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XFIG Users Manual

LaTeX and Xfig

- Importing xfig figures into your LaTeX Files" by Eric Masson (,
- Changing the Size of Pictures in pstex_t by Stephen Eglen (
- Xfig and PDFLaTeX by Josselin Mouette (
- Miscellaneous Notes

How to Import Xfig Figures in Your LaTeX Files

When you call xfig use the following command line:

xfig -specialtext -latexfonts -startlatexFont default

If you want ALL of your figures to be started with special text and latex fonts, you can set the following resources in your .Xresources or whatever resource file you use:

Fig.latexfonts: true
Fig.specialtext: true

There are several formats to which xfig can generate output and latex can read. I will only cover three cases:
(A) Export Fig format directly into latex form
(B) Export Fig in encapsulated postscript and import the postscript in latex.
(C) Save the figure partly in postscript and partly in latex form and superimpose them in your document.

All three methods have their advantages and are equally simple to handle. In method (A) the advantage is that all your work is in tex form and that your .dvi files will hold all the necessary information. In (B) you have all the power and fonts of postscript at your disposal. In (C) you get the drawing power of postscript and the typesetting of latex for your strings.

In your latex preamble (the part that preceeds your \begin{document} statement) place the following lines:


So your preamble could look like this:

\documentstyle[12pt,bezier,amstex]{article}  % include bezier curves
\renewcommand\baselinestretch{1.0}           % single space
\pagestyle{empty}                            % no headers and page numbers
\oddsidemargin -10 true pt      % Left margin on odd-numbered pages.
\evensidemargin 10 true pt      % Left margin on even-numbered pages.
\marginparwidth 0.75 true in    % Width of marginal notes.
\oddsidemargin  0 true in       % Note that \oddsidemargin=\evensidemargin
\evensidemargin 0 true in
\topmargin -0.75 true in        % Nominal distance from top of page to top of
\textheight 9.5 true in         % Height of text (including footnotes and figures)
\textwidth 6.375 true in        % Width of text line.
\parindent=0pt                  % Do not indent paragraphs
\parskip=0.15 true in
\usepackage{color}		% Need the color package

\input{psfig}           % Capability to place postscript drawings

And your document beginning could look like this:


TYPE A - Exporting directly to latex form

In terms of drawing capabilities this is the weakest form you can use. Lines in latex can only be drawn at multiples of 30 and 45 degrees. And lines with arrows can only be drawn at multiples of 45 degrees. Several features such as ellipses, splines, etc. are not supported (xfig does not take advantage of available LaTeX macro packages such as bezier). When drawing lines for type A drawings make sure you restrict yourself to the proper angle geometry in xfig. Otherwise when you export your figures to latex format, xfig will approximate your lines to the nearest angle available in latex. Usually this has unpleasant results.

In this mode, you can type any LaTeX string on your figure. Once imported to LaTeX, the string will be interpreted properly. For example:

                $\int_0^9 f(x) dx$
would result in a integration from 0 to 9 of the function f(x).

To create your LaTeX file just choose the export option off the xfig main menu. And then select LaTeX picture as the language to export. This will create a file with a .latex extension which you can then call directly into your latex document. For example this code would import the file yourfile.latex directly into latex format:



\caption{The caption on your figure}

TYPE B - Exporting to Encapsulated postscript

There are no limitations in drawing figures of this type. Except that one cannot use latex command strings in this format. However all of the many fonts of postscript are available when this format is selected. Once you are done drawing your figure simply choose the export menu off of the xfig main menu and select encapsulated postscript as your output language. This will create a .eps file which you can then include into you latex ducument in the following way:

\ \psfig{file=yourfile.eps}
\caption{Your caption}

TYPE C - Postscript/Latex format

You can draw any lines or curves when using this format. In this type of export, latex strings are permitted you also have the postscript fonts available to you. Therefore you can type in strings such as

                $\int_0^9 f(x) dx$
and they will be processed by latex. You will need to export your file to the combined ps/latex (both parts) language. This will create both a .pstex file and a .pstex_t file. The .pstex_t file automatically calls the .pstex file and you do not need to include it explicitely in your tex file (users of the previous version please take note of this.) To include your figure just use something similar to this:


\caption{Your figure}

Changing the Size of Pictures in pstex_t

If you just include the picture using \input{file.psttext_t} you have no way of specifying the size of the picture. There are two solutions to this.
  1. Draw it the right size in xfig to start with. Or, when you are exporting the figure, change the magnification of the picture by using the magnification box in the export window. Either way you have to go back into xfig if you dont like the size of the image in your latex document.

  2. Get LaTeX to change the size of the picture, using either \scalebox or \resizebox. These are general functions for scaling text or pictures from the graphics package:

    1. \scalebox{factor}{object}
      Will scale the object by any factor. Factor is just a number (< 1 = reduction; > 1 = enlargement) Object is normally some text or graphics

    2. \scalebox{2}{ \input{file.pstex_t} }
      will scale the picture by 2, dependent on driver (.ps works, but xdvi wont). Scaling bitmap fonts may produce ugly results, so try and avoid them!

    3. \resizebox{width}{ht} {stuff}
      will resize "stuff" to be of size width x ht. Using "!" as an argument retains the aspect ratio of the box. eg \resizebox{5cm}{!}{fat cat} will make "fat cat" appear 5 cm wide, and suitably high. (From p129, Lamport)

xfig and PDFLaTeX

written by Josselin Mouette (
    In xfig, select the "PDF" export filter, which will generate a foo.pdf file. In your document, put in the preamble : \usepackage[pdftex]{graphicx} \DeclareGraphicsRule{.pdftex}{pdf}{.pdftex}{} and insert your picture with \includegraphics{foo.pdf} You may use all the includegraphics options as well. Pros: Very easy to use. Cons: The text in your figure will appear as is on your document, using postscript fonts; you cannot put some TeX code in it.

    This is the method I would recommend in most cases. It may be difficult for the beginner at the first time, but it is really powerful. If you choose this method, you'll have to set the xfig fonts to LaTeX ones, and to set the "special" attribute of your text boxes. To do this automatically, you can add these 2 lines in your .Xresources or .Xdefaults (depends on your system):
        Fig.latexfonts: true
        Fig.specialtext: true
    Then, when exporting, select the "Combined PDF/LaTeX" format. Then, in your LaTeX file, put in the preamble:
    The color package is required whenever you put some text in colors. Then include the picture with:
    \input foo.pdftex_t
    You can also resize it:
    \resizebox{3cm}{!}{\input foo.pdftex_t} % sets the width to 3cm
    Pros: Whatever is put in your text boxes is treated just as your document's code; that means you can use your own macros, which is really cool.
    Cons: When putting big formulas on your figure, it is sometimes difficult to predict what place they will take because xfig and fig2dev don't know the bounding area of the text because they contain LaTeX directives that aren't printed.

    There is nothing special to do in xfig to use MetaPost. All the text you type will be treated as plain TeX code - note, this will be not compiled within your document, so you don't have acess to packages like AMS-TeX, neither have you to your macros. In xfig, export your file with the MetaPost filter, it creates Then, type mpost, it will generate foo.0 (or foo.1, sometimes). In your document, put this in the preamble:
        \input supp-pdf.tex
    And to include your figure :
    That's it. Quite simple, and you can put a bit TeX inside.
    Pros: Can be easily included in a dual-output (pdf/dvi) file: for including it as PS, just put a \includegraphics{foo.0} in the document.
    Cons: Not adapted to big formulas, as AMS-LaTeX is not accessible. Long phrases may look bad as well, if your document is not in English (babel cannot be used).

    This method is designed to be used in PDF presentations. Using the \pause command, it will display step by step the layers of your figure as you click on the button, which can look very nice (and can even be useful sometimes). All that have been told about MetaPost inclusions is true, but there are a few extra things to know:

    1. When creating your figure, be careful with the depth of your objects. When exporting your figure in the MultiMetaPost format, transfig will treat the consecutive depth levels where is an object as a single layer, for example:
         Circle at depth 51 \__first displayed layer
         Text at depth 50   /
         *** Nothing at depth 49
         Square at depth 48 \
         Text at depth 48    > Second displayed layer
         Curve at depth 47  /
         ... and so on.
    2. After exporting, mpost foo.mmp will create a set of files named foo.0, foo.1... To include them in the document, you will need the mpmulti.sty provided with the latest version of PPower4 (still in Beta stage at the time of writing). The preamble of your document should look like this:
          \input supp-pdf.tex
      And to include your animation, just put:
      You can adjust it to a defined size by using:
      Compile your document, then ppower4 it. Nifty, isn't it?
      Pros: The only way to insert automatically animations. Benefit of the existing xfig's depth system.
      Cons: Are there any?

    Some Other Notes

    Sometimes one may get "mn" in your LaTeX text. Here is what one user did to work around that problem:

    The problem was in the \smash part of a command that was generated in the latex part of the export. If the \mddefault and \updefault are not set properly on your system you need to define them to do nothing.

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