Comparison of vector graphics editors

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A number of vector graphics editors for various platforms exist. In deciding which to use, important factors include its availability for the user's platform, its feature set, the maturity and convenience of the user interface (UI), as well as the focus of the program. Some programs are more suitable for artistic work while others are better for technical drawings. Also very important is an application's support of various vector and bitmap image formats for import and export.


Some packages in detail

  • Adobe Flash has simple vector editing tools which are popular among both designers and illustrators. The most important of these tools are vector lines and fills with bitmap-like selectable areas, simple modification of curves via the "selection" or the control points/handles through "direct selection" tools. Flash uses Actionscript for OOP scripting, and has full XML functionality through E4X support.
  • Adobe FreeHand (formerly a Macromedia product) is a discontinued Illustrator competitor used widely by professional graphic designers before Adobe's acquisition of Macromedia. While its functionality is almost identical to that of Illustrator, it has held several specific advantages over its main competitor in relation to the flexibility of its application in the wider design environment, catering for the output needs of both traditional image reproduction methods and contemporary print and digital media. User-operation is arguably more fluid and intuitive than that of Illustrator, a factor much appreciated by designers with a more artistic leaning as opposed to those from a predominantly technical background, and it has boasted specific functions not previously emulated by Illustrator, including a superior image-tracing operation for vector editing, the ability to both generate multiple-page documents and embed custom print-settings (such as variable halftone-screen specifications within a single graphic, etc) to each document independent of auxiliary printer-drivers. However, while Freehand has arguably had wider practical application, it has lacked the promotional backing, development and PR support for which Adobe is renowned, hence its competitor Illustrator has gained ground in popularity. Since Macromedia's purchase by Adobe, Freehand has been transferred to the classic print group. On May 16, 2007, Adobe announced that no further updates to Freehand would be developed.
  • Adobe Illustrator is considered the industry-standard editor. The AI file format is a common vector format for exchange. Illustrator is an expensive package. It has a long history, and its feature set allows creation of complex vector artwork. Constant redevelopment in line with other Adobe products has kept it an almost compulsory choice of vector-based editing software for the professional designer, especially since its integration with Adobe's Creative Suite packages in recent years. It has a steeper learning curve (more difficult in the beginning) than alternative products. Illustrator imports over two dozen formats (including PSD, PDF, SVG). Illustrator exports AI, PDF, SVG, SVGZ, GIF, JPG, PNG, WBMP, and SWF.
  • Aviary offers a light, but multi-featured set of vector-editing capabilities and is entirely browser-based. It was built on top of the Adobe Flex framework to be accessed through any browser with Flash 9+ installed. It is aimed at offering light collaborative use and teaching new users the introductory concepts behind complex vector editing. It can be used to easily create vector shapes that can be worked on by multiple people with authorship and versioning tracked correctly. It exports to SVG formats and standard bitmap formats like JPG, GIF and PNG. Because it is deployed through a browser, it works on all major operating systems including Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
  • CorelDRAW has much in common with Adobe Illustrator and Freehand and is another industry-standard editor,[1] largely used in the graphic design, sign making and fashion design industries. CorelDRAW and Illustrator are capable of limited interoperation by reading each other's file formats. Major differences between the two include CorelDRAW's extensive array of more than 50 import and export filters, on-screen and dialog box editing and the ability to create multi-page documents. It can also generate TrueType and Type1 fonts, although refined typographic control is better suited to a more specific application. Some other features of CorelDRAW include the creation and execution of VBA macros, viewing of colour separations in print preview mode and integrated professional imposing options.
  • Corel Designer (originally Micrografx Designer) is one of the earliest vector-based graphics editors for Microsoft Windows platform. While flexible enough for most vector graphics design applications, Designer has always been pre-dominantly a product for the creation of engineering drawings and is shipped with extensive libraries for the needs of engineers.
  • Dia is a Free and open source diagramming and vector graphics editor available for Microsoft Windows, Linux and other Unix-like computer operating systems. Dia has a modular design and several shape packages for different needs: flowcharting, network diagrams, circuit diagrams, etc. Its design was inspired by Microsoft Visio, although it uses a Single Document Interface similar to other GNOME software (such as The GIMP).
  • Drawit is a Mac OSX only application. DrawIt is a vector editing application with support for bitmap-like image filters. Vector editing as well as the filters are completely non-destructive which means that a vector layer can still be edited even after a stack of filters has been applied.
  • Express Animator is a vector graphics and animation program. The vector graphics side of the program is compatible with SVG through import and export and also has export to the Silverlight format. It uses bezier curve drawing methods and also can import and export in bitmap formats.
  • Google SketchUp is a free vector graphics and animation program with a pro-version.
  • Inkscape is a Free and open source vector editor whose primary native format is SVG. Inkscape is especially popular on Linux, though it is available for Windows, Mac OS X and other Unix-like systems. Currently Inkscape can officially import SVG, SVGZ and PDF and export SVG, SVGZ, PDF, PostScript, EPS, EPSi, LaTeX and POVRay. Some formats have additional support through Inkscape extensions, including PDF, EPS, Adobe Illustrator, Dia and Sketch.
  • Litha-Paint a web-based vector graphics editor available for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera. Currently it is in the alpha phase of development, can export SVG and use JPG and PNG images as a background. Users of Litha-Paint can save and share an unlimited number of documents via the Litha-Paint server, as well as uploading their images.
  • Mayura Draw is a shareware vector graphics editor for Windows. It is specifically designed to output clean PostScript, and it saves the drawings in PostScript format.
  • Microsoft Visio is a diagramming, flow chart, floor plan and vector graphics editor available only for Windows. It is commonly used among small and medium sized businesses, and by Microsoft in their corporate documentation.
  • Microsoft Expression Design is a commercial vector and bitmap graphics editor based on Creature House Expression, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2003. It is part of the Microsoft Expression suite. Unlike the original Expression product, Expression Design will be only available for Microsoft Windows XP and Vista.
  • The Omni Group OmniGraffle is a vector graphics editor available only for Macintosh. Some users claim that it is easier to use than the more expensive Illustrator, CorelDRAW, and FreeHand. It is principally used for creating flow charts and other diagrams. OmniGraffle imports and exports several popular formats, including Microsoft Visio, SVG and PDF.
  • Draw is part of the open source Office suite, serving as its drawing component and a vector graphics editor. It supports many import and export file formats, but there are currently functionality issues with some of these formats.[citation needed] The grid is fixed in size, and editing is less flexible than Inkscape in many ways.
  • sK1 is a Free and open source vector editor. First of all sK1 is oriented for "prepress ready" PostScript & PDF output. The major sK1 features: CMYK colorspace support; CMYK support in Postscript; Cairo-based engine; Color management; Universal CDR importer (7-X4 versions); Modern Ttk based (former Tile widgets) user interface. Currently sK1 can officially import: AI postscript based, CDR, CDT, CCX, CDRX, CMX, PS, EPS, CGM, WMF, XFIG, SVG, SK, SK1, AFF, PLT and export: AI, SVG, SK, SK1, CGM, WMF, PDF, PS, PLT.
  • Sketsa is a cross-platform vector graphics editor based on SVG that runs on Java 1.5 or higher.
  • Swift 3D is a Mac OS X & Windows application for vector and raster-based 3D animations for Adobe Flash and EPS.
  • Xara Xtreme is a vector graphics editor for Windows. Xara Xtreme LX, the open source version of Xara Xtreme runs under Linux and Mac OS X. Xara Xtreme is notable for its high usability and very fast rendering. Xara Xtreme (and earlier product Artworks) was the first vector graphics software product to provide fully antialiased display, advanced gradient fill and transparency tools. The newest version Xara Xtreme Pro is able to create multi-page documents, exports different PDF versions (PDF-X for the printing industry included) and supports Flash Animations.

The following tables compare general and technical information for a number of vector graphics editors. Please see the individual products' articles for further information. This article is neither all-inclusive nor necessarily up-to-date.

General information

This table gives basic general information about the different vector graphics editors:

Creator First Released Latest version List price (USD) License
Aviary Aviary 2009 1.00.00b Free (Closed Source) Proprietary
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite Corel 1989 X4 (14) $429, $199 upgrade (includes Photopaint) Proprietary
Macromedia Freehand Adobe Systems 1988 MX (11) $399, $99 upgrade Proprietary
Adobe Illustrator Adobe Systems 1987 CS4 (14) $599, $199 upgrade Proprietary
Drawit [1] Bohemian Coding 3.7.3 (March 2009) €29, Free Drawit Lite version Proprietary
Inkscape Inkscape Team 2003 0.47 (Nov 2009) Free (Open Source) GPL
Intaglio [2] Purgatory Design 2003 2.5 $89 Proprietary
MagicTracer Elgorithms 2005 1.0 $49 Proprietary
Mayura Draw [3] Mayura Software 4.3 (Sept. 2007) €39 Proprietary
Microsoft Visio Microsoft 1992 12.0 $560, $350 upgrade (Pro), $260, $130 upgrade (Standard) Proprietary
Microsoft Expression Design (Closed Source) Proprietary Draw The community 2000 3.1.1 (31 Aug 2009) Free (Open Source) LGPL
PhotoLine Computerinsel GmbH 1995 14.01 €59 Proprietary
sK1 sK1 Team 2009 0.9.0 (May 2009) Free (Open Source) GPL,LGPL
Sodipodi Sodipodi 2000 0.34 (Feb 2004) Free (Open Source) GPL
Swift 3D Electric Rain 2000 6.0 (June 2009) $249 Proprietary
Synfig Synfig Team 2005 0.61.09 Free (Open Source) GPL
Xara Xtreme Xara 1995 3.2 $79 Proprietary
Xara Xtreme LX Xara 2006 0.7 Free (Open Source) GPL (except graphic engine)
Express Animator Express Animator 2007 1.01 $39 Proprietary
ZCubes ZCubes 2006 2007 Dec Free (Closed Source) ZCubes Terms of Use
Creator First Released Latest version List price (USD) License

Operating system support

This table lists the operating systems that different editors can run on without emulation:

Windows Mac OS X Unix[2]
Aviary Yes Yes Yes
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite Yes Dropped (v. 11) Dropped (v. 9)
Macromedia Freehand Yes Yes No
Adobe Illustrator Yes Yes No
Express Animator Yes No No
Drawit No Yes No
Inkscape Yes Yes Yes
Intaglio No Yes No
MagicTracer Yes No No
Mayura Draw Yes No No
Microsoft Visio Yes No No Draw Yes Yes Yes
PhotoLine Yes Yes No
sK1 No Yes (user must compile) Yes
Sodipodi Yes No Yes
Swift 3D Yes Yes No
Synfig Yes Yes (user must compile) Yes
Xara Xtreme Yes No No
Xara Xtreme LX No No [3] Yes
ZCubes Yes Partial[4] Partial[4]

Basic features

Maximum page size Maximum zoom Color management for print Scripting support
Adobe Illustrator 5.7785 X 5.7785 m 6,400% Yes Yes
Aviary  ? 400% No No
CorelDraw Graphics Suite 45.72 X 45.72 m ≈ 45,000% Yes Yes
Macromedia Freehand 5.6388 X 5.6388 m 25,600% Yes Yes
MagicTracer  ? 12,800% Yes No
Microsoft Visio 2002 2147483647 sq. in. 3098% No Yes
Microsoft Visio 2003 2147483647 sq. in. 3098% No Yes
Inkscape 304.8 X 304.8 km 25,600% No Yes
Intaglio  ? 1,600%  ?  ? Draw 119 x 119 cm 3,000% No Yes
PhotoLine  ? 6,400% Yes Yes
sK1 50 X 50 m 3,000% Yes Yes
Xara Xtreme 2.75 x 2.75 m 25,601% Yes No
ZCubes unlimited unlimited Yes Yes
Maximum page size Maximum zoom Color management for print Scripting support

Vector file formats: Import

Adobe Illustrator Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes No
Aviary No No No No No Yes No No No
CorelDraw Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Express Animator No No No No No Yes Yes No No
Inkscape Yes Partial[5] No Yes [6] Yes Yes No No Yes [7]
Intaglio  ?  ?  ? Yes Yes Yes  ?  ?  ?
Macromedia Freehand  ? Yes  ? (CMYK) Yes  ? Yes Yes No
Mayura Draw Yes[8] No No No No No No No Yes
Microsoft Visio 2002 Yes Yes No Yes No No No Yes Yes
Microsoft Visio 2003 No No No No No Yes No Yes Yes Draw No No Yes Yes Partial[9] Partial[9] No Yes Yes
PhotoLine No No No No Yes No No No No
sK1 Yes [10] Yes No Yes No Yes No No Yes
Sodipodi No No No No No Yes No No No
Swift 3D Yes No No Yes No No No No No
Synfig No No No No No Partial[11] No No No
Xara Xtreme Yes [12] Yes No Yes Yes Partial[13] No No No
Xara Xtreme LX Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No No

Vector file formats: Export

Adobe Illustrator Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
Aviary No No No No No Yes No No No  ? No
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Express Animator No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No  ? No
Inkscape Partial[9] Partial[14] Yes Yes Partial[15] Yes Partial [16] Yes Yes Yes No
Mayura Draw Yes[8] No No Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes No
Microsoft Visio 2002 Yes No No Yes No No No No Yes Yes No
Microsoft Visio 2003 No No No No No Yes No No Yes Yes No Draw No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No  ? No
PhotoLine No No No No Yes No Yes No No  ? No
sK1 Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes No
Swift 3D Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No  ? No
Xara Xtreme Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No  ? No
  1. Arah, Tom (January 2008). "Product Reviews: CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X4". PC Pro. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  2. "Unix" includes all Unix-like systems excluding Mac OS X.
  3. Currently being looked into
  4. 4.0 4.1 Internet Explorer is required for full functionality
  5. Via an extension using UniConvertor. Text elements not converted
  6. Via an extension using Ghostscript.
  7. Via an extension using UniConvertor.
  8. 8.0 8.1 AI 88 only
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Via an extension
  10. AI postscript based up to 9 ver.
  11. requires external converter
  12. Imports only up to version 8.0 AI files, newer AI file versions needs to save as "AI (V8.0)" or PDF files
  13. Only within Xara Xtreme for Linux
  14. Via UniConvertor (UC) and only on UNIX/Linux, only paths with flat fill and stroke are supported as of UC 1.0. Available in version 0.46.
  15. Support for many features is limited
  16. Via the Swftools extension

See also

External links

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