Searching for tikz on the main TeX.SE site yields 10,938 results.

Searching for pstricks yields 627 results.

Searching for metapost - only 213 results.

A similar search for tags yields similar proportions.

While my (as seen above, unconfirmed) impression is "for each tikz answer (or question), there exists a pstricks answer", I can see a strong interest in tikz, much less for pstricks - and almost none for Metapost.

Why is that so? Now that tikz exists, I hardly ever use Metapost, but I used it a lot in the past, and it's great. Why it's popularity is so low nowadays? (I don't know pstricks at all, so I can't comment about how it compares to Metapost.)

This is even stranger given the fact that LuaTeX has Metapost included, and it's heavily utilized by ConTeXt (which seems to be gaining popularity).

  • 6
    you have an answer in your question wonder where :) Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 21:17
  • 2
    Asymptote and Metapost are in my ...I would definitely,if I could... list
    – percusse
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 22:24
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    Sorry for the religious reference, but one quote from an Italian saint, Magdalene of Canossa, came to my mind: "Gesù Cristo non è amato perché non è conosciuto." ("Christ is not loved because he's not known.") Perhaps the same idea happens here: people doesn't like Metapost because they don't actually know it. :) Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 23:49
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    I think “discrimination” is not the right word here. No MetaPost users – No MetaPost questions – no MetaPost answers.
    – Speravir
    Commented Mar 25, 2013 at 23:56
  • @texenthusiast: ha ha, good point. But in fact, if mplib and luatex where available at the time I was making a switch, I'd probably have considered staying. And now, working with ConTeXt, I regret having forgotten much of Metapost. (And MP is really better at Bezier curves.)
    – mbork
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 1:11
  • @PauloCereda: you tempt me to start a theological discussion here;). Now I'm thinking whether I agree with that quote... But it may be a good point (about mp/tikz, I mean).
    – mbork
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 1:14
  • @mbork change comes from within us rather than looking around us. In future you/myself may lead us into MP :). Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 1:15
  • @texenthusiast: as I've written elsewhere - I'd love to blog or give answers about mp. But I still have only 24h a day... (I'll think about it, though. Really.)
    – mbork
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 3:34
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    @mbork meta post on MetaPost already you are giving lot to community. No worries :) Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 3:36
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    I'd like to add the Asymptote to the list, as it was inspired by MetaPost and is mentioned even less often.
    – g.kov
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 9:07
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    @marczellm: Well, with latexmk it does not really matter. Also sometimes it's easier to prepare images as external pdfs, using the same preamble setting as ised in the main document.
    – g.kov
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 10:24
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    One huge disadvantage at least for me with MetaPost is that I cannot use OpenType fonts with it using XeTeX.
    – morbusg
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 12:41
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    May be some kind of Rosetta Stone for different graphic approaches would be useful.
    – g.kov
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 4:37
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    @morbusg: I know that some people disagree with that, but I never used XeTeX and I fell I'll never do, since (for me) LuaTeX made XeTeX obsolete.
    – mbork
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 6:57
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    When I wrote my answer to What are the Relative Strengths of TikZ and asymptote? I could just as well have added "or metapost" each time I mentioned asymptote. The main advantage of TikZ is that it's integrated with LaTeX and isn't an external program. I've used asymptote and matapost and find TikZ easier to use.
    – user10274
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 11:40

3 Answers 3


I guess it's not TeX.SE specific. A quick look at google trends:

enter image description here

Is MetaPost too hard? Too few documentation? Few current publications?

I'm very interested in MetaPost but did not use it yet. If you would like to publish examples, or even an introductory article for open-minded people, such as on LaTeX-Community.org, or TeXample.net (which isn't limited to TikZ), let me know. I would be happy to learn MetaPost and to see it today in action.

If you would like to make it more popular on this site, post interesting questions about MetaPost, or show MetaPost solutions to existing questions.

  • I'd love to write something about Metapost. If only I had more time... But the idea of providing Metapost answers to tikz/pstricks questions is really nice;). I've never been a hardcore Metapost hacker, however.
    – mbork
    Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 1:13
  • @mbork MP is waiting for you at this location Commented Mar 26, 2013 at 1:23

Several edits made; the important ones are bolded. Also, NB: I am essentially retelling my own experiences, here, and then generalizing them. So please add grains of salt where necessary.

MetaPost vs TikZ: no discrimination, just different popularity. As far as I can tell, the languages are about equally easy to use. So what, then, made TikZ so popular?

  • Firstly, TikZ has an examplary manual. It is good-looking, which makes it attractive (in the literal sense). It has an introductory tone — and it covers every feature of the programme. It has examples — it has examples for everything. It describes features general purpose and usage — and it describes their behaviour and implementation in-depth. It is my belief this has justly made it famous; and MetaPost, frankly, lacks such a manual.

    Edit: @mbork rightly points out in a comment that the MetaFun manual is pretty good; and I might add John Hobby's MetaPost manual to that, too. All the same, I think that this is a case of ‘good’ getting outclassed by ‘outstanding’. Here are links to the manuals, so one can judge for oneself.

  • Secondly, and less importantly, Till Tantau has also written the very popular beamer package. Like TikZ, beamer is very user-friendly, and has an excellent manual. If people already know and like beamer, they will be predisposed to discover or like TikZ, because they know they can trust its author to write a user-friendly package with an outstanding manual.

    (This paragraph is edited) MetaPost has MetaFont, but creating fonts is a small niche compared to creating presentations. It is also very nicely integrated with ConTeXt, and indeed I think that ConTeXt users (like me) use it more than TikZ (I know I do); but I don't think that affects the fashions among LaTeX users very much.

MetaPost is a lovely language, but I don't believe it has a manual that is anywhere near as good. So, when MetaPost was still the more popular drawing package, TikZ was nonetheless easier to recommend to newbies; and by now, TikZ is itself the most popular drawing package, which only strengthens its position.

So, yeah. It's not the quality of the languages -- TikZ is as good as MetaPost, and vice versa. It's not conspiracy, of course. It is, I believe, TikZ's spectacular manual.

  • Very good points, though imho not 100% true: Hans Hagen's book on Metafun (which is essentially a book on Metapost+his format) is also very good. (Maybe not so good as TikZ's manual, but still.) Also, you're not 100% right about your second point, either: Metapost is an important part of the ConTeXt ecosystem, maybe even more so than TikZ of Beamer.
    – mbork
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 20:01
  • @mbork The metafun manual is nice, but how much of that can be used outside of ConTeXt? (actual question...after glancing through it, it seems as though a lot of it might be ConTeXt specific).
    – Scott H.
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 20:37
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    @ScottH.: yes and no. You can use ConTeXt only to "enclose" the Metafun code, thus producing a pdf with the picture/diagram/figure/whatever. In the code, you may use pure Metafont (or Metafun) as well, without much ConTeXt-specific stuff (mainly labels, of course).
    – mbork
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 21:15
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    @mbork: fair point, but I do think that TikZ's manual is sufficiently better to make it more adopted. But I've edited the post to link to the respective manuals. As for MetaPost+ConTeXt -- I know you are right (in fact, switching to ConTeXt from LaTeX is exactly the reason I learned MetaPost), but I'm not sure that affects the many LaTeX-using TeX users so much.
    – Esteis
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 15:07
  • Esteis, @mbork: It's worth noting that PGF was written to satsify Beamer's needs and Tikz came later. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 0:50

I think that part of the reason is that most of the questions are too localized. What I mean is that typically questions are stated as "How do I solve problem X using package Y in macro-package Z?" rather than "How do I solve X?". This dissuades people from posting a solution that does not use package Y.

Many a times I have felt like posting a Metapost answer to a Tikz question but normally I don't do that unless the question explicitly asks for it.

Now, don't get me wrong. Many a times, the author is indeed only interested in solving problem X using package Y in macro package Z. That is fine. But then there are other situations like this, this, this, this, and this, for which I don't see any reason that the OP wants to stick to Tikz. (Again, I don't want to pin-point to specific users; I am just picking a few questions from the most popular tikz questions).

I think that we, as a community, need to broaden the scope of some of these questions.

  • 1
    Yes, there are not many Q title's on MP as with Z, it's OP's choice. But as one of few ConTeXt and MetaPost experts may be MetaPost needs attention through your posts similar to PSTricks on a voluntary basis "to broaden the scope of some of these questions" OP's Titled Z. There is no harm to post MetaPost answer to a Tikz question atleast in Basic Q-- By Unbiased Newbie learning from peers. Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 20:54
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    I recall having seen, many times, a TikZ answer in response to a non-TikZ question (not counting some of my old pgfkeys answers to non-pgfkeys questions...). Sometimes they hijack a pstricks question, or an xypic question. I think there's no reason not to hijack a TikZ question for a Metapost answer, if you think there's a good one.
    – Ryan Reich
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 2:54
  • I have only been around TeXExchange for a short time, but already have a few mpost answers to TikZ questions, so it can be done! My answers are motivated by "why would you try to do that in TikZ?" which is usually due to (a) my ignorance of TikZ - my reason for trawling TikZ questions is to teach myself TikZ (b) my gut feeling that many diagrams are probably best not regenerated at every typeset pass, mainly if they are complicated or involve a lot of calculation. I am actually fine with the mpost manual, and the main thing that bugs me about mpost is that regions must be simply connected. Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 7:03
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    @Aditya I see the point of your answer (including the links to questions)... on the other hand, I think there is a good reason not to hijack a question for which the OP clearly formulated his target package. If I had some article/thesis which relies entirely on -say- pstricks and someone would tell me "hey metapost does your job", I would see the knowledge of the answerer, but I would wonder if he wanted to help me (probably not in such a case) or to advertise his favorite tool. Even more so if the packages are in some sort of competition. [cont] Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 19:54
  • @Aditya [cont] Consequently, we should clearly state that such a "see also" answer is NOT an answer to the question. It is part of building up a knowledge base. If this is what we want to achieve, we should formulate a best-practise for how to hijack a Q&A session without hijacking the Q&A session (if you know what I mean). That is: to make it clear that the answer is not for the OP, but for the community. In some cases, even the OP might benefit from it. Commented Apr 6, 2013 at 19:58
  • RyanReich, @ChristianFeuersänger - we already have a precedent for this "hijacking", that Context answers showing how problems raised by specifically Latex questions can be alternately solved are welcome. Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 0:55
  • @RyanReich, ChristianFeuersänger - See the answer and comment thread at meta.tex.stackexchange.com/questions/524/…, which has been extensively cited Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 1:03

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