[pdftex] SVG Graphics

George N. White III gnwiii at gmail.com
Sat Jun 11 18:56:16 CEST 2011

On Sat, Jun 11, 2011 at 9:58 AM, John Culleton <john at wexfordpress.com> wrote:

> Getting back to the original topic, we can already insert graphics in a
> variety of formats. But two of the most useful formats, svg (vector) and
> TIFF (bitmap) are not included. Is it more difficult to handle these than to
> handle eps and jpg?

Look at the state of tex packaging.  Over the years, many attempts to
package a tex distro have failed.  The packages available in mainstream
linux distros are for TL2009.  We need ways to simplify the problem of
packaging a distribution, but at present, even if the changes were made
to pdftex today, it would be years before a majority of systems would
get the changes.

Adding support for graphics format conversion invariably raises problems
of portability and security.   3rd party libraries are often needed to
support a new graphics format.  These libraries may not be available
on all platforms, may have security problems, and may not work for
all examples.  All this increases the workload for packagers and the
people who decide what to include in their linux distro.

The fact that nobody provided the patches to support these formats
when pdftex was under active development may be a hint that it is
not a trivial task and/or that too few people are interested and able to

Some of the people who could provide these patches won't be allowed to
contribute to open source because it would compete with commercial
products made by their employers.

There is a much broader community of people who need to convert
some arbitrary graphics format to pdf.  As a result, there are many
free tools that handle the easy cases, and a few that handle one or
two of the more difficult cases.   If you have a collection of figures in
formats that are not supported by your tex engine. you should be
able to find 3rd party tools that will convert them reliably and efficiently.
If not, the problem is not with XXXtex, but with the 3rd party tools.

> Color and hyperlinks have been available in pdftex for many years. Their
> inclusion is not IMO a weakness but a necessary modernization.

Historically, color and hyperlinks often failed to work as expected.  Current
systems have eliminated most of the glitches, but if you want things to work
on an arbitrary debian or redhat packaged configuration (which will at best be
TL2009, may not have updates that were made to TL2009, and might even
be based on tetex) you can expect to encounter old bugs, which brings us
back to the problem of packaging.

I should mention that there is an alternative to packaging (as shown by the
ConTeXt minimals): pick a platform and a guru.  Give the guru a range of
documents to format and let them assemble a working system using
current sources.  Then provide a server from which the resulting working
system can be copied into user workstations.

George N. White III <aa056 at chebucto.ns.ca>
Head of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia

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