Graphics helpers

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This section includes software which can be useful in the production of various sorts of graphics for use with TeX, including images, diagrams, graphs etc.



Open source (LGPL)

Terminal command %asy and %xasy for built-in drawing tool. Asymptote 1.44 brought major new feature (creation of pdf with embedded prc 3d models).

See this thumbnail:

Requires Adobe Reader to see the model. Current version 1.66; enabled OpenGL renderer with antialiasing to MacOS (10.4 and 10.5) (Victor Ivrii 19:05, 25 December 2008 (UTC))

Now part of TeXLive and is updated regularly Victor Ivrii 11:39, 16 November 2009 (UTC)


Other/Proprietary licence

Plotting routine that can generate numerous high quality graphics format. (eps, pdf, metapost, etc.)

If \write18 enabled pgf with tikz] (very powerful graphics package for TeX and LaTeX) can use gnuplot for providing some data)


\usepackage{tikz}% in preamble
\draw[domain=0:2.5,scale=0.4, smooth]
plot[parametric,id=parametric-example] function{-0.8*t*t*t+2.6,t*t+0.2*t*t*t*t} node[right]{$\mathcal Q$};

To use as a standalone application in Aqua (standard Mac OS) environment you may need Aquaterm


Open source (BSD)

Sourceforge project page

A suite of image manipulation and conversion utilities with X11 and command line interfaces.

The MacTeX distribution installs the convert command line utility from ImageMagick in /usr/local/bin. To benefit from the full range of utilities provided by ImageMagick or to install the GUI (X11) interface, you need to use another installation method. If you install ImageMagick before MacTeX, you may wish to preserve your existing convert command by customising the MacTeX installation.

Note that ImageMagick may be installed using i-Installer which will include the GUI tools if X11 is available as well as the command line utilities.

MacPorts and Fink offer alternative installation methods, and precompiled binaries are available on macupdate and other Mac sites.


by Otfried Cheong (version: 7.0.14, link:, licence: GPL with exception allowing distribution of binaries linked against CGAL, manual:

An extensible drawing editor with embedded LaTeX support which can also be used to create complete presentations. Text and mathematics can be input as LaTeX source so that LaTeX markup can be easily included in drawings. Output is postscript or PDF.

Ipe is a serious replacement of the loved 'xfig' tool. If the core of your figure is produced, for example, by gnuplot into a PDF format to be incorporated in your LaTeX document, you can use the Ipe tool pdftoipe and edit this core figure with IPE in order to incorporate mathematics in texboxes anywhere. Ipe will display your figure as well as the formatted LaTeX mathematics (you can compile your local LaTeX texboxes from Ipe). Texboxes can then be moved, rotated, colored etc.

  • An advantage over xfig is that instead of using the burden of 'special', 'export to both' with xfig, you can more precisely and rapidly adjust your maths to the figure.
  • But instead of having a single LaTeX compilation which allows cross-references, you are using an independent on line compilation of the mathematics included in your figure.

Useful links:

Installation: Ipe 7.0.14 depends on cairo, fontconfig, freetype2, lua and some other more common libraries supplied by OS/X. You can compile the source yourself if you use fink for the less common libraries or use a MacPort port which already exists for the program as well as for the Ipe tools.


by Norman Hendrich

Dual licence (shareware for non-commercial use only)

The homepage describes jfig as a multi-platform

2D graphics and diagram editor based on the FIG file format.

written in Java with LaTeX support and a GUI based on xfig. A number of complementary programs are available on the download page.


by Supoj Sutanthavibul, Brian V. Smith, Paul King et al.

Open source (details)

Xfig is an interactive drawing tool which runs under X Windows. In xfig, figures may be drawn using objects such as circles, boxes, lines, spline curves, text, etc.

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