What software programs are used to draw physics diagrams, and what are their relative merits?

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Undoubtedly, people use a variety of programs to draw diagrams for physics, but I am not familiar with many of them. I usually hand-draw things in GIMP which is powerful in some regards, but it is time consuming to do things like draw circles or arrows because I make them from more primitive tools. It is also difficult to be precise.

I know some people use LaTeX, but I am not quite sure how versatile or easy it is. The only other tools I know are Microsoft Paint and the tools built into Microsoft Office.

So, which tools are commonly used by physicists? What are their good and bad points (features, ease of use, portability, etc.)?

I am looking for a tool with high flexibility and minimal learning curve/development time. While I would like to hand-draw and drag-and-drop pre-made shapes, I also want to specify the exact locations of curves and shapes with equations when I need better precision. Moreover, minimal programming functionality would be nice additional feature (i.e. the ability to run through a loop that draws a series of lines with a varying parameter).

Please recommend few pieces of softwares if they are good for different situations.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user Mark Eichenlaub

recategorized Apr 24, 2014
What kind of diagrams are we talking about here? I think the question may be too broad as it is (it'd be like asking "what software programs are used to create desktop wallpaper?").

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user David Z
The kind I currently draw with a pencil and paper. Blocks with springs on them. Free body diagrams. Pulleys, ropes, buckets, roller coasters, monkeys and bananas, guns that shoot horizontally. Ray diagrams, trajectories, geometric diagrams, spacetime diagrams. I would use Mathematica for things like plotting functions or drawing vector fields.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user Mark Eichenlaub
Then that's a question about general drawing tools, not about physics. It'd be a better fit on Super User, I think. (I thought you might be asking about e.g. software to draw Feynman diagrams or stuff like that.)

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user David Z
I specifically want the opinion of people who draw the same sorts of diagrams I do, so I figured physics was a good place to ask.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user Mark Eichenlaub
Might be a good community wiki, since there's no well-defined correct answer?

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user ptomato
Related question on SO: stackoverflow.com/questions/4005042/…

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user nibot

The program Tikz is a pretty good candidate.

This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-03 11:47 (UCT), posted by SE-user Sanath Devalapurkar