Reviewed: Scribus 1.3.5


We've reviewed Scribus a number of times in the past and even included a feature made using the tool in one of the back issues of Linux Format magazine. However, each revisit tends to throw up the same old problems: Scribus's lack of reliability and poor interface. Thankfully, after two years of solid development, these woes have been banished. Well, mostly - read on to find out what's changed...

The most noticeable change here is the interface: the Image Manager and New Document windows have been rearranged into logical positions, and the interface itself has a shiny new icon set. The Font Preview has also been subtly altered, hiding away its ream of detail until you need it. Meanwhile, object insertions now have a pop-up window to define object proportions, and most of the image and text import bugs seem to have been resolved, increasing the program's stability.

But Scribus 1.3.5 isn't all refinement: new features include support for pre-built shapes with associated path tools - vector graphic and colour palette import support from Adobe's Illustrator and InDesign - which is a huge bonus.

In addition, there's a raft of new pre-press options during the PDF export stage that will appeal to professionals. These include crop and bleed marks, colour bars, and page information, which are especially useful when printing, since what you see on screen doesn't always match what comes out on paper. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even add transition effects to each page, so your PDFs take on the feel of a slideshow.

The updated Save As PDF tool gives Scribus a more logical and professional feel.

The updated Save As PDF tool gives Scribus a more logical and professional feel.

Something for everyone

New users have also been taken into account with an excellent new Quick Start guide that helps prime you in the basics of desktop publishing quickly. Those with prior knowledge of desktop publishing are well served too, with comprehensive documentation that covers some of the more obscure topics you may come across.

As with previous versions, Scribus hasn't tried to reinvent the wheel, focusing solely on desktop publishing instead. For instance, the default setup uses the Gimp for image manipulation and Aspell for spellchecking. This not only promotes other open source projects, but also means that those replacing another publishing package won't need to leave behind favoured photo editors and drawing apps.

Despite these steps forward, though, Scribus's developers have stressed this is by no means a stable release, calling on distro-makers to maintain Scribus and package this release as ScribusNG. This is because the new version's file formats aren't backwards compatible, so if you do choose to use this release, it's recommended that everybody you work with follows suit.

However, this is the most stable development release of Scribus we've come across so far and, as such, it's well worth trying out to see if the new features and layout suit your needs.

Our verdict: With professional features and a clean interface, all Scribus needs now is to nail a few final stability issues. 9/10.

Features at a glance

PDF export

PDF export: There are plenty of new options for PDF exporting, including crop and bleed marks, colour bars, transitions and more.

Quick Start tutorial

Quick Start tutorial: This is concise, logical and packed with handy screenshots - everything newcomers will need to get started.

First published in Linux Format

First published in Linux Format magazine

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Your comments


Has it become more stable to work with? I used it about a year ago, and it was *very* prone to crashing - to the point where I couldn't use it.

mail merge please

I wanted to try Scribus a little while back, however I need to be able to mail merge a list of names to a pretty certificate. I was shocked to find out that it doesn't have this feature. I had to use the long way round via

Footnotes and endnotes

Does it handle footnotes and endnotes importing?


No mention of CMYK?

I find scribus great until you need to send to commercial offset printing in CMYK. Sure it's a commercial downfall on most linux apps, however some handle it a lot better than others. How does the latest version of scribus deal with CMYK?

my previous message

s/"Sure it's a commercial downfall"/"Sure it's a common downfall".


Under Mandriva 2009.1, it comes packaged with 3.5.

Under preferences, Color Management, Profiles it lists:

CMYK Images
RGB Solid Colors
CMYK Solid Colors

And, under each CMYK area it's listed as:

Fogra27L CMYK Coated Press


That should have read 1.3.5svn

cmyk and stability of 1.3.5


cmyk: scribus has been supporting cmyk (and spot colors) since decades.

1.3.5 is the instable version, not the development version (which is 1.5). it's not just a matter of terms: no new feature (or almost no new feature) will make its way into 1.3.5 and the focus will be on stabilizing it and making it faster: the goal is to publish soon (sometimes dreams come true...) a new stable version 1.4 which will be based on the code of 1.3.5.

so: if you want to start a new project now, and it will be in production in a few months, you may try to use 1.3.5. if you have to finish you work in three day, you may prefere to use 1.3.3.x (even if it lacks many many cool features from 1.3.5).

concerning the other points:
* there are ways to do mail marging with scribus. but not with a gui at the moment. (there is a plugin but it has not been ported to the newer versions of scribus)
* footnotes and endnotes are not supported yet.


Not close enough to a professional application

Having worked with a professional DTP over several years and making magazines and adverts with this, I can honestly say that Scribus is far from a professional program.

I tried to use it to create a dummy for another magazine I sought to design, but it just wasn't possible for me to work in it. There are a few things that doesn't work like it should.

So I had to run windows and the pro DTP-program to design the dummy.

Actually. When it comes to DTP I would prefer a professional and non-free program. There are things you want like Pantone colors and so on. You also would like to have some sort of support, and you also would like to know that the software house behind the program continue to develop the program to make it better (and then probably more expensive as well).

DTP is a complex software, as someone stated above, and so I feel that such a software should have a professional organization behind it.

Same goes with drawing programs, although Inkscape really is a great program, but it is far from the professional alternative.
And now I shouldn't mention Gimp versus the pro alternative... (well, there, I have).

Trond, your comment can mean

Trond, your comment can mean a few things, and neither of them are flattering ... for you.

Even the Scribus development team has stated that v. 1.3.5 is still a development version. But it actually works quite well, except for the occasional bug that is to be expected from a development version.

"I tried to use it to create a dummy for another magazine I sought to design, but it just wasn't possible for me to work in it. There are a few things that doesn't work like it should."

Grammar aside, what exactly doesn't work as it should?

"There are things you want like Pantone colors"

First, I hope you are familiar with the concept of spot colours and also licensing issues. As long as Pantone refuses to allow distribution of its palettes with Scribus, they cannot be shipped with the program. And Scribus isn't the only software that faces the issue. Even some closed source packages can't afford to ship these palettes. But if you had used the free Scribus support (see below), you would have learned how to download the swatches from Pantone's website and install them.

"and so on"

Which means exactly what?

"You also would like to have some sort of support"

What kind of support do you prefer, almost instant support for Scribus in many languages via IRC or a mailing list or commercial support in return for fees and/or expensive phone calls?

If you had tried to use Scribus's free support, you would have been told how to get your Pantone swatches.

"you also would like to know that the software house behind the program continue to develop the program to make it better (and then probably more expensive as well)."

If your comment hadn't offended most people with an average IQ, this one is certainly on par with "death panels" in the US healthcare debate.

1) There is no "software house" behind Scribus. It's a project, and the code is licensed and published under the GPL.

2) As a result, no other "software house" can buy the code and bury Scribus.

3) Another result is that even if the Scribus project suddenly ceased to exist, the source code would still be freely available, so that another team could easily pick up development. Compare this to the fate of FreeHand!

4) Following your train of thought, you are happy to pay more for a new version of the same product. I'm sure the people who either pay you for ridiculous comments or count on idiocy are happy. If what you wrote made any sense, a modern PC would cost the equivalent of the world's GDP (simply because it's so much better than the early computers that cost a fortune to manufacture).

Bottom line: Trond is a troll, or an idiot, or a paid shill.

I'm not sure about professional

It might be going there, But I wouldn't call it a fully functional professional layout and typesetting program.

Much has to be fixed with regards to typography. Kerning, justification, a clear differentiation between fake and real smallcaps and other, more or less trivial things. Some UI problems and some functional problems. It still doesn't really work with tables. Et cetera.
I work with typography and layout at a professional level and am also very interested in free software. So I try to work as much in free programs as possible, including scribus/Gimp/Inkscape.
But when it takes three or four times longer to produce stuff compared to the two professional proprietary programs, Quark or InDesign...?
I believe that Scribus needs an overhaul of its UI and a lot of work in the typography parts.
Less clicks and prettier text.

...And decide. Is this primarily supposed to be a professional program or an amateur one?

Nevertheless it is the best we have on Linux, and hopefully it will get real good.
Better than a lot of others, both free and proprietary. But not quite there yet.

Actually, I think Trond is,

Actually, I think Trond is, at least in parts, right.
There needs to be a professional organisation behind the developement. But this is not about proprietary vs free. It is about resources, both personal and financial.
A program such as this could very well be developed in collaboration with professional users and their organizations, Institutions, Both educational and others. Consult old typographers from the lead age. Talk to the people educating graphic designers.

Problems with font size and exportable in pdf

I am a Brazilian and I'm trying to use 2 versions and 1.3.5svn and am having problems with both

1.3.13svn can not insert the font size as 10.5 or 12.3 when I'm creating a paragraph style, but when I close the file to the card does not have the ability to crop marks and information for the graphic

1.3.5svn can export a pdf file perfectly to press but can not create paragraphs with font sizes broken.

Someone gets the 2 in a single version of Scribus?


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