I'm working with a bioinformatics visualization tool, which saves a biological pathway as an SVG image.

I now want to view the SVG image... but am having some trouble doing so. I tried opening it as a file in both Chrome and Firefox, but in both browsers it just opens a blank page. I clicked on "View page source" and I'm able to see the XML data of the SVG image, but still, I want to see the image itself as a graphic.

What's the easiest way to view the image as a graphic? I understand that I can embed it in an HTML page and view it that way... but that's not at all convenient, if I have to create an HTML page each time I save a pathway as an image.

By the way, I'm using a 64-bit Mac OSX version 10.8.4.

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    Browsers should be able to just show it. I wonder why that's not the case for you. Can you upload an example? – slhck Oct 31 '14 at 19:40
  • Yes I thought that Firefox or at least Chrome should be able to view it. Is there a way to upload on Superuser? Or would I have to upload on a temporary hosting site? – ktm5124 Oct 31 '14 at 19:58
  • No, sorry, but any file hosting site or Dropbox or something would be possible, of course. – slhck Oct 31 '14 at 20:00
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    I was able to open a smaller SVG file in Chrome. Could it possibly be the image size? The SVG file I'm unable to open is 20 MB. – ktm5124 Oct 31 '14 at 20:16
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    Have you tried opening it in Inkscape? – Darth Android Oct 31 '14 at 20:21

13 Answers 13


I am pretty happy with Gapplin. It can convert (export) SVG images to other image formats (e.g. PNG) too.

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  • Not available in the UK apparently :( – JMK Nov 26 '18 at 8:21
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    @JMK Thats weird, its available in Ireland anyway. I was able to download it from the App Store. – Gary Barrett Mar 20 '19 at 23:16

A simple way is to use preview in Mac, simply press space key on the keyboard.

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  • 2
    But does Preview work with SVG files? – Glorfindel Sep 23 '18 at 18:15
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    Mac spotlight (Command+SpaceBar) does preview for svg files. Although not the best solution. – jerrymouse Oct 1 '18 at 13:54
  • @Glorfindel it does for me in Catalina (I'm on 10.15.6; haven't tried other versions). – Sam Jul 17 at 15:11
  • My copy of Preview 11.0 (999.4) running on MacOS Catalina 10.15.2 does not open SVG files. I am pretty sure what's gong on here is that Billy Wang is talking about the (uncapitalized) image preview feature of Spotlight. (Spotlight is the thing accessed by pressing CMD-SPACE on Mac.) This is different from the (capitalized) Preview app, which is used for opening and manipulating image files. – Jess Riedel Oct 7 at 11:55
  • More precisely, Billy probably mean the preview in Finder, when you hit Space while a file is selected. – Florian Oct 14 at 12:13

I needed a nearly-portable solution to view SVG files (vector export from Google Drawings, which doesn't print large images well) since my Mac is locked down to prevent typical software installation, App Store access and Chrome extensions. Fortunately, I can run Homebrew. That led me to install Inkscape from Homebrew using this command.

brew install caskformula/caskformula/inkscape
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If you're part of the unlucky few where double clicking an .svg from Finder or opening it from the command line like open filename.svg just opens your svg file source in a text editor (and you wanted to see it visually), it appears possible to view them in a browser these days. What has happened is you installed a text editor and it "took over" as the default app to open for those file types.

Navigate in your web browser to its location, ex: file:///Users/my_username/... full URL should have look like file:///Users/username/folder/folder/my_file.svg you can start by just putting file:// in your browser URL then navigate to it.

This will "open it" visually in any major web browser. Alternatively right click on it in Finder and select "open with" and select a browser.

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There is a nice new free SVG editor with you can get from the Mac App Store or the Chrome Web Store. Give it a try, it's free now $9.99 on the App Store.

Boxy SVG - the scalable vector graphics editor

enter image description here

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  • 1
    macSVG is free + Open Source. – Bruno Apr 8 at 6:15
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    @Bruno sound cool, may give it a try, however I still using Boxy SVG to this day, so I very much recommend it ! – Laszlo Apr 9 at 19:07

GraphicConverter has always been my standby 'any format' viewer & editor - it does SVG too
Caveat: Not free & there may be other apps that can do it.

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  • I see. Yes we're looking for a free software (or browser function). – ktm5124 Oct 31 '14 at 19:57
  • Adobe used to make a viewer plugin... dumped summarily in 2009 adobe.com/devnet/svg/adobe-svg-viewer-download-area.html ... one reason Apple won't use Adobe formats natively, they drop support or change formats at any time. – Tetsujin Oct 31 '14 at 20:01
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    It might be time to be looking at a newer format, before you lose the ability to open/edit in future – Tetsujin Oct 31 '14 at 20:05
  • The software I use only lets you download the visualization in SVG format. – ktm5124 Oct 31 '14 at 20:39
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    I'd be inclined to poke upwards towards management, about a historic format - not going to be good for archiving – Tetsujin Oct 31 '14 at 20:47

I found that applications would refuse to open an SVG on OSX unless I gave it the correct extension. So I renamed the file to, in my case, pprof.svg. I was then able to "open with" Chrome.

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I just discovered SVG Converter by Ohanaware on the Mac App Store. It converts to a number of formats and can crop before converting. Opening an SVG image gives you a nice window that shows the image and conversion is optional.

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  • @Scott it does give a preview. This is where the cropping can occur. – Paul Waldo Oct 28 '18 at 12:04
  • Thanks for responding  and  editing your answer. – Scott Oct 28 '18 at 16:36

you can try this photo viewer to browse SVG images on Mac with ease.

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  • Almost went with this option, turns out I had "icon preview off" in finder view options. That solved my problem of dealing with hundreds of SVGs in a folder – Ray Foss Mar 28 '19 at 13:42

On macOS 10.12, I have been working with SVG files drawn using Inkscape and my own hand-written SVG files composed in a text editor.

Initially the Inkscape files would open as images in a web browser, in Preview, and via Quick Look (spacebar in the Finder), but my hand-written files would not. Instead they were displayed as raw source XML.

It turned out that the critical difference between the two was that my hand-written files were missing xmlns:

<svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" width=… …>

Once I added a namespace declaration to <svg>, macOS recognised my hand-written files as SVG images and displayed them as such.

Perhaps your bioinformatics visualization tool has also omitted this declaration?

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Quick no-install option:

  1. Preview it in finder with spacebar
  2. Maximize the window (top left)
  3. Take screenshot with cmd-shift-3 (wai
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I love the tool ImageMagick it is available from the apt repo for linix as well as a GitHub.

Edit: It is a simple command-line utility that utilizes the file extensions, or user flags to override to convert images, with the first file being converted (and copied ) into the second file in the argument list. Source: https://github.com/ImageMagick/ImageMagick

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    Explaining how this tool answers the question would make it more helpful. Also, please read our Help section where there's an article explaining how best to recommend software. – music2myear Apr 3 '19 at 22:38

For new versions of Chrome, it can render SVG files directly(I just tried with Chrome 79).

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