1. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Scribus

    Discussion in 'Software' started by big soft moose, Aug 13, 2017.

    big soft moose submitted a new resource:

    Scribus - Open source desktop publishing software

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  2. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    Anyone using Scribus?
    I'm trying to format a 20.000 word story for printing using Microsoft Word and I've come across some limitations. Then again I've once tried Adobe InDesign and I wasn't impressed. And Adobe InDesign is hard. I can use Photoshop quite well and I'm willing to learn, so that's not a problem, but, considering that a novel is just text (no graphs or images or fancy magazine/newspaper formatting), it just seems harder than it should be compared to Word.
    Scribus is open source and free, and it's supposed to be similar to Adobe InDesign.
    My question is, does it pay off the learning curve and effort? Do you end up having to tweak manually every page the same way you would in Word?
    I will try it anyway but I'd like to know from people who are using this software.
     
  3. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Active Member

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    Scribus and Adobe InDesign are desktop publishing (DTP) apps. They are not intended for writing, but for the final finishing touches to create the look of the book after the text has been written. You could write with them, but it's not worth the effort. IMO.

    A dedicated writing app like Scrivener or a word processor like Word, LibreOffice Writer or Google Docs makes much more sense for writing, unless you really really want to design the complete book. (Yes, there's significant functionality overlap between modern word processors and DTP apps, but word processors still have more tools geared towards writing words one after the other, whereas all DTP apps I know concentrate on the look of the text, not the words.)

    That said, my current recommendation for a DTP app is Affinity Publisher. It's commercial, it's still beta, but it's already on pre-order for release later this month. I beta-tested it, and it's awesome. (Will cost ~$55 one time, the current pre-order sale price is ~$43. That's ridiculously cheap compared to other professional DTP apps – in particular InDesign – considering what it can do, though InDesign currently still does nicer typesetting.) (No, I am not affiliated with Affinity or get money from them for saying that. I just like their apps.)

    Scribus it is if you like open source software and don't want/can't spend that much, but be aware that it is not quite as nice and does not produce as high quality output as Affinity Publisher or InDesign (though you probably need a trained eye to spot the quality differences.)
     
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  4. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    Yes, @Martin Beerbom, I'm very much talking about preparing the book for print. Self-publishing print. I need something that looks good and professional.
    It's possible to design a book in Word. I've just done it. I don't know if it looks good enough that it "passes for" professional. I'm going to try Scribus and compare.
     
  5. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Active Member

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    Scribus can definitely let you design a whole book, and has a bunch more tools than Word to make it look nicer.

    However, I don't think it will necessarily free you from tweaking every page – it's kinda the point of DTP software to let you tweak everything (which often translates to "you must tweak everything").
     
  6. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Active Member

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    Just for completeness sake – Affinity Publisher is officially out. Costs ~$55 one time, currently on sale for ~$43.
     
  7. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I've abandoned Scribus altogether and I'm using Adobe Indesign. Scribus isn't definitely as good, not even close. Maybe one day, with more development.
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Affinity is probably worth a look - its not quite as good as Indesign either, but the price is right. Indesign is the industry standard, but theres a reason it used to cost about 800 quid when it was a standalone package, and its $29.99/£19.99 pcm now
     
  9. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Active Member

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    As far as I understand, the standard was QuarkXpress in the 1990s. Since then, a great chunk has been taken over by Adobe InDesign, but QuarkXpress is still a major player. Both are industry software, sold/licensed/subscribed to at industry-prices – the only reason I used InDesign was because I worked at a university, and got the package with major discounts. Both are way too expensive for hobbyists, private users, or micro-businesses like freelance authors. (That said, as far as I understand, InDesign has the best typesetting engine of any desktop publishing software, which is only rivaled by [La]TeX, of all things [which is free, but a whole different beast to use than any other software mentioned here.)

    Scribus is the one touted by open source enthusiast, and used by some non-profit organization and low-profit enthusiast businesses, but from my own personal experience, in the Mac version, quite crappy to use. But it's free.

    There are a whole bunch of low-priced, commercial applications out there. While none of them uses a type-setting engine that approaches the quality of InDeSign or [La]TeX, or the feature-set that InDesign or QuarkXpress offer, you would be hard-pressed to notice, and they can provide professional-level output. Of those low-priced applications, I really like Affinity Publisher the best. In fact, if you want to do professional work, and cannot/want not afford the prices Adobe charges, I think Affinity apps should be the alternative to chose (Affinity Photo vs PhotoShop, Designer vs. Illustrator, Publisher vs. InDesign.) Just note that a lot of the price Adobe charges is not just the apps, but additional services like a cloud, exchange with other professionals, access to supplements like fonts, stock images, macros, etc. that Affinity offers not quite in this volume and quality (Affinity sells fonts, add-ons, etc. and has access to the free stock image libraries from within the apps, but the fonts for instance are not the big-name industry standards, of course.) Nevertheless, you get extremely good software for a rather low price.
     
  10. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not familiar with the terminology and don't know what a "typesetting engine" is. Adobe InDesign has one good quality above all others which is its Adobe Composer (also exists in Photoshop). I guess this is what you're talking about, yes?
    I've prepared the same sample text for print using Adobe InDesign, Scribus and the latest version of LibreOffice. The three of them look decent to my naked eye. But it's a lot easier to work with InDesign, especially when it comes to its composer and when it comes to line alignment. Line alignment was giving me big headaches to solve in both Scribus and LibreOffice and I'm not sure I've managed to solve it because meanwhile I've abandoned both softwares. It doesn't matter much in a work/school presentation but it makes the entire difference in a professional looking book.
    Maybe Scribus has the features to do correct line alignment (and I mean for hundred of pages in a novel, not columns in a magazine) but it was simply too hard compared with InDesign.
    This thread is about Scribus so I'm trying not to comment too much on other software I've tried.
    I have a geek friend (sorry geek friend) who sings the praises of LaTex, but I wonder if it is equally good at line alignment. I'll ask him. Maybe work with the same text sample to compare.

    I did learn Quark Express briefly in the 90s.
    I agree that typesetting your book for print (is this the expression used, "typesetting"?) is not for complete amateurs. But if you're self publishing your work, you have to do everything you can do yourself.
    I'm focusing more on ebooks but I want this done for the Print On Demand option.

    Just to make it clear, line alignment: if you place a ruler across two pages of a book, the lines in both pages must align; the bottom line in all pages must align.
     
  11. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Active Member

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    Typesetting engine: It's essentially the process that in earlier time the typesetter would have done. The computer algorithms can get close to the quality of a good human typesetter, but not quite the same ... although it can be difficult to recognize the quality difference.

    One of the things is word density: If you look from far away, unfocused, the text should appear uniformly gray, at least across a paragraph, better across a page, at best throughout the whole book. But, for instance when you want to get the text aligned, the space in between words (and sometimes in between characters) need to vary to achieve this alignment, and less good engines can make the text appear splotchy, or don't give you the tools to improve the output if this happens. Scribus, for instance, shocked me by how few spacing adjusting tools it has. (La)TeX does a stellar job in achieving this uniformly gray appearance, but gives you very few tools, and you need to manually tweak the text at some point (near the end of the work, certainly not while you're still writing), for instance, by telling it how to hyphenate a lot of words (Adobe InDesign has a much better hyphenation library than LaTeX, in particular for non-English texts. LaTeX's hyphenation in German is abysmally bad.)

    There are many other items that determine the quality of the typesetting, but I think this one should be enough for starts.
     
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  12. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Contributor Contributor

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    I don't trust any software to do hyphenation for me. Just no. English based softwares don't begin to understand Portuguese. But I wouldn't trust it if I were writing in English either. A hyphenation mistake is a lot worse than a common typo. And, besides, I have to tweak line by line anyway. Might as well hyphenate where I know it's correct.
    What I really disliked about Scribus is that it doesn't allow you to remove or add a page in the middle of the working document, only at the end. (I was using version 1.4.7., my apologies if this has been fixed meanwhile.) I spent a day trying to figure out how to do it when I realised from help forums that the text doesn't flow automatically. So if you want to insert a chunk of text in the middle of a chapter you have to start the chapter from scratch. This may not matter a lot if you're composing a page for a magazine, but to redo dozens of pages in a chapter if you want to insert an extra paragraph? It's insane.
    Adobe InDesign doesn't have this problem. Nor does any functional word processor known to computer users. Adding extra text is a very basic thing in a software that deals with text. Why is it so problematic to program Scribus do to that? No idea.
     

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