While you may be familiar with the "Would
you like to install DirectX now?" window, do you know what
DirectX is, and why it is important to keep an updated version of it
on your PC?
Direct X is a set of
(application program interfaces) developed by
Microsoft. It provides
software developers with resources to write Windows-based
applications that access
hardware features of a
knowing exactly what hardware will be installed when
the program eventually runs. By using the interfaces provided by
DirectX, software developers can take advantage of hardware features
without being concerned about the implementation details of that
The full benefit of DirectX is most evident in PC games. Unlike console gaming machines such as the PlayStation or GameCube, for example, computer game developers are
producing a game that needs to be designed to work well on a
variety of systems as opposed to one system that is the same for all
PC game developers need to ensure that
their game will run on any system and include support for a large
number of different hardware devices, such as the
as well as gaming peripherals
such as joysticks and racing wheels.
Developers also need to ensure their game will work
with hardware products that may not even hit the retail sector
until after their game is released.
DirectX made its debut in 1995. It was the first encouragement from Microsoft to move game programmers in the direction of developing for Windows 95 instead of
DOS. Until then PC games were largely written in DOS, which had the capability to access the computer's sound and video hardware
directly. To keep the speed of the game up, developers were looking at
having to write their own
drivers for a wide variety of display
adapters. Tha could turn out to be a nightmare for the developer
and, in turn, cause compatibility issues for some end-users.
DirectX introduced an intermediate layer that translated
generic hardware commands into specific commands for particular
pieces of hardware. In particular DirectX allowed
applications to take advantage of hardware acceleration features
supported by graphics accelerators. With DirectX game developers
were able to take advantage of Windows without sacrificing
performance in the game.
Key Terms To
Direct X is a set of APIs (application program interfaces)
developed by Microsoft that enables programmers to write programs
that access hardware features of a computer without knowing exactly
what hardware will be installed on the machine where the program
eventually runs. [READ
Abbreviation of application program interface, a set of routines,
protocols, and tools for building software applications. A good API
makes it easier to develop a program by providing all the building
blocks. A programmer puts the blocks together. [READ
More Related Terms From
DirectX in the Middle
One can look at DirectX and its sub-layers as
something that lies between your game or application and your
computer hardware. If the software you are using is DirectX-compliant and if
the manufacturer of your specific hardware has made its products DirectX compatible, then
you'll find your hardware supported in the vast majority of games you play
and applications you use. DirectX basically puts the responsibility of
hardware support on the hardware manufacturer rather than the software
developer, which really leads to optimal software performance and
Unfortunately, in its first few releases,
DirectX didn't go over too well with developers, many of whom found the API
horribly designed and complicated not to mention proprietary. Over the years,
improvements to each DirectX release, DirectX has become the standard.
It evolves as
computer hardware and game peripherals advance allowing for support of
hardware features in new computer games.
For those who don't find themselves rushing
out to buy the latest and greatest in 3D computer games, DirectX is used in a
multitude of Windows based applications anything that requires full-color
graphics, video, 3D animation, and
complex audio. Even if you're not a
gamer you should still stay on top of the DirectX releases and the latest
support information to ensure optimal performance on a Windows-based system.
is a software interface that provides direct access to display
devices while maintaining compatibility with the Windows graphics
device interface (GDI).
||An API for
manipulating and displaying three-dimensional objects. Developed by
Microsoft, Direct3D provides programmers with a way to develop 3-D
programs that can use whatever graphics acceleration device is
installed in the machine. Virtually all 3-D accelerator cards for
PCs support Direct3D.
enables the playing of sounds with very low latency and gives
applications a high level of control over hardware resources.
combination with Microsoft DirectSound, DirectMusic provides a
complete solution for playing music and sound effects in games and
enables an application to retrieve data from input devices even when
the application is in the background. It also provides full support
for any type of input device, as well as for force feedback.
is a media-independent networking API that provides networking
services at the transport protocol and session protocol levels.
DirectPlay sessions can be run on TCP/IP networks, IPX networks, and
over directly connected modems and serial cables.
is an architecture for streaming media on a Windows platform. It
provides high-quality capture and playback of multimedia streams.
Current Support, Releases & Updates
DirectX usually changes at least once a year. Microsoft's DirectX group
will release a new beta development kit for the next DirectX version, and
after a few months it then becomes available for end-users to download. It
is important to note that not all versions of
Microsoft Windows can use the
latest version of DirectX. The latest version of DirectX available for Windows 95, for
example, is DirectX 8.0a. Additionally, different Microsoft operating systems
will have a different version of DirectX. Windows 98 comes with DirectX
5 support, while Windows 98 Second Edition comes with DirectX 6.1a, and Windows
XP and Windows 2003 Server comes with DirectX 8.1. After software
requiring DirectX is installed, if the installer does not find the correct
or updated version of DirectX on your system you will be prompted to install
it along with your software. Using the Windows update feature will also ensure
that you are running the latest supported
version of DirectX for your Windows
Did You Know...
The DirectDraw standard was first developed by Intel and
called the Display Control Interface (DCI) and is now supported
by Microsoft with the name DirectDraw as a registered trademark.
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: March 25, 2005
DirectX Web Site
The official Microsoft DirectX Web site complete with information, release
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Game Developers Conference 2005
Microsoft DirectX slides at Game Developers Conference 2005 - Download slide
presentations from Game Developers Conference.
DirectX Home User Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to common questions on DirectX installation, use, and
troubleshooting on the Microsoft Product Support Services site.
Playing Games with Windows XP: Get Down with DirectX
"If you're a hard-core computer gamer, you've almost certainly heard of the
Microsoft DirectX technology. Even if you're a casual gamer who has never heard
of DirectX, chances are you've used it, especially if you're running Windows