Doubtless you've heard me going on and on about SVG in the past month or so. Why? Because I think it's an amazing addition to our skills toolbox. Until I learnt of SVG I would have said that creating data-driven graphics in a webpage is a costly/painful affair involving the likes of, the now defunct, Macromedia Generator Server. With SVG, it couldn't get much cheaper or easier. In fact, I just checked with a rocket scientist and he agrees, it isn't rocket science.
What is SVG:
Officialy, SVG is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics in XML. It is also described as an "XML application". What that means is up to you. To me, it makes more sense if you read is as "an application of XML". Indeed, SVG is merely XML and therefore plain text that you can write in any old text editor. This means we can get Domino to create it on the fly. Hence my excitement.
It may help you to think of SVG as an extension of the HTML that we already know so well. Think of it like this - In HTML we have a set of tags that we use to layout and present information in our pages. Things like <table> and <hr> and <ul> are all used to create a certain look. Think what it would be like if, in amongst all of this, there were extra tags like <circle>, <rect>, <line>, <polygon> and <path>. You can use combinations of these and other elements to draw a picture of absolutley anything. In other words:
Using SVG on your pages:
Because SVG is one of the W3C's Web standards, it's as much as part of the Web as XML and HTML are. It doesn't belong to a corporation who can pick and choose what they do with it. It's completely open. For this reason you can expect to see a variety of methods by which you can make it available in the browser and a variety of software environments you can use for its creation.
As hard as it is to try and predict the future of the internet, I like to think there will come a day where SVG lives alongside HTML as part of a page's source. In fact there is already a project underway within Mozilla to support inline SVG. Until the day that they all do we have to rely on the browser using a plugin that is capable of rendering the SVG in the page. At the moment the defacto is Adobe's and is currently in version 3.
If you haven't already, then download yourself the plugin as you'll find it hard to carry on without it. Now have a look at their section showing SVG "in action". You shouldn't need any more convincing after that. I was sold anyway, as was my boss.
To include an SVG image in your page you use an <embed> tag like below.
<embed src="simple.svg" width="300" height="300" type="image/svg+xml" />
No harder than adding a normal image to a page is it ...
There is a myriad of stuff out there so I won't bother to go in to much more detail as I'm sure you want me to get to the point. A good starting point for anything else you want to know is the SVG Wiki.
A nice little example:
The image on the left is of the SVG code from the boxed area below. I used this as I often see these three symbols used to represent a database and that's what Domino is, is it not. It's also a nice simple example of using three of the SVG elements. Click on the image or on this link to open the actual SVG in your browser.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<svg width="300" height="300">
<g id="db-symbol" style="stroke:#000000">
<rect x="20" y="130" width="140" height="140" fill="#41B8D4"/>
<circle cx="200" cy="200" r="70" fill="#FFFF5C"/>
<path d="M 150,60 L 60,180 L 240,180 Z" fill="#F555A8"/>
So, what does it all mean? Well, the format of the code should look familiar to us all. After all it's in SGML format, the same as any HTML and XML is. The purpose of each element and its attributes should also be fairly obvious. Note that the order in which each object appears in the code dictates its z-index in the image.
The only element that may not be so obvious is the <g> element. This is used to group all the objects that it contains in to one component. It's then easier to do things like applying the same styling to lots of objects, as I've done in the above.
The most important of the above objects is the <path> element which is the most versatile. We can use it to draw pretty much any shape. The main paramater to it is "d" which takes a value in a format similar to:
M 150,60 L 60,180 L 240,180 Z
Where, M = Move to, L = Line to & Z = Close. So here we have - Move to the x,y coordinates 150,60. Draw a line from there to the x,y coordinate 60,180 and from there another line to 240,180. Finally, close the shape, to make a triangle. This is only a simple example and It's well worth learning how it works in more detail. Especially if you're interested in following any future article I write on this subject as the path object will feature heavily in all of it. Also get to know more about how the whole coordiante system works as it's not quite as straight-forward as it might appear.
Using it all with our old friend Domino:
Domino is a database and hence it stores data. Having racked my brains, the only logical application of SVG with Domino that I can think of is the graphical representation of this data, i.e charts. They may sound like the most boring of all the things we could use this new technology for but they are probably the most useful. If for nothing else, think of how happy they will make your boss. Bosses love charts, as do most end-users who have to deal with data on a day-to-day basis. If we can give them what makes them happy then that can't be bad can it.
To create a chart of any kind we simply have to take the data we have and turn it in to pieces of an SVG image. In the case of a chart this is simply a case of creating a path for each segment of data. Let's take an example of a bar chart and see how we would create it.
Imagine a database which contains documents that record the sales of each region per month. So, for a year, there are twelve documents, each with a field to record the sales in North, East, South and West regions. An example of the data in such a document would be:
To draw the chart we first have to find out which region has the largest sale. If the chart is 200 pixels high and the largest region is South with €40,000 then 40,000 is equivalent to 200 pixels as we want the largest bar to take up the maximmum height. Now we make all other regions relative to the heigh of this one. For example, the North region had sales of €30,000 so it will only be 3/4 the height of the largest - or (200*30,000)/40,000, which makes it 150 pixels high compared to the tallest bar which is 200 pixels. Likewise, the East region is half the height and the West is (200*15,000)/40,000, or 75 pixels high.
So, if x is the value we want to represent and max is the greatest of all the values then the height of any bar can be worked out using ((height*x)/max) where height is the available height of the chart.
You can see this simple theory in practice in the chart I used to represent the distribution of goals scored for each group of this year's World Cup in Japan & Korea. It's online here and I will describe how I achieved this using just simple @Formulae in a future article. Drawing chart like line and pie charts is a different matter but the theory is equally as simple and that too will be covered in future articles.
How can we actually do this:
All this is very well but it doesn't really prove much does it. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. Well, you'll have to stay hungry for a little bit longer as this article is long enough as it is. Hopefully it's been enough to illustrate why I am so excited about it and why I think it's worth our time looking at it.
The way in which you actually create the chart that you require depends on how complicated it is and on how comforatable you feel with different technologies. The methods we have available to us as Domino develoeprs range from using simple @Functions or slightly more complex LotuScript to parsing the data as XML with XSL Transformations.
In the next group of articles I've got planned I want to try and talk about them all, starting with simple methods and moving on to the more powerful. Which one you choose to use is down to you.
Whilst there are not nearly as many resources out there as there is with Flash, there is still quite a few and interest continues to grow. Here are a couple to get you started:
The SVG-Wiki - http://www.protocol7.com/svg-wiki/
Adobe's KnowledgeBase - http://support.adobe.com/devsup/devsup.nsf/svgkb.htm
In the same way that you would find the majority of Notes developers on the LDD you will find most SVG developers are at the SVG Developers Yahoo group. They are a very helpful bunch, as are those at LDD.