Adobe Illustrator versus SVG Format

July 19th, 2009

For many years I've been an avid user of Adobe software, primarily Photoshop and Illustrator. Recently, however, I've become more of an avid user of open source software, primarily the Debian GNU/Linux operating system.

Unfortunately, Adobe does not offer Photoshop or Illustrator for linux based operating systems. There are free and open source alternatives for these packages, like Gimp, Inkscape, and sk1.

Like the open source programs themselves, the formats they use are open and accessible. Alas, the Illustrator format is not.

For years I justified the cost of Adobe software (it is NOT cheap) by calculating the amount of time its use would save me. This equation does not really cut the mustard anymore for me.

At the moment, I'm trying to extract data from an Adobe Illustrator file and it is proving totally impossible. I searched for programs to convert the .ai file to .svg and found a few options but nothing has worked so far.

This is especially frustrating for me because I own several copies of Adobe's Creative Suite but they are installed on our production art Macintosh computers in Boston while at the moment I am in Washington DC, using my preferred Debian GNU/Linux machine.

Yes, I realize that .ai files can be opened as PDF's, but the PDF does not contain the real Illustrator data. Why not? Is this a lame attempt by Adobe to insulate their customer's against competition as Microsoft did too successfully for so many years? I hope not. I would really prefer to think that Adobe's executives are smart enough and believe that focusing on user friendliness and functionality is a better investment than forcing them into using their software.

So what am I doing? I'm not sure yet. I'll probably have to wait until this next week to get someone at my office in Boston to convert the Illustrator file to an SVG file with the Illustrator program. From there, I should be able to manipulate it as necessary.

UPDATE: I believe that there are two solutions:

  1. Use Illustrator to export the file to SVG format.
  2. Use Illustrator to save the file in Illustrator format, but no later than version 8. Uniconverter might be able to convert the Adobe Illustrator 8 file to SVG.
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