Saturday, February 26, 2011

A praise for TikZ

I have been using xfig for ages to draw figures, and I appreciate it, especially combined with a small script I wrote based on an original idea by Seb Desreux at H&K, fig2ps, that allows painless integration of LaTeX code inside xfig figures.

But recently, it seems that I've hit limitations in xfig. Mainly, if it is great when you want to produce sober figures, whenever you want to do something fancier, including shadings and the like, frustration comes in quickly (since it is purely impossible). I've spent a while looking for a decent alternative, until I had a look again at pgf, which since turned into TikZ. That was amazing. It integrates painlessly within LaTeX and is simply great to work with. Drawing complex diagrams with noes and complex relations between them is trivial. It handles moving the nodes very gracefully, and styling can be done in a CSS-like fashion (though it definitely isn't CSS), which means you can first concentrate on structure and then turn your graph into something nice, while for all the other programs I know, you have to handle both structural and stylistic aspects at the same time.

Sure enough, you need to like the command-driven approach, as mice won't come in too useful here... As a side note, I wanted to express my admiration of Till Tantau's (TikZ's author) mastery of (La)TeX: TikZ can be seen as an interpreter of a simple graphical language written in pure TeX, which is, according to my humble experience with dirty trick in TeX, is simply amazing. Many thanks, Till !


rodrigo lazo said...

I've always seen those amazing graphs that others can generate with TikZ with envy, I never could wrap my head around it. Do you have any pointer to tutorial/documentation/example that was specially useful? Thanks!

rodrigo lazo said...
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tsee said...

TikZ truly is great, but I started liking it even more since Vincent Pit wrote the LaTeX::TikZ Perl module to generate TikZ code from Perl.