Adobe pitches graphics standard

The proposal could result in better quality Web-based graphics that do not require specialized plug-ins or viewers.

Mike Ricciuti Staff writer, CNET News
Mike Ricciuti joined CNET in 1996. He is now CNET News' Boston-based executive editor and east coast bureau chief, serving as department editor for business technology and software covered by CNET News, Reviews, and Download.com. E-mail Mike.
Mike Ricciuti
2 min read
Adobe Systems (ADBE) said today that it has submitted a proposal to the World Wide Web Consortium that could result in better quality Web-based graphics that do not require specialized plug-ins or viewers.

The Precision Graphics Markup Language (PGML), created in conjunction with IBM, Netscape Communications, and Sun Microsystems, is used to define Web page-based images, graphics, and animation, according to Adobe.

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The PGML spec is being pitched to the W3C as a standard way for handling vector graphics, which differ from common bitmap graphics formats such as .GIF and .JPG. Vector graphics are defined as a series of objects, any piece of which can be manipulated individually. Bitmaps are larger blocks of code that cannot be segmented.

"The big challenge is getting images down to a reasonable size," said Ted Simonides, director of Web product marketing at Adobe. With vector graphics, instead of transmitting a large image, you transmit the description of the image to a Web browser or printer, which then draws the image. "You don't have the issue of transmitting the large image itself, " he said.

The specification builds on Adobe's PostScript and portable document format (PDF) standards, said the company, meaning that few changes will be necessary to make existing PostScript and PDF applications PGML compliant.

PGML is best suited to graphics such as bar charts, logos, and screen graphics, like push buttons. Simonides sees PGML coexisting with current image file formats. "The idea is to support PGML graphics as inline images, as .GIFs and .JPGs are currently supported in Web browsers."

Simonides said Adobe has worked with Netscape, which plans to support PGML in a future release of its Navigator Web browser. The company has also held discussions with Microsoft about adding support to Internet Explorer. "They are interested in participating, and they have some ideas of their own. That's why it seemed best to work with the W3C," he said.

Until browser support for PGML materializes, Adobe will most likely issue an ActiveX or Java component that would function as a browser add-on to support PGML graphics. No release date for the component has been set.

PGML is compatible with XML (extensible markup language), which was recently recommended as a standard by the W3C. XML, related to HTML, is a system for defining, validating, and sharing document formats on the Web. PGML also works with other specifications for building graphics-intensive Web pages, including CSS (cascading style sheets) and DOM (document object model).

According to Sun's JavaSoft division, PGML is based on the same imaging model as the Java 2D application programming interface due with Java Development Kit 1.2. That means PGML graphics will work on Java-based systems.

The PGML specification proposal is in initial draft format.

The W3C is forming a working group to hammer out the final PGML spec, Simonides said. If all goes well, the consortium will eventually vote on whether to recommend PGML as an approved standard.