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Why Do I Want SVG in My Web Viewer?

by | Sep 10, 2014

Higher Resolution, crisper images now available in your friendly, neighborhood browser

SVG (scalable vector graphics) is a recently supported browser image format that dramatically enhances document display quality on the web. In contrast to the previously available bitmap formats supported by browsers (GIF, JPEG or PNG) that store and draw images as dot patterns, the SVG XML format draws documents in lines and arcs (vectors). This allows the display of highly accurate and crisp text, lines, graphs, and charts without any pixelation when zooming. PDF, Word and other text-based documents and CAD drawings all benefit.

Since any line or arc can be described as a simple set of parameters that include length, thickness, color, curvature and position, any vector image can be described by a small number of XML instructions. Therefore, SVG content can generally be encoded in far less space than bitmap images. SVG documents can also describe any length line or arc without varying size , whereas bitmap formats–depending on the format sophistication*–can increase with line length or complexity because more pixels may need to be encoded.

The benefits of superbly crisp documents and smaller file sizes are truly exciting benefits for web viewing. Coupled with HTML5 viewing technology, there can be no need to install any application for document viewing; it all can be done with the browser.

Of course, what image type you start with matters. Embedded images such as JPEGs or TIFFS within an SVG document can’t improve because they are still bitmaps. However, CAD images (almost always vector-based), text (PDF, Word, AFP) and most charts can be drawn as vector documents. Also important is the server-side processing necessary to create the SVG documents. Not all technologies do it equally well. A PDF that is rendered imperfectly on your server into a browser compatible SVG will look bad, no matter how good the browser’s SVG technology might be.

One of the most exciting benefits of the SVG format is that many modern browsers now support the format out of the box. This allows the creation of web viewers, preferably HTML5, which can display very high quality images in a browser by rendering SVG files. For the browsers below, any downloaded SVG document can be readily displayed:

• Internet Explorer 9+
• Firefox 4+
• Chrome 4+
• Safari 4+
• Opera 9.5+

It is important to note that few conversion programs or applications create SVG output. Therefore a vendor that offers format to format conversion and can output to SVG is needed. Once that is done, documents with embedded SVG documents can be downloaded and displayed.

Other Benefits: Display Independence
SVG Documents will automatically display to the ideal resolution of the display device (monitor, tablet or smartphone) without any special processing and without the need for encapsulating multiple document versions with varying resolutions.

SVG is the way to go
Businesses are always actively working to increase the availability and quality of documents via the web. From bank statements to property titles to health records, the goal is to more quickly and efficiently provide customers with necessary information. By reducing client requirements to a browser running on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, the number of customers that can be serviced is greatly increased. Additionally, the level of support required in the past when stand-alone applications needed to be installed on the client is dramatically reduced when browsers are the only application software required.

The combination of HTML5 viewers and SVG format support means an installation free method of quickly servicing customers with any type of document while still maintaining excellent readability and response.

* Some formats like TIFF reduce file size by having pixel encoding algorithms that reduce a line of dots to a formula. For example, a line of 50 dashes or dots could be encoded as 50 x 1 meaning draw a dash 50 times rather than including all 50 characters in the image.