How to compile Cairo for Visual C++ 2008 (Express edition)


Most precompiled Windows binaries are made with the MSYS+gcc toolchain. It uses MSVCRT runtime, which is incompatible with Visual C++ 2005/2008.

So, how to go about and compile Cairo 1.6.4 (or later) for Visual C++ only. Including dependencies (png,zlib,pixman).

Best Solution

Here are instructions for building Cairo/Cairomm with Visual C++.


  • Visual C++ 2008 Express SP1 (now includes SDK)
  • MSYS 1.0

To use VC++ command line tools, a batch file 'vcvars32.bat' needs to be run.

    C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\Tools\vcvars32.bat


Download (and extract) from

    cd zlib123
    nmake /f win32/Makefile.msc

        # zlib.lib is the static library
        # zdll.lib is the import library for zlib1.dll
        # zlib1.dll is the shared library


Download (and extract) from

The VC++ 9.0 compiler gives loads of "this might be unsafe" warnings. Ignore them; this is MS security panic (the code is good).

    cd lpng1231\lpng1231        # for some reason this is two stories deep

    nmake /f ../../lpng1231.nmake ZLIB_PATH=../zlib123

        # libpng.lib is the static library
        # dll is not being created


Pixman is part of Cairo, but a separate download.

Download (and extract) pixman-0.12.0.tar.gz from

Use MSYS to untar via 'tar -xvzf pixman*.tar.gz'

Both Pixman and Cairo have Makefiles for Visual C++ command line compiler (cl), but they use Gnu makefile and Unix-like tools (sed etc.). This means we have to run the make from within MSYS.

Open a command prompt with VC++ command line tools enabled (try 'cl /?'). Turn that command prompt into an MSYS prompt by 'C:\MSYS\1.0\MSYS.BAT'.

DO NOT use the MSYS icon, because then your prompt will now know of VC++. You cannot run .bat files from MSYS.

Try that VC++ tools work from here: 'cl -?'

Try that Gnu make also works: 'make -v'.


    cd     (use /d/... instead of D:)
    cd pixman-0.12.0/pixman
    make -f Makefile.win32

This defaults to MMX and SSE2 optimizations, which require a newish x86 processor (Pentium 4 or Pentium M or above: )

There's quite some warnings but it seems to succeed.

    ls release
        # pixman-1.lib  (static lib required by Cairo)

Stay in the VC++ spiced MSYS prompt for also Cairo to compile.


Download (and extract) cairo-1.6.4.tar.gz from

    cd cairo-1.6.4

The Makefile.win32 here is almost good, but has the Pixman path hardwired.

Use the modified 'Makefile-cairo.win32':

    make -f ../Makefile-cairo.win32 CFG=release \
            PIXMAN_PATH=../../pixman-0.12.0 \
            LIBPNG_PATH=../../lpng1231 \

(Write everything on one line, ignoring the backslashes)

It says "no rule to make 'src/cairo-features.h'. Use the manually prepared one (in Cairo > 1.6.4 there may be a 'src/cairo-features-win32.h' that you can simply rename):

    cp ../cairo-features.h src/

Retry the make command (arrow up remembers it).

    ls src/release
        # cairo-static.lib

cairomm (C++ API)

Download (and extract) cairomm-1.6.4.tar.gz from

There is a Visual C++ 2005 Project that we can use (via open & upgrade) for 2008.


Changes that need to be done:

  • Change active configuration to "Release"

  • Cairomm-1.0 properties (with right click menu)

        C++/General/Additional Include Directories: 
            ..\..\..\cairo-1.6.4\src    (append to existing)

        Linker/General/Additional library directories:

        Linker/Input/Additional dependencies:   
            cairo-static.lib libpng.lib zlib.lib msimg32.lib
  • Optimization: fast FPU code
            C++/Code generation/Floating point model

Right click on 'cairomm-1.0' and 'build'. There are some warnings.

    dir cairomm-1.6.4\MSVC_Net2005\cairomm\Release
        # cairomm-1.0.lib
        # cairomm-1.0.dll
        # cairomm.def
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