GNU ELPA - sketch-mode


Quickly create svg sketches using keyboard and mouse
sketch-mode-1.0.4.tar, 2021-Oct-26, 2.26 MiB
D.L. Nicolai <>
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To install this package, run in Emacs:

M-x package-install RET sketch-mode RET

Full description

Please read the requirements section below before trying this package

1 Prepreliminary comment

The initial version with the transient can be found in the 'transient-version' branch. A second version using a hydra can be found in the 'hydra version'. This version has a toolbar which made the transient unnecessary. Which makes the transient unnecessary, while removing the transient frees up drawing space. Initially this version used a hydra. But using a hydra just complicates things if its purpose is to show keybindings only. So finally this version simply uses a side buffer to show keybindings.

Also an earlier version showed the mouse coordinates in the mode-line. However, this functionality hinders the 'interactive' drawing (which might be due to an emacs 'bug'). Anyway, you can toggle showing the coordinates by pressing t c (maybe it works more fluently on your system).

2 Preliminary comment

This is a new package that is still in development. It has been on ELPA-devel for a while now, but it did not yet attract any code contributors. However, despite that the code and docs are far from polished/finished, its main functionality is very usable already, so that it is probably a good time to publish it on ELPA. On the other hand, several (or most) features are not implemented completely, simply because implementing these things take time, and I should first focus on keeping myself alive 😐. But if you know some elisp, than it should be quite straightforward to complete the implementation of those features (and create a PR). The idea is that elisp users can add functionalities easily so that the package becomes ever more versatile. Users can also contribute by creating SVG snippets (in a separate repo, or create a PR). Any feedback, for example suggestions for enhancing the interface/usability (and of course bug reports), is very welcome (probably best by opening an issue). Also, any contributions are very welcome. The code of the package is very accessible (especially if you quickly read how to use edebug).

A list of ideas for implementation can be found in the preliminary comment in the sketch.el file and additionally in the wiki section.

2.1 Included features

  • mnemonic shortcuts
  • toolbar
  • quickly insert image definition into new type (image) org-block with the image rendered as overlay (no external file required)
  • snap to grid (on minor-grid, however major and minor grid are fully configurable)
  • draw text
  • crop final image
  • set stroke, fill, width etc.
  • show dom (lisp) in other window
  • draw angle arcs (between lines, available soon, I hope. See implement-angle-arc branch)

2.2 Incomplete features (merged into main)

  • Draw labels (not implemented for all type of objects. Easy to implement)

    It would be handy to have a 'transform group' option also. SVG groups allow for easy transformations. Then it would probably be handy to wrap all objects in group tags.

2.3 Delicious low hanging fruit

  • use svg snippets (i.e. design object in external programs like inkscape, geogebra etc., end quickly insert them in your sketches)

2.4 Less low hanging fruit

  • draw directly in you literate org file, with the dom updated in your source block
  • export to tikz, asymptote, other image extensions etc. (probably requires to implement 'nodes')

The sketch-mode.el file starts with listing TODO items describing features that are missing from the package.


3 Requirements

This package requires Emacs to have been build with SVG support (I guess that, in other words, this means it must have been build with cairo support, but I still have to find out)

4 Installation

The package is available from GNU ELPA, so it can simply get installed as usual. However, the publishing 'cycle' on ELPA is somewhat slow, while development on this package is 'less slow'. So you might prefer to install from github directly as follows:

Either git clone the package and load sketch-mode.el using load file either manually or from .emacs.d.

When installing the package it probably still shows some warnings, you can safely ignore them.

Alternatively you could use with the following recipe:

(quelpa '(sketch-mode :repo "dalanicolai/sketch-mode" :fetcher github))

then subsequently load the package with

(use-package sketch-mode
  :defer t)

4.1 Spacemacs

The package is available from GNU ELPA, so it can simply get installed by simply adding sketch-mode to dotspacemacs-additional-packages. However, the publishing 'cycle' on ELPA is somewhat slow, while development on this package is 'less slow'. So you might prefer to install from github directly as follows:

(sketch-mode :location (recipe
		   :fetcher github
		   :repo "dalanicolai/sketch-mode"
		   :files ("*.el" "snippet-files")))

Subsequently load the packages by adding the following line to dotspacemacs/user-config

(use-package sketch-mode
  :defer t)

5 Usage

Start a sketch with M-x sketch and enter values at the prompts (or prefix with C-u to use default values). Although, thanks to the key help buffer, the usage is more or less self explanatory, it is wise to take note of the following comments:

  • use C-c C-c to quickly insert the xml-definition into the (org-mode) buffer from which sketch-mode was called and create the image as an overlay. The image will get inserted within a new image org block type. SVG/XML is suitable for inserting directly in an org file so that you do not need to store the image separately on disk (which is nice feature when sharing files). The new block type is not yet 'officially supported' by org-mode, so that it will not yet get exported as an image (HELP WANTED :nerd:), but the image in the code block can be toggle with C-c C-c.
  • Alternatively you can write the image to a file by pressing S (S-ave).
  • Before you insert the image you can use C-S mouse-drag to crop the image.
  • You can move an object by pressing m to open the 'modify-object' state. This will select the object and activate the translate mouse action so that you can drag the object using the mouse.
  • to remove an object (without using undo), you should press d, and then the label of the object you want removed.
  • You can also modify the drawing by changing the object definition (i.e. elisp). For that press D to open the definition in a side-window, then press . to toggle the key help buffer. Now modify the code and press C-c C=c, to load it and update the \*sketch\* buffer.

6 Bugs

Currently when undoing all (drawing of) objects, sketch-mode gets confused and further drawing is not possible anymore (although redoing is). This is probably a very easy to solve bug, but has not been a priority yet.

7 Alternatives

canvas-mode: An even newer package is being created which provides some additional features (although sketch-mode is still in development and most probably will get most of these features too). Unfortunately, the package is not (yet?) very compatible with sketch-mode.

8 Sponsor the project

It takes me a lot of time to develop (this) package(s), while, as we would say in the Netherlands, I have no penny to scratch my butt. Therefore, although I am also really happy to offer it for free, if you find my package(s) (real projects page in the making) useful (e.g. for you work), and if you can afford it, then I would be very happy with any donation (of course that would also enable me to work on your feature requests). As soon as I have the opportunity/possibility to find a stable job, I will happily suggest you to transfer or donate to other projects/charity instead.

If you would like to boost development of any of my projects, then contribute (code or documentation), or consider more sustainable financial support (i.e. sponsor).

Accepted donation methods liberapay PayPal donate

Old versions

sketch-mode-1.0.3.tar.lz2021-Oct-221.72 MiB
sketch-mode-1.0.2.tar.lz2021-Oct-211.72 MiB
sketch-mode-1.0.tar.lz2021-Oct-201.72 MiB