The RGL package is a visualization device system for R, using OpenGL or WebGL as the rendering backend. An OpenGL rgl device at its core is a real-time 3D engine written in C++. It provides an interactive viewpoint navigation facility (mouse + wheel support) and an R programming interface. WebGL, on the other hand, is rendered in a web browser; rgl produces the input file, and the browser shows the images.


A pkgdown website is here:

The unreleased development version website is here:

See this vignette for details on producing your own pkgdown website that includes rgl graphics.

The currently active development site is here:


rgl can make use of development versions of some packages: webshot2, chromote, pkgdown, downlit. Though it doesn’t require any of these, they each provide some nice features:

  • webshot2 and chromote support good quality PNG snapshots of rgl scenes, even on servers that don’t have a graphics display.
  • pkgdown and downlit support inclusion of rgl graphics in automatically built websites. (There’s also a devel version of htmlwidgets for other dynamic web packages like plotly, leaflet, etc.)

Unfortunately, being development versions, these packages sometimes introduce bugs that break rgl usage. Currently (June 15, 2021) the main branches of webshot2, chromote and downlit are fine, but pkgdown needs fixes, and I recommend the following code to install them:



Most users will want to install the latest CRAN release. For Windows, macOS and some Linux platforms, installation can be easy, as CRAN distributes binary versions:

# Install latest release from CRAN

To install the latest development version from Github, you’ll need to do a source install. Those aren’t easy! Try

# Install development version from Github

If that fails, read the instructions below.


The software is released under the GNU Public License. See COPYING for details.


  • portable R package using OpenGL (if available) on macOS, Win32 and X11
  • can produce 3D graphics in web pages using WebGL
  • R programming interface
  • interactive viewpoint navigation
  • automatic data focus
  • geometry primitives: points, lines, triangles, quads, texts, point sprites
  • high-level geometry: surface, spheres
  • up to 8 light sources
  • alpha-blending (transparency)
  • side-dependent fill-mode rendering (dots, wired and filled)
  • texture-mapping with mipmapping and environment mapping support
  • environmental effects: fogging, background sphere
  • bounding box with axis ticks marks
  • undo operation: shapes and light-sources are managed on type stacks, where the top-most objects can be popped, or any item specified by an identifier can be removed


macOS Windows 7/10 Unix-derivatives


R recommended tools (gcc toolchain) On Windows, Rtools40 (or earlier versions for pre-R-4.0.0)


For OpenGL display:

Windowing System (unix/x11 or Windows)
OpenGL Library
OpenGL Utility Library (GLU)

For WebGL display:

A browser with WebGL enabled. See

Installing OpenGL support

aptitude install libgl1-mesa-dev libglu1-mesa-dev

yum install mesa-libGL-devel mesa-libGLU-devel libpng-devel

Install XQuartz.
rgl should work with XQuartz 2.7.11 or newer, but it will probably need rebuilding if the XQuartz version changes. XQuartz normally needs re-installation whenever the macOS version changes.

Windows normally includes OpenGL support, but to get the appropriate include files etc., you will need the appropriate version of Rtools matched to your R version.


The libpng library version 1.2.9 or newer is needed for pixmap import/export support.

The freetype library is needed for resizable anti-aliased fonts. On Windows, it will be downloaded from during the install.


Binary builds of rgl are available for some platforms on CRAN.

For source builds, install the prerequisites as described above, download the tarball and at the command line run

R CMD INSTALL rgl_0.106.23.tar.gz

(with the appropriate version of the tarball). The build uses an autoconf configure script; to see the options, expand the tarball and run ./configure --help.

Alternatively, in R run


to install from CRAN, or


to install the development version from Github.

Sometimes binary development versions are available for Windows and macOS using

install.packages("rgl", repos = "",
                 type = "binary")

but these are not always kept up to date.


As of version 0.104.1, it is possible to build the package without OpenGL support on Unix-alikes (including macOS) with the configure option –disable-opengl For example,

R CMD INSTALL --configure-args="--disable-opengl" rgl_0.106.23.tar.gz 

On Windows, OpenGL support cannot currently be disabled.




Daniel Adler
Duncan Murdoch
Oleg Nenadic
Simon Urbanek
Ming Chen
Albrecht Gebhardt
Ben Bolker
Gabor Csardi
Adam Strzelecki
Alexander Senger
The R Core Team for some code from R.
Dirk Eddelbuettel
The authors of Shiny for their private RNG code.
The authors of knitr for their graphics inclusion code. Jeroen Ooms for Rtools40 and FreeType help.
Yohann Demont for Shiny code, suggestions, and testing.
Joshua Ulrich for a lot of help with the Github migration.
Xavier Fernandez i Marin for help debugging the build.
George Helffrich for draping code.
Ivan Krylov for window_group code in X11.