Scribus is a desktop publishing application similar to QuarkXpress or Adobe InDesign, but open source and free to download and use, targeted at those who want to create visually interesting documents such as flyers, promotional literature, brochures, and reports. It allows for creative and flexible formatting of text and images, to handle large and demanding publishing projects. Author Cedric Gemy is a long-time user of and contributer to both the Scribus and Inkscape projects (Inkscape is an open source vector graphics application), and his new book provides a fairly straightforward and understandable tutorial for the beginner.
Gemy is French, writing in English, and though the book is generally very easy to understand, the writing often reflects the unconventional word choice of a non-native speaker. Once the reader gets used to the style, however, the instructions and descriptions are simple and useful, flowing logically from subject to subject, as seen in the sample chapter available from PacktPub.com. While unapologetic about Scribus' occasional failings and shortcomings in comparison to its more established commercial competitors, Gemy presents Scribus as a capable and useful tool for publishers from amateur to professional, and does so with useful step-by-step instructions for each of the topics it treats.
I have no background whatsoever in desktop publishing, so I found the book's occasional rules of thumb particularly interesting. For instance, it instructs the designer never to use images of less than 144 points per inch for works destined for hardcopy. Also intriguing were the introductions to bits of publishing practices I'd never imagined, such as its section on "ink coverage", which describes Scribus' technique for reducing the number of colors and amount of ink a print task will require, or its section on creating PDF files for printing (large and detailed) vs. for the web (small and lightweight).
This is not a book about graphic design, and its readers should not expect insights into decisions of layout for maximum effect, color matching, and the like. It is instead a practical and technical manual, describing the functions of menus, the operation of various tools, and the application of Scribus' Python API for user-defined scripting. The book gives advice on choosing the best image file format for importing into a document, but remains silent on the subject of choosing the best color to complement the image in the rest of the document.
Gemy claims this is a guide for beginners, and his content doesn't disappoint. No publishing experience is necessary to navigate the instructions, and the examples were sufficient to enliven even my long dormant creative spark. Although I don't expect I'll be responsible for publishing a magazine or sales brochure anytime soon, it's not unlikely Scribus will help build the invitations for my kid's next birthday party."
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