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Go Shopping with SVG: A Hands-on Graphics Tutorial

Though it's often overlooked, SVG is poised to become the dominant graphics environment for the Web and desktop during the next few years. Learn the ins and outs of this up and coming technology with this virtual shopping mall application.


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f you look through the help-wanted ads, chances are you won't see many advertisements for SVG gurus—not yet. No one is making next generation animation with it, it's not a buzzword in entertainment circles, and even among those to whom the letters XML have real meaning, SVG doesn't generate much interest. But it will.

Sometimes, it's wise to pay special attention technologies that catch on despite not having massive advertising budgets behind them. Apple promotes Quicktime extensively, through cross-licensing deals with artists and movie houses. Macromedia's Flash is their bread and butter, and the vector animation format is pushed for just about everything, again with budgets in the hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars. Compared to that, Scalable Vector Graphics gets very little promotion and is spoken of in hushed tones by XML-oriented techies. At first glance, SVG appears to be missing in action. This is because it is an open standard being promoted by the World Wide Web Consortium, an organization with a total budget probably smaller than that of some of those Flash movies.

Despite this, SVG is showing up in some very surprising places. If you have Adobe Acrobat on your system, you probably have the SVG core in place. The Real One player, still the dominant music and video player in the field, runs interactive SVG players. Adobe Illustrator and Corel Draw both support SVG input and output. If you have a Nokia phone, you might be surprised to find that it supports a very full-featured interactive SVG engine.



On the Linux side, KDE 3.1 supports SVG icons, with the deep secret being that the utility that generates these icons is one small piece of an SVG engine to be released with KDE 3.2. This small piece will turn the entire desktop into an interactive SVG shell, something that will radically shape the nature of Linux and will be explored more in this article. Microsoft is getting into the vector game as well, through Microsoft Longhorn, which will likely include interfaces for supporting SVG as an (admittedly non-native) format in their own desktop environment.

Within the next two to three years, graphical user interfaces on just about every major platform are poised to "go vector." Because of this, you could do a lot worse in this rough and tumble economy than to become conversant with what will likely become the dominant graphics environment on both the Web and the desktop by 2007.

In July 2003, Adobe released the SVG 6.0 viewer as a beta. This preview supports the full 1.0 and 1.1 SVG specifications as well as acting as a test-bed for a number of the more intriguing 1.2 proposals currently on the table. For desktop use, it is arguably one of the best SVG viewers for Windows systems (there is also a version for Linux, though it is not as feature rich, and may ultimately be supplanted by KSVG). This beta version is available here. Please note that this version is still very much in beta, and while it's generally quite functional, it may be changed as the SVG 1.2 spec becomes more solid.



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