Inkscape: The Free Vector Graphics Editor

Inkscape LogoInkscape is an Open Source software dedicated to Vector Graphics edition. It is using the standard SVG natively to store the creations. A couple of days ago, a new version of Inkscape was release, the version 0.44. Do not mistake the “0.xx”, this software is already usable and stable.

This article will try to explain what are Vector Graphics and what Inksape can do for you. In addition, we will summarise the new enhancement of Inkscape latest version and finally see how to install it on your Ubuntu distribution.

Vector Graphics

The basics behind a vector graphic image are that every displayed information is a geometrical primitive (either a point, a line, a circle, etc.). So a vector graphic image is based on multiple mathematical equation that describes its content. The advantage of such a technique is fewer data to store in a file to describe the image, one can continuously zoom in and the image quality remains good. On the other side, it is not possible to have photo-realistic images based on vector graphics.
This is different from an image taken from your digital camera which is bitmap oriented. The image is store in a form of a table where each square corresponds to a pixel out of the millions your camera is able to take. For each square, you have a value representing the colour.

Here is an example of the differences between vector and raster graphics. The original image is a compass (it is here in PNG format, which is a raster graphic, for display purpose), and the two other images are the same detail of this compass magnify 8 times, first based on the vector graphics representation, second based on the same compass but in raster mode.

Compass in full resolutionCompass magnified 8x from a SVG (vector graphic) fileCompass magnified 8x from a BMP (raster graphic) file

A Language for Vector Graphics: SVG

SVG is an open standard defined by the W3C. This standard uses XML to describe two-dimensional graphics and graphical application. SVG allows three types of graphical objects: vector graphics, images and text. An SVG drawings can be dynamic (or animated) and can handle interaction, thus making it a graphical application.

Inkscape uses SVG as its standard to save vector graphics.


Inkscape is an Open Source vector graphics editor.

Installation on Ubuntu Dapper

Installation for best performance

For best performance, it is advise to download and compile the source yourself. Here is a small guide to help you how to do those steps. Be sure you have read the Conventions explained in the About page before proceeding.

Open a Console under Applications->Accessories->Terminal, and type the following:

$ sudo apt-get build-dep inkscape
$ sudo apt-get install liblcms-dev libboost-graph-dev build-essential

Now go and get the Inkscape source. And continue with the installation, it is assumed that the downloaded file is in your home directory.

$ tar jxf inkscape-0.44.tar.bz2
$ cd inkscape-0.44
$ export MY_FLAGS="-O3 -march=pentium-m -mmmx -msse2 -mfpmath=sse -fomit-frame-pointer"
$ CFLAGS=${MY_FLAGS} CXXFLAGS=${MY_FLAGS} ./configure --with-gnome-vfs
$ make
$ sudo checkinstall


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