The SVG specification is an open standard that has been under development by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 1999. SVG images and their behaviours are defined in XML text files. This means that they are able to be searched, indexed, scripted and, if required, compressed.
Since 2001, SVG has progressed from version 1.0 to 1.2 and has been modularised to allow various profiles to be published, including SVG Print, SVG Basic and SVG Tiny.
All modern web browsers except Microsoft Internet Explorer support and render SVG markup directly. To view SVG files in Internet Explorer (IE), users have to download and install a plugin. The most common IE plugin is provided by Adobe Systems. Adobe intends to discontinue development and support for this product at the beginning of 2009, although it will still be available for download. In order to reap the benefits of the SVG standard, but still support IE users, some web sites use programs like RSVG automatically to provide 'rasterised' versions of their SVG graphics to IE browsers, while still delivering the full versions to all other visitors. Alternatives to the Adobe plugin are also available for IE users who are aware of the limitation and wish to view the original graphics.
SVG files can be edited with any text editor, but specialist SVG development environments are also available. These offer a wide range of specialised and general-purpose features.
Being an efficient, widely understood and flexible image format, SVG is also well-suited to small and mobile devices. The SVG Basic and SVG Tiny specifications were developed with just such uses in mind and many current mobile devices support them.
SVG has been in development since 1999 by a group of companies within the W3C after the competing standards PGML (developed from Adobe's PostScript) and VML (developed from Microsoft's RTF) were submitted to W3C in 1998. SVG drew on experience designing both those formats.
Graphical objects can be grouped, styled, transformed, and composited into previously rendered objects. SVG does not directly support z-indices that separate drawing order from document order for objects, which is a drawback with respect to other vector markup languages like VML. 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.
The majority of search engines until recently did not index title or text content in svg files. It is not immediately apparent why indexing remains limited.
http://www.openicon.org provides both a text and graphical means to search for svg icons. The openicon search engine is in development.
http://www.openclipart.org maintains the original text only search engine, it displays thumbnails for some results.
While being primarily designated as a vector graphics markup language, the specification is also designed with the basic capabilities of a page description language, like Adobe'sPDF. It contains provisions for rich graphics, and is also compatible with the CSS specification's properties for styling purposes; thus, unlike XHTML and XSL-FO which are layout-oriented languages, SVG is a fully presentational language. A much more print-specialized subset of SVG (SVG Print, authored by Canon, HP, Adobe and Corel) is currently a W3C Working Draft.
Scripting and animation
SVG drawings can be dynamic and interactive. Time-based modifications to the elements can be described in SMIL, or can be programmed in a scripting language (e.g., ECMAScript). The W3C explicitly recommends SMIL as the standard for animation in SVG, however it is more common to find SVG animated with ECMAScript because it is a language that many developers already understand, and it is more compatible with existing renderers. A rich set of event handlers such as onmouseover and onclick can be assigned to any SVG graphical object.
SVG images, being XML, contain many repeated fragments of text and are thus particularly suited to compression by gzip, though other compression methods may be used effectively. Once an SVG image has been compressed by gzip it may be referred to as an "SVGZ" image; with the corresponding filename extension. The resulting file may be as small as 20% of the original size.
SVG 1.1 became a W3C Recommendation on January 14, 2003. The SVG 1.1 specification is modularized in order to allow subsets to be defined as profiles. Apart from this, there is very little difference between SVG 1.1 and SVG 1.0.
SVG Tiny 1.2 became a W3C Candidate Recommendation on August 10, 2006. SVG Full 1.2 is a W3C Working Draft. SVG Tiny 1.2 was initially released as a profile, and later refactored to be a complete specification, including all needed parts of SVG 1.1 and SVG 1.2. SVG 1.2 Full adds modules onto the SVGT 1.2 core.
SVG Print adds syntax for multipage documents and mandatory color management support.
Because of industry demand, two mobile profiles were introduced with SVG 1.1: SVG Tiny (SVGT) and SVG Basic (SVGB). These are subsets of the full SVG standard, mainly intended for user agents with limited capabilities. In particular, SVG Tiny was defined for highly restricted mobile devices such as cellphones, and SVG Basic was defined for higher-level mobile devices, such as PDAs.
Neither mobile profile includes support for the full DOM, while only SVG Basic has optional support for scripting, but because they are fully compatible subsets of the full standard most SVG graphics can still be rendered by devices which only support the mobile profiles.
SVGT 1.2 adds a microdom (μDOM), allowing all mobile needs to be met with a single profile.
SVG is an application of XML. An SVG file is therefore a simple
text file, which can be viewed and edited as can any other markup.
The SVG 1.1 specification defines 14 important functional areas or feature sets:Paths
Simple or compound shape outlines drawn with curved or straight lines can be filled in or outlined (or used as a clipping path) and are expressed in a highly compact coding in which, for example, M precedes the initial numeric X and Y coordinates and L will precede a subsequent point to which a line should be drawn.Basic Shapes
Straight-line paths or paths made up of a series of connected straight-line segments (polylines), as well as closed polygons, circles and ellipses can be drawn. Rectangles and round-cornered "rectangles" are other standard elements.Text
Unicode character text included in an SVG file is expressed as XML character data. Many visual effects are possible, and the SVG specification automatically handles bidirectional text (as when composing a combination of English and Arabic text, for example), vertical text (as Chinese was historically written) and characters along a curved path (such as the text around the edges of the Great Seal of the United States).Painting
SVG shapes can be filled and/or outlined (painted with a color, a gradient or a pattern). Fills can be opaque or have various degrees of transparency. "Markers" are end-of-line features, such as arrowheads, or symbols which can appear at the vertices of a polygon.
Colors can be applied to all visible SVG elements, either directly or via the 'fill', 'stroke' and other properties. Colors are specified in the same way as in CSS2, i.e. using names like black or blue, in hexadecimal such as #2f0 or #22ff00, in decimal like rgb(255,255,127) or as percentages of the form rgb(100%,100%,50%).Gradients and Patterns
SVG shapes can be filled or outlined with solid colors as above, or with color gradients or with repeating patterns. Color gradients can be linear or radial (circular), and can involve any number of colors as well as repeats. Opacity gradients can also be specified. Patterns are based on predefined raster or vector graphic objects, which can be repeated in x and/or y directions. Gradients and patterns can be animated and scripted. Clipping, Masking and Compositing
Graphic elements, including text, paths, basic shapes and combinations of these, can be used as outlines to define both 'inside' and 'outside' regions that can be painted (with colors, gradients and patterns) independently. Fully opaque clipping paths and semi-transparent masks are composited together to calculate the color and opacity of every pixel of the final image, using simple alpha blending.Filter Effects
The use of SVG on the web is in its infancy; there is a great deal of inertia due to the long-time use of pure raster formats and other formats like Adobe Flash or Java applets, and browser support for SVG is still uneven. Web sites which serve SVG images, for example Wikipedia, typically also provide the images in a raster format, either automatically by  content negotiation or allowing the user to directly choose the file.
There are several advantages to native support: plugins would not need to be installed, SVG could be freely mixed with other formats in a single document, and rendering scripting between different document formats would be considerably more reliable. At this time all major browsers have committed to some level of SVG support except for Internet Explorer which will also not support SVG in the upcoming version IE8 . Other browsers' implementations are lacking in consistency and completeness. See Comparison of layout engines for further details. As of 2008, only Opera and Safari support embedding via the tag.
Opera (since 8.0) has support for the SVG 1.1 Tiny specification while Opera 9 includes SVG 1.1 Basic support and some of SVG 1.1 Full. Since 9.5 alpha 1 Opera has partial SVG Tiny 1.2 support.
Browsers based on the Gecko layout engine (such as Firefox, Flock, Netscape, Camino, SeaMonkey and Epiphany), all have incomplete support for the SVG 1.1 Full specification since 2005. The Mozilla site has an overview of the modules which are supported in Firefox and an overview of the modules which are in progress in the development. Gecko 1.9, included in Firefox 3.0, adds support for more of the SVG specification (including filters).
Adobe provides SVG Viewer, the most widely used SVG plugin, but plans to discontinue support on January 1, 2009. SVG Viewer will remain available for download after this date. The plugin supports most of SVG 1.0/1.1. Adobe SVG plugin support for pre-3.0 versions of Safari is for PowerPC only. User-reported issues include lack of a scrolling feature, to enable viewing of any area of the SVG lying outside the visible area of its containing window.
KDE's Konqueror SVG plugin release is KSVG. KSVG2 was rolled into KDE 4 core, making it native-rendering. (SVG finds increasing use on the KDE platform: this system-wide support for SVG graphics in version 4 follows early support for SVG wallpaper at version version 3.4.)
Corel once offered an SVG Viewer plugin, but has ceased development.
Support in applications
Images are usually automatically rasterised using a library such as ImageMagick, which provides a quick but incomplete implementation of SVG, or Batik, which implements nearly all of SVG 1.1 but requires the Java Runtime Environment.
The GNOME project has had integrated SVG support throughout the desktop since 2000.
Images drawn in OpenOffice.org Draw can be exported as SVG. Import filters are available to import SVG images into OOo documents.
Adobe Illustrator supports both the import and export of SVG images. Photoshop, however, does not support SVG import. When writing SVG files Illustrator embeds a complete copy of the image in a proprietary format for later reediting. This often results in changes being lost if another editor is used then the file is reopened in Illustrator.
MathematicaExport function supports SVG versions 1.0 and 1.1
Cairo is a vector graphics based library which can generate SVG. It has bindings for many programming languages including Haskell, Java, Perl, Python, Scheme, Smalltalk and several others.
On mobile, the most popular implementations for mobile phones are by Ikivo and Bitflash, while for PDAs, Bitflash and Intesis have implementations. Flash Lite by Adobe optionally supports SVG Tiny since version 1.1. At the SVG Open 2005 conference, Sun demonstrated a mobile implementation of SVG Tiny 1.1 for the CLDC platform.
Mobile SVG players from Ikivo and BitFlash come pre-installed, i.e., the manufacturers burn the SVG player code in their mobiles before shipping to the customers. Mobiles also can include full web browsers (such as Opera Mini and the iPhone's Safari) which include SVG support.
The level of SVG Tiny support available varies from mobile to mobile, depending on the manufacturer and version of the SVG engine installed. Many of the new mobiles support additional features beyond SVG Tiny 1.1, like gradient and opacity; this standard is often referred as SVGT 1.1+.
Nokia'sS60 platform has built-in support for SVG. For example, icons are generally rendered using the platform's SVG engine. Nokia has also led the JSR 226: Scalable 2D Vector Graphics API expert group which defines Java ME API for SVG presentation and manipulation. This API has been implemented in S60 Platform 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 onward. Some Series 40 phones also support SVG (such as 6280).
Most Sony Ericsson phones beginning with K700 (by release date) support SVG Tiny 1.1. Phones beginning with K750 also support such features as opacity and gradients. Phones with Java Platform-8 have support for JSR 226.