Inkscape glossary

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This is a beginning of an Inkscape glossary. Please respect it and contribute to it if you work on Inkscape UI. If you are doing translations, please create and add a similar glossary for your language to the list in Template:ListTerminology.

Other languages: العربية Català Česky Deutsch English Español Français Italiano 日本語 한국어 Polski Português Português do Brasil Русский Slovenčina 中文


A good reference for SVG vocabulary is the SVG standard website (hosted by the W3C) itself.


  • Object: an independent editable thing on the canvas. May be a path, a shape, a text object, a group, etc.
  • Path: object, with nodes, but without handles. For example a line created using the Freehand tool.
  • (Live) Shape: an object that does not display nodes but may have controls. An example is a circle or star. A live shape can be converted to path by Convert to Path command.
  • Node: point of a path that you can manipulate with. If you use Node tool, then it is displayed as gray or blue (if selected) rectangle on a path. Shapes do not have nodes, only handles. Node can have one or two handles too - displayed as circles connected to node. They modify Bezier's tangents.
  • Handle:
    • One of two points around a node, displayed (for selected nodes) as a circle connected with its node by a line (node handles);
    • The arrows around the selected object in selector (scale handles, rotation handles);
    • Points on a shape that can be dragged by node tool to edit the shape, displayed as small white diamonds (shape handles);
    • The things that you drag on canvas to set the placement, direction, and size of a gradient or pattern (gradient handles, pattern handles). Internally this is called a Knot, but this is a deprecated term in user documentation.
  • Stroke: a visible outline of a shape or path. Not the same as path; a path may or may not have a stroke. If the stroke is present, it can be converted to path by Convert Stroke to Path command.
    • PowerStroke: the dependency of the stroke width on distance along the stroke. This is available from the Live Path Effects dialog.
    • Pattern along Path: the representation of a stroke as a sequence of arbitrary objects positioned along the path. Available by using either extensions (Pattern along Path, Scatter) or Live Path Effects (Pattern along Path).
  • Fill: is an optional attribute for objects and their strokes. It can be a color, a pattern, a gradient or even unset (no defined, allowing clones of the object to receive their own fill).
  • Pattern: a type of fill consisting of a repeating tiling of objects.
  • Gradient: a type of fill consisting of multiple colors. Radial and Linear gradients are available. Consists of two or more colors which have the intermediary shades colored by the computer. Each color that you assign to a gradient has a handle associated to it, the 'gradient stop'.
  • Text: readable symbols that stand for ideas. Can be modified and bent for many effects.
  • Group: a collection of objects that stay together. Individual elements can be edited by double-clicking, holding Ctrl and clicking, or ungrouping.
  • Layer: one vertical slice of an entire image. Imagine multiple pieces of transparent glass stacked on top of one another. One can draw on one, draw on another, and move them around separately without affecting each other.
  • Clone: a new object that has the exact same properties as the object cloned. Some of its properties can be separately edited from the initial object, but not all.
  • Gradient stop: a point in the course of a gradient which has been assigned a specific color. Color and position can be modified. The space between gradient stops is filled with a transition between both stop colors.


  • Document: the file as a whole. Objects, layers, effect, and everything are contained in the document.
  • Canvas: What the objects reside on. Only the canvas is visible. Objects placed off of the canvas are not visible.
  • Page: The area in the document that will be printed, and that will be displayed when you view the file using a web browser.
  • Grid: a regular arrangement of drawing guidelines. Objects can be snapped to it.
  • Guide: another drawing guideline which can be turned on and moved as desired. Objects can be snapped to it.

User Interface

Document window

The main window, displaying the Canvas, Menus, Commands Bar, Toolbox, Tool Controls Bar, Status Bar, etc. Note that the same instance of the program may have several document windows. Sometimes, program dialogs are referred to as "windows", therefore it is important to distinguish between them and the Document window.


Main part, with optional border, rulers and scrollbars


Bar at the top containing menu options e.g. File, Object.


To make the toolbar visible, select View -> Show/Hide -> Toolbar from the menu.

Selector tool

Shortcut: F1 or s
Shortcut: (Alt + ) Left Drag

Allows selection of objects with the mouse. Left-clicking on the object will select it. Clicking objects with "Shift" clicked will select additional objects. Clicking again on the object will enter rotation mode. Holding Alt and dragging the mouse around the canvas will produce a red line. All objects that this red line passes through will be selected. Dragging the mouse around the canvas without any other key will select the objects which are fully inside the rectangle opened by dragging.

Node tool

Shortcut: F2 or n

Allows editing of individual nodes in objects. Resizing shapes, morphing their shape.

Tweak tool

Shortcut: Shift+F2 or w

Zoom tool

Shortcut: F3 or z
Shortcut: Ctrl + Scroll Wheel

Allows the user to hold the canvas either closer or farther away. When the tool is selected it can be used two ways. The Left Mouse button can be dragged to create a box that will become the new screen size. This is to zoom in. Or the "Shift" button can be held, and the Left Mouse button can be clicked to zoom out.

Rectangle tool

Shortcut: F4 or r

Draws four-sided, 2-Dimensional polygons. The "Ctrl" key can be held to draw perfect squares.

Ellipse tool

Shortcut: F5 or e

Draws polygons with an infinite number of sides. The "Ctrl" key can be held to draw perfect circles.

Star tool

Shortcut: *

Allows stars and other multi-sided polygons to be created. The number of corners and the spoke ratio can be edited making it possible to create pentagons, stars, and pentagrams, each consisting of only one object.

Spiral tool

Shortcut: F9 or i

Creates spirals. The numbers of turns, the inner radius, and the divergence from normal inside spacing.

Pencil tool

Shortcut: F6 or p

(To preserve consistency, please do not refer to this tool as freehand tool. Pencil tool (freehand) is the better term.)

Draws lines like a pencil. Clicking and then clicking elsewhere creates straight lines. Clicking and dragging freehands. Pressing "Ctrl" and then releasing lifts the pencil. Dragging again will put the pencil back to the canvas. (in Inkscape 0.91, both parts of the path will be connected by straight lines.)

Pen tool

Shortcut: Shift + F6 or b

To preserve consistency, please do not refer to this tool as Bezier tool. Pen tool (Bezier) is the better term.

Clicking and then clicking elsewhere will draw straight lines. Clicking again will draw a line from the second point. Clicking and dragging will create the first half of a Bezier curve, the second half to be created a click later. Holding "Shift" while dragging will draw only one half of the Bezier curve and will continue onto straight lines afterward.

Calligraphy tool

Shortcut: Ctrl + F6 or c

Great for writing Japanese characters. A tablet is recommended as pressure sensitivity easily controls the thickness of the line.

Text tool

Shortcut: t
Shortcut: F8

The text tool creates text objects from keyboard input.

It has the following options that can be changed:

  • Font
  • Size of the font
  • Font options ( bold , italic )
  • Alignment ( left, center, right, justify )
  • If the text should be drawn horizontally or vertically

To make alignment easier you can left click and hold to select a area where the input should be aligned and then enter the text. This creates a flow text container (which, as of Inkscape 0.91 and SVG 1.1, is only supported inside Inkscape), which you can convert to normal text using the menu Text -> Convert to Text.

Gradient tool

Shortcut: g

Color dropper tool

Shortcut: d

Connector tool

Shortcut: Ctrl + F2

Paint Bucket tool

Shortcut: u

Eraser tool

Shortcut: Shift + e

3D Box tool

Shortcut: x

Commands bar

Beneath the Menu, with buttons for commands like New, Open, ...

Tool Controls bar

Beneath the Commands bar. Has the controls for the currently active tool. Note the capitalization. One should not refer to it as the "Tool bar," nor is it a "Tool" edition of the "controls" variety of "bar". It's proper name should be "Tool Controls" bar.

Status bar

Along the bottom side of the window



Dialog Boxes

From wikipedia: Dialog boxes are special windows which are used by computer programs or by the operating system to display information to the user, or to get a response if needed. They are so-called because they form a dialog between the computer and the user—either informing the user of something, or requesting input from the user, or both.

Fill and Stroke




Text and fonts

Align and Distribute

Tiled Clones


Document Properties

Document Metadata

Object Properties

XML Editor

Verbs (actions on objects)

on objects

  • group
  • ungroup
  • clip
  • mask
  • pattern
  • raise
  • lower
  • rotate
  • flip

on paths

create path(s) from object(s)

  • object to path
  • stroke to path
  • trace bitmap

boolean operations

  • union
  • difference
  • intersection
  • exclusion
  • division
  • cut

manipulate paths

  • combine
  • break apart
  • inset
  • outset
  • dynamic offset
  • linked offset
  • simplify
  • reverse

on texts

  • put on path
  • remove from path
  • flow
  • unflow
  • convert to text
  • remove kerning

on layers


Inkscape comes with many extensions which offer automated modification and creation of objects in the drawing. Users can also write their own extensions and share those with other users.


Filters modify the appearance of an object by mapping the rendered image to a modification of that image, obtained by pixel-based calculations.


Deprecated terms

These are used inside the code. Never use them for documentation.

  • knot (this may be a "handle", "control", "node" etc as seen by the user)
  • item (use "object")
  • desktop (use "canvas" or "document window" depending on context)
  • event contexts (they are known to users as "tools")

Words being used as verbs and names

Translators, pay attention to those words that can be used in the interface either as verbs or as nouns or even as adjectives

  • Group
  • Clone
  • Unset