Is SVG Cool? (Does a bear go in the woods?)
Let's face it, XML is cool, and SVG, which now has the W3C's
imprimatur on it and which is Xml-based, is extremely cool.
If you aren't familiar with Scalable Vector Graphics language,
take a short trip to the Adobe site and look at some of the demo samples
- especially the animated ones. You'll have an opportunity to download
and install Adobe's fine SVG viewer if you don't already have it (in fact
you'll have no choice, since even IE 6.0 has no built-in SVG support):
There are also several new books on SVG - I was asked to
be a technical reviewer for one of the following that recently came out
but I had to decline for lack of time. Samples:
If you are interested in a pretty good "Get me started"
type of tutorial on SVG, I'd recommend this one:
Meet the Problem…
The problem is Microsoft is so big, and controls so much
of the desktop real estate, that sometimes they selfishly want to push
their own little "dealies" to the exclusion of the emerging standards.
In the case of SVG, it was MS's own VML (Vector Markup Language), which
is pretty neat (see my article here about fractals in IE with VML script
and another about charting: from Prabhu: http://www.eggheadcafe.com/PrintSearchContent.asp?LINKID=290),
but it's not the standard. For a while it looked like Microsoft was going
to bring out VML 2.0, which handily borrowed from SVG but still was not
going to be a supported standard.
As one newsgroup poster lamented, "I think Microsoft is a great
company and I am grateful to them for bringing such basic innovations
to this industry as graphical user interfaces, ethernet, object oriented
programming, crash-proof operating systems, scalable fonts, etc. but if
they don't support SVG I am going to have to re-adjust my opinion about
I think he left out the Internet, but you get the idea, and
I agree (oh wait -sorry, that one was brought out by Al Gore). If MS decides
to provide an integrated SVG viewer (ActiveX or whatever, similar to those
for Flash and Shockwave), this would propel SVG farther than Adobe's "extra"
3+ MB downloadable viewer could even hope to do. MS owns your desktop,
and when they decide to put something on it, that technology is guaranteed
instant fame (more or less). Hence the big blowup about Sun wanting the
Java runtime installed on all Windows OS's after MS yanked the only version
they were allowed to have on there and threw it out the window (or should
I say, "out the Windows"?). Sure, MS really wants to save people time
so they don't have to download a 5MB install image over the Internet.
They'll use every trick in the book to keep JRE off of Windows, especially
since now we all need the extra space for the .NET runtime.
According to XML luminaries such as Kurt Cagle and others,
one of the most recent indications that MS is indeed thinking about SVG
is that it looks like Office 11's Visio will be supporting SVG for both
import and export. This is pretty big news for a few different reasons.
It is the first publicly stated endorsement that Microsoft has made to
working with SVG in their own products, and the fact that it is going
to be integrated at least to some degree into Office provides a significant
boost to the prospect of SVG gaining ground. Now I don't have any "inside
track" about this stuff at Microsoft; all I know is what I observe and
what I like, and I've observed SVG for a while now and I am telling you
it is good.
The integration with Visio makes a lot of sense. By being able to export
into SVG, Visio could work effectively as a back-end system for shared
program development, with SVG acting as a common web format for generating
the visual front-end on multiple-platforms through the use of some form
of ActiveX viewer or plugin. SVG is rapidly gaining ground as a tool for
building process flow diagrams, mapping and other dynamic graphics.
Microsoft also has another angle with SVG. Corel announced
an SVG Viewer similar to the Adobe SVG viewer, designed to be integrated
into Microsoft's Tablet PC. I tried it in early March 2003 and it crashed
on Adobe's sample page, so for now I'm sticking with the Adobe product;
however the Corel offering looks like it more closely conforms with the
Finally, it should be noted that the SVG 1.2 Working Draft
was released from W3C last November. It looks like the standards gurus
have been taking a breather for a while but with SVG, there is a lot to
digest, so I would expect to see a lengthy gestation period for true SVG
support to emerge. However, based on what I've seen so far, it should
be well worth the wait.
New Products Coming
There is starting to be more support for SVG as the emerging
standard in a number of products. One easy way to become familiar with
it is to try JASC's (the PaintShop Pro people) "WebDraw" : http://www.jasc.com/products/webdraw/,
which loads and saves in SVG format. You can also view and write SVG source
code, validate the XML, work with regular bitmaps just as in Paint Shop
Pro, and much more. It's kind of like Windows Paint for SVG on steroids.
Over the past year vendor support for SVG has moved forward.
With the exception of Macromedia, many graphics vendors have shipped updated
versions of products with support for SVG. Corel followed Adobe's Illustrator
10 with the release of Draw
11, which has extended support for SVG (including import and export).
Other vendors have seen fit to make SVG the main theme of product offerings.
PCX Software has pitched a suite
of SVG-centric tools.
Now for the real SVG treat that this article is all about:
SharpVectorGraphics, a Sourceforge - domiciled open source
is a 100% managed code implementation of the SVG specification. The project
is run by Don Kackman, Don_Xml, and Niklas
Gustavsson; as with many Sourceforge -domiciled projects, you are welcome
to join and contribute.
The list of current project participants
features some well-known names.
with the Alpha code SVG# & SVG.NET Viewer version 2.4, and
found it to be highly robust. It even features Gzip compression via SharpZipLib.
Here is a 100%
managed code implementation of the SVG specification including a complete
DOM and Object Model for the CSS, RGBColor, all the interfaces such as
IdocumentStyle, all the SVG Basic types, clipping and masking elements,
Document structure elements, Gradients, Paths, Shapes -the works! Somebody
spent a lot of time on this for no remuneration -- and they have done
a first rate job, in my opinion.
of all the above, they've included a complete rendering engine and a SharpVector
Viewer that lets you browse or load SVG stuff via Urls and has its own
managed code custom svgPictureBox control!
course you must understand that's ALPHA code and is filled with NotImplementedExceptions.
If you are interested in C# and good programming practices, however, I'd
strongly recommend downloading and reviewing the source code.
-Is that your station?
In It For Me? Simple. With some new SVG -based object models like the
one described above, and a self-installing ActiveX viewer, you can write
dynamic reports and chart graphics that change dynamically online in
the browser based on client-side user inputs.
The quality of your charts and graphics will be first -rate
because we are dealing with vector, not raster graphics and lines. In
addition, with the use of the svgz gzip -compressed format, your creations
will stream over the wire as one of the most lightweight graphics formats
Make no mistake: SVG is big, and it will get a
lot bigger-- soon. The only reason you aren't seeing more of
it is because you have to download a third party plugin to view this cool
stuff in your browser. Hopefully now that the MS people have started getting
religion for standards, this will change.
Kudos to the SharpVector group and their fine
|Peter Bromberg is a C# MVP, MCP, and .NET consultant who has worked in the banking and financial industry for 20 years. He has architected and developed web - based corporate distributed application solutions since 1995, and focuses exclusively on the .NET Platform. |