlendMode and SDL_SetRenderDrawBlendMode. Introspection can be achieved using SDL_RendererInfo.

Instead of passing around a pointer to the current screen everywhere in your code, you pass a pointer to the renderer.

You update the physical screen using SDL_RenderPresent, which replaces SDL_Flip and SDL_UpdateRects.

SDL_SetVideoMode from 1.2 is now just a compatibility function, you will not use it anymore. You can use SDL_GetWindowSurface to get a 1.2 style surface for a window if necessary.


Use SDL_SetSurfaceAlphaMod and SDL_SetTextureAlphaMod instead of SDL_SetAlpha.


When calling SDL_SetColorKey(), you should pass SDL_TRUE instead of SDL_SRCCOLORKEY

Color modulation

Some renderer now support a global color alteration (srcC = srcC * color), check SDL_SetTextureColorMod for details.


Events mask are now specified using intervals:

# 1.2


# 2.0


You'll note that there are two kinds of key numbers:

  • SDL_Keycode: key codes, using SDL_Keycode's SDLK constants; note that SDLK_LAST disappeared, because new values cover most of 32bits. Keys associated with printable characters are compatible with Unicode UTF16.

  • SDL_Scancode: scan codes, representing layout-independent key locations

There is now a dedicated API for textual input (e.g. to enter a small text, rather than combining keys); check Tutorials/TextInput for an introduction.


Audio is very similar to 1.2. The driver detection/priority changed, you may need to test again your target configurations.


CD-ROM support was dropped in 2.0. There is no replacement.

Extensions compatibility

The official extensions SDL_image, SDL_ttf, SDL_mixer and SDL_net have a version dedicated to SDL2.0 : SDL2_image, SDL2_ttf, SDL2_mixer and SDL2_net. You may need to download them from the mercurial repositories for the latest fixes. Subsequently, of course, you will have to link e.g. SDL2_image, not SDL_image, to compile your program.

SDL_gfx can also be compiled with 2.0 starting since 2.0.21 (May 2010).

Changes related to software surfaces manipulation are usually trivial, so more extensions should be rebuildable.

However, this multi-support can lead to delicate situations in the context of shared libraries (when using GNU/Linux distros package dependencies, or when using ms windows .dll's). For example, if your new 2.0 game links against, it will not be able to know whether SDL_gfx is itself linked against SDL 1.2 or SDL 2.0, especially if SDL_gfx is provided by the distro and not compiled by you.


Here we discuss migration strategies for your code base.

Basic technique: here's how to detect the current SDL version:

/* SDL 2.0 code */
/* SDL 1.2 code */


The most obvious one: drop SDL 1.2 and rewrite everything for 2.0.


There are good chances that your current 1.2 code will directly compile under 2.0. Check include/SDL_compat.h and SDL/src/SDL_compat.c to get an idea.

Your code will probably run slower though; in particular there will be no hardware surfaces.

Compatibility is not 100% correct though; for instance SDL_SetPalette flags are currently ignored.


You may want to support both libraries, for instance because SDL 1.2 is currently better supported on your platform, or better packaged in GNU/Linux distros.

The AlienBlaster code, in the Android port repository, uses a few additional functions on top of SDL, that will use either SDL 1.2 or 2.0 seemlessly, and minimise the amount of #ifdef. It's not completely fool-proof though, for instance blits between hardware surfaces will result in a no-op under 2.0. Check the C++ code at:

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