Secondary Window Tools in Scribus

Scribus is designed so that the main window shows only the document you are designing. Other tools are positioned to secondary windows, where they have all the room they need for detailed settings. You may discover some of these secondary windows via menus and toolbars as you work, but not all. Consequently, it's worth taking the time to look at them, to ensure that you don't miss some useful tools.

The secondary Windows are available in the Windows menu, along with the usual list of open windows and the choice to cascade or tile them on the screen. They're listed more or less in order of the frequency that you are likely to use them:

Properties

The Properties window shows all the design details for the currently selected object or frame. Change the selection, and the Properties window also changes.The Properties window includes seven tabs: X, Y, Z for naming and positioning, Shape for the outline of the frame and how other text flows around it, Group for the outline of grouped objects, Text for font and spacing choices, Image for positioning and resolution, Line for how lines end and intersect, and Colors for object fill. Any tab inapplicable to the currently selected objected -- such as the Image tab for a text frame -- is grayed out and unavailable. You can also reach the Properties tab via an object's context menu, or by pressing F2.

Outline

Like the Navigator in LibreOffice, the Outline Window shows all of a document's pages and objects, and can be used to jump to them immediately. It is most useful in long documents, and when you replace the default names (like Text2) with names that meaningful to you.

Scrapbook

The Scrapbook is a repository for items that you might want to reuse or don't yet have a place for in a document. You can have multiple scrapbooks (one for text and one for images is often useful), and drag objects on to a page as needed.

You can set the Scrapbook behavior from File -> Preferences -> Scrapbook. The options you can set are to have copied items moved automatically to the scrapbook, to retain copied items the next time you open Scribus, and the number of copied items to keep in any Scrapbook.

Layers

In complex documents, many designers prefer to work in layers, isolating elements from each other, then turning their visibility on and off to reduce clutter. Scribus' Layer window is a standard one that should be instantly familiar to anyone who has worked in another graphics or layout program. Along the bottom are tools for adding, deleting, and duplicating layers, as well as controls for moving the currently selected layer up and down the stack.

For each individual level, you can can also set whether it's visible, printable, locked to prevent changes, and -- somewhat less usual -- whether text in lower levels flows around it or whether it is shown as wireframe to speed its rendering. You can even assign each layer an associated color, if tht seems useful to you.

Arrange Pages

The Arrange Pages window has several functions. To start with, it shows what master pages are available and how pages are arranged in a two page spread, including whether the first page is a left or a right page (generally, you want the first page to be a right page, as you can tell by opening any book on hand). Second, it serves much the same purpose as the Outline window, allowing you to jump to a page by clicking it. Finally, you can apply a master page to an existing page or add a new page that uses a specific master page by dragging between the panes. You can also drag a master page or ordinary page to the trash can in the window to delete it.

Bookmarks

Scribus assumes that one of your probable outputs will be PDF. Accordingly, you can right click on a text frame and select PDF Options -> PDF Bookmark to create a bookmark.

Even if you do not plan to output to PDF, setting text frames as a bookmark is another useful way to navigate your documents. Open the Bookmark window, and you have an alternative to the Outline window.

Measurements

The Measurements window is a kind of moveable, high-powered ruler. When opened, it allow you to draw a temporary line from mouse-click to mouse-click on the document. The window shows the coordinates for the starting (X1, Y1) and ending points (X2, Y2), the length of the line along the X (DX) and Y (DY) axis, the angle of the line, and its length. When you close the window, the line disappears, but it displays the next time you open the window.

For many users, this is probably more information than is strictly necessary. However, the Measurement window can be useful when you are manually positioning objects and you need a quick measurement.

Action History

The Action History window shows each change to the document, and what page it occurred on. You can either undo an action by clicking on the previous item in the window, or else highlight an action and click the Undo button.

Preflight Verifier

Before you print, save, or export a document, run the Preflight Verifier to check for problems in the layout -- just set the output to a variety of PDF or to postscript, then read the report.

The window tells you such information as whether the document includes empty frames, low-resolution images, or text frames that are too small to display all the text assigned to them. Using the window, you can jump to the problem, correct it, then run the Preflight Verifier again to check that you have caught all the problems. It's really an invaluable tool, and worth making part of your general work flow.

Align and Distribute

The Align and Distribute window is an aid for repositioning frames and objects relative to each other. To use it, select either the Align tab to give objects a common alignment, or the Distribute tab to place objects out of alignment. Then set the criteria for repositioning: what the movements are relative to, and whether the alignment is to be done by changing position or size, and the type of alignment or distribution.

Although you may need to experiment with the settings to find the ones most useful to you --especially since the icons on each tab are practically useless without the mouseover help-- this window can be a practical alternative to aligning manually.

Picking and Choosing

Probably, few users will want all the available secondary windows. For instance, if you are accustomed to the Outline window, you probably have no interest in the Bookmarks window, and the other way around. Similarly, designers used to positioning objects with grids and guides may see little need of the Align and Distribute window.

Still, that's the point of Scribus' secondary windows -- to provide tools to accommodate a variety of different user preferences. Explore all of them, and you'll soon find out which ones suit you.

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