I really enjoy editing vector graphics. Typically I use Inkscape for editing vectors because Illustrator seems to throw so many errors when reading the files. I understand that an SVG is basically specialized XML and that it is an open format for vectors.

  • I am curious if anyone understand why Illustrator has so many problems using .svgs? Is it just that Illustrator doesn't do well parsing the XML or does Adobe not to support open formats?
  • Hi and welcome to GD. I have never had much problem with svg in illustrator. When you say Illustrator throws many errors, do you mean that you get error messages, or that the image does not let you do what you want to, or that somehow Illustrator "misread" the image elements? Hope you got my point here :-)
    – benteh
    Jan 24, 2014 at 15:55
  • 2
    Oh, and by the way, is there any way you could show us some images of the problems?
    – benteh
    Jan 24, 2014 at 15:57
  • The issues I have experienced have specifically been with rendering the SVGs and getting error messages about not being able to render the content. So I'll open an svg file and the artboard will look blank but when I select all I see the vectors but the color/stroke information has all been lost. I'm not on the computer that has Illustrator at the moment but I will try to find some examples as soon as I get home.
    – Chromarush
    Jan 24, 2014 at 16:35
  • When I try and open this file in Illustrator, I get the following message: "There are too many nested groups than allowed in Illustrator. The file may not open correctly". Inkscape opens this file just fine.
    – JohnB
    Jan 24, 2014 at 17:02
  • 1
    If that's the problem you're referring to then I'm not sure we can answer why this is the case, but perhaps how to deal with it. As boblet said, giving us the actual error message with help us focus on the problem
    – JohnB
    Jan 24, 2014 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


Illustrator started as a professional print-only application. It was made for professionals creating pieces designed to be fed to an imagesetter and put on press. It was a print production tool and really not much more. There was no internet when Illustrator was created. No mobile devices. No UI development to really speak of. So, Illustrator was built on Adobe's new postscript language core. At version 10 things were changed and it's been a PDF core since then. SVG has never beed a primary concern for Illustrator.

The problem is SVG has been an infant, niche, technology for most of Illustrator's life. I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a time when Adobe contemplated dropping all SVG support from Illustrator due to lack of interest. It has only been in the last 3 to 5 years, with the advent of iOS and Apple's unyielding push to HTML5 that SVG has become more prevalent and its virtues more widely recognized. Remember Macromedia (and as of 2005 Adobe) had Flash. That was the go to app with SWF rather than SVG before Apple decided not to incorporate Flash into iOS. Apple effectively killed Flash opening the door for SVG.

Adobe, being a monster of a corporation with the mentality to fit that, is always 5-7 years behind current trends. So, SVG support in Illustrator is nowhere near what lighter, smaller, more nimble, application developers can support. You'll have to give Adobe a couple more years to catch up to yesterday. :)

Also realize that compared to other, similar applications, Illustrator is a monster. It doesn't even preform as well as other Adobe applications. It's really not multi-core aware and never even touches a GPU. Out of all the Adobe applications Illustrator is (at least here) the slowest of the herd. Because it's so old and has had so many features woven in and out of it's base code over 20-25 years it's very prone to the "make this change and that breaks" issue. It took Adobe 3 years to get Illustrator to a 64bit aware state. That's 3 years after almost all other Adobe apps were 64bit aware. Expecting Illustrator to support SVG features developed within the last 3 years is a dream that will most likely never happen.

If you really need good SVG support, I'd suggest Inkscape. Unlike Illustrator, it's built on an SVG core and therefore tends to support more SVG features. Of course Inkscape doesn't have the editing versatility of Illustrator, so it's a trade off. You could always work in AI, then save as EPS for Inkscape and refine in Inkscape.

  • Thank you for the response! I often do use Inkscape and really enjoy using it for SVGs. This does begin to explain the situation.
    – Chromarush
    Jan 24, 2014 at 18:46
  • Ironically (?) Adobe was big on SVG prior to the Macromedia buy out. At which time they ditched it as fast as they could as they owned Flash...which was then subsequently shunned by the internet and now they're scrambling to get back up to speed with SVG. :)
    – DA01
    Jan 24, 2014 at 20:22
  • also definite +1 for inkscape. I do miss the days of both Freehand and Illustrator where I'd work on a project in both back and forth, using what each product excelled at.
    – DA01
    Jan 24, 2014 at 20:24
  • @DA01 your'e right, if it weren't for the Macromedia Flash era Adobe wouldn't have any svg tools in Illustrator at all. The ones that are there have been the same ones all along. :)
    – Scott
    Jan 24, 2014 at 22:34
  • Thanks for the vivid explanation. I do like the "monster" illustrator, as this application puts emphasis on ergonomics: I often need only a single mouse click in illustrator, where I am need three in inkscape. This being said, not being able to collaborate with colleagues using inkscape is a major drawback. Import of SVGs into illustration usually results in 5-10% of the graphics elements being corrupted, rendering this impossible to work with.
    – bmf
    Feb 3, 2017 at 16:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.