Wednesday, January 14, 2004

SVG Promotes Reuse

I've been using SVG quite a bit lately, and after a little adjustment, I've found it to be very fun to work with. It may never replace flash, but it doesn't really need to replace flash to be successful. It will eventually sneak into places we would never expect to find it.

Over the last year, I've seen a number of discussions about adding SVG support to operating systems. Microsoft is apparently planning to use their variation of SVG to draw windows components. KDE also has some support for SVG icons. Many developers on Slashdot and the KDE lists seem to believe that there would be no advantage other than scaling pictures. I don�t think this is the case.

SVG allows for colors, line properties and many other formatting decisions to be externalized in the form of CSS. SVG files themselves can reference each other and reuse images from other SVG files. I can see this having a huge impact on the open source community (which has an abundance of hackers and a huge shortage of artistic talent).

Today, artists create themes for KDE, Mozilla, winamp and others as rasterized images. Although the work is released to the open source community, for the most part someone can only alter them if they have equal talent as the original artist. Depending on the modification, they may require the original Gimp or Photoshop files. Even with the originals, some modifications can�t be made without starting from scratch on an image.

Had the originals been SVG and CSS, just about anyone who can edit XML could change an image, alter it�s colors, add or remove detail or recompose elements of the work with very little artistic ability or even without much knowledge of SVG.

Entire themes for KDE or Gnome might reference a single CSS file. A savvy user would not only be able to change the colors of buttons and scrollbars, but of all the icons that came with the theme.

I�m not pretending that using SVG somehow doesn't require creativity or skill � it requires every bit the creative talent as any medium. What I�m suggesting is that SVG may bring a level of reuse and sharing to the Open Source community that we normally don�t associate with static images. I think once supported, it will allow for Open Sourced images to become much more useful.

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