Inline SVG with jQuery


I've long been a huge admirer of SVG (W3C's Scalable Vector Graphics). As retina screens proliferate, SVG allows web developers to create images that look great on all screens, regardless of the resolution.

That's where most of my SVG use has been so far: using <img> tags and CSS background-image to achieve resolution independence.

However, SVG has other great features that make it worthwhile, and on a recent project, I had to use SVG for something entirely different: I had to use inline SVG to allow users to select and manipulate irregularly shaped objects.

Much to my dismay, jQuery 1.10 does not have great support for SVG.

Creating elements

jQuery has trouble creating SVG elements.

To work around this, I needed to drop from jQuery to native DOM APIs in order to create elements. So, instead of

// This doesn't work.
var root = $('<svg>')
	.attr('viewBox', '0 0 100 100');

I could use

// Instead...
var svgNS = '';
var root = document.createElementNS(svgNS, 'svg');
root.setAttribute('viewBox', '0 0 100 100');

Classes and attributes

jQuery also did not deal with classes and attributes correctly on SVG elements. So, instead of

// This doesn't work.

I tried

// Instead...
$('#my-shape').get(0).setAttribute('class', 'active');

Now, the problem with the above code is that I'm replacing all of the classes on my shape with a single "active" class. That means my shape will lose other classes that are unrelated to its state. And without jQuery, adding and removing classes is hard. Maybe I could have used element.classList, but that isn't supported in IE9.

But in my case, I needed to keep track of the SVG element's state, so I opted to use a new attribute instead. Since my shapes only have one state at any given time (a shape is either inactive or active), setting the state is exactly what I wanted, instead of adding or removing a class that represents the state.

// Or even this
$('#my-shape').get(0).setAttribute('data-state', 'active');


jQuery does deserve some credit. Events worked exactly as expected. Even event delegation.

$('html').on('click', 'path', function(e) {
	if (this.getAttribute('data-state') === 'active') {
		this.setAttribute('data-state', 'inactive');
	else {
		this.setAttribute('data-state', 'active');


And of course, it was the CSS that pulled this all together. Active shapes have one color, inactive shapes another color. This doesn't have anything to do with jQuery, but browsers seemed to handle this prefectly.

path {
	fill: red;
path[data-state=active] {
	fill: green;


jQuery's support for manipulating inline SVG still has some rough edges. But thankfully, all of its rough edges are not too difficult to deal with.