# Graphics for Scientists - Part 4 - Vector File Formats

07 Aug 2014 | tags: science, graphics

This is part of a series of posts about producing publication quality graphics. See here for the introduction and links to other parts.

In part three I went through the major raster image formats. Here I’ll run through the most common vector ones and some advantages/disadvantages.

## Vector Formats

### EPS (.eps)

Encapsulated PostScript has been a standard “publication/print quality” vector format for many years but it is not well known outside of professional publishing. The EPS format is now very old (it a derivative of PostScript, released in 1982) so is not very advanced but still maintains strong support from publishers.

• widely accepted industry standard

• poor software support*
• no support for layers
• no support for transparency

### PDF (.pdf)

You’ll be familiar with Portable Document Format (PDF), particularly for written documents, but PDF is also a very good vector format.

• perceived to be difficult to edit/create (they aren’t!)
• poor software support*

### SVG (.svg)

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) are a relative new comer. Originally designed as an open standard vector format for the web they are becoming more common for general graphics work, although I don’t know of any publishers that accept them directly. In essence they are text file that is interpreted into an image so they can easily be compressed in a lossless manner and even searched. For example, the brief code below defines the image beneath it. However, in general you create them with a graphics package.

<svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" version="1.1" width="160px" height="160px">
<rect x="5" y="5" width="150" height="150" fill="rgb(127, 127, 127)" stroke-width="5" stroke="rgb(0, 0, 0)" />
<circle cx="80" cy="80" r="50" stroke="rgb(0,0,0)" stroke-width="1" fill="rgb(127,127,255)" />
</svg>


• open standard resulting in high uptake
• can be viewed with most web browsers
• supports transparency etc

• not commonly accepted by publishers
• some compatibility issues when opening files created in different software
• no “real” layers
• poor software support*

### WMF/EWF (.wmf/.emf)

Windows/Enhanced Metafiles are Microsoft’s own vector format.

• good software support
• easily created without specialist software (MS Office will do)