[PLUG] Visio on Linux?

John Jordan johnxj at comcast.net
Wed Jan 18 09:08:17 PST 2006

On 17 Jan 2006, at 20:19, Jason R. Martin wrote:

> Maybe I'm missing something here, but have you considered writing your
> report with a word processor, creating your diagrams with a drawing
> program, and embedding the drawings in your word processor document?
> I'm afraid I don't see how you can hold paragraph formatting against a
> drawing program.

Yes, I certainly have considered that. The problem is positioning 
the graphics. In a word processor you have to "anchor" the graphic 
to something. Your choices are "page," "paragraph," "character," 
or "as a character." (In OO.o, anyway -- I abandoned Word a long 
time ago.)

If I anchor to page, then the graphic does not move if I later add or 
delete text. If I anchor to paragraph, character or as a character it 
moves with the text, but for some reason the graphic does not stay 
a uniform distance from the text. For example, suppose I need to 
show a mother-daughter branching-dependency issue by creating a 
simple two-line graphic that looks like this: /\. No matter how I 
tweak the line leading I can't get a uniform distance between the 
top and the bottom points and the text. I always end up with the 
top or the bottom sticking into the text or too far away from it.

Similarly, I can't get a uniform distance horizontally. If I need to 
create a three-way branching (like this /|\) I can't get the center bar 
to hit the top point of the triangle because I have to move it with the 
spacebar. I also need to place text underneath each point. Let's 
see if I can create an ASCII example of a diagram that I might need 
in a super-simple syntactic analysis:

                              /    \
                            /        \
                         NP         VP
                        /             /    \
                     N'            V     NP
                    /              /       /   \
                  /              /       /       \
                N             is    DET      N'
               /                      /          /    \
              /                      /          /       \
         Herman             Art        AP       N'
                                  /          /          /   \
                                 /          /         /       \
                               a        Adj       NP       N
                                         /          /  \          \
                                        /         /      \           \
                               well-known  Adj     N'      collector
                                                /           \
                                               /              \
                                         medieval          N

I bet that comes out looking horrible on everyone's e-mail client. 
Assume that I need to adjust the width of each item so the text on 
the bottom of each point does not encroach on the space of other 
text items. Lines can be of varying degrees. Triangles do not need 
to be isoceles (each side of different degrees) and should be 
formed to make the structure easy to follow. This is a really simple 
diagram. Sometimes the diagrams span more than one page. 
There are other elements that are sometimes necessary, such as 
where I need to demonstrate (in English) wh-movement, do-
insertion, and a zillion other bizarre features of English, one of the 
biggest train wrecks of the world's languages.

I am currently using OO.o Writer with its drawing toolbar available. I 
have the grid feature turned on, which helps with getting the points 
properly positioned. I am anchoring everything as a character. But 
it is still time-consuming and the results, while sufficient to hand in 
to a professor, are not accurate enough for publishing standards.

Add the fact that I frequently need to use lots of IPA characters in 
the text, so I am limited to Unicode fonts.

Right now I am just dealing with English syntax. Later when I get 
into syntactic diagrams for a language like Proto-Matumbi (a 
reconstructed archaic form from which the Matumbi group [Guthrie 
P.10] evolved), things will get even hairier.

So far, the best tool is Adobe InDesign CS. But you can't run that 
in Linux, not even with Crossover Office. I am hoping that Scribus 
will mature to the point where it will be adequate, but that will be 
another year at least. In the meantime, it seems to me that a flow-
chart type program might be a good alternative.

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