A look at Scribus – Open-Source Desktop Publisher on GNU/Linux

As a print journalist by trade, I’ve had to use more Adobe InDesign than I care to get into. I swear I kern text in my dreams or something at this point.

The problem is that Adobe InDesign is not native to GNU/Linux and did not work as expected when running through WINE in the past (I can’t say if I have got it to work yet in Wine 3.X, as I haven’t honestly tried yet.) and so, I’ve had to learn to use alternatives from time to time when I don’t have InDesign handy – Like Scribus.

Scribus for all intents and purposes, is designed to fulfil the same role as Adobe InDesign, and can be used for all kinds of different purposes; from creating and laying out magazine or newspaper pieces, to creating a not-a-boring-word-document-resume for finding employment, or even business cards or comic strips.

Even better, Scribus is a cross-platform application that you may run on Windows, Mac OS X and Gnu/Linux devices.

Scribus Installation

Scribus should be available in the vast majority of Debian based distribution repositories. Gentoo users can use the instructions here, and Arch users also have it in their main repository as well.

You can check out the main download page for the stable version. It lists downloads for Windows, Mac OS X and various Gnu/Linux flavors.

I won’t waste anymore time on this section. Its easy to find.


Scribus features far too many different tools and options to list off in the conventional format during a review like this, but to name a few:

  • Support for most Bitmap formats, not limited to but including .tiff files and JPEG
  • Vector image importing and creation (Although the creation of vectors in my opinion is a bit complicated and messy in Scribus, but in the end they turn out well usually)
  • SVG and Encapsulated PostScript support
  • Support for TrueType, Type 1, and OpenType font embedding and sub-setting
  • PDF support including transparency and encryption

Its important to note that Scribus is NOT compatible with proprietary file formats such as .idd from Adobe InDesign.

I personally recommend that if you intend to learn how to use Scribus, you don’t start a project you don’t intend to finish entirely in Scribus, as converting to other formats can be very painstaking at times.

New Scribus users may want to check out the the Contents Wiki page on the official website. It lists first steps information, links to video tutorials, and provides guides for features such as adding footnotes, exporting to HTML, or using Scribus to make business cards.

Final thoughts

I can’t say that Scribus is on the same level as some of the other programs out there, but considering it’s free, open-source, and very easily attainable on GNU/Linux systems, its definitely a worthy addition.

As well, I’d be lying if I said Scribus wasn’t powerful; it can be and is used by professionals out there, and while I have said that it may not be on the same level as other programs, it definitely stands on its own and stands strong as well. If you’re looking for a good solid publishing application, Scribus is no slouch.

Now you: Do you use Scribus, if so, what for? Let us know in the comments!


A look at Scribus – Open-Source Desktop Publisher on GNU/Linux

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A look at Scribus – Open-Source Desktop Publisher on GNU/Linux


Mike takes a look at Scribus, a cross-platform (Windows, Mac and Linux) open source desktop publishing application.


Mike Turcotte-McCusker


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