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 facile vector editing tools which are popular with 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 an 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 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.
- ConceptDraw offers a set of vector drawing tools that can rival a professional illustration program. It is aimed at flowcharting, diagramming and illustrating. It can be used to easily create data flow, UML and Entity Relationship diagrams, among others. Versions for Windows and Mac OS X are available.
- CorelDRAW has much in common with Adobe Illustrator and Freehand and is regarded by many professionals as another industry-standard editor, 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 is easy to use, with 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Intaglio is a Mac OS X only editor.
- Lineform a vector editing program native to Mac OS that aims to be a cost-effective alternative to Adobe Illustrator et al. Developer site: http://www.freeverse.com/apps/app/?id=6020
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- OpenOffice.org Draw is part of the open source Office suite OpenOffice.org, 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. Notably, the PNG and GIF bitmapped outputs are not antialiased, which gives a more jagged or pixelated look to the shapes (though opening the SVG in Inkscape and saving as PNG provides a workaround). The grid is fixed in size, and editing is less flexible than Inkscape in many ways.
- Sketsa is a cross-platform vector graphics editor based on SVG that runs on Java 1.5 or higher.
- 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.
This table gives basic general information about the different vector graphics editors:
Operating system support
This table lists the operating systems
that different editors can run on without emulation:
"Unix" includes all Unix-like systems excluding Mac OS X.
|| Maximum page size
|| Maximum zoom
|| Color management for print
|| Scripting support
| CorelDraw Graphics Suite
|| 45.72 X 45.72 m
|| ≈ 45,000%
| Macromedia Freehand
|| 5.6388 X 5.6388 m
| Adobe Illustrator
|| 5.7785 X 5.7785 m
|| 304.8 X 304.8 km
|| ? |
| OpenOffice.org Draw
|| 119 x 119 cm
| Xara Xtreme
|| 2.75 x 2.75 m
Vector file formats: Import
Vector file formats: Export