Using Inkscape with Illustrator files

 I was recently asked to do a quick localization project for a certain non-profit where I received a business card template in Adobe Illustrator format and had to create a Japanese version of the card for their local representative here. I don’t own a personal copy of Adobe Illustrator (CS5 list price in Japan 84,000 yen or about US$1000.00) so I faced a decision. I could do one of four things:

1. Download the trial version, use it for this short project then uninstall
2. Pay about $500 for the academic version (but would probably end up with Japanese software)
3. Download a pirate version from a torrent site (OK, this is not the right option for a Christ-follower)
4. Turn to open source alternatives

Option #1 looked good but it only works once per PC and also leaves registry bloat behind after the uninstall. Because I like open source software (always free) and because I happened to know about a great alternative to Illustrator, I decided to go with option #4.

Tools required:





How I did it

After installing the lastest Inkscape (currently at version 48.1) I found that Inkscape imports ai files natively pretty well. I was able to import the Illustrator CS4 file containing the business card template with no problems. I did have to specify the size, so I used a standard Japanese business card size. The file opened up in Inkscape and I was able to edit text and vector graphics. However I noticed that there was no export to Adobe Illustrator .ai format built in. I was surprised because I thought I had used Inkscape to export .ai files in the past. After a quick web search I learned that the .ai export feature was removed in Inkscape version .47. This is because Adobe Illustrator now (since version 10) supports importing .svg files, which are Inkscape’s native file format. This is good news but in my experience some Mac-based graphics designers aren’t too great with handling different file formats. So I was pleased to find that a separate open-source project exists who’s whole mission is to provide a convertor between the various vector-based graphic formats in existence. Not only that, but this project includes a patch script to run on Inkscape 47.x or 48.x which adds the specific functionality I was looking for. The project is called sk1project and the software is called uniconvertor.

When the Earth shakes (original)

(new video version – April 1st)
This video contains footage that I took personally in Ishinomaki, Japan shortly after the Great Earthquake of March 11, 2011. I combined it with photos from our Every Nation churches working together to help Japan. James Mercer’s heartfelt song expresses our faith that God would meet every need.

(new audio version – March 31st)

In times like this I’m reminded

That my life belongs to you

In times like this I will not fear

Everything is in your hands

When the Earth shakes

I’ll be ready for Your call

For I know You will guide me through

When the Earth shakes

I will serve You all the more

For I know in You I stand secure

When I’m alone I’m not alone

You are always there for me

When I’m confused You give me peace

You give me strength so I can lead

Earthquake Update 3/24

Many of you have given towards the relief efforts here financially and I thank you. We have received donations and prayers from sister churches all over the world. I was amazed when I slowed down and realized how many people around the world are praying for Japan. We have gotten donations from China, South Africa, even Haiti. It is amazing how our nation has changed in two weeks. Satomi wrote on her facebook, “Do you feel like you are in a disaster movie?” I laughed but sometimes it feels like a disaster movie that will not end.

To this point we have sent 10 tons of supplies in 4 trucks to various places in northern and eastern Sendai. We now have key contacts at churches, refugee centers, and even made two stops at a Buddhist temple where many homeless families were staying temporarily. Young James went up with the second team and took 2 tons of supplies with one of the leaders from our church in Yokosuka and a driver from the church in Shimada. Thank you for your prayers for him – I watched closely on the GPS and prayed a lot while he was in Fukushima and Sendai. The land north of us is totally devastated, especially along the coastal areas where the tsunami hit. He shared with me that in the worst hit areas it is getting dangerous. Because of lack of food, shelter and basics, there is looting and even talk of murders and other crime. There are still many places which have not received relief and it has been two weeks since the 9.0 earthquake and 30+ ft high tsunami.

Through a providential connection two days ago, I found a church in Setagaya Tokyo which was in contact with an old-folk’s home in the northern part of Sendai which was low on food. They had received no supplies since the earthquake and there are 70 residents and 50 care-givers living in the rural facility. I was able to call my friend Keisuke and Pastor Rick Justus who were just then making a delivery in northern Sendai and direct them to stop by the old-folk’s home with much needed food and supplies. Please pray for the residents and caregivers there as I hear some have the flu now. We want to bring masks, rubber gloves, adult diapers and other needed supplies in the next truckload.

This Saturday P. James Coble from Yokohama will be leading team #4 into Sendai. They will stop at Yokosuka Church, where we have collected another 1 or 2 tons of food and supplies to load. The week following we are hoping to set up a base camp in central Sendai on the property of a local church which was wiped out by the tsunami. We are negotiating now to buy a small prefab house and bring it up to the property for the pastor and his wife to set up a base for relief efforts and ministry in the community. Today I found and rented a covered two-ton truck for one month. Once we set up the base we hope to begin regular deliveries up to this base an others that we have already established. Also providentially a man in my church has offered the use of his 4-ton truck with crane to help us set up the prefab and move old damaged containers to the base camp site to use for storage. We have the beginnings of a good long-term plan but need lots of prayer!

In Yokosuka our local FM radio station has been to the church to interview James, Satomi and me after he came back from his trip to Sendai. He is praying hard about possibly taking a semester off of college since it looks like it will be months most people have shelter in the affected area. Even in Yokosuka we are still living with daily aftershocks, many of them in the M5 or M6 range. We are also facing radiation and rolling three-hour power blackouts which are scheduled now to last through August. At least we now have gasoline and the panic buying of bread and other staples has stopped for now.

The kanji character for crisis is 危機 which means danger + opportunity. Please pray for us to have the love and peace of God to meet the danger part fearlessly. The opportunity part is obvious. This is the reason why we are here – God wants to show how much He loves Japan and we are privileged that He wants to use us. Thanks for all your prayers, love and financial gifts. You are our partners – expect to hear good news from Japan because God is here.

Together for Him,
Ray in Yokosuka

Earthquake Information Center

How to Give

Give to Japanese local churches through Every Nation U.S.A.
(These are local churches in Japan that I am directly connected with and who are working now to establish relief efforts)

Missing Person Locators

Person Finder (multilingual)

Red Cross Family Links page for Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (multilingual)

Google Earthquake Crisis Response

Google has set up a great information page for the earthquake here. Also you can donate to the Japanese Red Cross at this page. The Red Cross in Japan is still assessing the situation but if you feel you need to give money now, that is one place to do it. It should eventually be put to good use.

This page has many useful links such as:

  • Warnings and advisories
  • Disaster message boards
  • Transportation status
  • Blackout information

The Japanese version of the above page is here. 

Softbank announces free messaging and free WiFi spots



Before/After Satellite Photos from ABC News Australia

hover mouse over each picture to see the change:

Video Archive of Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Earthquake update 3/12

Dear friends,
The situation seems to have mostly stabilized here in Japan – at least in the Tokyo area. We spent all day today (Saturday) contacting church members and friends in Yokosuka and Tokyo and making sure everyone was OK. Some church members had been stranded when the trains stopped yesterday and had to walk for hours in the cold, or spend the night in train stations or other shelters. But today all made it home safely. In Yokosuka and elsewhere the power was out including traffic lights. We finally got power back early this morning. Aftershocks have continued all day today. Yesterday there were several large quakes but today they have been prety minor. As I am writing this (10:17pm JST) there is another tremor – maybe a 2.3? I am getting pretty good at judging earthquakes now… Normally we do get small quakes here every couple of months and life just goes on. But I have never experienced such a huge, rolling and swaying earthquake – lasting about 3 minutes. We have talked to many neighbors, both at home and around our church building whom we hadn’t had a chance to talk with much before and now we have a kind of common bond. That is one good thing that has come out of it. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this event, here are a couple of bits of trivia from Reuter’s News service about the earthquake:

  • Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said the earth’s axis shifted 25 cm as a result of the earthquake, and the U.S. Geological Survey said the main island of Japan had shifted 2.4 meters.
  • The earthquake was the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century. It surpassed the Great Kanto quake of September 1, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.

Even though this was the biggest earthquake to ever hit Japan (8.9 on the Richter scale and 8.8 on the Japanese scale) most of the destruction came from the tsunami that hit Northern Japan shortly after the quake. Japan is well built to handle earthquakes and the people are trained too. As were were standing outside after the first quake and talking with our neighbors, I noticed that the traffic lights were out. After about 30 seconds, Alishea said “look” and pointed at the nearest intersection. The old, retired men who direct traffic for the school cross-walks every school day had immediately moved into the intersection and started directing traffic. It was like this everywhere. When we drove home later we saw school kids walking home with their “earthquake hats” on. Each kids has a quilted book-bag that doubles as an “earthquake hat” when you put it on your head. So we are getting through the quake OK and our church building and house are still standing. But no one was prepared for the tsunami that hit the coastal towns up north.
Maybe you have seen the graphic video images on the news of the huge wall of water sweeping away buildings, cars and anything in its path? One town called Rikuzentakata was literally washed away by the flood. There were 300-400 bodies washed up on the beach and spotted by helicopters, but because more tsunamis were feared no one could even go and collect the dead. Now there are search and rescue teams coming from many nations to help and Japan will need it. Tomorrow we are going to have a prayer meeting for Japan during our Sunday morning service and pray for God’s help and salvation for Japan. Satomi has been burdened all day that we need to do more and we are considering whether we, or someone from the church should visit Sendai personally in order to make contact with churches and other people helping in the worst hit areas. That way we can see exactly what help is needed. I will email again once it becomes clear how we are supposed to help.
It is scary to know that there is a nuclear power in Fukushima that may melt down, but it is exciting to realize that we have a God who can rescue those who are in trouble both spiritually and naturally. Please be in prayer for the lost in Japan since 99% of the people in this disaster do not have a hope for eternal life with God. And please pray for the church in Yokosuka and all over Japan to rise up in faith. We can shine and share His light to those in the dark, hopeless places.
In His service,
Ray Mercer