Adventures with Inkscape

I needed to create and edit some graphics on a machine without my favorite graphic editor (CorelDraw!) recently. I’d used Inkscape before, so I downloaded the current beta (0.47 pre3) and gave it a spin.

Now, Inkscape is Open Source, and doesn’t seem to be sponsored by anyone with deep pockets like OpenOffice and Mozilla are. So, we can expect some limitations or shortcomings due to the nature of the development process.

To my Corel-centric view, it has a lot of good features and logical keyboard shortcuts. The interface looks good, and  I like the zoom-pan features.

Inkscape’s native file format is Scalable Vector Graphics. SVG is a standard backed by the W3C, published in 2003. It is XML-based, and it seems to be pretty capable.  Not only is the file format open and standard, it is text based. That means that any XML editor (or even Wordpad) can be used to examine or tweak a file.

It happily opens  PDFs and lets you save them in SVG or any of its other formats. The beta version I tested didn’t seem to save as PDF, but version 0.47 does.

It claims to open CDR (CorelDraw!) files, but that seems to be broken in this installation. Time to get a newer release.

Anyway, this was to generate some illustrations for a manual.  The manual is written in Word, because that what the customer wants. Therefore, I need output files for Word. Word doesn’t like SVG. The best vector compromise (for documents that may be printed from Word to non-PS printers) is EMF or WMF. Unfortunately, this version seems to leave embedded bitmaps out of EMFs and barfs when trying to output WMFs.

Well, if I can’t have a good vector file, what about Raster? It turns out that Inkscape can output a pretty good PNG with all data present. It certainly takes care of any potential font issues!

For now, the summary is: Works well, limited in output formats. Tune in again for updates.
Testing 0.47 release version, PDf works and the rest is the same. Lots of good, but still some major shortcomings for Word users.

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