20 Vector Graphics Editors Reviewed

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By Sachin Dhall and Smashing Magazine Editorial

In computer graphics images can be represented in two ways — using raster graphics (or bitmap) or vector graphics. The former is the representation of images as an array of pixlels, and the latter uses paths, points, lines, curves and shapes or polygons (which are all based upon mathematical equations) for the same purpose. Raster images are based on pixels and thus scale with loss of clarity, while vector-based images can be scaled indefinitely without degrading. In other words, vector graphics are resolution-independent and thus can remain the highest quality at any scale.

Vector graphics drawing software is used for creating and editing vector graphics. It provides graphic designers with the ability to create precise, scalable and layered images. Both 3-D graphics and CAD (computer-aided design) technology rely heavily on vector graphics.

Inkscape (Mac, Win, Linux) Link

inkscape1

Inkscape642, an open-source vector graphics editor, is similar to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW, but its use of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an open XML-based W3C standard, as its native format sets it apart from others. Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.), and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface. In Inkscape, it is very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more. Inkscape has a powerful command-line interface and can be used in scripts for a variety of tasks, such as exporting and format conversions.

Inkscape provides binary packages for Linux, Windows 2000/2003/XP (in a fully self-contained installer) and Mac OS X (in a .dmg package). We know that Inkscape is successfully used on FreeBSD and other Unix-like operating systems. Note that Windows 98/ME is no longer supported. Its latest version is 0.46.

Summary. Inkscape has a powerful command line interface and can be used in scripts for a variety of tasks, such as exporting and format conversions. It is a very mature and advanced editor that can serve as a good alternative for well-known commercial vector graphics editors. Download Inkscape3.

DrawIt (Mac) Link

DrawIt4

DrawIt5 is an easy-to-use, powerful vector drawing application designed for the Mac. It features entirely non-destructive editing, live filters, powerful vector tools, a standard collection of basic shapes and a clear and intuitive interface.

DrawIt is a powerful vector tool that is also very easy to use. Users familiar with other tools will feel right at home. Also coming standard with DrawIt is a large number of ready-to-use and easily customizable special vector shapes: circles, stars, rounded rectangles and polygons are just a few of the shapes that can be added to your document. There is also support for an unlimited number of nested groups, masks and custom overlays.

DrawIt Pro and DrawIt Lite require Mac OS 10.5 Leopard. If you’re still running Tiger, then use DrawIt 3.3.3 or DrawIt Lite for Tiger. It will cost you approximately $40.

Summary. The application includes a large number of easily customizable, ready-to-use shapes; circles, stars, rounded rectangles and polygons, as well as support for an unlimited number of nested groups, masks and custom overlays. Download DrawIt6.

SK1 (Linux) Link

sK17

SK1768 is an open-source illustration program for the Linux platform that can substitute for professional, proprietary software like CorelDRAW and Adobe Illustrator. Unique project features are a CorelDRAW formats importer, a tabbed multi-document interface, a Cairo-based engine, color management, etc. SK1 also includes CMYK colorspace support and CMYK support in Postscript.

SK1 can export documents to Adobe Illustrator 5.0 (based on PostScript), PDF, PS, SVG, SK/SK1, CGM and WMF. It can also import formats such as CorelDRAW versions 7 to X4, Postscript (PS) and Encapsulated Postscript (EPS), etc. Download SK19.

Xara Xtreme (Mac, Linux) Link

Xara Xtreme10

Xara Xtreme7111 is a powerful, general-purpose graphics program for Unix platforms, including Linux, FreeBSD and (in development) Mac OS X. Formerly known as Xara LX, it is based on Xara Xtreme for Windows, which is the fastest graphics program available. Its latest version is 0.7.

Xara Xtreme for Linux is very fast and very slick to use. It offers some of the most powerful graphics tools available. Xara Xtreme has a small learning curve and is able to create a huge range of outstanding graphics. Xara Xtreme has behind it a huge amount of learning materials, tutorials, movies, tips and a very active, enthusiastic and growing user community.

The developers of the application claim that Xara Xtreme uses “the world’s fastest vector rendering engine”. And since performance matters when it comes to graphic editors, it is definitely a significant advantage. Download Xara Xtreme12.

Skencil (Linux) Link

Skencil13

Skencil7714, formerly called Sketch, is a free vector graphics editor, released under the GNU Lesser General Public License. Running on GNU/Linux and other UNIX-compatible systems, it is a flexible and powerful tool for illustrations, diagrams and other purposes. A somewhat rare feature of Skencil (for a drawing program) is that it is implemented almost completely in Python, a very high-level interpreted language. Python is powerful, object-oriented, and yet easy to use. The rest of the program is written in C for speed. The software is now in version 0.6.17. It has versions compatible with Linux on the i386, DEC Alpha, m68k, PowerPC and SPARC architectures, as well as with FreeBSD, Solaris, IRIX64 6.4 and AIX.

In addition to the standard features that you expect from a vector drawing program, Skencil also has more advanced features, such as the possibility of bending text along a path. The current stable release is 0.6.17. Skencil is quite usable already, even for production use. The low version number is mainly due to a lack of some important features, such as good text support.

Some of its other distinguishing features are that rectangles, ellipses and bezier curves (in addition to ordinary horizontal and vertical lines) can be used as guides; text can be converted to bezier curves, though only if Skencil has access to the PostScript Type 1 font files (pfa or pfb); and blend groups allow for automatically updated interpolations of arbitrary objects. Download Skencil15.

Scribus (Mac, Win, Linux, OS/2) Link

Scribus16

Scribus7517 is a desktop publishing (DTP) application. Scribus is an open-source program that brings professional page layout to Linux/Unix, Mac OS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops with a combination of “press-ready” output and new approaches to page layout. Scribus is designed for flexible layout and typesetting and allows you to prepare files for professional-quality image-setting equipment. It can also create animated and interactive PDF presentations and forms. Example uses include writing small newspapers, brochures, newsletters, posters and books. Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and PDF creation.

Scribus is known for its broad set of page layout features as compared with leading commercial applications, such as Adobe PageMaker, QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign. Scribus supports most major graphic formats in addition to SVG. Although written in C++, it has built-in scripting using Python. It is available in more than 24 languages.

It also comes with a lot of support options to help you achieve the best results. There is an enthusiastic and friendly community around Scribus that assists beginner and pro alike through a mailing list, IRC channel, wiki, contracted support and a bug tracker. Download Scribus18.

Ipe (Linux, Mac) Link

ipe19

Ipe6520 is a drawing editor for creating figures in PDF or (encapsulated) Postscript format. It supports making small figures for inclusion in LaTeX documents as well as making multi-page PDF presentations that can be shown online with the Acrobat PDF reader. Ipe 6.0pre31 (November 2008) is the most recent version of Ipe. This extensible drawing editor is free, which means that everyone is free to use it and free to redistribute it on certain conditions. But Ipe is not in the public domain.

Ipe allows the entry of text as LaTeX source code. This makes it easy to enter mathematical expressions and to reuse the LaTeX macros of the main document. The integrated picture environment is well suited to preparing graphics for LATEX documents. In the display, text is displayed as it will appear in the figure. Ipe produces pure Postscript/PDF, including for text. Ipe converts the LaTeX source to PDF or Postscript when the file is saved. Users can provide ipelets, which are small, dynamically loaded plug-ins that interact with Ipe and can modify your drawing in some way. The Ipe system comes with a number of ipelets pre-installed; for example, there are ipelets for aligning objects in various ways, for precise stretch and rotation and so forth.

Summary. Ipe’s main features are tight integration with LATEX, sophisticated snapping modes, extensibility via ipelets, an easy yet flexible user interface, customizability with style sheets and the ability to export to PDF and EPS file formats. Download Ipe21.

VRR (Linux, Win) Link

vrr22

VRR6623 was started as a student project in the Faculty of Math and Physics at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. In September 2005, it was defended successfully. However, it is still being developed in the author’s free time.

The goal of the VRR project is to create a vector image editor designed especially (but not only) for making illustrations of mathematics articles. Its main features are many types of geometric objects and the preservation of their dependencies, cooperation with TeX, scripting in Scheme, real-size dimensions and support for a wide range of file formats (including PS, EPS, PDF and SVG). It latest version is VRR 0.9.4. You can also download the user’s manual here24.

Summary. Although TeX text objects are one of VRR’s main features, you do not need to know TeX to work with VRR or to create valuable and sophisticated images with it. TeX is a typesetting system written by Donald E. Knuth that was “intended for the creation of beautiful books, and especially for books that contain a lot of mathematics.” Download VRR25.

ConceptDraw PRO (Win) Link

ConceptDraw PRO 26

ConceptDraw PRO27 is powerful business and technical diagramming software that supports the creation of business diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, floor plans, technical drawings, home and office layouts and the like. ConceptDraw 7 charts can be exported to a variety of file formats, including images, CAD documents and HTML. It also supports importing and exporting of Microsoft Visio XML files.

With ConceptDraw PRO, you can design professional-looking graphics, diagrams, high-end flowcharts, floor plans, engineering drawings and other intricate illustrations in minutes. ConceptDraw’s libraries include thousands of scalable objects. You can maintain business processes with clear visual documentation and present and communicate information in a clear and vivid way.

Through ConceptDraw Office, ConceptDraw PRO provides you with the tools you need to generate reports, documentation and presentations that entirely reflect project performance. It is a comprehensive tool that can be used to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and to track a project’s status on an intelligent dashboard. It has the huge set of vector drawing tools that can compete with any professional illustration program. It runs on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Its latest version is 7.2 and costs $299.

Summary. ConceptDraw Professional is designed for people who need to create high-end flowcharts, engineering drawings, and other intricate illustrations. ConceptDraw’s libraries include thousands of scalable objects. If you have enough resources for a powerful leading vector graphics editor, ConceptDraw is definitely an option worth considering. Download ConceptDraw Pro28.

Jfig (Mac, Win, Linux) Link

Jfig29

Jfig6930 is shareware and costs around $30. Jfig is a 2-D graphics and diagram editor based on the FIG file format. The user interface of Jfig is based on Xfig, a popular graphics editor for the X11 window system. Jfig can also be used as a class library to embed 2-D graphics and diagrams into other Java applications. For example, the “Jfig simple applet” allows you to include and display FIG files in Web pages.

The Jfig presentation viewer and corresponding presentation builder allow you to construct slideshows from a set of individual FIG files. Jfig software is written in Java and can be used on notebooks, PCs and workstations running Windows 2000/XP, Mac OS X and OS/2 and most versions of Linux and Unix. While the user interface allows for very fast editing, its mode-oriented concept differs from most simple drawing programs for Windows or Mac and may require some getting used to.

From a software standpoint, Jfig is not just an editor but rather a class library for 2-D graphics editors. It consists of several Java packages, with about 200 Java classes.

Because of the support of LaTeX-formatted text objects, Jfig and Xfig are often used to create diagrams for LaTeX and PDFLaTeX documents. Several features, including TEX font and macro support, make Jfig a popular editor for creating TEX figures for TEX and LaTeX documents.

Summary. The editor supports all common drawing primitives, including boxes, circles, ellipses, polylines, arcs, splines, text objects and embedded bitmap images. Many attributes, such as color, line width, line style and different arrowheads, are provided. However, Jfig is mostly intended for scientific and technical figures. There is no support for 3-D functions, shading, transparency, etc. If you are willing to do a little bit of programming, you can also use Jfig as a class library to include vector graphics in your own Java applications and to create your own custom graphics editors. Download Jfig.

ZeusDraw (Mac) Link

ZeusDraw31

ZeusDraw7032 is a new vector drawing program with a fluid, graceful interface, great brushes and a host of other features. It requires Mac OS X 10.4 or higher. ZeusDraw is a Universal Binary and can be run on Intel or PowerPC. Its current version is 1.3.1.

Quartz and Cocoa let ZeusDraw show you what you are doing as you do it. When you move or rotate an object, you see the object move or rotate, not its bounding box. ZeusDraw has a selection of vector brushes (smooth, shaded, multi-hair), and it also has an object brush that allows you to paint with any piece of artwork, either vector or bitmap. ZeusDraw simplifies bezier curves. With ZeusDraw’s path tools, you enter control points in order along the path (which is more logical and intuitive because the shape of a polygon made by the control points is a rough indicator of the shape of the curve). ZeusDraw comes with a version of the Shades Color Picker built in. In addition to working with normal full-color bitmaps (JPEG, TIF, PNG, GIF and BMP), ZeusDraw can use grayscale bitmaps as stencils.

Chromatic Bytes has announced the release of ZeusDraw Mobile for the iPhone and iPod touch. It’s available for purchase and downloading now from the App Store for $9.99. ZeusDraw costs $90. Download ZeusDraw33.

MagicTracer (Windows) Link

MagicTracer34

MagicTracer35 is a raster-to-vector converter for Windows. It includes both raster and vector editing tools. MagicTracer includes support for image scanners.

If you are a construction manager or architect who wants to import scanned blueprints or sketches into your favorite CAD program, or a sign maker who wants to convert an image file into shapes that you can cut out with a vinyl cutter, then MagicTracer is for you. MagicTracer offers three main categories of tools for manipulating raster and vector data: image, raster and vector.

In the latest version of MagicTracer, vector entities now have their own color property. All of the draw commands in vector mode use the current color for newly created entities, just like the draw commands in image mode. Its cost is $60. The online-alternative is a free tool vectormagic36 that converts bitmap images to EPS, SVG, PDF, and PNG formats. Download MagicTracer37.

Karbon14 (Linux) Link

karbon1438

Karbon147339 is a vector graphics editor. It is a component of KOffice, the KDE office suite. Karbon14 is a vector-based drawing application for KOffice. It allows artists to create complex drawings without losing image quality when zooming in on or resizing a drawing. You can use Karbon14 to add finishing touches to diagrams created using Kivio or charts created using KChart. Graphic design ideas can be quickly and easily transformed into high-quality illustrations with Karbon14.

Karbon14 is useful for creating cartoon drawings or editing clip art, which often need to be resized to fit in a document or on a poster. Krita is more suited to painting pictures or editing photographs. Karbon14 is distributed under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL), Version 2. If you are a fan of Koffice, then Karbon14 is a must. Download Karbon1440.

NodeBox (Mac) Link

Nodebox41

NodeBox42 is a Mac OS X application that lets you create 2-D visuals (static, animated or interactive) using Python programming code and then export them in PDF or as a QuickTime movie. NodeBox is free and well documented.

NodeBox can generate forms such as rectangles, ovals, stars, arrows and also bezier paths in general. It supports images (even PDF) and text (with line wrapping). NodeBox is a “state machine.” As such, it is easier to understand by people who have no experience in programming.

Although it has a limited set of commands, NodeBox has full Python support, making it a useful tool for advanced Python programmers as well. You can deconstruct paths into contours, insert points at arbitrary positions on a path and construct paths based on a list of points. You can apply all of these transformations to text as well.

NodeBox can generate PDF documents that can easily be certified (CMYK colors, embedded fonts and images). It also generates QuickTime movies. The application targets designers and has an easy set of state commands that is both intuitive and creative. It is essentially a learning environment and an automation tool. Download NodeBox43.

Synfig (Mac, Win, Linux) Link

Synfig44

Synfig7845 is a free and open-source 2-D vector graphics and timeline-based computer animation program created by Robert Quattlebaum, with additional contributions from Adrian Bentley. Synfig is powerful, industrial-strength software designed from the ground up for producing feature-film-quality animation with fewer people and resources. According to developers, “while there are many other programs currently on the market to aid with the efficient production of 2-D animation, we are currently unaware of any other software that can do what our software can.” The editor offers an alternative to manual tweening so that the animator doesn’t have to draw each and every frame.

Synfig stores its animations in a non-standard XML-based format, which includes native vector and raster graphics, referenced to externally stored bitmaps. In addition to several video formats, like digital video, AVI, Theora and MPEG, Synfig can also save to animated graphic formats like MNG and GIF. For best-quality results, it is also possible to render a video sequence as separate numbered pictures in formats such as PNG, BMP, PPM and OpenEXR. With external programs, it is possible to convert SVG files into Synfig’s native SIF format.

Synfig includes spatial resolution independence, meaning that most elements are vector-based, and all layers are parametrically generated, hence even when changing the target resolution of an element, the only pixelation that occurs will be for imported raster images, not built-in components. It has built-in CVS support. Synfig has a strong community that runs forums, IRC, video tutorials, wish lists and more. Download Synfig46.

Tgif (Linux) Link

Tgif47

Tgif48 is an Xlib-based interactive 2-D drawing tool under X11, available on Linux and most Unix and Unix-like platforms. It was developed in 1990 and is free software released under the QPL license. Tgif saves its drawings in a Prolog-based plain-text file format. Partly because it is based on Prolog, there is little support from other programs for reading the Tgif file format.

Tgif is one of the few free drawing programs that has not only a ruler but a usable grid. Fonts are represented as PostScript font names. Originally, it was possible to print Tgif drawings in batch mode without using an X display; however, this changed during the 4.1 versions. Currently, printing drawings requires running Tgif on an X display unless the drawing only uses Times Roman, Helvetica, Courier or Symbol fonts. The current release of Tgif is version 4.1, patch level 45.

You can download it here49

Tplot (Win) Link

Tplot50

Turbo Plot51 is a freeware GUI application that produces 2-D and 3-D plots of functions and data, under Windows XP or newer. Like any drawing application, TPLOT can save images, and it can also save vectors. As well, TPLOT can save TPLXML files, which are text files that contain what you have created in text commands so that you can load them easily or edit them manually. TPLOT can save in SWF (Adobe Flash), which is an animated vector file format. This allows you to create high-quality non-aliased graphics with animation.

TPLOT requires Windows XP, Windows 2003 Server, Windows Vista or newer, and also DirectX 9 or later (if you plan to work with a DirectX 9 drawing). As a precaution, Turbo Plot will not run on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0, Windows ME or Windows 2000. Download Tplot52.

WhiteBoardMeeting (Skype plug-in) Link

whiteboardmeeting53

WhiteBoardMeeting54 is the real-time multi-user collaboration software that is available as a Skype plugin-in. WhiteBoardMeeting allow users to draw vector graphics, insert text and images and edit existing objects. All users in a meeting can view each other’s modifications to the canvas in real time.

You can have multiple meetings with different user groups at the same time. You can also invite other users after you have prepared work offline. WhiteBoardMeeting Basic is free, and the paid WhiteBoardMeeting Pro allows you to collaborate “without limits.”

Requirements for WhiteBoardMeeting are Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista, the .NET framework 2.0 or later and Skype 3.0 or later. Download WhiteBoard Meeting55.

ZCubes (web-based) Link

Zcubes56

ZCubes57 is a free Web-based software that allows you to create HTML-pages, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, albums and portals. ZCubes’ platform is a multi-functional platform that provides through a single interface large sets of functions that are typically delivered in separate applications.

You can instantly create Web pages using ZCubes online or on your desktop by using drag-and-drop functionality. The key differentiator is the omni-functionality: ZCubes is an immersive platform in which you can create and edit content while you browse. It combines features of several “document-creation” software apps available on the market and is provided on the Web, accessible to all.

The main advantage of the editor is in the mixing of slides, drawings, document pieces, pictures, music and videos (each as separate ZCubes) all in one page (named the “ZSpace”). The e-cards feature in ZCubes lets users upload media, such as videos, images and Zpaint drawings, to their greeting cards and add some handwriting.

Xfig (GNU/Linux) Link

Xfig58

Xfig8359 is an open-source vector graphics editor that runs under the X Window System on most UNIX-compatible platforms. Xfig saves figures in its native text-only Fig format. Xfig can print figures to a PostScript printer, too. In Xfig, figures may be drawn using objects such as circles, boxes, lines, spline curves, text, etc. It is also possible to import images in formats such as GIF, JPEG, EPS, PostScript, etc. These objects can be created, deleted, moved or modified. Attributes such as color and line style can be selected in various ways. Most useful is the PSTEX or PDFTEX export functionality that allows the smooth integration of Xfig-generated images into LaTeX documents.

Xfig can import various files as images: bitmap formats include GIF, JPEG, PCX, PNG, PPM, TIFF, XBM and XPM, and vector graphic formats include EPS and PostScript. Xfig can also export into various formats: bitmap formats include GIF, JPEG, PNG, PPM, XBM, XPM, PCX, TIFF and SLD, and vector graphic formats include EPS, SVG, TPIC, PIC, CGM, MetaFont, MetaPost, EMF and TK. Download Xfig60.

Sodipodi (Win, Linux) Link

sodipodi61

Sodipodi8462 is general vector illustrating application for Linux/Unix and Windows. It uses W3C’s SVG as its native file format and in-memory image format and can do many neat things. Drawing tools include rectangles, ellipses, freehand drawing, text objects, imported bitmaps, fills and outlines. It is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), Public Domain. The operating systems it supports include all 32-bit MS Windows (95, 98, NT, 2000, XP), all BSD platforms (FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Mac OS X), all POSIX platforms (Linux, BSD, UNIX-like systems) and Linux.

The user interface is similar to that of a regular drawing program. Both vector and bitmap objects can have alpha transparency and can be arbitrarily transformed. Sodipodi supports multiple opened files and multiple views per file, and it prints and exports to PNG bitmaps.

Sodipodi is no longer under active development. Download Sodipodi63.

Compatibility and Price Chart of Vector Programs
Windows Mac Unix Price
Inkscape642 Yes Yes Yes Free
Ipe6520 Yes Yes Yes Free
VRR6623 No No Yes Free
ConceptDraw67 Yes Yes No $299, $79 upgrade
Drawit68 No Yes No $40
Jfig6930 Yes Yes Yes $30
ZeusDraw7032 No Yes No $90
Xara Xtreme7111 Yes No Yes Free
MagicTracer72 Yes No No $60
Karbon147339 No No Yes Free
Nodebox74 No Yes No Free
Scribus7517 Yes Yes Yes Free
SK1768 No Yes Yes Free
Skencil7714 No No Yes Free
Synfig7845 Yes No Yes Free
Tfig79 No No Yes Free
Tplot80 Yes No No Free
Whiteboardmeeting81 Yes No No Free
Zcubes82 Web Based Free
Xfig8359 No No Yes Free
Sodipodi8462 Yes No Yes Free

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 http://www.inkscape.org/
  2. 2 http://www.inkscape.org/
  3. 3 http://www.inkscape.org/download/?lang=en
  4. 4 http://www.getdrawit.com/
  5. 5 http://www.getdrawit.com/
  6. 6 http://www.getdrawit.com/features/
  7. 7 http://sk1project.org/
  8. 8 http://sk1project.org/
  9. 9 http://sk1project.org/modules.php?name=Products&product=sk1
  10. 10 http://www.xaraxtreme.org/Developers/what-can-xara-xtreme-for-linux-do-now.html
  11. 11 http://www.xaraxtreme.org/Developers/what-can-xara-xtreme-for-linux-do-now.html
  12. 12 http://www.xaraxtreme.org/download.html
  13. 13 http://www.skencil.org/
  14. 14 http://www.skencil.org/
  15. 15 http://www.skencil.org/download.html
  16. 16 http://www.scribus.net/
  17. 17 http://www.scribus.net/
  18. 18 http://www.scribus.net/?q=downloads
  19. 19 http://tclab.kaist.ac.kr/ipe/
  20. 20 http://tclab.kaist.ac.kr/ipe/
  21. 21 http://luaforge.net/frs/?group_id=305
  22. 22 http://atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/projekty/vrr/index.html
  23. 23 http://atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/projekty/vrr/index.html
  24. 24 http://atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/projekty/vrr/doc/man/index.html
  25. 25 http://atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/projekty/vrr/releases.html
  26. 26 http://www.conceptdraw.com/en/
  27. 27 http://www.conceptdraw.com/en/
  28. 28 http://www.conceptdraw.com/scripts/resources/dwndtrial_cdo.php
  29. 29 http://tams-www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/applets/jfig/
  30. 30 http://tams-www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/applets/jfig/
  31. 31 http://www.chromaticbytes.com/products.php
  32. 32 http://www.chromaticbytes.com/products.php
  33. 33 http://www.chromaticbytes.com/zeusDrawTour.php
  34. 34 http://www.magictracer.com
  35. 35 http://www.magictracer.com
  36. 36 http://vectormagic.com/
  37. 37 http://www.magictracer.com/download/
  38. 38 http://www.koffice.org/karbon/
  39. 39 http://www.koffice.org/karbon/
  40. 40 http://www.koffice.org/karbon/
  41. 41 http://www.nodebox.net/code/index.php/Home
  42. 42 http://www.nodebox.net/code/index.php/Home
  43. 43 http://www.nodebox.net/code/index.php/Home
  44. 44 http://synfig.org/Main_Page
  45. 45 http://synfig.org/Main_Page
  46. 46 http://synfig.org/Download
  47. 47 http://bourbon.usc.edu:8001/tgif/index.html
  48. 48 http://bourbon.usc.edu:8001/tgif/index.html
  49. 49 http://bourbon.usc.edu:8001/tgif/download.html
  50. 50 http://www.turboirc.com/tplot/
  51. 51 http://www.turboirc.com/tplot/
  52. 52 http://www.turboirc.com/tplot/
  53. 53 http://www.whiteboardmeeting.com
  54. 54 http://www.whiteboardmeeting.com
  55. 55 http://www.whiteboardmeeting.com/?id=download
  56. 56 http://www.zcubes.com/
  57. 57 http://www.zcubes.com/
  58. 58 http://xfig.org/
  59. 59 http://xfig.org/
  60. 60 http://xfig.org/art15.html
  61. 61 http://sourceforge.net/projects/sodipodi/
  62. 62 http://sourceforge.net/projects/sodipodi/
  63. 63 http://sourceforge.net/projects/sodipodi/
  64. 64 http://www.inkscape.org/
  65. 65 http://tclab.kaist.ac.kr/ipe/
  66. 66 http://atrey.karlin.mff.cuni.cz/projekty/vrr/index.html
  67. 67 http://www.conceptdraw.com/en/
  68. 68 http://www.getdrawit.com/
  69. 69 http://tams-www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/applets/jfig/
  70. 70 http://www.chromaticbytes.com/products.php
  71. 71 http://www.xaraxtreme.org/Developers/what-can-xara-xtreme-for-linux-do-now.html
  72. 72 http://www.magictracer.com/
  73. 73 http://www.koffice.org/karbon/
  74. 74 http://www.nodebox.net/code/index.php/Home
  75. 75 http://www.scribus.net/
  76. 76 http://sk1project.org/
  77. 77 http://www.skencil.org/
  78. 78 http://synfig.org/Main_Page
  79. 79 http://bourbon.usc.edu:8001/tgif/index.html
  80. 80 http://www.turboirc.com/tplot/
  81. 81 http://www.whiteboardmeeting.com/
  82. 82 http://home.zcubes.com/
  83. 83 http://xfig.org/
  84. 84 http://sourceforge.net/projects/sodipodi/

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  1. 1

    Actually, I’m impressed that Illustrator wasn’t included. How nice to see open source and free or low cost alternatives to the Adobe product highlighted, especially in these tough economic times.

    4
  2. 2

    Great list. A few I didn’t know about and I’ll be checking them out. But a few missing! Three more excellent wee mac apps to check out at the lower to mid end are Vector Designer, DrawBerry and Lineform Check them out.

    -1
  3. 3

    I didn’t see any mention of VectorDesigner for Mac? That application certainly ranks as one of the better ones.

    -1
  4. 4

    I dunno if adobe is intentionally missed but anyways ppl Inkscape is great, and I hope that is the reason for it being first on the list :D
    Great article guys :D

    1
  5. 5

    Lets not forget one of the new guys on the block: Aviary.com they have a web 2.0 vector editor called Raven. Its in Beta testing right now so its a bit buggy but it is already better then most of the editors on the above list. Here is the link:

    http://aviary.com/tools/raven

    1
  6. 6

    Illustrator? Corel Draw? Xara Xtreme?

    3
  7. 7

    Indeed, where are Fireworks and Illustrator?

    0
  8. 8

    Agree with Will, at $69.95 VectorDesigner for OSX should be included on the list. Powerful app that won’t break the bank!

    -1
  9. 9

    yeah, where is vectordesigner… way better than 90% of these…. wow, big oversight.

    -1
  10. 10

    Great list! Very helpful. I am glad you omitted the Adobe apps as they really don’t need to be advertised anymore. ;)

    -3
  11. 11
  12. 12

    Adobe makes the best software! How can Illustrator not be a part of this list? Perhaps the title should reflect Free or Open Source.

    -1
  13. 13

    How sad: why didn´t you mention CMYK support?

    0
  14. 14

    I use Inkscape for all my vector sketching/designing purposes and for illustrations. It’s the most pleasant vector drawing tool to work in, the paths are ultra-easy to make, and you can see the end result of the curve before you set the node. Bezier tool in Inkscape beats them all. Even the freehand tool has a great default setting, and you get a nice line by drawing with the mouse. The default colors you get in the pallete are really beautiful, and the fill is RGBa! It’s native export format is PNG and the dialog box is really intuitive, and it exports a HQ PNG image with transparency.

    But it really has it’s flaws too. Here they are:
    – The text tool is awful and buggy, forget about twisting texts like in Corel, Illustrator and PS.
    – You can’t make a single node transform(like when you hold CTRL and move a node in PS, and only one node moves.) so it’s a little hard to get some 3-d like effects without using the built in plugin which is not much compatible.
    – It’s not really good at importing from AI without preparation in AI, and generally there are some quirks when exporting/importing EPS. It’s blur and transparency aren’t compatible with other software.
    -Transparent gradients work great in InkScape, but may cause import errors in other software.

    These quirks should really get fixed. I am not using text tool and blurs and I fix my gradients so they’re not transparent for export, so I don’t have trouble working in it. And if you make an illustration all the way in Inkscape, it can be really cool.

    Inkscape is a great tool for illustration, and still at 0.46 version, so I don’t mind the bugs and flaws.

    0
  15. 15

    This is great. Does anyone know how these actually compare to Illustrator?

    -1
  16. 16

    Never used anything but Illustrator.. But this is quite interesting.

    -1
  17. 17

    Great list, but some of those names sound quite scary.

    -1
  18. 18

    Hmmm,

    I feel Adobe is the big player in this arena, and as such it is great to see what alternative are out there, especially those of a more affordable nature.

    Great article for those not in the know. :o)

    Many Thanks Tim, THD

    Link  [tim-holmes-design.co.uk]

    0
  19. 19

    Helpful intro, and some things to try if I get stuck in Illustrator – or need to do more vector stuff from home. I think calling it a “review” is a bit misleading – more like a summary. That’s just nitpicking though, you guys do great work – keep it up!

    0
  20. 20

    Glad to see Inkscape mentioned, I’ve been using it for a couple years on my professional design work. FYI: Linux Is Not UniX.

    -1
  21. 21

    i guess illustrator is so already used by all that it doesnt need to be in this list.. its kinda ‘alternative tools’, if you catch my drift.

    0
  22. 22

    No Expression Design? Really?

    I know a lot of designers hate MS out of a misplaced sense of brand loyalty or whatever, but the only vector program that kicks out decent xaml should be on the list.

    0
  23. 23

    VRR was started as a student project in the Faculty of Math and Physics at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. In September 2005, it was defended successfully.”

    What do mean, defended successfully? We are talking software packages here, right?

    -1
  24. 24

    great list. nice compilations. good to see so many mac related software.

    regards
    thinkjayant

    0
  25. 25

    Nice to see a lot of cross platform apps included. My favorite is Inkscape but thats because its the only one I knew about before this list. Good to know there are alternatives. Great List!

    0
  26. 26

    I’m glad to see all the linux based programs. There are a ton of great free open source products for web design, I wish Smashing writers would acknowledge this fact more often. All too often I see posts loaded with programs only for Mac or Win.

    -1
  27. 27

    in my experience, open-source vector editors are more toys than useful tools. paying at least something usually brings much more quality. from the affordable ones, I believe VectorDesigner and LineForm (both Mac) are definitely worth trying.

    -1
  28. 28

    Steve Lyons,

    I have to disagree. I consider myself relatively savvy, in computer terms, not graphics. I love most Adobe products. I use Photoshop on a daily basis.

    But I gave up on trying to learn Illustrator. I have taken several passes at what I would consider extremely simple vector graphics only to end up with wasted hours. I even pored over endless mindnumbing tutes about the software.

    I am sure it is great for avid graphics people, but for the common user it is an overstuffed hulk of unintelligible software.

    0
  29. 29

    *cough* Illustrator *cough*

    -1
  30. 30

    (17, 34) My experience is that Illustrator is terrible and Freehand (formerly of Macromedia) is great (Windows or Mac). P’shop is not really suited to drawing per se.

    I’d be interested to know which graphic tools import 3-D CAD data.

    -1
  31. 31

    Where is Adobe Illustrator? :S

    0
  32. 32

    Where is Microsoft Expression Design?

    0
  33. 33

    cool article but i think is not complete.

    http://3dand2dmag.wordpress.com/

    0
  34. 34

    Although Adobe Illustrator is widely used and already known by most people, I don’t think it should be missing from this list. Anyway, great article (as always!), thanks!

    0
  35. 35

    Vectormagic isn’t free. It started out as free, but its certainly not any more (the desktop version costs a substantial $295). Shame – it would have great if it remained as such…

    0
  36. 36

    I´ve discovered a few new programs, but what about illustrator?
    Thnx.

    0
  37. 37

    There are a lot I have never seen. Thank you!

    0
  38. 38

    great list…

    but and Fireworks??

    0
    • 39

      Yeah, Fireworks is great. I’m trying to switch to something else, since Fireworks doesn’t handle SVG export (at least my version doesn’t, they might’ve fixed this in a future version), doesn’t run on Linux, and, strangely, you can’t distribute an educational license (3 comps, I think) on several operating systems. But I haven’t found a worthy replacement yet…

      -1
  39. 40

    how to make vecter in MS Paint plz

    -1
  40. 41

    For those people who are considering venturing into the realm of vector graphics for anything other than a light hobby, don’t waste your time with any of the apps on this list.

    Most working professionals creating vector art today use Illustrator. Omitting Illustrator completely from this list, or not even providing rough comparisons to Illustrator, shows an odd bias on the part of the writer and renders this list pretty useless. I have tried many of the mac apps on this list and while its great to see competition brewing for Adobe, I can say with confidence that Illustrator won’t be knocked down from its top spot any time soon.

    Illustrator is a mature product (v.1 came out in 1987!) and was the flagship product of Adobe for many years, receiving most of their stellar team’s attention and focus in development in the early years (before Photoshop emerged as the monster it is today). Illustrator became the de facto standard for CMYK graphics creation and single page design (and since version 8, many, many web designers use it as well thanks to its robust slicing and RGB web graphics optimization capabilities). The big page layout apps, Quark and InDesign, both have integrated support for Illustrator files. This is important, since most vector work is not an end in itself and ends up being imported into some other application. Illustrator can generate high-quality PDF files which include transparency, gradients, raster effects and more. To top it all off, Illustrator’s typography engine is truly amazing and includes typographic controls that will satisfy the most detail-oriented designer or type geek. Add to that the ability to rasterize objects, apply pixel- based filters, and apply 3-D transformations and you have an application that can do almost anything that a designer could want.

    Given that the vector world is somewhat split into two camps (print vs. web graphics creation), it also seems odd not to take that into consideration in this list. If you are doing print work, your vector program must support CMYK. For the web, you need RGB. From what I can tell, most of the apps listed above are RGB only. Illustrator can work in either color space, and even allows for the inclusion of raster graphics from both color spaces within the same document. Note: Adobe now also has Fireworks, a powerful RGB vector app aimed at web designers, which goes unmentioned in the list above as well (do I detect an anti-Adobe theme?).

    For beginners trying to decide where to start, don’t let Illustrator’s maturity scare you into thinking that its hard to learn. Exactly the opposite…Illustrator is a joy to use and keeps much of its power below the surface. Time spent learning the Illustrator interface reaps an added bonus: much of the interface is shared with the other Adobe apps. Learning Illustrator will give you a head start at Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver and Flash.

    1
  41. 44

    Very good post, for those who can’t afford Illustrator !
    Also a demonstration that Adobe charges very (too ?) much for its softwares.

    Ideally the comparison table could include supported formats. But this is asking a lot.

    1
  42. 45

    What about Microsoft Expression Design?

    0
  43. 47

    Even though I like the fact that some rather unknown software is being presented, I felt the “reviews” were a little bit too ambiguous, generic. I mean, they were more a description, rather than a judgement. I would have liked better if you said which one worked out the best or has the best set of features, or anything like that. Something which helps me choose between them.

    :D

    2
  44. 48

    And so all of the Adobe disciples crawl out of the woodwork terrified that people may find that there are alternatives :)

    Illustrator is bloated, and has become very unintuitive. At work, we’ve dropped it in favour of Corel Draw because it’s just so much more effective for what we do (web), even if we paid $$$ for the CS3 licenses. I’ll tr a few of the above as well !

    2
  45. 49

    Nice to see a list w/ so many open source and Linux alternatives.

    Not suprising, of course, to see the Adobe fanboys hating on the exculsion of Illustrator, so don’t anybody let that ruffle you.

    Competion in the market is always a good thing. And Inkscape is on the path to do so…

    Also, doesn’t the KOffice suite run on Windows now? Anybody tried Karbon14 on Windows?

    0
    • 50

      Shut up. Illustrator is definitely the best vector program. If you don’t agree, it’s because you’re probably one of the people who use about 1% of all functions that a vector program has to offer.

      -2
      • 51

        I personally think that its impossible to tell someone to shut up over the web and if it is possible please show some maturity when doing so.

        I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

        3
        • 52

          Actually, JakeT and his “Adobe Fanboys” comment is much more inflammatory than a cursory “shut up”. Deriding someone as a ‘fanboy’ for their opinion is the equivalent of directly calling them a moron for not believing their views.

          -2
  46. 53

    TuxPaint.org is fun, and surprisingly powerful for an educational “kid’s” paint tool. *Do* get the stamps with the TuxPaint!

    I enjoy the “Duh-uh-UH-uh” when you quit. I like that sound a bunch!

    0
  47. 54

    Thanks for including the O/S and price comparison matrix. That’s a very useful feature that has been sadly missing in many of your previous tool review articles

    0
  48. 55

    Xara rocks! It’s the one app I miss since my switch to mac. I hope they release a mac version, but last I heard they’ve abandoned the project. :(

    0
  49. 56

    Awesome list. Thanks for all the Linux programs listed.

    0
  50. 57

    I am amazed to see Adobe Fireworks and Adobe Illustrator missing from this list. Both of them are powerful vector editors, and Fireworks (as a plus) is also much cheaper than Illustrator, while being almost as powerful in the vector field, as Illustrator is. And it can also edit bitmaps very efficiently.

    This list should include at least 22 items, not 20… IMHO. Maybe a correction is needed. It’s like you mention the ‘Top 20 brands in the car industry’ and you omit Mercedes Benz and Honda from it… :-/

    -1

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