Introducing Scribus

Scribus is a full-featured desktop publishing application that works with a paste-up model, not the typewriter model of word processors. Learn to create industry-standard PDF documents for print.
Getting and Installing Scribus

Installing Scribus is straightforward. You can choose to compile from source or grab one of the third-party packages of Scribus. Details and locations are in the Scribus on-line documentation. Compiling from source is the usual ./configure && make && make install. You should have the latest updated versions of Trolltech's Qt, freetype2, libtiff, libpng and ghostscript available for your distribution. Scribus 1.0 is optimized for Qt 3.1.2, the latest stable version at the time of this writing. If you wish to enable color management, you need the littlecms libraries and some ICC profiles. Scribus also needs the development libraries for libtiff, libjpeg and libpng. The biggest issue we have seen when compiling is that the QTDIR environment variable either is not set or is set incorrectly. The documentation contains detailed notes about compiling.

Figure 1. Scribus tools—Scribus has easy-to-use palettes, all of which have tooltips explaining their functions. Clockwise from the top: 1) The Page palette manages pages and page templates. Adding a page is drag-and-drop simple. 2) The Measurements palette provides frequently used editing tools. 3) The PDF toolbar shows how toolbars can be dragged from the desktop. 4) Outline is a tree diagram of every object in the document. This assists in selecting objects in complex documents. 5) Layers allows you to stack objects on top of each other for stunning effects. 6) The Scrapbook stores frequently used items.

Scribus' user interface has been optimized for DTP. You can drag guides right from the rulers. Measurement units can be changed with a simple click. The status bar gives users a lot of information and precise measurements of objects and tools. Although Scribus runs under any window manager, it has special features when run under KDE, such as desktop drag and drop, and uses KDE-style plugins.

Creating Your Masterpiece

Unlike word processors, you do not simply open a new empty document and start typing. First, you must create a text frame and then either start typing or importing some text. My preferred method is to use a text editor, edit, spell-check and then save and import the text. Similarly, you do not open The GIMP, then copy and paste. First, create an image frame then place the image on the page. Image files can be huge, so they are linked externally. This also ensures that the latest up-to-date image is in your document. Keeping track of commonly used objects is made easier with the Scrapbook.

Figure 2. User-friendly—the Scrapbook enables the easy re-use of objects between pages and documents. You can save scrapbooks separately, and they can be saved for projects or single documents. Shown here is an EPS of a full-page map, a full page of text and a logo. Almost any kind of object can be saved by right-dragging it from the page to the Scrapbook.

To help with creating your publication, Scribus comes with a set of useful and user-friendly drawing tools, including styled lines, polygons, Bezier curves, tinting or shading of drawn objects and gradients, which is a special way of blending one or two colors to add shadowing or dimension to an object. Scribus also can manipulate type the way that illustration or drawing programs like CorelDraw or Adobe Illustrator do, by converting fonts into PostScript curves or outlines, which can be twisted, scaled, sheared and stretched at will. You also can fill these with gradients or images and attach text to a path. Scribus also can export SVG, including text and images. All images within SVG files are converted to PNGs.

Figure 3. Advanced PDF export—Scribus can modify font outlines and create sharp, high-resolution gradients with layers in the object and transparency as well. This kind of output requires advanced Level 3 PostScript and PDF 1.4 operators, previously available only in proprietary DTP applications. (This is a snapshot of Scribus 1.1.0.)

User Preferences

DTP users are accustomed to extensive keyboard shortcuts, and Scribus is no exception. Functions can be operated by user-defined keyboard shortcuts, menu choices and considerable usage of right-click context menus. Font paths can be added or disabled, along with font substitution preferences on the fly. Caution is advised to ensure your fonts are installed correctly with up-to-date fonts.dir and fonts.scale files. Scribus is necessarily quite fussy about font paths and has a lot of code to sniff out the exact capabilities of your installed fonts. A common problem new users find with Scribus is they think that Scribus cannot find fonts that have been installed. To the contrary, Scribus rejects installed fonts that are not 100% in order. The documentation contains an extensive explanation of this. Fonts are mini programs in a sense and have bugs too.



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DPI doesn't matters in Web

José Antonio Meira da Rocha's picture

In Web, DPI (dots per inch) does not make sense, as computer monitor use pixel measurement units, not inches. In Desktop Publishing softwares, DPI is just used as a reference to place and scale bitmap images. What really matter, in both web and print, is the size of image in pixels (width and height). Press jobs need big images (200-300 pixels for each inch of printed image) to be printed with quality. Just changing the Web image DPI doesn't make it suitable for print, as the width in pixels is not changed.

Don't forget that now there i

Anonymous's picture

Don't forget that now there is a wiki too!