SVG, PDF and ImageViewer

Various questions come up about the relationship of SVG to PDF. Are they complementary technologies or competitive technologies? In which usage scenarios should I use one versus the other?

Recent developments at the W3C might be changing the landscape. The W3C is looking into printing-related enhancements to the SVG language. The W3C has posted a document entitled "SVG Printing Requirements" (, which indicates that several printing-related features (e.g., multiple pages, CMYK and spot colors) might be included within SVG 1.2. Do these developments mean that SVG is on a path towards being a full replacement for PDF, or do these developments simply allow SVG and PDF to integrate better within a common workflow?

Another interesting development is a recent addition to Adobe Acrobat. As of version 5.1, Adobe Acrobat Reader includes an ImageViewer plugin which uses SVG technology to display fullscreen multimedia slideshows created by the Adobe Photoshop Album. What is the significance of this first attempt to add SVG technology directly into the world of PDF?

This talk will address the above questions by doing a comparison of SVG and PDF, both from a technical perspective and from a marketplace momentum perspective. The talk will look at the two language both from a "competitive" and "complementary" perspective.

The competitive perspective will address the question of when it is more appropriate to use SVG and when it is more appropriate to use PDF, factoring in likely changes to the SVG language as SVG 1.2 develops, particularly in response to the SVG Printing Requirements. There is clear technology overlap between SVG and PDF, but there are also significant technical differences, with the result that for some things SVG is clearly the choice, for others PDF is clearly the choice, and it is possible to use either in many other cases. In some cases, marketplace momentum will be more important than technology issues. There are some huge momentums behind both languages, and sometimes these momentums are more important than technology issues.

The complementary perspective will address the question of how SVG and PDF can be used in the same workflows. One common workflow has an SVG graphics template feeding into server-side XML transformation tools (e.g., XSLT), ultimately producing final-form PDF documents. (This is the common usage scenario for the Apache FOP project.) ImageViewer represents another example of SVG and PDF in the same workflow, except that SVG and PDF are applied to the same document at the same time.