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Author Topic: Scribus?  (Read 10211 times)
Vordark
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« on: May 18, 2009, 09:34:10 AM »

I've had a fair amount of experience with "free" software and am strongly of the opinion that such software is only free if your time has no value.

I'm looking to hear people's experiences with the Scribus DTP software.  Do you love it?  Do you hate it?  How well does it stack up against the well-known commercial packages?

I've used Pagemaker and Quark Express in the past and have a fairly low tolerance for bullshit packages that require dozens of hours just learning the interface.  If I download Scribus and try to use it to lay out a game I'm working on, how upset will I be?
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Graham W
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2009, 10:51:11 AM »

It does the job, but it's unintuitive and annoying. I used it to lay out Play Unsafe.

I'd cautiously recommend Serif Page Plus, which you can try out for nothing, and costs 10 dollars.

Graham
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2009, 05:32:33 PM »

I wouldn't recommend Scribus - if you're prone to bursts of ranting and fevered sketching about how you'd go about in making a RATIONAL and INTELLIGENT program design (like I am), Scribus is pretty prone to bringing those habits to surface, even more so than QuarkXPress. This might be less severe for people who have acclimatized to the fine differences between Linux and Windows operating interfaces; it's probably much less annoying to use Scribus if you've used many programs that have similar approaches to organizing information and functions.

Then again, technically Scribus has few deal-breaker problems, so I can easily see many audience segments for whom the deal is still good. They might end up installing and re-installing a few times in a search for the current best non-crashing version and they might waste time searching for some functionality that simply doesn't exist in the program, but it's all free when a professional software could cost a thousand euros (depending on location) - it's definitely not a cut and dried issue.
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jerry
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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2009, 06:43:46 AM »

I don't use it for books, but that's less to do with Scribus than with the fact that I'm a barbarian who prefers word processing software to any page layout software for larger texts.

Previous to using Scribus (Mac OS X Aqua version) I'd only regularly used PageMaker around 1994-1997, which I loathed; towards the end of that period I actually switched to AppleWorks/ClarisWorks for page layout (its draw module was also page layout) because it was easier to use and actually had one or two key features that PM didn't, so take my experience with a grain of salt. I find Scribus much easier to use than PageMaker of that era; and about as easy or easier to learn than the trial version of InDesign from a few years ago, which I gave up on.

It has hierarchical styles, layers, and automation, and it outputs directly to PDF, so it fills my limited needs for page layout.

The biggest project I use it on is probably the rules cheat sheets for Gods & Monsters. I have a layer of common rules, a layer for each archetype, and a layer for the adventure guide, and a script that automatically generates the PDFs for each player by hiding/showing the appropriate layers.

I also use it for creating custom covers for upload to Lulu, and for distributing character sheets for adventures. That it's also free and available on most platforms is a plus for me, because I distribute the source files online, and it helps that I can distribute these files in software anyone can download. That sounds like it isn't a concern for you.

The main thing it does differently is that it doesn't "bundle" all pieces of the document together in a single file; if you insert an image, for example, it doesn't insert the image into the document file; it just inserts a reference. As a plus, if you update the image, the document also gets the update automatically; as a minus, if you move the image or the document file, the reference gets lost and has to be relinked.

Jerry
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Jerry
Gods & Monsters
http://www.godsmonsters.com/
David Artman
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2009, 10:16:18 AM »

it doesn't insert the image into the document file; it just inserts a reference. As a plus, if you update the image, the document also gets the update automatically; as a minus, if you move the image or the document file, the reference gets lost and has to be relinked.
As a quick FYI: that's the *right* way to do it. Embedding an image can make a file so bloated that it won't open, or bogs down your system. That's why, for instance, TIF files have a preview image that's lower resolution: so that DTP applications can insert by reference and yet you can still *sort of* see what the image is and have its size and aspect ratio.

If you look at even lowly Word/OpenOffice, it has "Insert As reference" as a (foolishly NON-default) option when you are inserting a graphic file.
-----
I find Scribus to be a very impressive tool... for page layout. NOT so much, for full-book design. So if I were doing a very "arty" RPG (or artful RPG components like character sheets, play aides, covers, maps) or something like a magazine, where no two pages have the same basic layout, then I'd grab it and never look back. But trying to do a large, consistently-structured book was more troublesome than it was to do in OpenOffice or FrameMaker.
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Vordark
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2009, 12:12:11 PM »

I'm hearing something here that I was somewhat afraid of.  That Scribus, at least to some extent, is shit.  My experience with PageMaker dates back to somewhere around 1995 (as jerry mentions) when I used it extensively to help publish a regular magazine (something like 32 pages, monthly).

So now I have a new question, it seems:  What should I use?  I'm hoping to be able to lay out a book between 200 and 250 pages with art, tables, the works.  I want the book to look "professional".  My first endeavor will likely be self-published through something like Create Space, but I don't want to be locked out of using a local, commercial printer.

What is an alternative to Scribus that has at least comparable page layout abilities and doesn't cost me practically a thousand dollars (read as inDesign or Quark)?
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2009, 02:20:54 PM »

People have been recommending Serif Page Plus for a couple of years as an affordable option, but I've never tried it myself. In truth, I'd feel a bit cold with a 250 page book and any program that didn't have all the automation modern DTP programs have. If I had to do it without the programs I'm familiar with, I'd either go with Scribus (and prepare myself emotionally to not bash the computer on a wall) or the interesting option of InDesign demo version - 30 days of full capability layout power, should be more than enough if you prepare your materials well beforehand. The only drawback of this plan is that you can't change your layout later without getting InDesign back somehow.

Also, I understand that Americans can get InDesign and/or Quark considerably cheaper if they buy a student licence. And then there's the option of buying an old version of the program second-hand - Any version of Quark past 4 should be more or less usable for making a book as long as you pay attention to the modern features the given version lacks.
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Vordark
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« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2009, 04:13:15 PM »

If I make crazy amounts of money off my first product, I'll consider picking up Adobe's creative suite/whatever that has inDesign and Photoshop, but to be honest, the day I fork out a thousand bucks to lay out fucking text on a page with a few graphics is the day I freebase Drano and shuffle off this mortal coil.
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redalastor
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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2009, 12:55:23 AM »

May I suggest Lyx?

Lyx is not either a word processor (they insist that word processors do to your words what food processors do to food) or a desktop publishing application. It's a WYSIWYM app for Latex (more on Latex in a moment).

First, WYSIWYM is both very similar and very different from the WYSIWYG you are used to, it stands from What You See Is What you Mean. This means that when you are writing your text, you don't care, at all, about how it looks. You care about meaning. This is a chapter title so I pick "chapter" from the drop down, this is a quotation so I pick quotation, etc. 90% of the time, you are just using "standard" which is plain old paragraphs. You don't care about chapter or page numbering either. You don't have to write a table of content, just pick Insert TOC from the insert menu and in time, the TOC will be built where you put it.

So you care about your text. You care about the structure. You care about cross-reference (this line refers to that section) but not about tracking on which page cross-references land and you care about inserting tags for your index (as for the Table of Content, you just have to insert it at the end of the text and it will be built for you).

So... You have your book, you spent a minimum amount of time fiddling with it you just wrote the content which is what matters in the end. You want your book to look good. You just export it to PDF and your work will be processed by Latex. Latex is a very advanced typesetting system that knows better than you how to make your document look good. It has a pretty good idea where your pictures should go, it knows about kerning and spacing and margin and all the rules you have to follow to make a professional looking book. It also computes everything, all the numbering, making references land on the right pages, etc. Once it is done, your PDF opens in your default PDF viewer and it looks great.

If you aren't satisfied, you can always export it to rtf or plain text and open it in a word processor or desktop publishing app.
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Vordark
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2009, 06:31:09 AM »

redalastor:  I think I'm looking for a more "traditional" DTP package.  Lyx looks like paradigm-ware and, well, LaTeX is hideous.  Thank you though for pointing it out!
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redalastor
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Posts: 22


« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2009, 10:07:11 AM »

Lyx looks like paradigm-ware and, well, LaTeX is hideous.

Hideous are horrrible to work with or you don't like its output? If it's the former, that's the point of Lyx existing.
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Vordark
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2009, 12:27:36 PM »

I want to thank everyone for the suggestions they've put out here.  You've given me several programs to take a look at, which, if nothing else, gave me an idea of the options I have available.  Alas, thus far it still looks like Scribus for my budget, which is firmly at $0.00 for now.  To be honest, I have downloaded none of these packages at this point, but instead have watched YouTube videos, gone through the online documentation and browsed forums when they are available.  That, plus the undying hope to have my previous (circa, oh, 1994 - 1998) DTP experience count for something in my project is leading me to the conclusion that Scribus is the best among a set of bad options.

I'm bookmarking this thread and once my project is further along I'll probably grab at least one or two of the more attractive suggestions to compare things to and who knows, maybe I'll end up writing a set of reviews.  In the meantime, if any of you have even heard of some other free solutions I'm still dying to hear about them.
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dauvis
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« Reply #12 on: May 21, 2009, 03:10:19 PM »

Lyx looks like paradigm-ware and, well, LaTeX is hideous.

Hideous are horrrible to work with or you don't like its output? If it's the former, that's the point of Lyx existing.

Not sure what Vordark was meaning but I'll be frank.  Out of the box, the output from LaTeX is ugly.  Most people do not have the time/ability to coddle to make it a good replacement for DTP.  It does what it does very well which is why it has endured for so long.  As a replacement for DTP, it is not the proper tool for that job.
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Vordark
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« Reply #13 on: May 21, 2009, 03:31:55 PM »

I really don't want to add any fuel to a potential religious war (and please don't be offended by that remark) but I've used LaTeX for documentation back in my "There is but one editor and its name is emacs!" days and it served the purpose well.  It was also a bitch to use and I ended up having to write some C to strip out the formatting so that other people could read the plain text.  I like the figures, I like how I could define certain regions of text so they looked, at first glance, that they were supposed to be typed, but getting a file to look like something other than a Comp Sci 401 book was like pulling the teeth from a rabid jackal.

I looked at Lyx, didn't download it, but flipped through the docs I could find.  I'm very certain that if I wanted to write technical documentation with it, it would be a thousand times more friendly that hacking LaTeX by hand.  But I can't imagine laying out a book I would want to spend time with using it.  I can't imagine ever loving the way the pages worked.

Yes, there are ways around this.  Yes, I could probably change various options, play with this or that and get an acceptable result.  But I just don't see that being nearly as easy and straightforward in Lyx that it would be in a program designed for DTP.  It might totally be what works for you and if so, great!  I really hope that in a few months, when I'm working on my publication that whatever piece of software I end up using works even half as good for me.  But I can't see anything with a LaTeX core being the answer for what I want to do.
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redalastor
Member

Posts: 22


« Reply #14 on: May 21, 2009, 08:10:17 PM »

Yes, there are ways around this.  Yes, I could probably change various options, play with this or that and get an acceptable result.  But I just don't see that being nearly as easy and straightforward in Lyx that it would be in a program designed for DTP.  It might totally be what works for you and if so, great!  I really hope that in a few months, when I'm working on my publication that whatever piece of software I end up using works even half as good for me.  But I can't see anything with a LaTeX core being the answer for what I want to do.

LaTeX and DTP seems to be two problematic extremes. On one hand, LaTeX's knowledge of the rules of typography and the "just layout everything for you" approach is great. On the other hand, the user-friendly flexibility of DTP apps is great.

My ideal medium to write a book would be a good markup language like reStructuredText and an automatic conversion into a layout I like. RST looks like this:


================
My Chapter Title
================

My section title
----------------

A paragraph

    A quotation

Another paragraph

.. note::
  This is one of those typical text in RPG books that goes inside a rectangle somewhere in the page



I like it because it's trivial to edit, it's very readable, can be stored in a VCS, and it can be automatically converted to html, rtf, latex and pdf (through latex). Maybe I'll work on turning that into a proper output (custom latex and scripting?) eventually but in any case, I don't want to put my text in a DTP until the text is done.
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