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Book Review: Scribus Beginners Guide

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Book Reviews 34

JR0cket writes "Scribus is an open source desktop publishing tool that helps you create professionally laid out documents, from simple documents to full blown magazines, corporate brochures or even books. Desktop publishing tools are not a replacement for word processors, instead they give you the freedom to create uniquely designed documents and help you manage large sets of text and graphic content. Scribus is similar to Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress and gives you a wide range of tools to layout content in either print or digital media form. Scribus is pretty easy to get to grips with and has good documentation on the project website. The Scribus 1.3.5 beginners guide is a really handy guide through the workflow of desktop publishing and helps you clearly understand how to create professional looking results." Read below for the rest of JR0ket's review.The book includes a simple comparison between Scribus and other desktop publsihing tools such as InDesign, Quark Express and Microsoft publisher, setting expectations clearly as to what you can get from Scribus and the kind of interoperability between desktop publishing tools (its a little limited, but the Scribus project is trying and is the most open).

The book begins by covering some theory behind desktop publishing, using the metaphor — What you see is what you mean — to get you thinking about the overal design that would appeal to your audience, whilst also considering the resource and media constraints you have. As with developing software, knowing the needs of your audience is an important factor in the layout of your documents. Knowing the limitations of what you can print out effectively or deliver as other media is an important set of constraints to consider.

An important concept to understand is the "graphic workflow" for desktop publishing. The first chapter therefore covers the use of Inkscape, Gimp and LibreOffice (open office) to create and manage your content (text and images) and then using Scribus to pull that content together in an appealing and productive layout. Also covered is the idea of using Inkscape as a tool for mock-up designs. I see Scribus as kind of the the big brother to Inkscape (review) in that Inkscape works with a single page document, whereas Scribus can manage content across a multiple page document. You can assemble some very intricate documents using Scribus that would take a lot of time and effort to do using Inkscape and word processors such as Libre office and Microsoft office.

Next is the overview of the Scribus workspace, including details of the menus and tool bars for which there are many. This overview is very easy to understand, especially for someone who has little or no experience. The coverage of the text, graphics and page layout options are very detailed and nicey sprinkled with mini-tutorials to help you get to grips with Scribus quickly. The first tutorial guides you through the creation of a simple business card, so you get a nice gentle start whilst still being practical.

Due to the good layout and extensive use of screenshots its easy for an advanced user to skip through to the parts of the workspace you want to learn about.

Once the Scribus workstation is covered, the book goes on to detail how to create your own layouts for desktop publishing using all the features of Scribus. Again you are guided step-by-step through the various options for choosing a document layout and managing the structure of your documents, using frames for importing and managing text and graphics, changing colours and styles, stacking and layers to manage the presentation, distorting shapes using resizing, rotating / scaling frames, alignment and distribution of objects. There are a lot of layout options in Scribus and the book does a good job of introducing each aspect. Again this is done using a step by step tutorial style and the odd pop-quiz that helps you quickly gain confidence with the tool.

There is good coverage of the how Scribus handles advanced colour features. Using shading, gradient fills, pattern fills and transparency of images and the use of layers, its shown how to create eye-catching effects to enhance your documents. Support for CMYK and colour profiles is covered when talking about profiling with the Argyll plugin for Scribus.

As printing documents is full of pitfalls, in part due to the wide range of printing hardware out there, there is a whole chapter on this topic. Scribus has a pre-flight verifier to check the quality of your document output and can give you a lot of information and highlight any errors in PDF generation. Using the print preview you can see examples of colour separation and ink coverage, all very important for print media. There is also some very useful information for book production, marks and bleeds, security for pdf's and all the various standards for pdf documents.

Overall the book gives a complete coverage of all the typical layout techniques you will need for your desktop publishing efforts the book. By the time you reach the end of the book you will know how to produce an Adobe portable document file (pdf) that is suitable for your print or online distribution.

Please note: Scribus has recently moved to a new file format its documents and the book referes to the Scribus version which uses this new file format. Documents created with older versions of Scribus are supported in all newer versions, but document created in 1.3.5 onwards are not backwards compatible. On Debian based system, both the older version of Scribus and newer version Scribus-NG can be run side by side.

The Scribus beginers guide book has a well presented layout with content nicely spaced through the books 348 pages, making it comfortable to read both in book and ebook form. Althought there is plenty of information online, the book is a great way to get started and give you confidence in your approach and use of Scribus, so you can make use of the reference materials online.

There are several books available for Scribus, however the Scribus 1.3.5 beginners guide is the most up to date, covering all the latest features of this evolving tool. This book makes a nice addition to the online reference documentation and the community resources available for Scribus.

John coaches Lean Agile practices, organises London technical communities and is an OSS advocate. @JR0cket

You can purchase Scribus 1.3.5: Beginner's Guide from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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34 comments

Here we go... (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#36265914)

And the Packt came back, the very next day
The Packt came back, we thought it was a goner...

Everybody sing along, you know the words!

OS/2 Support? (2)

DeweyQ (1247570) | more than 2 years ago | (#36265926)

I love that the website lists OS/2 Warp 4 support then Windows. Great review; thank you.

Re:OS/2 Support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266116)

I love that the website lists OS/2 Warp 4 support then Windows.

Made your day, huh?

I used to use Warp back in the early to mid 90s and I never understood what the hoopla was about - yeah, it did handle multitasking better than Windows 95/98 and made Mac OS of the day look like the crap that it was (crashing single tasking memory hog), but the religious devotion that it had? And now, WTF is the point of OS/2 Warp which hasn't progressed since '96? OSX, Windows, and Linux are much better and they support much more software.

Re:OS/2 Support? (1)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266318)

This religious devotion probably came from the climate when it was first released... like Jobs proudly revolting against IBM... or today's "I'm a Mac", "I USE LINUX", etc. The cult members can't see the cult as what it is, objectively... they see their god. Personally, "I'm a meh and I use stuff".

LaTex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266044)

LaTeX, it's all I need.

-signed Math undergrad

Re:LaTex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266406)

Who the hell is asking you what you need, troll? Show me how you can layout a newspaper's page in your super-duper condom^H^H^H^H^H^H LaTeX per 15 min and then start open mouth... >:-(

Is it 1989? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266058)

Desktop publishing? Is it WYSIWYG? Wow, haven't heard those terms in decades... When I was using geoPublish on my Commodore 64.

Packt (0)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266080)

Scribus is a bug-ridden waste of time, but I appreciate the effort that went into this book and its reviews!

Re:Packt (1)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266096)

The Amazon reviews are even better: "Scribus 1.3.5 Beginner's Guide by Cedric Gemy published by Packt Publishing is a delicious feast of Scribus knowledge for both beginner and intermediate user alike."

Re:Packt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266434)

That was probably the most snarky, ignorant and retarded thing I've read all day.

First of all, from my own experience, judging Scribus by the Windows version is a bad idea.

Secondly, no matter how buggy it is, it's still heaps and heaps better than people abusing Word as a DTP program, and just as much easier for people who do not have the programmer mindset than latex which is the only "reasonable" competition. Yes, I know there's Znark-express, and InResign, neither of which is nearly as bug free as you'd want to make us believe. Publisher is a joke.

Neither of these run on anything but Windows or Mac, and they are all hugely poor value for money, unless you run some sort of reasonably sized company.... or are you just simply pirating it? It wouldn't surprise me at all, since that what most of the "Adobe rules" crowd does.

Re:Packt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266496)

Scribus? Publisher? My motto is, if it's not worth doing with ConTeXt, it's not worth doing at all.

Re:Packt (1)

creat3d (1489345) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266536)

I tried it on Windows, yes, maybe that's why it wasn't a good experience. The point of my post was mostly to poke fun at the pathetic Packt reviews, I guess my experience of Scribus is limited and should've been left out. "Adobe rules"? Where the fuck did you get that? The only Adobe software I use is the Flash plugin for Firefox.

Quarg Xpress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266110)

Some sort of extraterrestrial bus company ?

latex comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36266260)

How does scribus compare to latex or lyx, my document layout/ publishing engines of choice? What features would convince me to pay money for this product?

Re:latex comparison (2)

hotfireball (948064) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266466)

Well, Scribus is like something "not-yet-QuarkXPress" or "almost PageMaker" or "Prototype of InDesign". Like you're drag-n-drop text, images, you put them visually etc. Is very good if the page is complicated (newspapers, magazines, posters, booklets).

LaTeX is more "compile this script" thing, that is good for a scientific papers and similar stuff, but is not the best choice for the things above.

Re:latex comparison (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266614)

LaTeX can do all of that stuff, just not via WYSIWYG. Complicated page layouts, varied fonts, image placement, etc. can all be done just as precisely. Plus, it's got far fewer bugs (TeX itself is essentially bug-free, but I can't say the same of some of the lesser used LaTeX macros).

Re:latex comparison (1)

hotfireball (948064) | more than 2 years ago | (#36267750)

Yep, LaTeX can do complicated stuff, I know. It actually can do even more than Scribus or InDesign (music score, for example). But that's not the point what it can or can not. The point is what it is tend to do better, where "better" is a set of various factors, including dumb customer, graphical designer specifics and just a time.

just not via WYSIWYG

Bingo. And that's the deal: you need it fast, rightfuckinnow, often in front of your customer, you need it visually and very often you need to follow the mockup very carefully. So the in case of LaTeX you basically need to "decompile" visually the layout, translate in your mind to a LaTeX script, then render.

That would sound the same ridiculously, like "Hey, throw away GIMP or Photoshop, because we have an ImageMagick and a Bash". :-) I mean, I understand your point, but graphical designers tend to do things... you know... visually, unlike pure math guys, that usually suck at graphical design big time.

Re:latex comparison (2)

lee1 (219161) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266750)

Scribus is open source, but you can probably find someone who will let you pay for it if you want to.

I took a look at Scribus on the Mac recently. It has an interesting feature where you can embed some LaTeX source into the document, assiciated with a box on the layout. It will render the LaTeX using your TeX installation behind the scenes, setting the \textwidth to fit the box. So you can get, to some extent, the Scribus conveniences with the excellent TeX typesetting. I haven't actually used Scribus, but it seems to be designed to do things like lay out newspapers; this is possible but hard to do with LaTeX.

Re:latex comparison (2)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266988)

What features would convince me to pay money for this product?

um, it's open source. So try it if you want. Don't try it if you want.

More on books (1)

Inf0phreak (627499) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266492)

If you're in the position of having to typeset a book or give an opinion on the typesetting of one, you should read the documentation [ctan.org] for the `memoir' package for LaTeX. (WARNING: It is huge)

Re:More on books (1)

hotfireball (948064) | more than 2 years ago | (#36267802)

ROFL! While you're finished reading this voluminous "overview", I already published my books and got a money. While you're programming your book layout, I already got money for publishing another one... :-) The point is: it is EASIER and FASTER to just move object with a mouse from point A to point B, rather then type a code statements and render. LaTeX is free. Well, if your time has completely no value. :-)

Re:More on books (1)

pnot (96038) | more than 2 years ago | (#36268744)

The point is: it is EASIER and FASTER to just move object with a mouse from point A to point B, rather then type a code statements and render.

Fortunately LaTeX already placed the object at point B for me, so I don't have to move it at all. Still, as long as you got a money without typing a code statements, that's all good, and I'm sure your book's a great read.

(Aside: I don't actually use LaTeX any more; I've moved on to ConTeXt [contextgarden.net], which I heartily recommend.)

Re:More on books (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36290648)

One thing geeks does not understand is: to get a life... Dude, seriously, a graphical designers are *visual* people and that is why they getting a money for their design and payge layout, while *your* scientific documents looks like a f%ck ugly sh%t.

P.S. For the record: since I am developer and architect, I widely use LaTeX as well, from within emacs. Just to let you know...

Inkscape comment (1)

greymond (539980) | more than 2 years ago | (#36266656)

"Also covered is the idea of using Inkscape as a tool for mock-up designs. I see Scribus as kind of the the big brother to Inkscape (review) in that Inkscape works with a single page document, whereas Scribus can manage content across a multiple page document. You can assemble some very intricate documents using Scribus that would take a lot of time and effort to do using Inkscape and word processors such as Libre office and Microsoft office."

Inkscape is a vector graphics tool, similar to Adobe Illustrator if we're comparing open source to commercial apps. That said, to label Inkscape as a little brother of Scribus is silly and creating multiple page documents isn't what Inkscape is designed for. I don't know if the latest Inkscape supports multiple artboards within a document, which is something in Illustrator that can act like a multiple page document, but that's not the purpose of multiple artboards.

For some reason this comment in the review just irked me. /shrug

Re:Inkscape comment (1)

hotfireball (948064) | more than 2 years ago | (#36267826)

You are right (almost): Adobe InDesign is a mixture of Adobe PageMaker and Adobe Illustrator. But Inkscape is not designed for *text* layout. I mean, continuous text across columns or frames. This is well done in Adobe FrameMaker and Adobe InDesign now. Illustrator is more about graphics.

But taking into the account Gnome/GKT and KDE/QT jihad holywar, then they are rather deadly enemies. :-D

MS Publisher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36268284)

Since OpenOffice.org keeps saying they will not include a Microsoft Publisher clone in their Office suite, Scribus is all we have for DTP needs, so it deserves some attention, even if it comes from a Warsaw-Packt member. Unfortunately the 1.3x branch will no longer be developed and instead you can now download 1.40 RC3 for production environments (1.40 files can not be loaded in 1.3x). Conclusion: wait for the 1.40 version of the book.

Re:MS Publisher (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 2 years ago | (#36268516)

And how long before 1.3.3 was retired? It hasn't been, it's still the current stable. Many of us use the 1.3.4+ versions because the 1.3.3 has become (comparatively with the RCs) pretty limited. But I would not hold my breath on 1.4 going stable soon.

As far as how it is, I rank it along side pagemaker without all the nice spelling check, or fancy plug-ins, etc. But it is definitely something you can seriously publish with. The PDF and preflight features are a dream.

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