Vector editors versus bitmap editors
Vector editors are often contrasted with bitmap editors, and their capabilities complement each other. Vector editors are better for graphic design, page layout, typography, logos, sharp-edged artistic illustrations (e.g. cartoons, clip art, complex geometric patterns), technical illustrations, diagramming and flowcharting. Bitmap editors are more suitable for retouching, photo processing, photorealistic illustrations, collage, and hand drawn illustrations using a pen tablet. Many contemporary illustrators use Corel Photo-Paint and Photoshop to make all kind of illustrations.
The recent versions of bitmap editors, such as GIMP and Photoshop support vector-like tools (e.g. editable paths), and the vector editors such as CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, Xara Xtreme, Adobe Fireworks, Inkscape or SK1 are gradually adopting tools and approaches that were once limited to bitmap editors (e.g. blurring)
Some vector editors support animation, while others (e.g. Adobe Flash) are specifically geared towards producing animated graphics. Generally, vector graphics are more suitable for animation, though there are raster-based animation tools as well.
Vector editors are closely related to desktop publishing software such as Adobe InDesign or Scribus, which also usually include some vector drawing tools (usually less powerful than those in standalone vector editors). Modern vector editors are capable of, and often preferable for, designing unique documents (like flyers or brochures) of up to a few pages; it's only for longer or more standardized documents that the page layout programs are more suitable.
Special vector editors are used for Computer Assisted Drafting. They are not suitable for artistic or decorative graphics, but are rich in tools and object libraries used to ensure precision and standards compliance of drawings and blueprints.
Finally, 3D computer graphics software such as Maya, Blender or 3D Studio Max can also be thought of as an extension of the traditional 2D vector editors, and they share some common concepts and tools.
Inkscape is a free and open source vector graphics editor application. Its stated goal is to become a powerful graphic tool while being fully compliant with the XML, SVG and CSS standards.
Inkscape is primarily developed for Linux, but it is cross-platform and runs on Mac OS X (under X11), other Unix-like operating systems, and Microsoft Windows. Inkscape's implementation of SVG and CSS standards is incomplete. Most notably, it does not yet support animation, or SVG fonts. Inkscape has multi-lingual support, particularly for complex scripts, something currently lacking in most commercial vector graphics applications.
As of 2008, Inkscape is under active development, with new features being added regularly.
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.
Sodipodi is a computer vector graphics editor. The main author is Lauris Kaplinski, and several other people have contributed to the project. The project is no longer under active development, but development continues on Inkscape, a 2003 fork of Sodipodi. Sodipodi itself started as a fork of Gill, a vector-graphics program written by Raph Levien.
The primary design goal of Sodipodi is to produce a usable editor for vector graphics, and a drawing tool for artists. Although it uses SVG as its native file format (including some extensions to hold metadata), it is not intended to be a full implementation of the SVG standard. Sodipodi imports and exports plain SVG data, and can also export raster graphics in PNG format. The user interface of Sodipodi is a Controlled Single Document Interface (CSDI) similar to The GIMP.
Sodipodi is available for Linux and Microsoft Windows. The latest version is 0.34, released on 11 February 2004. Released under the GNU General Public License, Sodipodi is free software.
Synfig is a powerful, industrial-strength vector-based 2D animation software package, designed from the ground-up for producing feature-film quality animation with fewer people and resources. While there are many other programs currently on the market to aid with the efficient production of 2D animation, we are currently unaware of any other software that can do what our software can.
Xara Xtreme for Linux is a powerful, general purpose graphics program for Unix platforms including Linux, FreeBSD and (in development) OS-X.
Formely known as Xara LX, it is based on Xara Xtreme for Windows, which is the fastest graphics program available, period. The Xara Xtreme source code was made available open-source in early 2006, and is being ported to Linux. This process is almost complete and Xara Xtreme for Linux is available for download now.
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