Scribus is a desktop publishing/layout program, similar to the big names in the industry (PageMaker, QuarkXPress, InDesign etc...). It was written by Franz Schmid, and is distributed under GNU GPL. It uses Qt GUI toolkit, and also integrates with KDE drag and drop (and possibly with GNOME since I thought they used the same DnD protocol, I haven't tried it yet though).

Scribus is fairly easy to use; Personally, I had only tried some big programs ages ago, but I was still able to produce very good output with it. However, at version 0.9.2 it's still far from perfect - it is not yet quite as amazing program as The GIMP is in bitmap graphics side. Things "just don't work" yet.

The basic operation is very straightforward: To place text and images on the document, just create text frames or picture frames, get content for them, and edit their properties. Text can be interactively edited (though it's slow, and font rendering on screen is far from perfect!) - it's easier to import text from files. Regrettably, only plain text is supported, I'd very much like to enter marked-up text and import it straight away...

Text layout has some bugs and inconviniences (it's not possible to tune all possible text parameters, like the column ragged edge tolerances, maximum/minimum character/word spacings, the individual character kernings, and so on) - some stuff is only available at paragraph level, some apply to whole text box. But the file format probably supports it; it's good to see that the files themselves are in XML, and this probably makes reading them somewhat easier than usual (even when the text boxes aren't that easily specified in the file, due to the text properties). The 0.9.2 version supports hyphenation, which is good, and the program has got significantly more stable than it was when I first tied it in 0.6 days. A long way in such a short time...

Scribus truly aims to be a professional program, and as such it has some features that are not found in many free (beer of speech) programs. Scribus recently incorporated littlecms color management system, and apparently CMYK support and color separation support is there or coming. Scribus reads a few bitmap graphics file formats (JPEG, PNG, XPM), as well as Encapsulated PostScript (no word of SVG yet). Scribus supports both PostScript Type 1 and TrueType fonts.

Also, what surprised me most when I saw the program first time was the really friendly and well-working PDF generation: Just push the button, and it generates a file. PDF special features, such as annotations and widgets/text areas/forms are also there. Naturally the program also outputs to PostScript level 2 printers, using its own PS module. (PS level 3 is not yet fully supported.)

The only problems I had were the kind of problems that things looked just fine on screen, but didn't look right in the generated PDF. There were some problems putting many EPS files on top of each other. Also, there was no automagical text flow around PNGs with alpha (but I faked it by saying the picture was not to be flowed around, and placed a polygon object under it - it could understand that, though. Also, as mentioned, things looked just plain ugly on screen; When zoomed in, the fonts went pixely and hard to see (but looked just fine in the PDF).

Regrettably the documentation is in German, there's a translation in French, and a translation of tutorial in English - but this is probably enough for most of the use. The program GUI is luckily enough available in English. Due to the European origin, Latin-1 characters worked just fine, and reportedly also some other Latin charsets. I hope for UTF-8/Unicode support in future - this would enable to get proper quotes and stuff that are so important.

Once the bugs are gone, I think Scribus will do just fine, and even as such it was enough for me to finish my graphical design introductory course assignment. If I pass the course, I'll just recommend it for everyone. If not, I'll send some serious bugreports. =)

The home page: http://web2.altmuehlnet.de/fschmid/ - also available as a Debian package.

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