This document, referred to as the “Vulkan Specification” or just the “Specification” hereafter, describes the Vulkan Application Programming Interface (API). Vulkan is a C99 API designed for explicit control of low-level graphics and compute functionality.
The canonical version of the Specification is available in the official Vulkan Registry (https://registry.khronos.org/vulkan/). The source files used to generate the Vulkan specification are stored in the Vulkan Documentation Repository (https://github.com/KhronosGroup/Vulkan-Docs).
The source repository additionally has a public issue tracker and allows the submission of pull requests that improve the specification.
The Vulkan specification is intended for use by both implementors of the API and application developers seeking to make use of the API, forming a contract between these parties. Specification text may address either party; typically the intended audience can be inferred from context, though some sections are defined to address only one of these parties. (For example, Valid Usage sections only address application developers). Any requirements, prohibitions, recommendations or options defined by normative terminology are imposed only on the audience of that text.
Structure and enumerated types defined in extensions that were promoted to core in a later version of Vulkan are now defined in terms of the equivalent Vulkan core interfaces. This affects the Vulkan Specification, the Vulkan header files, and the corresponding XML Registry.
Ratification of a Vulkan core version or extension is a status conferred by vote of the Khronos Board of Promoters, bringing that core version or extension under the umbrella of the Khronos IP Policy.
All Vulkan core versions and
KHR extensions (including provisional
specifications) are ratified, as are some multi-vendor
Ratification status of extensions is described in the Layers &
Extensions (Informative) appendix.
Ratification status is primarily of interest to IHVs developing GPU hardware and Vulkan implementations
For developers, ratification does not necessarily mean that an extension is “better”; has a more stable API; or is more widely supported than alternative ways of achieving that functionality.
Interactions between ratified and non-ratified extensions are not themselves ratified.
Some language in the specification is purely informative, intended to give background or suggestions to implementors or developers.
If an entire chapter or section contains only informative language, its title will be suffixed with “(Informative)”.
All NOTEs are implicitly informative.
Within this specification, the key words must, required, should, recommended, may, and optional are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 - Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels (https://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2119.txt). The additional key word optionally is an alternate form of optional, for use where grammatically appropriate.
These key words are highlighted in the specification for clarity. In text addressing application developers, their use expresses requirements that apply to application behavior. In text addressing implementors, their use expresses requirements that apply to implementations.
In text addressing application developers, the additional key words can and cannot are to be interpreted as describing the capabilities of an application, as follows:
This word means that the application is able to perform the action described.
This word means that the API and/or the execution environment provide no mechanism through which the application can express or accomplish the action described.
These key words are never used in text addressing implementors.
There is an important distinction between cannot and must not, as used in this Specification. Cannot means something the application literally is unable to express or accomplish through the API, while must not means something that the application is capable of expressing through the API, but that the consequences of doing so are undefined and potentially unrecoverable for the implementation (see Valid Usage).
Unless otherwise noted in the section heading, all sections and appendices in this document are normative.
The Vulkan Specification makes use of common engineering and graphics terms such as Pipeline, Shader, and Host to identify and describe Vulkan API constructs and their attributes, states, and behaviors. The Glossary defines the basic meanings of these terms in the context of the Specification. The Specification text provides fuller definitions of the terms and may elaborate, extend, or clarify the Glossary definitions. When a term defined in the Glossary is used in normative language within the Specification, the definitions within the Specification govern and supersede any meanings the terms may have in other technical contexts (i.e. outside the Specification).
References to external documents are considered normative references if the Specification uses any of the normative terms defined in Normative Terminology to refer to them or their requirements, either as a whole or in part.
The following documents are referenced by normative sections of the specification:
IEEE. August, 2008. IEEE Standard for Floating-Point Arithmetic. IEEE Std 754-2008. https://dx.doi.org/10.1109/IEEESTD.2008.4610935 .
Andrew Garrard. Khronos Data Format Specification, version 1.3. https://registry.khronos.org/DataFormat/specs/1.3/dataformat.1.3.html .
John Kessenich. SPIR-V Extended Instructions for GLSL, Version 1.00 (February 10, 2016). https://registry.khronos.org/spir-v/ .
John Kessenich, Boaz Ouriel, and Raun Krisch. SPIR-V Specification, Version 1.5, Revision 3, Unified (April 24, 2020). https://registry.khronos.org/spir-v/ .
ITU-T. H.264 Advanced Video Coding for Generic Audiovisual Services (August, 2021). https://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-H.264-202108-I/ .
ITU-T. H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding (August, 2021). https://www.itu.int/rec/T-REC-H.265-202108-S/ .
Alliance for Open Media. AV1 Bitstream & Decoding Process Specification (January 8, 2019). https://aomediacodec.github.io/av1-spec/av1-spec.pdf .
Jon Leech. The Khronos Vulkan API Registry (February 26, 2023). https://registry.khronos.org/vulkan/specs/1.3/registry.html .
Jon Leech and Tobias Hector. Vulkan Documentation and Extensions: Procedures and Conventions (February 26, 2023). https://registry.khronos.org/vulkan/specs/1.3/styleguide.html .
Architecture of the Vulkan Loader Interfaces (October, 2021). https://github.com/KhronosGroup/Vulkan-Loader/blob/master/docs/LoaderInterfaceArchitecture.md .