What are Vector Graphics?
The idea behind vector graphics is pretty simple, although of course the process is much more complicated. But unlike with the raster images where the they store image information using pixels which would make them look really ugly when we zoom them to levels other than the file originally contains (say that we zoom it to 1000 pixels where the file has an original pixel threshold of 500 pixels for instance)...
But with vector graphics, the image is not "defined" using pixels or in "fixed" values. In other words, a vector images contains its information in mathematical formulas. The raster images (the ones with fixed pixels) are already drawn. But Vectors, it's not already drawn but contains information about how to draw the image itself.
It's like giving an already drawn picture to an artist, and asking him to make it bigger, to do that the poor lad has to do it from the scratch (figure out the colors, angles of the pencil lines, etc). But if we gave him all the details on how to draw it, then he can create it at any scale much easier, because he doesn't have to "figure out", much. That's how I get it anyway :P.
So with vector graphics the ability to zoom is unlimited because you're not given an already drawn picture but directions on how to draw it. But this also takes us into one of their "disadvantageous", shi*!.
To zoom or to view a Vector image, it'll take much more CPU/RAM or more system resources from your PC/Laptop, when comparing with the "already drawn" raster images because the computer has to "draw" the image (live) rather than just displaying the already drawn classical raster images.
Anyhow, let me come back to the main topic, as I was saying in GNU/Linux world, Inkscape is one of the most popular vector based graphics creating software. It's very powerful, rich in features... easy to use, and it is pretty good at what it does.
For the sake of this post let me give you guys few of its,
*. Intuitive GUI (written using GTK+ toolkit) which resembles many other graphic software interfaces, easy to get familiar with.
|Ahh, the "Vector Girl" ;-)...|
*. Fully featured toolbar - Font tool, Pencil tool, Rectangles, 3D objects, Ellipses and Circle tool, Clone, etc.
*. Inkscape fully supports importing raster images such as Bitmaps to your current project as well.
*. And a lot of styling tool such as - Solid color filling, stroke fill, change the opacity of the colors, filters to enhance the vector image itself, etc are included by default.
*. Scripting support.
*. RDF editing.
*. Uses the SVG format for storing 2D grahpics.
*. Mathematical diagramming.
*. SVG structure editing ability... are just a very very few of its main features to mention.
If you use Ubuntu 10.10, 10.04 or the latest 11.04 Natty Narwhal, you can install Inkscape by using the below command in your Terminal.
sudo apt-get install inkscape
If you use the above Linux command, it'll install software that are officially released, or stable releases. But, whenever an updates are visible yet still in their beta stage, then you cannot have them by using the above method.
So even if the updates are in beta stage still they are quite important ones, you can use the below "testing PPA" to get the latest builds (trunk)of Inkscape in Ubuntu.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:inkscape.dev/trunk
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install inkscape
This should give you the latest versions of Inkscape (0.48.1), but remember, these are not stable releases, so use at your own risk. Although there is a "stable PPA" available for that too, but it's not ready yet. So be patient, you Vector geek :).