More on SVG

August 28th, 2010

The first IE9 Platform Preview unveiled IE9’s initial support of SVG. As explained previously, SVG is a vector image format managed by the W3C. The release of the third and fourth Platform Previews come with feature-complete SVG. Major additions include support for SVG gradients, patterns, clipping, and masking. These features are often used to create images with depth and texture and are typically found in more complex SVG files. Just like the rest of SVG in IE9, the newly added features are fully hardware accelerated. This results in impressive performance especially for computationally complex features such as clipping and masking. We continue to work with the SVG Working Group to resolve ambiguities in the SVG 1.1 2nd edition specification and to ensure that IE9’s SVG implementation is interoperable.

9 Things I <3 About SVG

SVG’s benefits are multifaceted. It’s an incredibly flexible and powerful format that is ideal for a variety of use cases. Here are just a few of the reasons why SVG can play a critical part of the HTML5 web:

1. Scale-ability

An obvious benefit of SVG is scalability, as evidenced by the name Scalable Vector Graphics. This makes it an ideal format for maps, charts, and graphs – graphics where the detail is as important as the overall picture. With SVG, the fidelity of the graphic is maintained at all resolutions. A company logo or website icon can be created once and used many times in different places or sizes. The same image no longer needs to be saved at multiple resolutions, each tailored towards a specific purpose. Maps often need to be viewed as a whole in addition to being able to selectively see sections in detail. Currently, a common format for maps is a PDF file. This format makes it easy to to scale the map to different sizes,print at many resolutions with full fidelity, and provides the user with the ability to search within the document. SVG has all of these positive qualities natively supported; no plugins are required. Preset views of the same document can even be defined to make navigation to different sections simpler.

2. Script-ability

SVG is supported by a rich DOM, making it easy to script and manipulate SVG with Javascript. Because SVG shapes are graphic objects akin to HTML elements, SVG scripting uses common patterns that web developers already understand. SVG elements can take event handlers; they can be modified via the DOM or by the DOM L2 Core setAttribute() and getAttribute() methods. All attributes that describe the SVG element can be modified, from position to color to the shape of the element. The example below demonstrates how event handling and scripting can be used to create interactive SVG.

Your browser or viewer does not support xhtml with svg, view this post in IE9 or another browser to use the examples. Get IE9 Platform Preview.


var colors = ["orange", "black", "yellow", "red", "blue", "fuchsia"];
var curColor = 0; function alternateColor() { var circle = document.getElementById("myCircle"); curColor = (curColor + 1) % colors.length; circle.setAttribute("fill", colors[curColor]); circle.setAttribute("stroke", colors[curColor]);


<svg xmlns="" height="150" width="150"> <circle onclick="alternateColor();" cx="75" cy="75" r="50" fill="orange" stroke="orange" stroke-opacity=".5" stroke-width="10" id="myCircle"/>

3. Style-ability

There are several ways to include SVG on a webpage. The <embed>, <object>, <iframe>, <img> tags can reference an SVG file. SVG can be included via CSS as a background-image or a list-style-image. To really integrate SVG with the page, it can be included inline in XHTML or HTML5. Standalone SVG documents and inline SVG have the advantage of being fully incorporated in the webpage. The SVG is treated just like other HTML elements and is styled with the same CSS block that styles the entire page. Websites – complete with icons, logos, navigation UI, and other SVG graphics – are skinnable with stylesheets alone. A print stylesheet can even be applied to your SVG images to allow more control over the appearance of the image on paper. Take a look at the example below. If you’re using a browser that supports SVG, you can switch between stylesheets to see how SVG images can change just by altering a simple stylesheet!

4. Search-ability

SVG is a format based on XML, so it’s composed of elements and attributes that are human-readable. Text in an SVG file shows up as text in markup. The XML format enables users to search the document for text, which is not possible in the more traditionally popular GIF and PNG image formats. For developers, the text-based format means that text in SVG images is surfaced to search engines. With this information, a website can be more comprehensively indexed and found by the right people. For example, a flow chart can be picked up by a search engine without requiring the web author to transcribe every panel of the chart.

5. Accessibility

In addition to the searchable aspect of SVG, another benefit of the text-based format is accessibility. Unlike raster images which can have a single, all-encompassing title text and description, the <title> and <description> elements can be applied to any SVG element. A web author can provide a description for each individual component in addition to the whole document, providing a more detailed description  while making it easier to understand. An SVG document has structure to it, which can enable a clearer understanding of it. Additionally, the “focusable” attribute can be added to make it easy to tab through select portions of the SVG.

6. Decorative Text

SVG is not restricted for use on graphically intense websites. It can be used throughout an HTML5 or XHTML file. It’s a terrific option for decorative text headers. SVG text can be styled in more ways than HTML text. Gradients and patterns can be used in SVG text. SVG text can also be stroked, unlike HTML text. Compared to raster images, SVG text is much more flexible for editing. Used in combination with a CSS block, text across many areas of the document can be given the same appearance, much like HTML headers today. And with IE9’s support for WOFF, you can even apply the same WOFF font used elsewhere on your page! SVG text can be rotated or laid out along a custom path. Overall, SVG text enables more flexibility and creativity in text on a webpage. Try the example below to see how easy it is to create decorative text!

7. Data-Driven/Server-Generated SVG

SVG is an XML specification, making it a good target format for server-generated images. Server-generated XML is fairly common; RSS and Atom feeds are a couple of examples. Maps, charts, and graphs often draw from a store of data. SVG is already a prime candidate for these types of documents. With the ease of XML generation, SVG really shines as a fantastic format for creation of these informational images.

8. Seamless Browsing Experience

One of SVG’s advantages over alternative 3rd party plug-ins (such as Flash or Silverlight) is native browser support which offers several benefits. To experience SVG on the web, users don’t need to install add-ons. Built-in support is convenient for the user and reduces exposure to potential add-on vulnerabilities. SVG is hardware accelerated in IE9, offering a smoother interactive and viewing experience for users. Additionally, SVG offers better integration with page markup, DOM, and script to provide for a consistent programming model and better user experiences.

In IE9, SVG is treated much like an image today and matches user expectations of an image: it can be saved into the PNG and BMP raster image formats; it can be copied and pasted into a Word document or Powerpoint presentation as a rasterized version — much like PNGs, JPEGs, and GIFs found on the web today; it can be set as a desktop background; printing SVG is just like printing an image. The browser also takes advantage of the benefits of SVG: it can be saved in the SVG format; it can be copied and pasted into Inkscape for editing as SVG; SVG text is searchable. Native support for SVG makes it easier for users to have a consistent browsing experience.

9. Familiarity/View Source

Because SVG is an extension of XML, learning SVG is merely an adaptation of XML/HTML knowledge that many developers are already familiar with. Many of us learned HTML using a browser’s View Source feature with Web sites we admired. SVG works the same way: View Source on a SVG file or an HTML5 file with inline SVG, and you can see, learn, and understand how an SVG graphic was made. And SVG elements work with IE9’s  debugging tools. As such, SVG is a web technology that is easy to pick up.

Additionally, several commonly used tools – such as Visio or Adobe Illustrator – are already capable of outputting SVG files. Inkscape is another fantastic tool for creating SVG; it specifically targets SVG as an output format and is free to download.  Using SVG on the web is a natural transition.

Call to Action

If you plan to use SVG on your website, you may also want to provide fallback behavior for browsers that do not support SVG. Depending on the context, it may be appropriate to use text, an image, or a combination of both to supplant the SVG. Remember to use feature detection, not browser detection to determine which format to display. SVG has an assortment of feature strings to describe SVG support for different modules. Using a try-catch statement and the hasFeature() method, you can determine if SVG is supported by the browser. For example:

try { if (document.implementation.hasFeature("", "1.1")) { // display SVG } else { //fallback behavior }
catch(e) { // fallback behavior

Alternatively, if you embed SVG on your page as separate .SVG files, you can use the take advantage of the <object> tag by placing your fallback behavior within as follows:

<object data="vectorPanda.svg" type="image/svg+xml"><img src="pandaFallbackImage.png"></object>

If you are already serving SVG in HTML5 pages on your website, make sure that your HTML5 pages have the proper doctype so the pages load in the desired Document Mode. With no DocType present, IE9 will render in Quirks Mode and your beautiful SVG content will not display. Including the HTML5 DocType is as simple as inserting <!DOCTYPE html> as the first line of your Web page’s markup.

If you’re serving SVG within XHTML or directly as SVG, ensure that your Web server is serving with the proper MIME types:
                XHTML = application/xhtml+xml
                SVG = image/svg+xml

Please try SVG in the Platform Preview and see how it can enhance your site! Let us know what cool ideas you come up with. We’d love to see them!

Jennifer Yu
Program Manager