I am the founder administrator of a large Hindi language public wiki called Kavita Kosh. This Mediawiki based website is the largest Unicode resource of Hindi poetry on Internet. While working on this wiki in my spare time -I realized that Mediawiki discards the transparency from GIF and PNG images if they are used in a wiki website. So, I was wondering how Mediawiki based websites like Wikipedia manage to display icon images so nicely. I got the answer after a bit of research. Wikipedia icons are created as scalar vector graphics (SVG). Mediawiki keeps the transparency features of these SVG files in order to use them as icons.
What are SVG images?
Scalar Vecor Graphics is a W3C recommendation based on XML. It specifies 2D vector graphics and also how to save them as a file. Cutting the jargon, SVG is a way of producing 2D graphics wherein the whole image is defined as XML tags. Isn't it amazing?!
Behind every SVG file, there is XML… its just like every HTML page has a source code behind it.
Because SVG images are essentially XML text files -these images could searched, edited, indexed or compressed like any other text file. Also, unlike bitmap images, SVG images do not deteriorate when enlarged or shrunk. These images could be made animated as well. For more information about SVG you may refer to Wikipedia.
Though SVG could be created and edited using any text editor -there are tools available that help in this task. One such tool is Inkscape.
Inkscape is an open source software for SVG image editing. I found it amazingly good. It has most of the features that graphics editing tools should have. Personally, I very much liked it's ability of drawing calligraphic text, 3D boxes, spirals, stars and polygons. The XML source is automatically generated in the background and you can manually edit it if you really need to.
Inkscape is a great tool. I would wish if it provides a facility to somehow save the created SVG images in formats such as JPG, GIF and PNG as well.
I will further explore Inkscape to learn its features. The idea of designing SVG images and then using these light-weight files is exciting.