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Home < Documentation < Labs < VTK8

This page documents the update of Slicer to use VTK 8.0.


It is planned to update the version of VTK that Slicer uses from 7.1 to 8.0.

Status on this page is out-of-date. Since VTK8 transition will happen in conjunction with Qt5, see detailed TODO lists on Documentation/Labs/Qt5


   Generic Warning: In C:\path\to\S\VTKv7\Rendering\OpenGL\vtkOpenGLDisplayListPainter.cxx, line 52
   failed after ReleaseAllLists 16 OpenGL errors detected
   0 : (1282) Invalid operation
   1 : (1282) Invalid operation
   15 : (1282) Invalid operation
  • VTK8 requires C++11. Because Slicer includes custom VTK classes, Slicer should also be compiled with C++11.
  • On Mac, if targeting 10.7 or 10.8, likely will need to set CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS=-stdlib=libc++ for C++11 support. Note that this would require Qt build with libc++, which is officially supported by Qt5. Note: Qt 5.7.1 minimum officially supported deployment target is 10.8. Resolution: target 10.9.
  • There may be picking issues with widgets. For example, the slice view ROI handles don't work correctly.
  • * Windows (VS2013) may have a dependency issue related to Python wrapping. At first, wrapping seems to not use the hierarchy files or runs before they are available. Building again generates the wrapped classes correctly. (resolved)
  • Update "VTKv7" project name to "VTKv8".
  • Add Slicer_VTK_VERSION_MAJOR option to support building with VTK7 and VTK8, as was done for VTK5/6 in VTK7 wrapping should not build the hierarchy files.
  • EMSegment remote module will require updates to fix vtkDebugLeaks output. (updated in r17131)

Branches/Merge Requests



Outstanding VTK issues

Slicer-specific VTK commits

Slicer's VTK 8.0 branch includes fixes/changes that aren't in upstream:

Test results


Test results:


Test results:


Test results:

  • TBD

Rendering backend

Although VTK 7 changed the default setting of VTK_RENDERING_BACKEND to OpenGL2, Slicer still explicitly sets it to OpenGL. The rendering backend in Slicer is set using Slicer_VTK_RENDERING_BACKEND.

OpenGL2 backend known issues


The transition plan was announced on the Slicer forum:

Migration guide

This section lists categories of code changes necessary to build and run Slicer with VTK 8.0. Each category has a short description, a suggested upgrade path, and references to relevant commits (TBD once merged).

Use hierarchy files for VTK Python wrapping

In VTK8 it's necessary to generate hierarchy files for proper wrapping VTK classes in Python. Without the information provided by the hierarchy files, the Python wrapping tool lacks complete information about classes and types. In this case, the generated classes contain methods that shouldn't be wrapped and fail to compile, and include references to types such as vtkTypeBool. Once the hierarchy files are generated and provided to the Python wrapping tool, the generated classes compile and typedefs like vtkTypeBool are correctly resolved.

Once the VTK8 changes are merged, generating hierarchy files is handled by


Call InitializeObjectBase() in vtkObject New() methods

In VTK8 it's necessary for vtkObject New() methods to call InitializeObjectBase() on the new object for proper tracking with vtkDebugLeaks. The standard macros (vtkStandardNewMacro, vtkObjectFactoryNewMacro) handle this. For those classes that don't use the macros, add a call to InitializeObjectBase() immediately after constructing the object by new vtkXXX().

Additionally, vtkObjectFactory::CreateInstance() now doesn't register the class name with vtkDebugLeaks if the factory fails to create the object. Therefore, it's no longer necessary to unregister the class name with vtkDebugLeaks. Remove calls to vtkDebugLeaks::DestructClass(className) following vtkObjectFactory::CreateInstance().

To support both VTK8 and earlier versions of VTK, wrap these changes in preprocessor checks for whether VTK_HAS_INITIALIZE_OBJECT_BASE is defined.


Add C++11 keywords

VTK8 requires C++11. Subclasses of VTK classes must mark overridden methods with VTK_OVERRIDE.

Qt5: QVTKOpenGLWidget

When using Qt5, QVTKOpenGLWidget should be used in place of QVTKGLWidget. To ensure that QVTKOpenGLWidget receives a properly configured OpenGL context it's necessary to call QSurfaceFormat::setDefaultFormat() before constructing the QApplication instance. QVTKOpenGLWidget::defaultFormat() supplies a suitable format, although it's recommended to disable multisampling for full compatibility with advanced rendering techniques. See

vtkWindowToImageFilter::SetMagnification() is deprecated

VTK8.1 deprecated vtkWindowToImageFilter::SetMagnification() and vtkWindowToImageFilter::GetMagnification(). Replace calls to those methods with SetScale() and GetScale(). See

Enable C++11 in extensions

SuperBuild extensions may have to enable C++11 for their external projects. Add the following lines to CMAKE_CACHE_ARGS in ExternalProject_Add


Future work

Future work in Slicer related to VTK 8 could include:

  • Remove BTX/ETX markers.
  • Check for and resolve build warnings in Slicer VTK classes.
  • Check that settings in External_VTKv8.cmake are all still necessary, specifically VTK_USE_PARALLEL, and anything related to Qt.