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Asking here (also cross-asking at cstheory.meta.SE) because I couldn't find contact information for anyone at StackExchange who looked like they could help with this.

UX.SE has Balsamiq mockups built-in, since mockups frequently appear as images in questions or answers anyway and it's convenient to have them editable directly in the Q&A interface to avoid copy/pasting images back and forth. For similar reasons LaTeX math markup is enabled on a variety of SE sites.

I work at a company that specializes in graph drawing and interactive editing of graphs. We do have two interactive graph editor applications, a Java-based desktop application, and a browser-based one. I thought it might be nice to have such a capability for drawing graphs directly within questions/answers as well, similar to how Balsamiq mockups is integrated. Looking through posts tagged that have images there's quite a wide variety in how those are created:

  • Hand-drawn
  • Graphviz
  • Some screenshots from LaTeX-typeset documents
  • A few drawn in Paint, or Office

I believe many of the images that are not taken from somewhere else (and thus would have been created on the fly for that question/answer) could be comfortably created by such a tool, perhaps with some editing aids specifically aimed at graph types commonly used in this context here.

Just wondering whether such a thing would actually be welcome or considered useful here. Actual integration and creating the editor would be a different problem entirely and maybe the Stack Exchange staff has strong opinions in this regard as well.

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  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, a small drawing app would probably just as useful. For automatims, a Graphviz renderer would be nice. Full yEd is probably overkill. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 21 '18 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Raphael: While writing I thought about as much as well. I guess there could be an argument for some editing niceties, like automatic layout during editing for, e.g., trees, and special modes for common kinds of graphs, like FSM. Graphviz import would be mandatory for obvious reasons as well (but I've wanted to implement such a thing for yFiles for ages anyway). Automatic layout and easier arrangement of shapes would probably be the main benefit over a simple »dumb« drawing application, but I see your point, indeed. At least two or three of the images I looked at were made with yEd, though ;-) $\endgroup$ – Joey Feb 21 '18 at 12:59
  • $\begingroup$ This might be overkill, but I think something similar to Ipe would serve all my drawing needs here. $\endgroup$ – Discrete lizard Feb 21 '18 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Related: cs.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/732/… $\endgroup$ – Discrete lizard Feb 22 '18 at 9:19
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    $\begingroup$ Stack Overflow has a built-in JS doodler. Chess is another precedence case. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 22 '18 at 16:11
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Congratulations Joey that you work at the company that created the awesome yEd - Graph Editor (I use the Java-based desktop application, not the browser-based one). While I do see benefit in educating our users (via posts on cs.meta) about the great tools allowing create nice looking graphs and other illustrations (succinctly describing an idea or construction), I see little benefit in singling out a specific tool by integrating it into cs.se.

In the linked post, Raphael already highlighted how TiKZ helped him:

I have come to rely quite heavily on TikZ, a powerful graphical library for LaTeX.

Since we are already talking about yEd here, let me give some examples how yEd helped me. I first came across yEd when I had trouble reproducing my sketches about definitions for digraph minors with any other tool known to me. I didn't include all my sketches in that answer, for example the image below was not included. I see this as an advantage of a local tool vs an integrated online tool, namely that you keep your artwork locally, even the one which you did not use in the end.

digraph minor, if restriction to only contract weakly connected components is removed

Later I just kept using yEd, because it was so easy to use, even for tasks which were easy enough that other tools could probably have done them just as well, like here or here.

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  • $\begingroup$ I see your point. This post started out as an idea a year or two ago to have a similar integration like Balsamiq Mockups on UX.SE, but with that particular tool there was already a whole host of images created with that specific tool and then embedded as images into posts. The situation here is ... a bit different, of course, in that most diagrams have been created by other tools. And thank you for your kind words regarding yEd. Even though I don't work on it (although much of what I'm doing here indirectly ends up in the browser-based version), it's always nice to hear from users :-) $\endgroup$ – Joey Feb 22 '18 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ Yes; that post was about creating images offline, this is about integrating something into the website. $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 22 '18 at 16:11
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps there is some format that most editors can export that can have a nicer viewer on the site. I mostly export my drawings to .png, so support for something better (perhaps scrollable and/or zoomable and even editable?) $\endgroup$ – Discrete lizard Feb 22 '18 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Discretelizard SVG-support would be great, but Imgur has been dragging their feet. I understand that there are some security concerns (since unrestricted SVG can contain Javascript, the bane of all good things). $\endgroup$ – Raphael Feb 24 '18 at 21:45

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