I'm looking for a vector software like Illustrator that would have a sort of console that permit to tweak numerically anchors parameters and also do things such as "name segments and anchors", "force two anchors to be identical or symetric to a point or an axis so every change that would be done to one would be automatically pasted to the other", "move an anchor A so the distance of A to another anchor B on axis C is x".

Things like this. Is there a plugin that does that or do you need new software ?

  • I think you're asking for software with a command-line (rather than it being programmable).
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 3:45

7 Answers 7


OK, now bear with me but there is such a category of programs: CAD. So depends a bit on your complexity needs you may need to choose things properly. Not only can the cad software do this they do it out of the box, in the gui without much problems.

  • Autocad can do all you ask plus more
  • Most 3d MCAD's can do this as well

These do cost money tough. Geometric constrain solvers are pretty common engineering tools.


Animation 1: A simple demo showing the geometric solver in action (the application in question is Creo)

Ive been toying around and slowly building one solver like this to illustrator but the illustrator object model is a bit restrictive.

You can also script in most graphics application a good place to start might be this post on illustrator scripting plus eps/svg generation.

  • There is also list of free AutoCAD alternatives
    – user11153
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 13:51
  • @user11153 yes but these do not all give the constraint solver. Usually they dont. So just bbecasue its a CAD software does not mean its any good.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 16:14
  • Technically, they don't do it in the "GUI" but rather in the Command Line, which is what I think the OP was looking for. :)
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 3:47
  • @joojaa I'm being pedantic here, but if you are typing commands into a text field, that's a command-line. :) Said command line UI may be in the middle of a GUI, but it, itself, is not a GUI. (Unless I'm misunderstanding things...are you saying Autocad accomplishes those taxes via buttons and spinners and such? If so, you are absolutely correct. It's been a long time since I've used AutoCad...and when I did, much of it was still done in the command line...)
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 14:46
  • @DA01 yes sure but you dont need to type anything to get this functionality just click some icons.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 15:46

SVG format is text-based. SVG files can be edited with notepad. Binary (raster) data is base-64 (as far as I know).


Additionally, Illustrator supports scripting and can, in theory, be set up to handle such options.

  • 5
    yeek!! I wouldn't recommend w3schools even if they paid me.. you are a brave soul to recommend them on SE
    – user9447
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 2:30
  • Yawn? I'd have recommended the specification document, but frankly I picked the first concise example to show the basics.
    – Yorik
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 16:54
  • We don't link to W3schools on SE. :) I'll update the link to a more appropriate source.
    – DA01
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 3:46
  • 3
    Interesting definition of "we." I linked that particular page because it was an editable sandbox which illustrated the ease of editability without the pain and weight of an opaque technical manual. Frankly, your prejudice has gotten in the way of your understanding of the intent of the link.
    – Yorik
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 14:19
  • @Yorik it's the proper use of "we" in that it's the general consensus on SO to avoid W3schools. They've long been a bane to good information and are as often wrong as they are correct. I completely see your point about editable sandbox. But I'd then suggest JSBin or the like instead. We just don't like promoting W3schools any more than we have to.
    – DA01
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 22:40

Processing lets u do that. And u can export the work to a vector file.



For use in machine shop there is an wide range of MCAD that can do this easily: SolidWorks, Inventor, Alibre, solidedge and his big brothers UGNX, Catia, ProE ... etc

For the web i've been using inkscape (www.inkscape.org) plus javascript (including Jquery scripts) to control an SVG based graphic.


This question is actually rather broad. Can you manipulate vector illustrations programmatically? Yes. That's actually what vector illustration software does. It just also adds a GUI for the user to interact iwth.

I think you're perhaps asking more about a command line UI. As stated, most CAD software has that as an option. Partially as a legacy of back when the command line was a valuable tool due to GUI limitations.

In addition, a lot of software can be scripted from a command line and/or code. For example, Inkscape, a vector illustration software package can be completely scripted via Python: http://wiki.inkscape.org/wiki/index.php/Tips_For_Python_Script_Extensions

You can also write SVG or Postscript and the like in a text editor if you so desired. You could use a number of software products to then create your own code that would manipulate the files directly.


Two things come to mind:

  • Geogebra is a software for mathematical constructions and similar and could be able what you want to do, though it’s rather aimed at exploring geometry and mathematics than at creating beautiful graphics.

  • TikZ is a package for LaTeX that allows you to code diagrams and similar and should also be able to do all you want. It’s very powerful but entirely source-based (so no Wysiwyg) and may be difficult to get used to.

While those are very different from your average graphics software, they are free and thus it does not cost you anything but time to try them out and get an idea whether they fill your needs.

  • Interesting but I still would need to have some convenient tools such as anchor handles, snapping to guide/grid, selecting, merging etc. Are those solutions having that in their toolbox ?
    – Wicelo
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 21:35
  • I am not sure what exactly you are referring to by anchor handles and merging, but IIRC Geogebra has the those things (though maybe not in a way you are used to). As for TikZ, most of these concepts do not even apply: Instead of snapping something to a grid, you just program the position you want it to have. As both are free, I suggest that you just take a look at them.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 21:41
  • Yes, geogebra is cool. Most cad apps also has this functionality.
    – joojaa
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 6:22

I think Microsoft Expression Blend lets you do this. You can also do this programmatically using Microsoft's XAML language directly.

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