Using Dear ImGui with modern C++

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Related article: Using Dear ImGui with SFML

This is my second article about Dear ImGui! This article is a collection of useful things, hacks and other stuff I’ve found while using ImGui. Mostly it’s focused on using modern C++ and some parts of STL with ImGui.

Different Dear ImGui widgets

Table Of Contents


Labels are used in ImGui as unique IDs for widgets. You shouldn’t use same labels for two different widgets as it will introduce collisions between widgets and that will lead to some unwanted behavior.

Suppose you have two buttons with label “Meow” and you have a code like this:

if (ImGui::Button("Meow")) {
    std::cout << "Meow\n";

if (ImGui::Button("Meow")) {
    std::cout << "Purr\n";

The first button works as expected, but the second doesn’t work at all! These are the things that can happen when collisions occur between IDs. This won’t happen most of the time, after all there’s mostly no need to place two buttons which say the same thing in one window. But what if you really need these two “Meow” buttons? The solution is simple: you just have to add “##” and some stuff after that to resolve the collision:

if (ImGui::Button("Meow")) {
    std::cout << "Meow\n";

if (ImGui::Button("Meow##Second")) {
    std::cout << "Purr\n";

All the text after “##” is not displayed and only used to give unique IDs to widgets with same labels. IDs should be unique in the same scope, so it’s okay to have two widgets with the same label in two different windows or have one of them in some tree or list (trees, lists and some other widgets have their own scopes, so collisions won’t happen between items in them and other items).

Let’s look at another situation. Suppose you have an array of ints:

std::array<int, 10> arr = { 0 };

And now you want to create a bunch of InputInt widgets for each array element. ImGui::PushID/PopID come to the rescue! You can push ints, const char* or void* as IDs which will be appended to the label of the next created widget (but won’t be shown). For example, you can do this:

for (int i = 0; i < arr.size(); ++i) {
    ImGui::InputInt("##", &arr[i]);

There are some situations where you don’t have an int which you can use as part of ID, for example if you want to use for-ranged loop with the std::array. In that case, you can use pointers to elements of the array which will be unique:

for (auto& elem : arr) {
    ImGui::InputInt("##", &elem);

Getting back to the context of the window, tree, etc.

Suppose that you need to add some stuff to the window you’ve created before but you already called ImGui::End. No problem, just call ImGui::Begin with the name of the window in which you want to append stuff. Here’s an example:

ImGui::Begin("First window"); // begin first window
// some stuff

ImGui::Begin("Another window"); // begin second window
// some another stuff

// oops, forgot to add some stuff!
// let's go back to the context of the first window
ImGui::Begin("First window");
// forgotten stuff

InputFloatN + struct

Sometimes it’s useful to use InputFloat2 or InputFloat4 with your point or rectangle structs which can be defined like this:

struct Point {
    float x;
    float y;

struct Rect {
    float x;
    float y;
    float w;
    float h;

Using them with InputFloat2 or InputFloat4 is easy:

Point p{ 0.f, 0.f };
Rect r{ 0.f, 0.f, 0.f, 0.f };
ImGui::InputFloat2("Point", &p.x);
ImGui::InputFloat4("Rect", &r.x);

This works because both Point and Rect structs are POD and don’t have “holes” in them, so the data they store is contiguous and can be interpreted as array of floats.

This method is not very safe, of course, so use it at your own risk. Someone can modify the struct and this may break your code which assumed that the floats you want to modify are stored contiguously. Unfortunately, there’s no way to pass array of pointers to InputFloat2 or InputFloat4, but you can easily create your own solution. Let’s make a function which creates a widget similar to InputFloat4 and uses members of Rect struct explicitly:

namespace imgui_util {

bool InputRect(const char* label, Rect* rectPtr,
    int decimal_precision = -1, ImGuiInputTextFlags extra_flags = 0)

    bool valueChanged = false;

    std::array<float*, 4> arr = { &rectPtr->x, &rectPtr->y,
                                  &rectPtr->w, &rectPtr->h };

    for (auto& elem : arr) {
        valueChanged |= ImGui::InputFloat("##arr", elem, 0, 0,
            decimal_precision, extra_flags);


    ImGui::PopID(); // pop label id;

    return valueChanged;

And now you can do this:

imgui_util::InputRect("Rect", &r);

Using ImGui with STL

There are lots of things to be said about using ImGui with STL. ImGui doesn’t use STL at all and users have to pass raw arrays and const char*s instead of std::vectors and std::strings, so you can’t just use STL and some modern C++ right away, but it can be done with some work.


Some widgets require you to use raw arrays but those are not the best because you can’t use them with algorithms, for ranged loops, etc. And the other problem is that you have to manage the memory of variable size arrays yourself using new and delete. Using std::array with Imgui::InputInt4 which expects you to pass raw array is easy, just do it like this:

std::array<int, 4> arr2 = { 0 };

std::array::data returns a pointer to raw int array which can be passed to ImGui::InputInt4.

The same can be done with std::vectors which are guaranteed to be contiguous, so you can just use std::vector::data the same way:

std::vector<int> arr3(4, 0);

ComboBox, ListBox

ComboBox and ListBox can be used with arrays of const chars, but what if you have std::vector<std::string> instead? No problem, just use BeginCombo/EndCombo/Selectable:

std::vector items{"a", "b", "c"}; // defined somewhere
int selectedIndex = 0; // you need to store this state somewhere

// later in your code...
if (ImGui::BeginCombo("combo")) {
    for (int i = 0; i < items.size(); ++i) {
        const bool isSelected = (selectedIndex == i);
        if (ImGui::Selectable(items[i], isSelected)) {
            selectedIndex = i;

        // Set the initial focus when opening the combo
        // (scrolling + keyboard navigation focus)
        if (isSelected) {

InputText and std::string

Dear ImGui lets you pass char array in InputText and then it modifies it when user enters some text in the input field. The problem is that it’s hard to know the size of input in advance, so you have to allocate large enough buffer and then pass it in InputText.

However, there’s a special overload for InputText and InputTextMultiline which allows you to use std::string with it. You need to include a special header to access it:

#include <misc/cpp/imgui_stdlib.h>

struct Person {
    std::string name;

// later in code...
if (ImGui::InputText("name", & { ... }