Getting Started with Scribus 1.5

Color Outside the Lines

Article from Issue 226/2019
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Scribus is a desktop publishing tool for Linux that expands your options when designing simple flyers and brochures, giving you plenty of room to be creative.

Occasionally, you may find yourself having to produce a brochure, flyer, or other printed products. If you use LibreOffice and similar programs, you will probably achieve acceptable results – but LibreOffice Writer is not the ideal tool for such tasks.

In fact, there is a separate program category for designing printed products: desktop publishing (DTP). Scribus [1] is a classic DTP tool for Linux. Unlike LibreOffice, it offers a variety of approaches to putting text around photos, arranging text in many different ways, linking text modules across page boundaries, creating contiguous double page spreads, and much more.

Although the Scribus developers strive to make their tool as simple to use as possible, it can be hard to know where to get started with Scribus. This article introduces the program and shows you some of the basic features by creating a simple flyer.

Where to Get It

Scribus is included with most distributions. However, this does not mean that a zypper install scribus on openSUSE or an apt-get install scribus on Debian, Ubuntu, or Mint will generate the desired effect. Before installing Scribus, you need to decide whether you want to use Scribus 1.4 or Scribus 1.5.

Scribus 1.4 is more than a little out of date; its interface in many ways no longer reflects today's standards. The Scribus 1.5 branch has long been an alternative, but Scribus developers still say that it is under development, which translates to the software having a beta status. In everyday use, however, Scribus 1.5 turns out to be just as stable as its predecessor Scribus 1.4, which has not yet been replaced, and it offers many more functions.

To get started with Scribus, it makes sense to use version 1.5. However, this is not included with every distribution out of the box. Fortunately, on their download page [2], the Scribus developers point you to a large number of different Scribus packages for the individual versions and also for other operating systems.

This is one of the program's greatest strengths: If you use Scribus on Linux, you can edit the file later on – for example in the office – with Scribus on Windows or macOS. For the popular Fedora and openSUSE distributions, Scribus 1.5 RPM packages exist in a separate repository. For Ubuntu, the developers run their own PPA from which the scribus-ng package can be installed.

First Steps

You'll start by creating a new document, just choose New from the File menu. In the New Document dialog box, choose the size of the document and the page orientation (Figure 1). Then press OK to create the document as described. Scribus now displays the main window, with the empty page of the newly created document occupying most of the window.

Figure 1: You will find many options when creating a new document in Scribus, but start with Size and Orientation.

There is no harm in taking the time to familiarize yourself with the Scribus user interface. Although the view is very reminiscent of the familiar look of word processors, Scribus is a DTP tool that works differently than a classic writing program in many ways.

As usual, there is a menubar at the top that gives you access to all the Scribus functions. What is more important though is the line underneath it. This is where you will find a variety of icons that provide quick access to the most important features of the program. Scribus comes with a large number of tools, but you can quickly locate the most important ones here. These include the text and image icons, which you use to create text boxes and embed graphics in the document. Below the document you will find a further bar where you can change the zoom level with a mouse click.

Let's briefly look at the contents of the Windows menu in the taskbar. This is where you open various additional windows for the individual Scribus functions. As soon as you start using text boxes in the document, you will find options for the font type and size, as well as the desired layout in the additional Text window. If you do not immediately see this window, click on Properties and choose the Text option.

Adding Color

A white background on a flyer is about as creative as socks as a Christmas present. You can immediately make your flyer more interesting by adding a background color. You do this by creating a frame in Scribus, extending it to cover the entire page, and then selecting a fill color.

First select the shape icon with the stylized gray rectangle. Then click in an area of the page, hold down the left mouse button, and drag a rectangle of any size onto the sheet. Now release the left mouse button. Scribus then draws the new box on the screen and automatically selects the element, as you can see from the red border. With the frame selected, you can resize it to the desired size and drag and drop the frame so that it is exactly on top of the document. The snap to grid guides that are enabled in Scribus by default will help you do this.

Now right-click on the frame and select Properties. Scroll down to Colors and select one of your choice to use as a background. You can add new colors by going to Edit | Colors and fills and creating a new color. Explore the options in the colors dialog box to create an endless variety of new colors (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Scribus supports both RGB and CMYK color models and has many advanced features for choosing colors.

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