I've just tried importing fairly regular architectural plans as PDFs into inkscape to mark them up only to see it freeze and be generally slow performing half of the actions.

That's caused by inkscape trying to translate all vector objects into its native svg objects while other programs like AutoCAD for example just "reference" them without importing them into the file, which is fast and speeds up working with large vector objects a lot. I don't see an equivalent option for inkscape to "reference" a vector PDF? I can't just rasterize the vector PDF as my work requires precision of vector objects.

Give me the hard truth, I'm ready - it's not possible isn't it? I've gone through this trauma already trying to "link" svg files. Fire away...

  • Does this answer your question? In Inkscape, can I link to a pdf/svg instead of embedding its content?
    – Luciano
    Commented May 6 at 13:39
  • @Luciano not really, this way of linking creates only an image of a PDF/svg that can't be snapped to or exported as vectors for further processing. It's only a workaround imho. I need to have access to the actual vector objects and their information without the overhead of importing them. Commented May 6 at 13:48
  • 3
    I would advise against using Inkscape for this, except perhaps in an emergency. It doesn't play well with vectors generated by CAD software. To be honest with you, the problem is likely how everything is constructed and not being native SVG. Inkscape is literally an SVG editor, it's Inkscape's native file format, so anything you want to edit must be converted to SVG first. Also note that PDFs are not really intended as an editable format either, and even though Inkscape can import them, they will be so messed up construction wise, that you will most likely have problems editing them.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented May 6 at 14:29
  • The linked question means the question was already asked before and that workaround is the only way to reference PDFs. As Billy said, inkscape is not the best tool to accomplish what you're trying to do.
    – Luciano
    Commented May 7 at 8:26

1 Answer 1


Let me assume two things. You want to keep working with free software. And you do not need to modify the vectors.

Try Scribus which can import vector PDF. Remember that there is not one flavor of PDF but many, so probably some things will not be properly imported.

An option is to rasterize, but of course, you need to control the resolution.

  • Scribus can reference PDFs directly including technical drawings in the exact way I'm looking for (and would have been a better reference than AutoCAD), however it lacks vector editing capabilities necessary to prepare markups. To answer my question there would need to be a way to replicate this functionality in inkscape directly. Commented May 8 at 15:37

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