Recording and Visualizing History for Vector Graphics

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We are researching ways to visualize the editing history of vector graphics documents. We want to test our software prototype on many types of illustrations, and we need your help!
Inkscape users of all levels.
Help MIT researchers advance the state of the art in computer graphics and human-computer interaction.
Contribute to work to make digital graphic design more flexible, fun, and forgiving of mistakes. Bonus: Get persistent undo!
It's easy!:
1. Download our custom version of Inkscape.
2. Use it as you normally would to create illustrations.
3. Save the editing histories and send them to


To get started, download the compiled package below. At this time, executables are only available for Windows, but we plan to support other platforms in the future.
Full compiled bundle (105MB). This .zip file includes everything you need to run our version of Inkscape on Windows. This version is up to date with Inkscape 0.45.1. Uncompress the archive, then run inkscape.exe.
We provide the source code as well. Please keep in mind that this is research, not production, code and will require clean-up before it's ready for release. We are making it available now, with no guarantees, due to a number of requests. We highly recommend using the compiled package for now. Update: Daniel Genrich has updated our patch and posted it to the tracker: patch.

Official releases of the unmodified package can be downloaded from the Inkscape webpage.


As part of the
graphics and UI research at MIT, we are developing methods to visualize the editing history of a vector graphics document. To the right is an automatically-generated "storyboard" that depicts the actions used to create a simple Inkscape illustration (inset). Arrows and icons depict translations, rotations, and color actions. The storyboard facilitates such useful features as selective undo and visualization of collaborative editing sessions. (Stay tuned for news about these projects!) The aim of our work is to make the process of design on the computer more flexible and more forgiving of user error.

We want to test our storyboard prototype on many types of illustrations, and that's where we need your help! You can contribute by using our custom version of Inkscape to save the history of your documents.
How to Use Persistent Undo
We have compiled a custom executable that supports persistent undo. It allows you to save the full state of a document across editing sessions. When you save a document named foo.svg, the history (i.e. undo stack) will automatically be saved to file named foo.svg.undostack.txt. When you next load the document, the history is also loaded, so you will be able to undo actions you made in the earlier session. Any subsequent actions in this session are written to the history file with the next save. It's that simple.

Our code is up to date with
Inkscape 0.45.1, so the changes should be transparent to the user. You should be able to use all other features of Inkscape as you normally would.

Our executable writes the undo stack to a human-readable text file on your computer. An entry in the undo stack consists of the name of the action (e.g. "Fill color change") and its parameters: the object to which it is applied (e.g. "Path2160") and old and new values. It's important to note that only the undo stack is saved by our new feature. No keyboard or mouse activity or other personal information from your computer is ever recorded.
How to Contribute
Please help us develop our visualization methods by sending us your saved histories. Send your documents (.svg extension) and their history files (.svg.undostack.txt extension) to

In your email, let us know of any usage restrictions on your illustrations. In the future, we hope to publish our findings in an academic research conference, and we would like to showcase examples by real artists. Please let us know if you would be open to this use or if you prefer that your documents be for our internal research use only. We will not publish your illustrations without your consent.

In our research, we have focused on illustrative figures, such as those used in slide presentations. We would particularly appreciate receiving examples of this type or clip art. Fine art illustrations with a high degree of complexity raise scalability issues that are, unfortunately, beyond the scope of this work.



We take privacy seriously. Our program writes only the undo stack to a human-readable text file on your machine. Absolutely no interaction data, that is no keyboard or mouse activity, is ever recorded. No personal information from your computer will be recorded. Our executable contains no "phone home" feature; the only way for us to receive your data is for you to email it to us.

The data collected will only be for our internal research use, unless we receive your express permission. We will not publish or display your documents or history data, except in anonymous aggregate form, without your consent.


Contact Us

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about what data is recorded and how it will be used, if you want to share your experience using the persistent history feature, or if you have any thoughts about the visualization project. Email the team at

We are members of CSAIL, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
[ Summary | Download | Details | Upload Files | Privacy | Contact Us ]