Software to draw illustrative figures in papers

  • I would like to have suggestions of good software for drawing illustrations in research papers. I already know about Xfig, but this works only on Linux and is at times, clunky when it comes to text. Moreover the resolution is not always perfect making it difficult to manoeuvre the objects. Besides it is tough to learn and master, with all its weird click procedures.

    I would love to know about better alternatives. Not talking about graphs here, just block diagrams and explanatory illustrations.

    There are similar questions at math.SE: e.g. this one and the linked question.

    Try which is extremely simple and efficient.

    @kingmakerking Agree. Please consider adding it as an answer.

    xfig also works in Mac OSX. You just have to install the X-windows add-on. Been using it for years.

    @theindigamer, I am asking this question for producing charts not for drawing illustrative figures.

    See also this answer with more recent recommendations including **gnuplot, matplotlib, and R/ggplot2**:

  • Dave Clarke

    Dave Clarke Correct answer

    9 years ago

    As drawing software, I use OmniGraffle which is much more modern that Xfig, but based on similar principles. It's only available for the Mac and is not free, as far as I know. With little effort, one can produce very attractive diagrams.

    I also use Tikz/PGF. It produces very nice diagrams and is very flexible. On the other hand, it requires that you specify the diagram in LaTeX and it has a bit of a steep learning curve.

    Tikz/PGF is really great, and I would advise to start directly by tweaking some existing examples, rather than learning it from scratch.

    @CharlesMorisset: Excellent advice. It's very difficult to draw diagrams from scratch.

    I've given some arguments for the use of Tikz at the stats site as well, see here. Mainly Tikz is pretty simple for directed graphs, and that it is much easier to maintain a template between multiple diagrams in Tikz than it is with a WYSIWYG editor.

    Thing is OmniGraffle is mac only. Is there a good equivalent software multi platform?

    @Gopi: I can't help, I'm afraid. The last time I used Windows was with Windows 95. I guess Linux died out some time ago ....

    @DaveClarke, Nice troll about Linux ;).

    +1 for TikZ/PGF. Every time I use it people are quite impressed with the quality of the resulting graphics. The steepness of the learning curve is mostly offset IMO by the fact that the documentation is _fantastic_.

    Don't use tikz/PGf unless you're ok with inordinately long compile times.

    @Suresh: buy a faster computer.

    @Suresh: see the section "Externalizing graphics" in the TikZ manual for a solution.

    I teach myself TikZ by building images for my ansers on cs.SE is worth checking out. And, of course, [tex.SE].

    I wish someone would also revive GraphSketcher (Used to be OmniGraphSketcher). This is a true diamond from Omni.

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