From Process | Spoken-Tutorial
Jump to: navigation, search

Title of script: Simple Block Diagrams through Xfig

Author: Kannan Moudgalya

Keywords: Xfig, box, line, arrow, text, justify, edit, canvas

Resources for the tutorial

Visual Cue
Slide 1 Welcome to the spoken tutorial on block diagram creation using Xfig
Slide 2 In this tutorial, we will explain how to create block diagrams of the type given below
Slide 3 We will see the tools required for this purpose:

I shall use Xfig, a block diagram manipulation tool

I am using version 3.2, patch level 5

I will also use the terminal and a pdf browser.

Slide 4 I am creating this tutorial on Mac OS X.

Xfig works on Linux and Windows also.

Installation on Linux is the easiest of all.

The procedure to use Xfig is the same in all three.

Slide 5 It is recommended to use a three button mouse for Xfig

But one or two button mouse can also be configured to work

Slide 6

Tab 1 of browser

Table of Contents


The user manual for Xfig is available on the web.

Let us see it. We can see the introduction to Xfig in this page.

We can see the Table of Contents of this manual here.

Let us click it.

We can see the details of the people who created Xfig here.

Let us see this page.

Slide 7

At the terminal

Back to slide 7

I will now explain the screen configuration for this tutorial.

It has the slides, Xfig, internet browser – Firefox and the terminal.

This is the command I used to invoke Xfig on Mac.

These are arranged in an overlapping fashion, for easy switch from one to the other.

The listener can easily see the switch happening – no need for guess work.

Slide 8 Let us start with Xfig
LHS panel The left hand side of Xfig worksheet has the “drawing mode panel”.

The buttons on top half of this panel can be used to create different objects.

The ones in the bottom are used to work with them.

Top left Using the buttons at the top, one can carry out file and edit operations
Central portion The space in the centre is known as the canvas.

This is where the figure will be created.

Click Grid Mode Let us now get started with drawing.

The first thing I will do is to put the grids on the canvas.

I do this by clicking on the “grid mode” button, at the bottom.

We can choose different grid sizes. I will choose the middle one.

Grids help align the different objects that we would place.

In this tutorial, by clicking, I mean clicking the left mouse button and releasing it.

Similarly, selecting or choosing a button would mean that you have to click it with the left mouse.

If a different action is required, I will state it explicitly.

Click Box As our diagram should have a box, let us choose the “box symbol” with sharp corners, from the “left hand side panel”

We will go to the place where we want to place the box.

We will click the mouse at this point.

This selects the north west corner of the box.

Move the mouse to the opposite end until the box is of the size we want.

Once the box is of right size, we can click the mouse once again.

The box is now created.

We will now explain how to use the “Edit” feature of Xfig

Using this, we will increase the thickness of the box.

Edit button Let us press the “edit button” in the left hand panel.

We see that all the key points of the box are displayed.

Let us click on any one of these points and thus select the box.

A dialog box opens.

We will take the mouse to the “Width” box.

Make sure that the mouse pointer stays within the box.

Let us delete the default value of 1.

The contents of this box cannot be changed if the mouse is not inside the box.

If the mouse moves away at any time of entry in the box, please bring it inside and continue typing.

Let us now enter 2.

We click the “Done”. Let me show you this.

Click the “Done” and leave the dialog box.

We see that the thickness of the box has increased.

We would now want to enter lines with arrows.
Polyline Let us choose the “polyline button” from the left hand side panel.
Bottom buttons The panel at the bottom is known as the attributes panel.

Using the buttons present in this panel, the parameters of each object may be changed.

The number of buttons changes, depending on the chosen object.

Arrow Mode

Arrow Type

Let us select the “Arrow Mode” button from the attributes panel.

Let us choose the second option in the dialog box, as this would give an arrow at the end point.

Let us click the “Arrow Type” button.

In the window that appears, we select the arrow head of our choice.

Let us click at the point where we want the line to start.

Let us move the mouse to the end point of the desired line.

Let us now click there with “middle mouse button”.

The line is created with an arrow.

Remember, you have to press the middle button to complete the arrow.

Not the left or right button.

If you make a mistake, please click the “Edit”, and press “Undo”

Copy line Let us draw another line, at the output of the box, by copying

Choose the copy button from the left hand side panel.

Choose the line.

Move the mouse to the destination and click.

The line is copied.

Click Text Let us put some text now.

Let us click the “Text box”, indicated by T, from the left hand side panel.

Text Size Let us choose the font size of the text.

Let us click the “Text Size” button from the “attributes panel” and obtain a dialog window.

Let us move the mouse to the value box and keep the mouse there.

Let us delete the default value of 12 and enter 16.

Let us choose the button “Set”.

The dialog box gets closed and the “Text Size” is now shown as 16 in the “attributes panel”.

Text Just We will centre align the text.

Let us click the “Text Just” button in the attributes panel.

A dialog box opens.

Let us choose the middle one for centre alignment.

Let us click at the centre of the box.

Enter text I will type “Plant” and click the mouse.

The text is created.

I can move the text with the “Move” key on the left hand side panel, if required.

File save Let us now save this figure.

Let us click the “file button” at the top left hand corner of Xfig, hold, and drag the mouse to “save” and release.

As this is the first time, Xfig asks for the file name.

We can choose the directory and then the file name.

Let us type the name as “block” and choose “save”.

The file gets saved as block.fig.

You can see that name at the top.

File export Let us now export the file.

Let us click the “file” button once again, hold and drag the mouse to “export”.

Click the box next to “language”, hold and drag the mouse to “PDF” and release the mouse to select the “PDF Format”.

Now click the “export” button. We get the file “block.pdf”.

Open block.pdf

on terminal

Let us open this file through the command “open block.pdf” from the terminal.

We now have the block diagram that we wanted.

We have completed our objective. We have the figure we want.
Slide 9 We have an assignment for you
Substitute the box with different objects.

Create a rectangle using polyline. Change the size and the direction of the arrows in the figure.

Move the text, line and box to different locations.

Export the file in eps format and view it.

View the file block.fig in an editor, and identify different components.

Create entirely different block diagrams.

We have now come to the end of this tutorial.
Slide 10 Spoken Tutorial is a part of the Talk to a Teacher project Supported by the National Mission on Education through ICT (NMEICT), MHRD, Government of India.

More information on this mission is available at


I have downloaded a few more web pages
Slide 11 The website for the spoken tutorial project is


This project is explained by the video available at this link "What is a Spoken Tutorial".

At this spoken-tutorial.org/wiki, we have listed the FOSS tools supported by our project.

Let us also see the page devoted to Xfig.

Slide 12 We welcome your participation and also your feedback.

This is Kannan Moudgalya signing off.

Thanks for joining.


Contributors and Content Editors