Automatic Drawing Generation (ADG for short) is a gobject-based library that provides a non-interactive cairo canvas for generating technical drawings.

General information

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Automatic Drawing Generation is GObject-based library that provides a non-interactive cairo canvas specifically designed for generating technical drawings. It can be viewed as a tool for programmatically representing an abstract model into a layout (2D drafting).

If you want to develop an application that needs to show and print drawings where some data change but the overall design is similar, the ADG library can be quite useful. In manufacturing industries this is often the case and an ADG-based application could help to greatly improve the productivity of technical offices.

You could reach similar targets using parametric CADs but a custom application provides the following benefits:

  • more customizable;
  • quicker and not so bloated as a parametric CAD;
  • can be easily connected to a database;
  • an ADG based filter can generate drawing on-fly: this feature could be used in web-based applications.

Visit the ADG web site for further details.

Design overview

The project is based on the GObject library: the ADG canvas is developed in plain C using an object-oriented approach. Applications based on ADG are not expected to be developed in C, though: the basic idea is to have a set of bindings for higher level languages (the garbage-collected ones, above all). An application can then be developed using any specific language available, much in the same way as GNOME applications are conceived.

Lua bindings based on LGI are already availables and effectively used upstream to test the APIs. The adg-lua project provides code examples on how to use them.

The mathematical and geometrical algorithms, together with a bunch of other useful functions for manipulating cairo paths, are kept in a separated library called CPML (Cairo Path Manipulation Library). Although actually embedded into the ADG project, this library can be easily splitted on its own, if needed.

The rendering leverages cairo, so the ADG canvas fully shares strong and weak points of that library. Most notably, the availables export formats include PostScript, SVG, PDF, PNG but no CAD specific ones (such as DXF). A complete list can be browsed online.

External dependencies

The ADG library has the following dependencies:

  • cairo 1.7.4 or later, required by either CPML and ADG;
  • GLib 2.14.0 or later, required by ADG;
  • GTK+ 3.0.0 or later (or GTK+ 2.12.0 or later for GTK+2 support) to optionally include GTK+ support and build the adg-demo program;
  • pango 1.18.0 or later (optional) to support a serious engine for rendering text instead of using the cairo "toy" APIs (only the pango-cairo module will be used);
  • gtk-doc 1.12 or later (optional), used to regenerate the API documentation
  • GObject introspection 0.9.5 or later (optional) to dinamically generate bindings metadata.

The required packages must be installed prior the ADG building: they should be availables on nearly every decent unix-like system.

The ADG is mainly developed on GNU/Linux but its dependecies are known to be cross platform so a porting should be quite easy, if not automatic. Anyway, the cross-compilation of a Windows installer is supported upstream and it is based on the ArchLinux Fedora mingw port.


The ADG build system is based on GNU autotools, the de-facto standard for handling free software projects. The following step-by-step instructions are included only for reference: you are free to install ADG in the way you prefer. Just remember if you are copying and pasting to put the proper package version instead of the 0.6.0 placeholder used in the examples.

  1. Download the ADG tarball and put it somewhere into your file system (your home directory is a good candidate). You can browse the old releases or get the latest tarball directly from SourceForge.

    cd $HOME
  2. Unpack the tarball:

    tar xjvf adg-0.6.0.tar.bz2
  3. Configure the build. You can set different options while configuring: check the output of ./configure --help to get a list of all the available customizations.

    cd adg-0.6.0
  4. Build the ADG library.

  5. Once the building has finished, you are able to run the demo program without installing anything. Just try it out by launching the uninstalled executable:

  6. Install the library. You must have root privileges, either by previously logging in as root or by using the sudo command, if you intend to install it system-wide (the default). Anyway you can install to a custom destination where you have write access by explicitely setting the --prefix option in the configuration step.

    sudo make install

Further details on the installation are availables in the INSTALL text file distributed within the tarball.