SPIRV Cross Save

SPIRV-Cross is a practical tool and library for performing reflection on SPIR-V and disassembling SPIR-V back to high level languages.

Project README


SPIRV-Cross is a tool designed for parsing and converting SPIR-V to other shader languages.

CI Build Status


  • Convert SPIR-V to readable, usable and efficient GLSL
  • Convert SPIR-V to readable, usable and efficient Metal Shading Language (MSL)
  • Convert SPIR-V to readable, usable and efficient HLSL
  • Convert SPIR-V to a JSON reflection format
  • Convert SPIR-V to debuggable C++ [DEPRECATED]
  • Reflection API to simplify the creation of Vulkan pipeline layouts
  • Reflection API to modify and tweak OpDecorations
  • Supports "all" of vertex, fragment, tessellation, geometry and compute shaders.

SPIRV-Cross tries hard to emit readable and clean output from the SPIR-V. The goal is to emit GLSL or MSL that looks like it was written by a human and not awkward IR/assembly-like code.

NOTE: Individual features are expected to be mostly complete, but it is possible that certain obscure GLSL features are not yet supported. However, most missing features are expected to be "trivial" improvements at this stage.


SPIRV-Cross has been tested on Linux, iOS/OSX, Windows and Android. CMake is the main build system.

NOTE: main branch rename

On 2023-01-12, master was renamed to main as per Khronos policy.

Linux and macOS

Building with CMake is recommended, as it is the only build system which is tested in continuous integration. It is also the only build system which has install commands and other useful build system features.

However, you can just run make on the command line as a fallback if you only care about the CLI tool.

A non-ancient GCC (4.8+) or Clang (3.x+) compiler is required as SPIRV-Cross uses C++11 extensively.


Building with CMake is recommended, which is the only way to target MSVC. MinGW-w64 based compilation works with make as a fallback.


SPIRV-Cross is only useful as a library here. Use the CMake build to link SPIRV-Cross to your project.

C++ exceptions

The make and CMake build flavors offer the option to treat exceptions as assertions. To disable exceptions for make just append SPIRV_CROSS_EXCEPTIONS_TO_ASSERTIONS=1 to the command line. For CMake append -DSPIRV_CROSS_EXCEPTIONS_TO_ASSERTIONS=ON. By default exceptions are enabled.

Static, shared and CLI

You can use -DSPIRV_CROSS_STATIC=ON/OFF -DSPIRV_CROSS_SHARED=ON/OFF -DSPIRV_CROSS_CLI=ON/OFF to control which modules are built (and installed).

Installing SPIRV-Cross (vcpkg)

Alternatively, you can build and install SPIRV-Cross using vcpkg dependency manager:

git clone https://github.com/Microsoft/vcpkg.git
cd vcpkg
./vcpkg integrate install
./vcpkg install spirv-cross

The SPIRV-Cross port in vcpkg is kept up to date by Microsoft team members and community contributors. If the version is out of date, please create an issue or pull request on the vcpkg repository.


Using the C++ API

The C++ API is the main API for SPIRV-Cross. For more in-depth documentation than what's provided in this README, please have a look at the Wiki. NOTE: This API is not guaranteed to be ABI-stable, and it is highly recommended to link against this API statically. The API is generally quite stable, but it can change over time, see the C API for more stability.

To perform reflection and convert to other shader languages you can use the SPIRV-Cross API. For example:

#include "spirv_glsl.hpp"
#include <vector>
#include <utility>

extern std::vector<uint32_t> load_spirv_file();

int main()
	// Read SPIR-V from disk or similar.
	std::vector<uint32_t> spirv_binary = load_spirv_file();

	spirv_cross::CompilerGLSL glsl(std::move(spirv_binary));

	// The SPIR-V is now parsed, and we can perform reflection on it.
	spirv_cross::ShaderResources resources = glsl.get_shader_resources();

	// Get all sampled images in the shader.
	for (auto &resource : resources.sampled_images)
		unsigned set = glsl.get_decoration(resource.id, spv::DecorationDescriptorSet);
		unsigned binding = glsl.get_decoration(resource.id, spv::DecorationBinding);
		printf("Image %s at set = %u, binding = %u\n", resource.name.c_str(), set, binding);

		// Modify the decoration to prepare it for GLSL.
		glsl.unset_decoration(resource.id, spv::DecorationDescriptorSet);

		// Some arbitrary remapping if we want.
		glsl.set_decoration(resource.id, spv::DecorationBinding, set * 16 + binding);

	// Set some options.
	spirv_cross::CompilerGLSL::Options options;
	options.version = 310;
	options.es = true;

	// Compile to GLSL, ready to give to GL driver.
	std::string source = glsl.compile();

Using the C API wrapper

To facilitate C compatibility and compatibility with foreign programming languages, a C89-compatible API wrapper is provided. Unlike the C++ API, the goal of this wrapper is to be fully stable, both API and ABI-wise. This is the only interface which is supported when building SPIRV-Cross as a shared library.

An important point of the wrapper is that all memory allocations are contained in the spvc_context. This simplifies the use of the API greatly. However, you should destroy the context as soon as reasonable, or use spvc_context_release_allocations() if you intend to reuse the spvc_context object again soon.

Most functions return a spvc_result, where SPVC_SUCCESS is the only success code. For brevity, the code below does not do any error checking.

#include <spirv_cross_c.h>

const SpvId *spirv = get_spirv_data();
size_t word_count = get_spirv_word_count();

spvc_context context = NULL;
spvc_parsed_ir ir = NULL;
spvc_compiler compiler_glsl = NULL;
spvc_compiler_options options = NULL;
spvc_resources resources = NULL;
const spvc_reflected_resource *list = NULL;
const char *result = NULL;
size_t count;
size_t i;

// Create context.

// Set debug callback.
spvc_context_set_error_callback(context, error_callback, userdata);

// Parse the SPIR-V.
spvc_context_parse_spirv(context, spirv, word_count, &ir);

// Hand it off to a compiler instance and give it ownership of the IR.
spvc_context_create_compiler(context, SPVC_BACKEND_GLSL, ir, SPVC_CAPTURE_MODE_TAKE_OWNERSHIP, &compiler_glsl);

// Do some basic reflection.
spvc_compiler_create_shader_resources(compiler_glsl, &resources);
spvc_resources_get_resource_list_for_type(resources, SPVC_RESOURCE_TYPE_UNIFORM_BUFFER, &list, &count);

for (i = 0; i < count; i++)
    printf("ID: %u, BaseTypeID: %u, TypeID: %u, Name: %s\n", list[i].id, list[i].base_type_id, list[i].type_id,
    printf("  Set: %u, Binding: %u\n",
           spvc_compiler_get_decoration(compiler_glsl, list[i].id, SpvDecorationDescriptorSet),
           spvc_compiler_get_decoration(compiler_glsl, list[i].id, SpvDecorationBinding));

// Modify options.
spvc_compiler_create_compiler_options(compiler_glsl, &options);
spvc_compiler_options_set_uint(options, SPVC_COMPILER_OPTION_GLSL_VERSION, 330);
spvc_compiler_options_set_bool(options, SPVC_COMPILER_OPTION_GLSL_ES, SPVC_FALSE);
spvc_compiler_install_compiler_options(compiler_glsl, options);

spvc_compiler_compile(compiler_glsl, &result);
printf("Cross-compiled source: %s\n", result);

// Frees all memory we allocated so far.


CMake add_subdirectory()

This is the recommended way if you are using CMake and want to link against SPIRV-Cross statically.

Integrating SPIRV-Cross in a custom build system

To add SPIRV-Cross to your own codebase, just copy the source and header files from root directory and build the relevant .cpp files you need. Make sure to build with C++11 support, e.g. -std=c++11 in GCC and Clang. Alternatively, the Makefile generates a libspirv-cross.a static library during build that can be linked in.

Linking against SPIRV-Cross as a system library

It is possible to link against SPIRV-Cross when it is installed as a system library, which would be mostly relevant for Unix-like platforms.


For Unix-based systems, a pkg-config is installed for the C API, e.g.:

$ pkg-config spirv-cross-c-shared --libs --cflags
-I/usr/local/include/spirv_cross -L/usr/local/lib -lspirv-cross-c-shared

If the project is installed, it can be found with find_package(), e.g.:

cmake_minimum_required(VERSION 3.5)
project(Test LANGUAGES C)

if (spirv_cross_c_shared_FOUND)
        message(STATUS "Found SPIRV-Cross C API! :)")
        message(STATUS "Could not find SPIRV-Cross C API! :(")

add_executable(test test.c)
target_link_libraries(test spirv-cross-c-shared)


#include <spirv_cross_c.h>

int main(void)
        spvc_context context;


The CLI is suitable for basic cross-compilation tasks, but it cannot support the full flexibility that the API can. Some examples below.

Creating a SPIR-V file from GLSL with glslang

glslangValidator -H -V -o test.spv test.frag

Converting a SPIR-V file to GLSL ES

glslangValidator -H -V -o test.spv shaders/comp/basic.comp
./spirv-cross --version 310 --es test.spv

Converting to desktop GLSL

glslangValidator -H -V -o test.spv shaders/comp/basic.comp
./spirv-cross --version 330 --no-es test.spv --output test.comp

Disable prettifying optimizations

glslangValidator -H -V -o test.spv shaders/comp/basic.comp
./spirv-cross --version 310 --es test.spv --output test.comp --force-temporary

Using shaders generated from C++ backend

Please see samples/cpp where some GLSL shaders are compiled to SPIR-V, decompiled to C++ and run with test data. Reading through the samples should explain how to use the C++ interface. A simple Makefile is included to build all shaders in the directory.

Implementation notes

When using SPIR-V and SPIRV-Cross as an intermediate step for cross-compiling between high level languages there are some considerations to take into account, as not all features used by one high-level language are necessarily supported natively by the target shader language. SPIRV-Cross aims to provide the tools needed to handle these scenarios in a clean and robust way, but some manual action is required to maintain compatibility.

HLSL source to GLSL

HLSL entry points

When using SPIR-V shaders compiled from HLSL, there are some extra things you need to take care of. First make sure that the entry point is used correctly. If you forget to set the entry point correctly in glslangValidator (-e MyFancyEntryPoint), you will likely encounter this error message:

Cannot end a function before ending the current block.
Likely cause: If this SPIR-V was created from glslang HLSL, make sure the entry point is valid.
Vertex/Fragment interface linking

HLSL relies on semantics in order to effectively link together shader stages. In the SPIR-V generated by glslang, the transformation from HLSL to GLSL ends up looking like

struct VSOutput {
   // SV_Position is rerouted to gl_Position
   float4 position : SV_Position;
   float4 coord : TEXCOORD0;

VSOutput main(...) {}
struct VSOutput {
   float4 coord;
layout(location = 0) out VSOutput _magicNameGeneratedByGlslang;

While this works, be aware of the type of the struct which is used in the vertex stage and the fragment stage. There may be issues if the structure type name differs in vertex stage and fragment stage.

You can make use of the reflection interface to force the name of the struct type.

// Something like this for both vertex outputs and fragment inputs.
compiler.set_name(varying_resource.base_type_id, "VertexFragmentLinkage");

Some platform may require identical variable name for both vertex outputs and fragment inputs. (for example MacOSX) to rename variable base on location, please add

--rename-interface-variable <in|out> <location> <new_variable_name>

HLSL source to legacy GLSL/ESSL

HLSL tends to emit varying struct types to pass data between vertex and fragment. This is not supported in legacy GL/GLES targets, so to support this, varying structs are flattened. This is done automatically, but the API user might need to be aware that this is happening in order to support all cases.

Modern GLES code like this:

struct Output {
   vec4 a;
   vec2 b;
out Output vout;

Is transformed into:

struct Output {
   vec4 a;
   vec2 b;
varying vec4 Output_a;
varying vec2 Output_b;

Note that now, both the struct name and the member names will participate in the linking interface between vertex and fragment, so API users might want to ensure that both the struct names and member names match so that vertex outputs and fragment inputs can link properly.

Separate image samplers (HLSL/Vulkan) for backends which do not support it (GLSL)

Another thing you need to remember is when using samplers and textures in HLSL these are separable, and not directly compatible with GLSL. If you need to use this with desktop GL/GLES, you need to call Compiler::build_combined_image_samplers first before calling Compiler::compile, or you will get an exception.

// From main.cpp
// Builds a mapping for all combinations of images and samplers.

// Give the remapped combined samplers new names.
// Here you can also set up decorations if you want (binding = #N).
for (auto &remap : compiler->get_combined_image_samplers())
   compiler->set_name(remap.combined_id, join("SPIRV_Cross_Combined", compiler->get_name(remap.image_id),

If your target is Vulkan GLSL, --vulkan-semantics will emit separate image samplers as you'd expect. The command line client calls Compiler::build_combined_image_samplers automatically, but if you're calling the library, you'll need to do this yourself.

Descriptor sets (Vulkan GLSL) for backends which do not support them (pre HLSL 5.1 / GLSL)

Descriptor sets are unique to Vulkan, so make sure that descriptor set + binding is remapped to a flat binding scheme (set always 0), so that other APIs can make sense of the bindings. This can be done with Compiler::set_decoration(id, spv::DecorationDescriptorSet). For other backends like MSL and HLSL, descriptor sets can be used, with some minor caveats, see below.

MSL 2.0+

Metal supports indirect argument buffers (--msl-argument-buffers). In this case, descriptor sets become argument buffers, and bindings are mapped to [[id(N)]] within the argument buffer. One quirk is that arrays of resources consume multiple ids, where Vulkan does not. This can be worked around either from shader authoring stage or remapping bindings as needed to avoid the overlap. There is also a rich API to declare remapping schemes which is intended to work like the pipeline layout in Vulkan. See CompilerMSL::add_msl_resource_binding. Remapping combined image samplers for example must be split into two bindings in MSL, so it's possible to declare an id for the texture and sampler binding separately.

HLSL - SM 5.1+

In SM 5.1+, descriptor set bindings are interpreted as register spaces directly. In HLSL however, arrays of resources consume multiple binding slots where Vulkan does not, so there might be overlap if the SPIR-V was not authored with this in mind. This can be worked around either from shader authoring stage (don't assign overlapping bindings) or remap bindings in SPIRV-Cross as needed to avoid the overlap.

Linking by name for targets which do not support explicit locations (legacy GLSL/ESSL)

Modern GLSL and HLSL sources (and SPIR-V) relies on explicit layout(location) qualifiers to guide the linking process between shader stages, but older GLSL relies on symbol names to perform the linking. When emitting shaders with older versions, these layout statements will be removed, so it is important that the API user ensures that the names of I/O variables are sanitized so that linking will work properly. The reflection API can rename variables, struct types and struct members to deal with these scenarios using Compiler::set_name and friends.

Clip-space conventions

SPIRV-Cross can perform some common clip space conversions on gl_Position/SV_Position by enabling CompilerGLSL::Options.vertex.fixup_clipspace. While this can be convenient, it is recommended to modify the projection matrices instead as that can achieve the same result.

For GLSL targets, enabling this will convert a shader which assumes [0, w] depth range (Vulkan / D3D / Metal) into [-w, w] range. For MSL and HLSL targets, enabling this will convert a shader in [-w, w] depth range (OpenGL) to [0, w] depth range.

By default, the CLI will not enable fixup_clipspace, but in the API you might want to set an explicit value using CompilerGLSL::set_options().

Y-flipping of gl_Position and similar is also supported. The use of this is discouraged, because relying on vertex shader Y-flipping tends to get quite messy. To enable this, set CompilerGLSL::Options.vertex.flip_vert_y or --flip-vert-y in CLI.

Reserved identifiers

When cross-compiling, certain identifiers are considered to be reserved by the implementation. Code generated by SPIRV-Cross cannot emit these identifiers as they are reserved and used for various internal purposes, and such variables will typically show up as _RESERVED_IDENTIFIER_FIXUP_ or some similar name to make it more obvious that an identifier has been renamed.

Reflection output will follow the exact name specified in the SPIR-V module. It might not be a valid identifier in the C sense, as it may contain non-alphanumeric/non-underscore characters.

Reserved identifiers currently assumed by the implementation are (in pseudo-regex):

  • _$digit+, e.g. _100, _2
  • $digit+.+, e.g. _100_tmp, _2_foobar. _2Bar is not reserved.
  • gl_- prefix
  • spv- prefix
  • SPIRV_Cross prefix. This prefix is generally used for interface variables where app needs to provide data for workaround purposes. This identifier will not be rewritten, but be aware of potential collisions.
  • Double underscores (reserved by all target languages).

Members of structs also have a reserved identifier:

  • _m$digit+$END, e.g. _m20 and _m40 are reserved, but not _m40Foobar.


Contributions to SPIRV-Cross are welcome. See Testing and Licensing sections for details.


SPIRV-Cross maintains a test suite of shaders with reference output of how the output looks after going through a roundtrip through glslangValidator/spirv-as then back through SPIRV-Cross again. The reference files are stored inside the repository in order to be able to track regressions.

All pull requests should ensure that test output does not change unexpectedly. This can be tested with:

./checkout_glslang_spirv_tools.sh # Checks out glslang and SPIRV-Tools at a fixed revision which matches the reference output.
./build_glslang_spirv_tools.sh    # Builds glslang and SPIRV-Tools.
./test_shaders.sh                 # Runs over all changes and makes sure that there are no deltas compared to reference files.

./test_shaders.sh currently requires a Makefile setup with GCC/Clang to be set up. However, on Windows, this can be rather inconvenient if a MinGW environment is not set up. To use a spirv-cross binary you built with CMake (or otherwise), you can pass in an environment variable as such:

SPIRV_CROSS_PATH=path/to/custom/spirv-cross ./test_shaders.sh

However, when improving SPIRV-Cross there are of course legitimate cases where reference output should change. In these cases, run:

./update_test_shaders.sh          # SPIRV_CROSS_PATH also works here.

to update the reference files and include these changes as part of the pull request. Always make sure you are running the correct version of glslangValidator as well as SPIRV-Tools when updating reference files. See checkout_glslang_spirv_tools.sh which revisions are currently expected. The revisions change regularly.

In short, the main branch should always be able to run ./test_shaders.py shaders and friends without failure. SPIRV-Cross uses Travis CI to test all pull requests, so it is not strictly needed to perform testing yourself if you have problems running it locally. A pull request which does not pass testing on Travis will not be accepted however.

When adding support for new features to SPIRV-Cross, a new shader and reference file should be added which covers usage of the new shader features in question. Travis CI runs the test suite with the CMake, by running ctest. This is a more straight-forward alternative to ./test_shaders.sh.


Contributors of new files should add a copyright header at the top of every new source code file with their copyright along with the Apache 2.0 licensing stub.


SPIRV-Cross uses clang-format to automatically format code. Please use clang-format with the style sheet found in .clang-format to automatically format code before submitting a pull request.

To make things easy, the format_all.sh script can be used to format all source files in the library. In this directory, run the following from the command line:


Regression testing

In shaders/ a collection of shaders are maintained for purposes of regression testing. The current reference output is contained in reference/. ./test_shaders.py shaders can be run to perform regression testing.

See ./test_shaders.py --help for more.

Metal backend

To test the roundtrip path GLSL -> SPIR-V -> MSL, --msl can be added, e.g. ./test_shaders.py --msl shaders-msl.

HLSL backend

To test the roundtrip path GLSL -> SPIR-V -> HLSL, --hlsl can be added, e.g. ./test_shaders.py --hlsl shaders-hlsl.

Updating regression tests

When legitimate changes are found, use --update flag to update regression files. Otherwise, ./test_shaders.py will fail with error code.

Mali Offline Compiler cycle counts

To obtain a CSV of static shader cycle counts before and after going through spirv-cross, add --malisc flag to ./test_shaders. This requires the Mali Offline Compiler to be installed in PATH.

Open Source Agenda is not affiliated with "SPIRV Cross" Project. README Source: KhronosGroup/SPIRV-Cross
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