Desktop Publishing with

Dazzle your clients, boss or friends with this freely available tool you probably installed with your latest Linux distribution.
Planning the Project

Before you sit down at your keyboard and open OO.o, you need to have a plan. The best way to do this is with old-fashioned pencil and paper. Get out a pad of paper and draw what you want to do. Where do you want the graphics to go? What about text? What orientation? What about logos and other artwork?

You should have a good idea about the text you plan to use. What font and size, and how long will the text be? It needs to fit into the text boxes you make, and it needs to formated so it makes the point you wish to convey in your document.

Figure 4 shows what I did. First, I drew lines to divide the page into quarters. I then folded the page into quarters and oriented it like a greeting card. I roughly drew where I wanted the text to go and where graphics should be placed. Opening up the rough layout gave me a guide on where I needed to place text and objects.

Figure 4. The basic layout, made with paper and pencil. This helps guide you in placing objects, text and artwork.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes here or at any other point in the process. You probably will make changes as your project takes shape. If it is a complex project, you may need several revisions, even at this stage, before you start working on the computer. If you need to back out of a change you just made, press the Ctrl-z keys, as in any other DP program.

Before I had a finished product I made several changes. I used three different graphics before I found one that I liked. I inserted them, resized and rotated them, even printed out the drafts. I decided "I don't like that" and removed them from the document before I found one I liked.

The same goes for text. I had to make several changes to the text, including formatting, before I had something I liked. I moved text around, reformatted it and re-wrote it several times before I liked it.

Once we have a rough layout and a good idea of how the document should look, it's time to start OO.o and get to work. Clicking on the OO.o icon on your desktop opens OO.o in writer mode, which is default.

OO.o 1.1.0 is very fast compared to 1.0.3. Programming optimizations have made a huge increase in performance. I can open OO.o with folding@home running and use OO.o normally without much of a performance hit. It would run smoother if I had shut down the background apps, but doing so wasn't necessary for creating either this project or article. While working on this article, I had not only folding@home running, but I was running multiple OO.o workspaces, Mozilla, The GIMP for working on the screenshots--and I was listening to albums in mp3 format in xmms without problems.

Once open, you need to go to the drawing application, called Draw. Click on the File -> New -> Drawing. This opens a fresh OO.o workspace. Some distributions install a separate menu item on your programs menu for OO.o from which you can directly select the Draw application.

You can customize your view in OO.o. The default Draw view in Figure 5 shows the Main Toolbar on the left side of the workspace. This is where the drawing tools are located. The tools in the Main Toolbar change depending upon the OO.o application. At the top of the workspace we have the Function Bar with tools common across OO.o applications. The Object Bar has text formatting tools, such as underline, italics, font type, size and color. Tools here change depending on the OO.o application. These toolbars can be turned on and off by clicking on the View Pull-down menu or by right-clicking on the toolbars. They also can be customized, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Vertical and horizontal rulers also appear; we use them below.

Figure 5. The Draw workspace, indicating location of the Main Toolbar, the Object Bar and the Function bar. The workspace is shown in Grid View mode.

OO.o is designed to be used around the world. So, you need to make sure the document size is appropriate. Clicking Format -> Page allows you to set the page size. This document is US Letter size, 8.5 x 11.0 inches in Portrait layout.

Because we need to keep track of how we lay out items on the page, enable the grid view on the document workspace. Clicking View -> Grid -> visible grid makes the grid visible. Next, I needed to create lines defining the folds of my document. The lines can be removed later. Click and hold down the left-mouse button on the Line Tool on the Main Toolbar. A new box pops up, with several options for lines (see Figure 6). This box is called a Tear-off, as you can keep it open and available and move it around your workspace.

Because I wanted a simple line without arrows on the ends, I clicked the Line (without arrows), and my pointer changed to a + (insertion point) with a \ indicating what type of line was activated. I then moved the mouse pointer to the point I wanted to start the line at, guided by the ruler. I then clicked the left mouse button, held it down and dragged the pointer across the workspace until I was at the point where I wanted to stop. Releasing the mouse button resulted in two small green boxes at each end of the line. These are the handles I mentioned earlier. Move the line around to get a feel of how this works.

Figure 6. The Line Tool tear-off. Other tool tear-offs are similar and can be placed anywhere on the workspace.

I made a second vertical line in the same way as the first. Now, I had the page divided into quarters, along with the grid view, to guide me.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

typo? knsapshot or ksnapshot

Anonymous's picture

In the list of resources used to make the article you list "knsapshot." Did you instead mean "ksnapshot"?

Do you know something about D

Anonymous's picture

Do you know something about DTP?

Important note for OO.o DTP and printers

Anonymous's picture

While it's all well and good to use apps like OO.o for DTP, they're not really made for it. You will quickly find this out when you try to send (say) an advertisement to a newspaper, or a job to a printing house. It's all well and good if you're printing your own work, but if you need to go through a print agency or if you're producing something to be part of a larger publication, you're likely to run into problems.

Expect comments like "Your colours are all RGB, the fonts aren't embedded, and you've produced a PDF 1.4 document - we require PDF 1.3. Please correct that and get back to us." "Your PDF failed preflight" is also not uncommon.

What I'm saying is that you need to confirm with the intended recipient what their requirements are, before going ahead and doing your document in OO.o. It could save you a lot of trouble.

Thankfully, OO.o has built-in PDF export, making it much less of a nightmare for users and publishers than Microsoft Word. Daily I have to tell people that their ad, done in Word, may not look the same on our screen (or print the same) as what they see, we don't have their WeirdFont.TTF and unless they send it to us we can't use it, etc. Word is a publisher's nightmare. Many users have it set to US Letter, even though their printer is A4, so when you open a document they create on a correctly configured machine, the layout is wrong. Font substitutions aren't highlighted and are hard to detect. The list goes on.

If you must do your document in OO.o, at least make sure to provide a PDF as the end product. Most printers will appreciate it if you also supply them with the original document (and all fonts + images used in it), but the PDF will probably get used anyway.

If you need more serious desktop publishing, look in to Scribus. It's getting to be quite a nice, easy to use and very powerful app, though definitely still being polished up. It supports PDF/X-3, so you can produce colour-managed high-quality PDFs that any PDF/X-3 compliant RIP (ask your printer if theirs is - it should be) will print without fuss.

Alternately, you might be able to beg access to a machine with QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign. Quark, in particular, isn't too hard to get the hang of for basic work. Getting access to these wallet-busting beamoths, on the other hand, isn't easy unless you have a friend in a print house, advertising agency, publisher, newspaper, or (maybe) the marketing dep't at work.

A final option is to use GhostScript or Adobe Acrobat Distiller to convert output "printed" from any app into a PDF. This approach may also be problematic if you need to send your job to a print house, as most programs don't give you control over the choice of CMYK or RGB colour spaces. On the other hand, it's probably better than sending a Word, or (worse) Microsoft Publisher document. There are tools that let you use GhostScript as a "PDF Printer" on Windows, and the function is built into many Linux distros already.

In the end, you just need to make sure that if you're sending the document for use elsewhere, that it confirms to the requirements the recipient sets. Checking this will save you time and frustration.

Also, as others have noted, the usual acronym for desktop publishing is DTP. Expect confused looks if you say "DP" instead.

Craig Ringer
IT Manager
POST Newspapers

OOo needs handy layer management

Anonymous's picture

I'd like to see a handy layer management in OOo (something like in Photoshop maybe: separate floating layer menu with opacity [slider], layer locking and visibility indicator).
For a start that would be really nice.

Re: OOo needs handy layer management

Bruce_Byfield's picture

OOo handles layers by giving each one a separate tab at the bottom of the screen. I don't think that there's an opacity control, but you can set locking and visibility. If either one is set, the name of the tab appears in blue.

Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

Hi there,
The article is a good one. Failry well written and informative. Why must people tear the author apart for nit picky things?

If you all could do better, write a whole damn article yourself in your repy, instead of a short negative criticism.

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

Bravo !

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

I agree with you. I think it was a good article for us newbee's using OOo. Some people just think they are better and smarter if they tear the author apart for nit picky things.
I use OOo on my linux box and am very pleased with the results. The learning curve is relatively easy and intuative.

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Karl's picture

Thanks, appreciate ALL of the comments and feedback.

--Karl Agee

The value of PDF not to be understated ..

Anonymous's picture

A few years ago, I had a project preparing a show flyer (maybe 12 pages) for an organization and got into an incredible catch-22 with MS Publisher.

I went out and purchased a new copy of Publisher2002, created this big file on a CD and went to the local CopyMax figuring this was surely the lowest common denominator.

They only had Publisher2001, totally incompatible with P2002. No other copy shop in 75 miles had anything but Pub2001. However, you could not BUY 2001 anywhere, only 2002. The Pub2002 exporter to the old format seemed to work, but produced only garbage when read by Pub2001.

I finally got it (Pub2002) on to a machine at my office with Acrobat Distiller and produced a PDF burned to the CD and taken to the copy shop that they read with no problem - and printed up the 500 program copies.

Working with PDF as the target format from the beginning would have saved me a LOT of work.

Install a PS Printer and Print to File

MadStork's picture

Here's another work-around that is a more "general" solution to the problem of MS producing incompatible, proprietary formats.....

In a pinch anyone can install a PostScript printer, then "print to file" . Most copy shops can handle a PS file natively, though if you are talking to a lacky at the front desk they might not realize they can.

There are also a lot of Postscript to PDF applications and web services that can do the conversion easily.

Google (as always is your friend)

Re: The value of PDF not to be understated ..

Anonymous's picture

Absolutely. MS Publisher is a particularly nasty case, because few printing houses really want to deal with it. They'll often have a copy, but rarely mention it if you ask what formats they prefer. In my experience it's actually been harder to support printing Publisher documents than MS Word documents (!!), despite Publisher allegedly being a DTP package.

Re: Good article. (give the author a break!)

Anonymous's picture

I just think that there are so many people picky about these issues because they appear right from the start of the article: OpenOffice is NOT a DTP application. To stay as compatible as possible with Microsoft Word, Star/OpenOffice chose to go for wordflowbased textprocessing instead of truely framebased textprocessing. While the result might appear tiny on the first glimpse sooner or later you'll run into troubles if you want to do "more" or even real DTP.
If you want to do real DTP you might want to consider scribus:

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

Industry Standard abbreviation of Desktop Publishing is DTP.
If author of this article does not know this, my guess is he knows only a little about DTP. And he admits it.

This is not DTP, it's just advanced printing with some simple graphics, IMHO.

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

It may well be the "industry standard" (which I doubt) but it is good writting practice to spell things out when you are writting for a novice public - and that is exactly what this article is about. And I find little humility in your opinion!

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

This is one area where StarDivsion/Sun/OOo screwed up in that *Writer is too much like M$-Weird. StarOffice/OOo does have a lot going for it as far as being cross platform and having a well documented file format (good for very long term document retention).
I've used various versions of Word for DOS and Windblows as well as StarOffice/OOo, but none of them are as good for even rudimentary DTP work as Island Write Draw & Paint. With Island Write, laying out the page was a matter of placing containers where I wanted them - and the containers could be irregularly shaped to boot. Text boxes could be placed anywhere and the text could be edited at any time (the text boxes on StarOffice/OOo are just plain irritating by comparison). Unfortunately, the last upgrade for IWD&P was in 1996. :-(
From what I hear of KOffice, it would be a better choice for simple DTP - things could be really interesting if the KOffice crew can achieve file format compatibiity with OOo.

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

The people at KOffice is really into adopting th OASIS standard. Actually the head developers of KOffice are on the OASIS ( board. Koffice (

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

"DP" is actually the abbreviation for "Data Processing", although that is now somewhat archaic. Anyone who doesn't know that DTP is the standard abbreviation probably has never read anything on Desktop Publishing before - which just goes to show that it's wise to have at least a cursory look at the existing literature in a field before opening your own mouth and putting your foot in it.

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Anonymous's picture

A comparison with Scribus would have been really really useful

Re: Desktop Publishing with

Karl's picture

For an article on Scribus, please see the November 2003 of the print edition of Linux Journal, on page 88.

--Karl Agee