Friday, December 2, 2011

Text in Inkscape

Inkscape is a fantastic program for creating vector graphics. It is free, platform independent, refreshingly clean and efficient once your master some keystroke shortcuts, and amazingly powerful in terms of the things it can do for you.

It does have a few pesky features though, particularly with "text". For example there is no intrinsic way of creating subscripts or superscripts, and sometimes Greek symbols just do not render properly.

This post explains my workarounds.

1. Subscripts and Superscripts: While there is no natural way of getting these, you can always select some text, and then press Alt + arrow-key (up, down, left, or right arrows) to move the selection in that particular direction. Here is a screenshot of how that works.

2. Greek Symbols: You can try to select the Symbol font from the font dialog box, but very often, it won't get you anywhere. A handy but inconvenient workaround is to use Unicode. If you know the Unicode Standard (pdf), then you can directly enter the code of the particular character. For example, the symbol for "beta" is 03B2.
To enter this in Inkscape, first open a text dialog box as usual. Then press Ctrl + U. The status bar at the bottom of the screen prompts you to enter the code. You type 03B2 (or 03b2), and you will see it echoes the symbol "beta". You press enter, and the symbol is inserted near the text cursor.

3. LaTeX Support: Inkscape supports LaTeX expressions by default. I did not know this until recently, but you can go to Extensions > Render > LaTeX formula... (in some cases it may be under Effects > instead of Extensions >).

It opens up a dialog box, in which you can enter your formula. Inkscape calls LaTeX and con­verts the DVI out­put to SVG, and em­beds it in the document. Since it is a scalable equation (or any other LaTeX object), you can now interact with it natively in Inkscape.

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