Matthew K. sent in a question for our Ask AstroBetter series:
What vector graphics drawing package do you use for your figures?
I’ve been using xfig for all my “hand drawn” plots, but I wonder if anyone has successfully moved on to more recent drawing packages … [a package] to draw simple figures like optical layouts or circuit diagrams, where freehand drawing is not good enough and you want text boxes with aligned text in them, something similar to Inkscape.
Ideally, Matthew would like the package to
- have binary/compilable versions for all major platforms
- be able to organize each item in a layer
- snap items to grids of definable size
- include other graphics (both vector and pixel) as input elements
- export to PS/PDF
I would recommend OmniGraffle, which costs $59.95 for the Standard and $119.95 for the Pro version for a single-user license with educational discount (along with a free two-week trial period), for Mac users. While it does not meet (at least) one of the above requirements, it is a fairly powerful and easy-to-use software.
Another excellent option, especially if you do not care about GUI, is using LaTeX’s pgf and tikz packages. While layers can be tricky and learning curve is steep, it can do pretty much any schematic drawing, unless you are an engineer designing actual circuit boards (see some nifty examples here). And it is open source!
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