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Go Shopping with SVG: A Hands-on Graphics Tutorial : Page 2

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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What Makes a Good SVG Application?
SVG's whirling letters, animated shapes, and intrinsic vector nature can trick you into viewing it as the XML version of Macromedia Flash. This is unfortunate, since while creating real-time animation is achievable in SVG, takes a great deal of work to do even remotely well.

Consequently, in order to best understand where SVG may have application in your projects, I've outlined a few applications where SVG works especially well, as well as a few where other technologies may be more appropriate.

Maps. This is perhaps SVG's greatest strength. Even without SMIL animation, SVG maps can still have links associated with individual map elements such as rooms, streets, or cities—something which is much harder to accomplish with HTML image maps. The Geographical Information Services sector (or GIS) was one of the earliest adopters of SVG, and it is rapidly replacing older graphical formats as a means of storing information. This task is facilitated by SVG's ability to simultaneously work with multiple coordinate systems and to work with libraries of external SVG.



The principle advantages of SVG comes in those situations where the metadata of the content—the data structure implicit in graphs and charts, the meaning behind various map symbols, the ability to indicate multi-state transitions, and so forth—is as important as the graphic itself.

Intelligent Charts and Graphs. SVG is XML-based, but it also includes a Web services aware DOM. This makes it a remarkably useful tool for developing charts and graphs, especially those that are time dependent. What's more, because of the inherent intelligence of such charts, they can initiate certain actions (playing warning sounds, for instance, or launching separate processes) when the right conditions exist. However, SVG charts, maps, and graphs—even static ones—can incorporate a high amount of metadata that other formats generally can't equal.

Process Monitoring. The same capability that makes SVG useful for live charts also makes it useful for monitoring (or setting) processes. Everything from showing available seating on aircraft or theaters to keeping track of lights in the theater to showing critical systems schematics on the aircraft, highlighted to show critical usage. This kind of application may grow in importance as automated wireless sensors become more ubiquitous.

Slide Shows. Business slide shows—PowerPoint presentations being most obvious example— incorporate multilayered, structured data, transitions from page to page, and a high amount of metadata. In short, they are almost ideal vehicles for SVG, especially with the rich content implicit in SVG 1.2.

"Traditional" User Interfaces. This area is beginning to get more interest, especially as vector graphics moves in via foundation libraries (such as KSVG). Here, the interface elements—windows, buttons, scroll-bars, etc.—are built using SVG. SVG 1.1 is not yet robust enough to handle this particular use without a lot of work, but the upcoming SVG 1.2 will likely take it a long way towards reaching this goal.

Multimedia "Kiosks". SVG (especially 1.2) can handle video and audio, pull in external links and use them as a library, and integrate scripting support. This makes them a fairly decent choice for kiosks, children's games, and similar applications—with a decent editor capable of producing SVG.

Animation. SVG can be used for animation work, a la Flash. However, a growing consensus of SVG developers feel this functionality is well into SVG's future, principally because this field is already heavily dominated by a few commercial players and the XML advantage is not as strong here as it is elsewhere.

Generally, the principle advantages of SVG comes in those situations where the metadata of the content—the data structure implicit in graphs and charts, the meaning behind various map symbols, the ability to indicate multi-state transitions, and so forth—is as important as the graphic itself. Where the content has less "external meaning"—a sequential animation, for instance—the advantages of SVG begin to wane compared to existing commercial solutions.



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