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The value of SVG

What it is, what the buzz is, and how to learn more.

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The value of SVG
Ed Tittel

The XML vector graphics vocabulary known as SVG, (Scalable Vector Graphics language), has become a matter of some debate and interest. The question is when SVG might start giving proprietary tools and formats, like Flash, Photoshop, or PDF, a run for their money. In fact, Paul Prescod recently wrote an article on this subject for entitled "SVG: A Sure Bet".

In this article, Prescod raises an interesting point: Just as TCP/IP "beat out" proprietary networking protocols like those from Microsoft, IBM, Novell, Apple, and others because it was free and entirely open, SVG is likely to take over the exchange of graphics information and visualization data for exactly the same reasons. As somebody who watched this phenomenon unfold with TCP/IP, I can't help but agree with his contention. (You'll also find the article discussion on SVG's capabilities as an exchange format extremely interesting as well.)

Prescod makes the point that SVG is already used to access all kinds of specialized graphical data and visualizations, from chess transcripts, to geospatial analyses, to maps and diagrams of all kinds. He also makes the point that tools to create, read, import, and export SVG data are already available for lots of programming languages, including various forms of C, Python, and Java (in its Swing visualization classes). This means that Web developers, content creators, and other interested professionals can use SVG for all kinds of interesting applications today, and also that SVG should continue to attract more applications of interest in the future.

Let's assume you're interested in SVG, haven't worked with it yet, and want to learn more. In that case, here's what I recommend:

  • As always, the W3C Standards are a good place to start learning more but more general, better annotated resources like the W3C's SVG page or the Cover Pages include more coverage, news, history, and information.
  • Jackson West's "Real-world SVG" at CNET includes a nice overview, with a demo and code examples that provide a working example of what SVG is and what it does.
  • There are many books now out on SVG (see, for example the "Reference Books" list on the W3C's SVG page), but my favorites are: Of the three, the Eisenberg book is my current favorite, but the Watt book trails not too far behind.

With some of these resources in hand, you can start learning more about SVG and finding interesting uses for it in your Web presence, too. I predict you'll find the effort interesting and ultimately worthwhile.

About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 20-plus year veteran of the computing industry, who's worked as a programmer, manager, systems engineer, instructor, writer, trainer, and consultant. He's also the series editor of Que Certification's Exam Cram 2 and Training Guide series, and writes and teaches regularly on Web markup languages and related topics.

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