I am working with Inkscape and vector graphics. My dilemma is the following:

I start by assuming that any vector object/image is essentially a vector path (straight or curved) with anchors (nodes) and handles to change the edges between the nodes. Curved paths are called Bezier curves, straight paths aren't. That said, a simple rectangle created in Inkscape is a called a basic shape and it can only be rescaled (its sides cannot be modified unless we use the command Object to path to convert it to a vector path). But isn't the rectangle (or any basic shape) also a vector object and, as such, shouldn't it be vector path with anchors and handles that we can tweak? Isn't everything we create in Inkscape (circle, rectangle, etc.), basic shapes included, a vector object which is equivalent to being a vector path?

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately, your assumption is wrong. Sorry. Inkscape is not just a vector image editor, it's an SVG editor. SVGs are a kind of XML, basically just code.

Some SVG shapes are not actually paths - they're SVG elements like this:

<rect x="21.1" y="54.6" width="34.3" height="18.6"/>
<circle cx="38.2" cy="103" r="12.9"/>
<ellipse cx="38.2" cy="142" rx="16.4" ry="7.5"/>

As you already said, you can of course turn these into paths if you want. In Inkscape select a shape and do Path > Object to Path. This will convert the shapes into actual vector paths, something like this:

       d="m 21.061296,54.616585 h 34.26923 v 18.5625 h -34.26923 z" />
       d="M 51.046873,103.16467 A 12.850962,12.850962 0 0 1 38.195911,116.01563 12.850962,12.850962 0 0 1 25.34495,103.16467 12.850962,12.850962 0 0 1 38.195911,90.313711 12.850962,12.850962 0 0 1 51.046873,103.16467 Z" />
       d="m 54.616585,141.71754 a 16.420673,7.4963942 0 0 1 -16.420674,7.4964 16.420673,7.4963942 0 0 1 -16.420673,-7.4964 16.420673,7.4963942 0 0 1 16.420673,-7.49639 16.420673,7.4963942 0 0 1 16.420674,7.49639 z" />

As you can see, there are situations where an SVG element is preferrable. It can for example help reduce the file size of SVGs, also SVG elements are editable in the sense that you can easily change their parameters, something that's not so easy if you just have paths.

There are also other benefits to leaving shapes as shapes in Inkscape rather than converting to paths. Circles can be edited as segments, and polygons and stars can be adjusted with controls, and rectangles have adjustable curved corners, etc. If you convert these to paths, these functions are no longer possible.


enter image description here

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    All makes more sense now to look at a basic shape as a SVG element in Inkscape. I even read that HTML files are a kind XML too even if I thought that XML came after HTML. Both XML and HTML are text files with instructions.... Aug 22, 2021 at 13:21
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    Very cool and clarifying, thanks. I am learning about XML which seems to be getting replaced by JSON, at least I read. It is a neutral language to transfer data between machines in the sense that machines with different software architectures can exchange the data and have the tools to parse that data into their own understandable language. XML, HTML, doc files are all text-files. I guess the difference is their type of metadata and encoding and the commonality is that they can all be opened and modified with a text editor. Aug 22, 2021 at 14:00
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    @BrettCooper I've given you some upvotes to help with your rep score. Forgot to say welcome to GDSE by the way!! Keep asking! Keep contributing!!
    – Billy Kerr
    Aug 22, 2021 at 14:13
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    @Moini - I know. I already alluded to that in one of my comments where I called it Inkscape-specific XML, which is used for some of the functionality. I was trying not to go deep into that in my answer, so as keep it simple.
    – Billy Kerr
    Aug 22, 2021 at 23:34
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    @BrettCooper no, HTML isn't XML. They're just related by common descent from SGML. There was something called XHTML which was HTML as a subset of XML, but it's been effectively dead for ~10 years.
    – hobbs
    Aug 23, 2021 at 2:30

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