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Drawing Programs

Updated 10/04/2010

Best found & free:    More comments at the end – scroll down.

GIMP     [OK, maybe not simple and complicated for basic drawing, but very good !]                   On line manual for ver 2.6      Has pdf manual [in PDF Snapshots] for version 2.4
Free Replacement for Adobe Photoshop - Use Filter -> Plugin -> gfig for shapes

Extract to anywhere and run. Nice program and features. Simple editing & easier to use than Gimp.     [NEW Paint / Photo editing type program]
Very nice program if you install .net Framework 3.5 [program installs automatically if you do not have it].
Appears easy to use and is orientated to Photo editing but can do shapes etc., but no libraries.

Nice program lite version of Gimp lots of support. Open Source vector graphics editor.

Nicer than Paint. No install just expand and run.

Simple, maybe too much so. No install just run from anywhere on drive.

Easy to learn, good libraries of parts, good for basic sketching. Inspired by Visio [M$] check it out !

MS Visio Pro [NEW] Based on DIA I checked out this program in Office 2003 version.  It is really nice but quite expensive.  Not part of any Office suite.  Only the Pro versions have libraries that make this useful without a lot of extra, time consuming work.  Pro version is also available as a 2007 version.

Cad Std
Simple compared to other mechanical cad but free version watermarks some output.

Other info – program - symbols:
Good background on many programs

Daves Homemade Radio Schematics & other graphics


PDF Creator [Exports in several different formats nice & useful]

Not so good:

Draw Plus
Not tested seemed to be limited and more complicated

EZ draw
Add in for Word 2000 ? does not appear to work in 2007 or 2002 several items require paid version just to access

Google SketchUp
3D oriented - Could be good but too complicated for sketching.

7 Day trial - not too good - Oriented to Flow Charts and Presentations.

Alibre Design [Any program with a 500+ page instruction manual is not simple]
Very nice Drafting CAD package – “Free” trial for 1 Month $99 to buy Pro [hobby version]

More Commentary:

The above programs were [if] installed on an XP system, many also indicate that they will run on Win7

I have had professional experience with CAD and Drafting software and what is easy and obvious to me may not appear the same way to others. Most of the sophisticated programs require a steep learning curve and often do not come with part / symbol libraries that reflect your project’s purpose, so you may have to spend more time creating your own libraries of parts and shapes.

GIMP has greatly improved since I last used it several years ago. It is a direct competitor to Adobe Photoshop and it is completely free. Typical of competitive “same but” programs, most terms, locations, menus and operations are different and must be relearned but worth the effort if you need this degree of sophistication.

I recommend that you spend some time and read about the programs on their website before you download. All of the programs I have commented on have installed and uninstalled with out problems. The stand alone programs do not need to be installed and can be uninstalled simply by deleting the file.

The first 3 programs above are useful for drawing or rearranging individual pictures and each has strong and weak points in what can be done and how to accomplish the task. You may find it is easier to get the result that you want by using two or more programs on the same project.

Finally an example may also serve to illustrate complexity issues. I can sketch a drawing or electrical circuit, with a pencil on paper that is quite sufficient for me in a very few minutes. If I need to share and dress it up, I can use grid paper, straight edge, templates and a compass and have a nice drawing in 15 to 20 minutes that is usable by anyone. If I want a small digital version to put in a Word document or similar, I expect to spend two or more hours with a “simple” graphics program [or several programs] to get that drawing digitized. A large complicated design takes a disproportionately longer time to complete and may take a week or more to digitize properly.

K9IVB  9/30/2010