Rant-y review of apps to draw diagrams/technical illustrations

I stumbled upon this article on hackernews about a person’s experience with various online drawing tools, among them Penpot: Just paying Figma $15/month because nothing else f***ing works

Some caveats:

  • Its rant-y (cue title) and I guess some of the critique might be perceived as unfair.
  • It uses the tools for diagrams/illustrations, not for UI design, so the usecase is at best a secondary one (I personally would probably used Affinity Designer for their usecase)

Their experiences/Problems:

  • they seem to find the self-hosting complicated. I am not a hosting/deployment/docker… expert though and can’t say a lot about this
  • They criticize the marketing of Penpot as being focussed on it being open source.
  • Some problems of getting fonts to render correctly and as paths (rather than as texts) so that diagrams remain the same no matter if the client/viewer has the font avaliable.
  • Criticizing the svg export as relying on chromium and thus not guaranteeing a match of how-its-shown-in-editor and how-the-export-looks-like (particularly if you do not use chromium)
  • Snapping works better in Figma
  • More stroke settings in Figma

I partly agree with some points. Penpot appears promising for the future, but lacks a few essential features for prototyping now. It’s understandable for a young software. The absence of deep stroke and image configuration, component variants, interactions within components (microinteractions), and device viewport options for viewing mode suggests that Penpot currently falls short of its mission to provide a free solution for this task. However, given its youth, these issues may be resolved with community support, potentially changing people’s perceptions overtime.

And yes, manual spacing (without flex layout) and snapping feels better to use in Figma than Penpot.