Let the Search for the Holy Vector Grail Commence
I have a weakness for grand projects that exude a kind of Tower of Babel odor. The grander and more difficult to achieve, the better. So I'll resist the temptation to invoke the name of Saint Jude Thaddeus in relation to a recent initiative to create a universal vector graphics translator. On the contrary, I wish this Open Source software project, driven by Scratch Computing, all the best. Wouldn't we all like to live in a world in which the current profusion of graphical file formats was more manageable?
The "uber-convertor," as it's dubbed, will ideally ease conversion between as many flavors of vector graphic file formats as possible. Eric Wilhelm, the founder of Scratch Computing, sees the solution as a universal "hub" format that can be translated between any of the other vector formats. Following that approach, each file format just requires two convertors to be able to convert between any other format. According to Eric, "Users invest a lot of time in creating artwork and other vector graphics data. They need to be able to access that data with multiple programs so that they can use the right tool for the job." Can't argue with that.
The project got a shot in the arm recently via the sponsorship of the English graphics application firm Xara Corp. Xara is no slouch in the vector graphics space, being best known as the creator of the cult Windows vector illustration app Xara X, a new version of which is rumored to ship this month. Xara recently stepped up to the vector plate with a $10,000 project sponsorship, which should help move things along.
Of course, there's always tangible corporate interests at play in such sponshorships. Charles Moir, CEO of Xara, says, "We hope by sponsoring this project to bring some compatibility between the Xara and Inkscape products while at the same time progressing the idea of a universal Open Source vector graphics format converter." What's Inkscape, you say? Another Open Source project, this one a vector graphics app that's based on the perennially almost-but-not-quite-popular SVG format.
Personally, I'm pleased to increasingly see the energy of the Open Source approach show up in the graphics domain, at a point when users are becoming jittery about the increasing concentration of application development power in just a few players. Whether Open Source graphics projects will get enough traction to really provide production-grade alternatives to the usual suspects, I'm not sure—although efforts like GIMPshop seem to point to this being a possibility. In any case, hats off to Xara for giving this initiative a boost.