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5. What is the best way to create drawings?


This is another question with no objective answer, of course. For LaTeX purposes, any vector drawing program that creates good Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) files will be perfectly suitable.

Example figure from thesis

For my thesis I only needed a small number of relatively simple diagrams and figures, yet for years I was not able to find a vector drawing program running on Linux that I could use without actively hating every second of having to work with it (yes xfig, this means you).

Dia logo

When I discovered Dia, however, I knew I had finally found what I was looking for. I think the people who designed this program and myself are on exactly the same “interface wavelength”.

Things to watch out for

Despite my warm fuzzy feelings for Dia, I can't really recommend it without reservations. It is still in active development, has not reached a 1.0 version yet, and although it is in my experience quite stable and robust, it is also still missing several features and bits of functionality that many people (myself included) would consider absolutely essential. In fact, I had to occasionally delve into the XML files produced by the program in order to manually tweak things the program itself wouldn't let me do. This may not be something you are prepared to do...


2 Nov 2006

A correspondent points out in email that many people working with LaTeX use the pstricks package by Herbert Voß, Denis Girou and Timothy Van Zandt, for creating PostScript graphics from ‘within’ LaTeX itself.

2 Nov 2006

As far as Dia is concerned, after three years I have become very disillusioned with it. It seems that hardly any progress has been made at all: many of the simplest features are still lacking, and things such as font handling continue to be a problem. I have recently switched over to Inkscape, and I recommend that almost unreservedly as a powerful, free, cross-platform vector graphics program.

(In theory, Dia and Inkscape are complementary programs, and not direct competitors, with Dia focusing on diagrams and charts, and Inkscape being a more generic all-around drawing program. But in practice, I find myself able to do pretty much everything I need in Inkscape, and I don't think I will be going back.)

2 June 2012

Another mail correspondent has recommended the Ipe extensible drawing editor for creating vector-based PDF drawings that can be included in LaTeX documents. Myself, I am indeed still using Inkscape, and have never needed to go back to Dia or look for something else.

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Leo Breebaart (leo@lspace.org)
Last updated: 27 June 2016