Tools to Visualize and Edit SVG Paths (Kinda!)

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

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It was brought up at the SVG Summit the other day, wouldn’t it be nice when working with SVG to be able to work with it both ways at once?

  1. See and edit the code, and see the results visually
  2. See and edit the visual shapes, and see the code change

There might not be the perfect one true tool, but there are certainly some ideas getting there!

Anthony Dugois’s SVG Path Builder

I’d embed the Pen here, but you really need a bit more space to play with it. Here’s a video of how it works:

It shows you the code output, but you can’t adjust the code to see the changes back in the visual part. It still does an incredible job of showing you the different types of curve commands available in the SVG path syntax.

Yann Armelin’s SvgPathEditor

I’m adding this in May 2020, and I think it’s the closest one to perfect!

Copy and paste some path data in there and it just works. You can play with the visual area, dragging points and curve points around, or edit the path data itself, or, the path data broken out into a form with individual controls.

Sten Hougaard’s SVG manipulate paths

A Pen by Mr. Hougaard has some pre-set curves that you can drag around and play with.

It doesn’t just give you the data, but also gives you a complete element. It’s also one-directional, no changing the code by hand.

Varun Vachhar’s XVG

This Chrome extension doesn’t let you see the SVG code or let you manipulate anything, but it does show you the points and curve handles that make up an SVG anywhere you find one on the web, giving you a bit of a behind the scenes look.

It’s really cool how you can invoke this anywhere. It would be great to see it evolve with interactive manipulation capabilities and show the output of those changes.

Bennett Feely’s Clippy

Clippy isn’t SVG, it’s for CSS clip-path, but I think you’ll easily see how this kind of UI would be very cool for SVG manipulation and seeing the code as you do things.

Ana Tudor’s Cubic Bézier curve with SVG

This one I can embed right here:

No editing of the code directly, but it’s very clear from the interactions what parts of the code you are changing when you manipulate the SVG curve control points.

Brent Jackson’s Paths

Adding this one! I’m so glad it was pointed out because it seems like the closest thing to being able to edit on both sides: code and visually.

Graphics Software: Visual Only

Remember the point here is searching for UI that connects the idea of visual editing and code editing. Vector editing software like Adobe Illustrator is visual only in that there are tools to manipulate graphics visually, but you don’t know how that is affecting the code.

You can export the code and look at it, but that’s not the realtime connection we’re exploring here.

Code Editors: Code Only

Code editors like CodePen help tie together code and visual output:

But it’s still a one-way street. You can’t do anything with that visual side other than look at it.

Awaiting the Perfect Tool

Lots of choices; nothing perfect! Nothing that I’ve seen, yet, ties together perfectly code editing and visual editing as equal first-class UI citizens.