About SVG

2d Graphics in XML

This is the official W3C overview of the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format. SVG 1.1 and SVG Mobile Profiles are Web standards (W3C Recommendations). Work continues on SVG 1.2 and future profiles for Mobile and Printing. The current list of SVG Working Group Members is available.

"Things to watch: SVG - Scalable Vector Graphics - at last, graphics which can be rendered optimally on all sizes of device" - Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web


SVG is a platform for two-dimensional graphics. It has two parts: an XML-based file format and a programming API for graphical applications. Key features include shapes, text and embedded raster graphics, with many different painting styles. It supports scripting through languages such as ECMAScript and has comprehensive support for animation.

SVG is used in many business areas including Web graphics, animation, user interfaces, graphics interchange, print and hardcopy output, mobile applications and high-quality design.

SVG is a royalty-free vendor-neutral open standard developed under the W3C Process. It has strong industry support; Authors of the SVG specification include Adobe, Agfa, Apple, Canon, Corel, Ericsson, HP, IBM, Kodak, Macromedia, Microsoft, Nokia, Sharp and Sun Microsystems. SVG viewers are deployed to over 100 million desktops, and there is a broad range of support in many authoring tools.

SVG builds upon many other successful standards such as XML (SVG graphics are text-based and thus easy to create), JPEG and PNG for image formats, DOM for scripting and interactivity, SMIL for animation and CSS for styling.

SVG is interoperable. The W3C release a test suite and implementation results to ensure conformance.

Applications of SVG in industry


In 2001 the mobile phone industry chose SVG as the basis for its graphics platform. Many leading companies joined the SVG effort to produce the SVG Tiny and SVG Basic profiles, collectively called SVG Mobile and targetted at resource-limited devices such as mobile handsets and PDAs.

The SVG Mobile specification was adopted by 3GPP as the required graphics format for next-generation phones and multimedia messaging (MMS). Already there are SVG-enabled handsets shipping worldwide.

SVG Mobile is primarily used for messaging in applications such as greeting cards, diagrams and animations.

For more details refer to the SVG Mobile specification, authored by a subgroup of the SVG Working Group including Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola.


The combination of rich graphical features, comprehensive text support and resolution independence in SVG produce a format suited to printing. Leading print hardware companies are currently developing the SVG Print specification: a version of SVG specifically suited to hard-copy output.

Use cases of SVG include an XML-based page description language similar to Postscript and PDF, a final-form archiving format and variable data printing, where the information is provided by a database and output using a graphical SVG template. SVG provides identical online and hardcopy display.

Being based on XML, SVG Print fits neatly into existing XML workflows. That is, organizations which have a data processing pipeline that supports XML can insert SVG Print capabilities easily into their publishing workflow, enabling dynamic document generation. SVG Print also integrates with common job description formats such as PODi's PPML and CIP4's JDF.

More details refer to the SVG Print Specification, authored by a subgroup of the SVG WG including Canon, HP, Adobe and Corel.

Web Applications

Web-based applications are increasing in popularity. Developers are often limited by browser incompatibilities and missing functionality. With powerful scripting and event support, SVG can be used as a platform upon which to build graphically rich applications and user interfaces.

With SVG, the application developer gets to use a collection of open standards. They are not tied to one particular implementation, vendor or authoring tool.

Design and Interchange

SVG is well suited to the high-end graphical design market common in the Aerospace, Transportation, Automotive and Telecommunication industries. The extensibility of XML allows SVG diagrams to have embedded metadata in proprietary formats without affecting the presentation.

For example, a CAD program could export to SVG for online display, but embed data within the file that facilitates future editing or roundtripping.

Also, since many design tools support import and export of SVG, it can be used as an interchange format between applications.

GIS and Mapping

Geographic Information Systems have very specific requirements: rich graphics features, support for vector and raster content and the ability to handle a very large amount of data. SVG is well-suited to this market and many GIS systems provide SVG export.

Like the design case mentioned above, the ability to extend SVG and embed metadata is useful to the mapping community. For example, graphical elements can be identified as their native objects (such as a lake), allowing applications to interact with the objects in a graphical manner.

SVG is a perfect complement to the OpenGIS consortium's GML format. GML, also XML-based, describes geographical elements such as rivers and roads. It can be converted into SVG using an XML pipeline for online display.

Embedded Systems

Most embedded systems have severe resource limitations, including smaller screens, limited memory and reduced processing capability compared to typical desktop systems. The SVG Mobile specification was designed for such devices and allows for the development of graphical user interfaces for embedded systems. In its support for input events and scripting, devices can use an SVG frontend for control and monitoring, such as a control system for industrial devices.

Technical Details

SVG is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics in XML. SVG allows for three types of graphic objects: vector graphic shapes (e.g., paths consisting of straight lines and curves), images and text. Graphical objects can be grouped, styled, transformed and composited into previously rendered objects. Text can be in any XML namespace suitable to the application, which enhances searchability and accessibility of the SVG graphics. The feature set includes nested transformations, clipping paths, alpha masks, filter effects, template objects and extensibility.

SVG drawings can be dynamic and interactive. The Document Object Model (DOM) for SVG, which includes the full XML DOM, allows for straightforward and efficient vector graphics animation via scripting. A rich set of event handlers such as onmouseover and onclick can be assigned to any SVG graphical object. Because of its compatibility and leveraging of other Web standards, features like scripting can be done on SVG elements and other XML elements from different namespaces simultaneously within the same Web page.

Chris Lilley (chris@w3.org), Chair, and Dean Jackson (dean@w3.org), Team Contact, for the SVG Working Group.
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