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I am aware of various latex packages (e.g., XYPic) that facilitate the creation of commutative diagrams in the context of latex documents. What I would like to ask though is whether there exists a stand-alone tool that creates these diagrams? An optimal tool would not require a huge number of libraries and supporting infrastructure that must be installed separately. Just a simple tool that creates commutative diagrams and, say, exports them to PNG/WMF etc. Does something like this exist?

To be clear, I am looking for special-purpose software that is dedicated to depicting commutative diagrams of the sort that one encounters in category theory, homological algebra, algebraic toplogy and so forth. I am not seeking a general-purpose chart drawing tool such as Visio, Powerpoint or other typical consumer-oriented application. It should be capable of correctly formatting and rendering math-specific symbols and character sets.

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PowerPoint requires an enormous set of libraries and supporting infrastructure! – Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Nov 14 '11 at 16:33
@MarianoSuárez-Alvarez Yes, agreed, but it's a one-click install and I don't have to treat documents like software (compiling, setting environment variables, include paths, etc. etc.) – ItsNotObvious Nov 14 '11 at 16:37
I have been using TeX and xypic for the last 20 years, and it is something like 15 that I have not done anything remotely similar to «compiling, setting environment variables, include paths, etc. etc» to do so. – Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Nov 14 '11 at 17:32
In any case, you should be more precise in what you want (what kind of commutative diagrams do you want? will they contain lots of math or not? do you require funny curvy arrows and other niceties or plain old commutative squares? and so on) Also, this question is pretty much off-topic in this site. You can probably ask this in the TeX site (, or somewhere else, but your question is most certainly not a math question! – Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Nov 14 '11 at 17:34
As I said, to turn this into a reasonable question you need to explain what you want in more detail. For example: why doesn't MS Paint not do it for you? As it stands, it is just a call for a list of graphing software. I am sure there is a Wikipedia page for that... and it is off-topic. – Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Nov 14 '11 at 18:33
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Dia can do this. The results won't be as good as with LaTeX + TikZ though. There are online LaTeX compilers that allow you to compile code including TikZ pictures. This way you can have the quality of LaTeX+TikZ without needing all of the tooling installed. If you concern is learning the language instead of output and you would prefer something with a GUI frontend then Dia is the only option I am familiar with (except for Visio and PowerPoint)

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Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm looking for something math-specific, not a general purpose diagramming tool that can perhaps be coerced into creating CD's. I have access to these sorts of tool s already. I know latex; that's not really the issue. I just want a user-friendly way to create these diagrams without having to manually hassle with latex compilation, package downloading, etc. – ItsNotObvious Nov 14 '11 at 16:35
@3Sphere: It's still not entirely clear to me what you are looking for exactly then. Do you want a WYSIWYG editor? Apparently compilation is off the table, but you don't want something like power point without the supporting infrastructure, because that's basically what Dia is (at least for the diagram creating part that is important to you here). – Roelof Spijker Nov 14 '11 at 16:44
I just want something simple (meaning simple to use and simple to install) whose sole mission in life is to create commutative diagrams. I don't want to have to install a bunch of latex libraries/compilers/etc and jack around with environment variables and include paths just to create these diagrams. If I have to specify the diagram in latex that's OK, but not ideal. – ItsNotObvious Nov 14 '11 at 16:51
For example, using MathJax (locally installed) I can easily write math documents using nothing but notepad + HTML. This, by my definition, is "simple" to use and install. But MathJax doesn't support CD's so it's useless for my purpose here. – ItsNotObvious Nov 14 '11 at 16:54
Allright, then the best solution I can come up with is an on-line LaTeX editor. There are dozens, this one is probably the simplest though: Latex previewer by Troy Henderson. Add the tikz package, enter the code for your diagram and it will generate a PNG or SVG for you. Probably not ideal for you, but I seriously doubt there are any purpose built editors out there. So if nobody comes up with a better solution this will at least help you to avoid compiling, messing with paths and installing packages. – Roelof Spijker Nov 14 '11 at 17:04

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