Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
July 11th, 2005


New vectors

Very soon, graphics on the Internet will be much more than GIF and Flash. The Big Three of alternative Web browsing – Mozilla, Opera, and Apple – now have at least experimental support for SVG, an image format written in XML and CSS.

In its simplest form, SVG means that you won’t have to open up your illegally-owned copy of Photoshop (or your newly-downloaded Paint.NET) to add a drop shadow to part of a webpage, using just a few lines of code. In its more complex capacities, SVG allows you to write PHP scripts that’ll generate SVG pie graphs and even complex animations – on the fly. Take a look at the Tetris clone written in SVG, for example.

The SVG language mostly consists of tags and attributes that let you create simple shapes, color, and text. But the power of SVG is that it relies on CSS for more complex styling and on JavaScript for animation. In effect, there’s not a whole lot for the Web designer to learn unless they’ve been crammed under a monolithic rock for the past five years.

The W3C’s Amaya browser/editor program and the X-Smiles browser have supported SVG for a few years already, and Adobe and Corel have provided much-neglected SVG plugins for Internet Explorer and Netscape, but Amaya and X-Smiles are obscure and the plugins are slow and resource-hogging.

With Opera’s minimal support for SVG in version 8, Mozilla introducing support in Firefox 1.1 (you can testdrive now it in the Deer Park Alpha version), and Apple working on SVG for Safari, we can be hopeful that vector graphics on the Web won’t be so painful anymore. Things will Just Work™.

So just when the Internet Explorer team begins to play catch up, they again get left in the dust.

I can’t wait to start using SVG on my blog – I’ve been waiting years for a decent enough level of support that I could start using it on websites.

By the way, Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Freehand, and the GIMP all support exporting to SVG.