SDL2 on Windows with MSVC without Visual Studio October 18, 2021

I’ve been interested in learning some low-level graphics programming and so figured a good way to do it would be via SDL and C.

I already had Microsoft’s C compiler available as I had a minimal (as much as anything to do with Microsoft or Visual Studio can be called minimal) Visual Studio Build Tools installation for Rust development, but I didn’t want to have to install the bloated mess that is Visual Studio.

I started by trying to build the small example program I found here:

#include <SDL.h>

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
                  "Hello World",
                  "You have successfully compiled and linked an SDL2"
                  " program, congratulations.", NULL);

    return 0;

with the following command line:

cl /ISDL2-2.0.16\include test.c /link /LIBPATH:SDL2-2.0.16\lib\x86 /SUBSYSTEM:WINDOWS SDL2.lib SDL2main.lib

However, I’d get the following linker error:

unresolved external symbol __imp__CommandLineToArgvW@8 referenced in function _main_getcmdline

After a lot of digging around, it turned out that the problem was that I was failing to link against shell32.lib. The following command worked:

cl /ISDL2-2.0.16\include test.c /link /LIBPATH:SDL2-2.0.16\lib\x86 /SUBSYSTEM:WINDOWS shell32.lib SDL2.lib SDL2main.lib