28 Oct 2009 badger   » (Journeyer)

Wanted: C++ Programmer to work with Inkscape upstream

One of the things to have emerged from the hallway track at the Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit was the need for a robust, featureful, free software whiteboarding tool. This would allow people to collaboratively work on project design, model workflow, and do things more visually than the current round of instant messaging, pastebins, collaborative text editors, and voip.

Currently, I know of two potential competitors for this. The first is Coccinella, a tcl program that does free-form drawing with a few caveats. Here's what mizmo, one of the main Fedora Design Team Members has to say about it:

For free-form drawing, Jabber-based Coccinella gets me close, but it's a little clunky and when people join a meeting late they don't get to see what was drawn on the whiteboard before they joined. I'd like it to automatically snapshot the whiteboard at various points and synchronize the snaps with the text conversation and automatically email me a report.

Additionally, coccinella doesn't have many of the tools that make diagramming, flow charting, and other, more structured drawings easier. For this, many artists use inkscape. Inkscape allows artists and designers to make mockups and quickly prototype new designs. At least a few open source developers also use it for making charts and diagrams to visualize their program's structure and execution. It would be great if we could collaborate on these over the Internet using inkscape's rich toolset. This is where the inkscape whiteboard plugin enters the picture.

The whiteboard plugin, inkboard, was written as a GSoC project in 2005. Although there's been some work on it since then, development has not kept pace with the rest of inkscape. Currently, it is disabled in the configure script since it doesn't work. However, I talked with inkscape developer Jon A. Cruz at the Mentor Summit and found that all is not lost. Although someone is needed to step up and work on inkboard to bring it back, recent changes in the core of inkscape will make it easier to implement. Removal of id tags in the SVG that bloated the image size and caused potential conflicts between two synchronizing inkscape programs as well as incorporation of a new XMPP implementation should make the next version of inkboard easier to write and more robust.

Now where do you come in? From time to time someone will write me an email that says, "I've been using Linux for years and now I want to give back to the community. I've got programming experience in C++, how can I help?" This is your chance to step up! Contact Jon or subscribe directly to the inkscape developers mailing list. Check out the inkscape code from svn. And then get hacking!

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