The Anatomy of the Inkscape Window

Updated for v0.48.

Start by opening Inkscape. You will see a single window. This window contains several major areas, many containing clickable icons or pull-down menus. The following figure shows this window and labels key parts.

The Command Bar, Snap Bar, Tool Controls, and Tool Box are detachable by dragging on the handles (highlighted in blue) at the far left or top. They can be returned to their normal place by dragging them back. New in v0.48: Some of the bars change position depending on which option is selected at the bottom of the View menu. When Default is selected, the Command Bar is on the top while the Snap Bar is on the right. When Custom is selected, the Command Bar and the Snap Bar are both on the top. When Wide is selected, the Command Bar and the Snap Bar are both on the right. By default, Default is used if you are not using a Wide Screen display while Wide is used if you are. A width to height aspect ratio of greater than 1.65 is defined to be wide. These bars, as well as the Palette and Status Bar, can be hidden using the View Show/Hide submenu.

As Inkscape has grown more complex, the area required to include icons and entry boxes for all the various items has also grown leading to problems when Inkscape is used on small screens. The Command Bar, Snap Bar, Tool Controls, and Tool Box have variable widths or heights. If there are too many items to be shown in the width (height) of the Inkscape window, a small down arrow will appear on the right side or bottom of the bars. Clicking on this arrow will open a drop-down menu with access to the missing items.

One can also choose to use smaller icons. These options can be found in the Interface section of the Inkscape Preferences dialog. Note that the Secondary toolbar icon size refers to the Snap Bar. Using the smallest icons, the smallest possible Inkscape window becomes 505 pixels wide by 451 pixels high in v0.48 and 573 pixels wide by 506 pixels high in v0.47. The smallest size may depend on which operating system you are using and the availability of a small icon set. By hiding all the various window components (Command Bar, Palette, etc.), you can get an Inkscape window just 505 by 281 in v0.48 and 525 by 287 in v0.47.

[Note]Missing Icons in Menus

The authors of the Gnome windowing system used by Inkscape have in their infinite wisdom decided that icons do not belong in drop-down menus and buttons. They have disabled icons and even removed the option to restore them from the Gnome Preferences menus in the latest versions of the Gnome libraries. If you wish to restore icons to menus, you will need to use the program gconf-editor or Configuration Editor (which you may need to install). Navigate to desktopgnomeinterface and check the menus_have_icons box. You can also check the buttons_have_icons box if you wish.

Default Inkscape window.
The default Inkscape window with the key parts labeled.

The drawing area. It may extend outside the viewable area. It can be panned (scrolled left/right and up/down) and zoomed.


The part of the Canvas area corresponding to a printed page or other predefined area. Useful for setting an output region in printing or exporting a bitmap image. It may extend outside the viewable area.[3]

Menu Bar

Contains the main pull-down menus.

Command Bar

Contains shortcuts to many of the items located in the menus. Click on the Down arrow on the right end to access entries missing due to space.

Snap Bar

Contains clickable icons that control snapping. See the section called “Snapping” in Chapter 5, Positioning and Transforming.

Tool Controls

Contains entry boxes and clickable icons that are specific to the selected tool. For example, when the Rectangle Tool is in use, an entry box to specify a selected rectangle's width appears. Click on the Down arrow on the right end to access entries that may be missing due to space. If there is no arrow, then all options are being shown.

Tool Box

Contains Tools for selecting, drawing, or modifying objects. Clicking on an icon selects a tool. Double-clicking brings up that tool's preference dialog. The cursor (pointer) changes shape when placed over the canvas depending on which tool is selected.

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Color Palette

Contains a color palette. Colors can be dragged from the palette onto objects to change their Fill. Using the Shift key while dragging will change the Stroke color instead. The color used by some tools can be set by clicking on a color swatch. The palette can be changed by clicking on the arrow icon at the right end of the palette. Many predefined palettes are included. If the number of color swatches in a palette exceeds the space allocated, the scroll bar beneath the palette can be used to access the hidden swatches.

Status Bar

Contains several areas, including the Style Indicator, current drawing layer, pointer position, current drawing layer (and if it is visible or locked), current zoom level, window resize handle, and a Notification Region that describes context dependent options.

Style Indicator

Shows the style (Fill and Stroke) of a selected object, text fragment, or gradient stop. A Left Mouse Click on the Fill or Stroke paint part of the indicator opens the Fill and Stroke dialog. A Right Mouse Click opens up a pop-up menu. See the section called “Style Indicator” in Chapter 10, Attributes for details and more uses.

Notification Region

Contains context dependent information. If the region is too small to view all the text, placing the cursor over the region will display a tool tip with the full text.

[Tip]Notification Region

The Notification Region contains very useful information. Pay close attention to it when using an unfamiliar tool.


Show the x- and y-axis coordinates of the drawing. Use Ctrl+R to toggle on/off. A Left Mouse Drag from a Ruler onto the Canvas creates a Guide Line.

Scroll Bars

Allows scrolling to adjust which part of the Canvas is viewable.

Color Calibration

Button toggles on/off use of a Color Profile (if set up).

Dockable Dialogs

Inkscape implements Dockable Dialogs. With this feature, opened dialogs are placed inside the main Inkscape window on the right side as seen in the next figure.

Main window with two docked dialogs.
The Inkscape main window with two docked dialogs.

The docked dialogs can be rearranged, resized (if space permits), stacked, and iconified. To move a dialog, Left Mouse Drag in the dialog's title bar (and not the window manager's bar). Dialogs can also be dragged off of the main window into their own window. Each dialog can have its own window or they can be grouped in floating docks. Dialogs can be stacked, placed side-by-side, or tabbed depending on where they are dropped onto a dock. Drop a dialog on the left side and it will be placed on the left. Drop a dialog in the center and it will replace the current dialog, with both dialogs listed as tabs at the bottom. There is a visual indicator of where the dropped dialog will appear (under Windows it may be hard to see). Clicking the small triangle icon will iconize the dialog along the right edge of the main window.

Floating dock with two dialogs.
A floating Dock with three dialogs, two of which are visible. The Layers and Undo History dialogs are tabbed together.

Selecting Floating under Dialog behavior in the Windows section of the Inkscape Preferences dialog (File icon Inkscape Preferences... (Shift+Ctrl+P)) disables the use of docks. Instead, all dialogs will be opened in their own window.

There is still some work to be done on the implementation of dockable dialogs. For example, a few dialogs have yet to be converted to be dockable (e.g., Text, Object properties). Bugs may also be encountered.

[3] Inkscape uses the terms Canvas and Page inconsistently. In this manual, Canvas will refer to the entire drawing area while Page will refer to a specified region of the Canvas corresponding to a defined output area.