Drawing figures

technology

I've been on another 'perfect software' quest over the past few months. I often have to draw diagrams of my apparatus and so forth, but so far, I haven't yet managed to find a package which does exactly what I want. Most of my diagrams are greyscale (for journals which are too cheap to publish colour figures), and they usually need to be to scale with dimensions marked on. Of course, almost any decent vector editor would allow you do all of this manually, but — again — why should I have to laboriously measure and convert the dimensions in the diagram, when I could have a tool to do it for me?

The problem seems to be that there are two main kinds of drawing software: 'artistic' vector editors (Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw etc.) and CAD programs (MacDraft, HighDesign etc.). The artistic ones tend to be fairly easy to use, but there aren't any dimensioning or scaling utilities, and tasks like drawing parallel lines which intersect with other parallel lines are more difficult than they should be. The CAD software seems to take years to learn how to use and is really expensive. What I want is something in between, which is cheap and easy to use. Is there something I've missed?