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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 161 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Anyone out there using Scribus?  (Read 5489 times)

Posts: 1155

designer of Dirty Secrets

« on: June 27, 2007, 12:12:35 PM »

My wife does my layout work for me.  She is currently using PageMaker 6.  But that is starting to get dated, so she is considering switching to Scribus, an open-source layout program, to do Dirty Secrets.  So I thought that I would inquire here.  Have any of you used this software?  Good points?  Bad points?  Would you recommend it?  If not, are there other open-source layout programs that we should consider?

Thanks for your assistance.

Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Christoph Boeckle

Posts: 455

Geneva, Switzerland

« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2007, 01:06:38 PM »


I just used it to do the layout for a scientific poster in A0 format.
It handled everything just fine, except the "undo" command, which from time to time didn't work (it seems to be getting better with the newer versions, I tried 1.2.5 and 1.3.3.Cool.
I haven't used other programs at all, so I have no good basis for comparison. It let me do everything I could think up, though. Even some I didn't knew existed, like checking for errors before creating the pdf.
I'd use it again.

What are the functions your wife needs most? Maybe I can help more specifically.


Posts: 98

« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2007, 06:04:38 PM »

I've recently started using the Mac OS X version for smaller pieces for Gods & Monsters--character sheets, reference sheets, and 4x6 cards. The main reason I'm using it is that (a) it is basically usable, (b) the documents I create using it can be edited by pretty much anyone with a computer who wants to, and (c) it is very scriptable in a manner I'm comfortable with (Python).

I've been pleasantly surprised by it; its use of layers is very useful for customizing one document for multiple people. It's great at exporting PDF. But, previous to that I had only used an older version of PageMaker, AppleWorks, and ReadySetGo (in the last century). So it was probably easy to pleasantly surprise me.

It's missing some things that I would have thought were pretty basic for DTP, such as automatic dates (apparently the way to insert an automatic date, i.e., this document was last modified on, is to write your own Javascript snippet). It can also be very sluggish if you want to compose in Scribus rather than in some other app.

Another thing you might run into is that it does not embed media into the document. It links to it on your hard drive. After re-organizing a directory of media files, I'll need to reselect the media file in any Scribus document that referenced it.

I'm using, the latest is 1.3.4. (I always wait before upgrading stuff like this.)

What clinched it for me was when I made a rules summary, discovered layers, made a different layer for the information that's different for each of the five archetypes in Gods & Monsters, and then was able to write a short Python script to automatically create the summary PDF for each archetype, plus the GM. But then, I enjoy programming.

Examples at New character sheets, maps, and reference sheets.


Gods & Monsters

Posts: 29

« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2007, 05:51:35 AM »

I use scribus for a whole manner of things. It's an excellent DTP application that performs well for me. The only thing I would advise is that it is JUST a DTP and as such is not good for writing anything in from the beginning. I would advise on writing in a Word Processor to begin with and then simply copying your text across to be amended and shaped in Scribus.

Very good application and the PDF converter option is a lifesaver.

« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2007, 07:44:16 AM »

Thanks so much for the feedback.  So far Scribus has been helpful.  I love that I can put transparent images into it.  My old Pagemaker didn't allow that.  Very frustrating.  Thanks.

Crystal Ben-Ezra
David Artman

Posts: 570

Designer & Producer

« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2007, 10:03:06 AM »

I have poked around in Scribus, to see if it could replace FrameMaker and, thus, let me go All-Linux. It can't, but FM is a powerhouse for complex documentation (e.g. thesis, technical manuals). I am also a BIT adverse to how it does things with frames rather than Master Pages, but that could just be my conservativeness and difficulty with "flipping the mode" in my head. I would probably relax into them more once I had time to really use it.

But for a publication in which there is a lot of page layout variability (e.g. magazine or catalog), it would be perfect. For a more structured publication, in which style control and variable text is required, I would go with OpenOffice's Word Processor, which is head and shoulders above MS Word (they don't even compare, frankly). I will be using OO WP for GLASS because I want to deliver two books and, thus, need to be able to very quickly hide value-add content and tweak page layout and font sizing between each version (full book for full price, system reference for free, both from single source files by applying different templates to the master document).

Oh, and a quick aside:
Another thing you might run into is that it does not embed media into the document. It links to it on your hard drive. After re-organizing a directory of media files, I'll need to reselect the media file in any Scribus document that referenced it.

This is, actually, a Good Thing. Embedding media files directly into a document is generally considered a bad DTP practice. It's easier to revise a  referenced art file outside of the document and have it pulled in next time the book is opened, than it is to open the whole book, find the file, and edit it in the embed (with whatever tools--usually inferior--that the DTP app provides) OR cut it out, paste into an art app, then revise, then copy and paste back into the document. Also, referencing files allows for multiple people to work on different aspects in parallel, rather than having to work serially with a single, all-inclusive document.

Sure, that's all overkill for the Lone Wordsmith who does all the art and layout work him- or herself; but as a Best Practice for a DTP application, it IS the right one.

Hope this helps;

Designer - GLASS, Icehouse Games
Editor - Perfect, Passages
Jonas Ferry

Posts: 111

« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2007, 02:09:12 PM »


I used Scribus for my recently published game noir One Can Have Her. So far it's in PDF form, but I plan a print version through Lulu later.

One thing I've noticed is that the document gets very slow if you have many pages with linked text frames. I wouldn't dream of writing directly in the layout view, but instead use the Story Editor. But even the Story Editor gets really slow. I use Scribus under Ubuntu Linux on a computer with 500 MB of RAM, so maybe a bit more memory would help.

The way I solved the slow text editing was to only link text frames in their own chapter. That way I wouldn't have to navigate all text when editing. It's still unbearably slow when I try to paste text after copying. Even with a simple text frame it can take up to 30 seconds for the text to appear.

Scribus doesn't have a built in spell checker. What you can do is save the Story Editor window in text format and use an external spell check program. You would have to change words manually, though, since you'd lose all formatting if you try to copy/paste the text from and back into the Story Editor.

Something of a bug is that I couldn't add linked pages in the middle of a chain of linked pages. Let's say I have page 1 linked to page 2, and want to add page 1.5 between them. I could break the link between 1 and 2, add a link from 1 to 1.5, but when I tried to link 1.5 to 2 Scribus gave me an error message saying I tried to link to a full frame. I just realized, as I'm writing this, how I could have worked around it. Had I just added a page 3 after page 2 and started writing at the end of page 1 the text would flow from page 2 to 3 and I would have inserted my text between 1 and 2. Well, it was very annoying when I couldn't add that middle page, but I don't know if you've noticed the same.

When you're doing a PDF version it's nice to add links in the document, both internal links for navigation and external links to web pages. The list of contents can be linked, the index at the end of the book and any internal references and so on. There's a button called "Insert PDF Annotations" that does the work. You add a link by drawing a box in the document where you want people to click, then double-click on the box and choose what kind of link you want and the link destination. One thing to keep in mind is that these link boxes float on top of the text, so if the text is edited you have to manually move the link boxes. I don't know of any way for Scribus to keep track of the links, so that has to be done manually.

A very useful, and very hidden, function has to do with how lines of text line up on the page. Let's say you have a two column layout and add a picture to one column. You'd have to be careful with the size of the picture not to unalign the two columns of text. It's the same with open spreads of pages; you want the text on the right page to align with the text on the left. One solution to achieve this is in paragraph style, to the top right where it says "Distances". If you click and hold the first icon you can choose Align to Baseline Grid, which takes care of the problem. The baseline grid distance can be set in the document setup.

You can do automatic page numbering through the use of master pages, which I guess you've noticed.

Even with its limitations I'm happy with working in Scribus. I especially like the price, and how much functionality you can get in a program that's free. If you haven't already, check out the very useful Scribus wiki. Especially their howto category is good to browse.

I hope any of this was useful. I'd be happy to answer further questions if you have anything specific you want to know. Good luck with Dirty Secrets!

- Jonas Ferry

One Can Have Her, film noir roleplaying in black and white.

Check out the indie RPG category at Wikipedia.

Posts: 550

« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2007, 10:30:21 AM »

He hasn't mentioned it here, but Clinton Nixon laid out the first edition of The Shadow of Yesterday using Scribus.  I thought it looked pretty nice, and he had good things to say about the scriptability of Scribus.

Clay Dowling
RPG-Campaign.com - Online Campaign Planning and Management

Posts: 527

Heretic Forgite

« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2007, 12:18:40 PM »

I love that I can put transparent images into it.

As a hint: Many European printers (such as Lulu's European one) do NOT handle transparencies properly and will refuse to spit out your print job. Make sure to export it as PDF 1.3, flattened, before you upload it, if you're going to utilize a European printer in any way.

I can only say that, for someone who hasn't used any other DTP software before, Scribus is neither intuitive nor very beginner-friendly. I'm still trying to get the basics down. There are very few tutorials/helpful instructions. The way to create master pages, for example, took me a long time to figure out. Why can't I just add a new blank master page in the master page screen? Instead, I have to take an actual page and make a master page from it. That's just weird.


Posts: 17

« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2007, 07:25:31 AM »

One thing I've noticed is that the document gets very slow if you have many pages with linked text frames. I wouldn't dream of writing directly in the layout view, but instead use the Story Editor. But even the Story Editor gets really slow.

I had the same experience. That's the reason I dropped Scribus and got LaTeX instead. I still use Scribus for character sheets.
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