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

Mike Turcotte-McCusker
May 12, 2018

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
Article Name
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.
Ghacks Technology News

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  1. Cameron said on July 16, 2019 at 1:17 am

    I find Scribus an absolute PITA to use. Nothing is intuitive, and doing something as straightforward as changing font or font size is a slow and convoluted process. The help files are next to useless unless you are a developer. It’s now a last resort for me – I use anything else available.

  2. seo a5 said on November 27, 2018 at 7:25 am

    The only serious free option for desktop publishing right now is Scribus (http://www.scribus.net/). It’s software, not web-based. I’ve used it a few times and it’s pretty decent. Of course, I also have QuarkXPress, which I prefer. Hope that helps!

  3. JoWa said on June 29, 2018 at 8:29 am

    Scribus 1.4.x (even the recently released 1.4.7, which is the last one) is obsolete. Scribus 1.5.x is superior, with support for OpenType-features, lots of import filters etc. 👍 Stable enough on Ubuntu.


  4. Ronny said on June 9, 2018 at 11:11 pm

    I’ve been using Scribus for over a decade as alternative to InDesign to design two school magazines a year . At first, I had to find my way around the program but that didn’t take very long. It’s good if you want to keep things simple but it allows for detailed editing. It seems like the best option when there’s no budget and no desire to download illegal copies of Adobe tools. As said above, development is ongoing but slow. I miss a massive userbase to find tips and tricks.

  5. Gyffes said on May 17, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    I liked Scribus, found it did everything I needed to… except remain open. Haven’t used it in several years because it just crashed too often. My DTP needs are far fewer now, but can anyone speak to Scribus’ stability (on any platform, I use ’em all)?

  6. augustwest said on May 14, 2018 at 7:52 pm

    I use Scribus, on the MS platform, before that I used “Pagemaker” and then “Indesign”. Scribus is not as intuitive as either of the Adobe packages, but can get the job done if you are patient. Development on Scribus is on-going but happens at a snails pace. I look forward to version 1.6 as it is suppose to be a major upgrade.

  7. JaveLibreWorld :) said on May 12, 2018 at 7:34 pm

    It appears Scribus is programmed in C++ according to Wikipedia, ie. no Java, I hope so. :)

    Unfortunately it seems all open source Office suites are programmed in Java, I have only found one Office suite which is commercial but they offer a free version too, which is WPS Office from China (they have been around for 30 years already), only the downloaded installer size looks very promising with its scant 66MB, it is told to be light and fast using a smaller memory footprint, I guess probably because it is programmed in a native language.
    They are developing a Linux version too, but I have no experiences with it yet.

    ps. I am not affiliated with WPS Office but would be curious to know what Martin and the Ghacks team would think of it if you guys would some day evaluate various Office suites for a future article.

    1. michael biller said on October 6, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      WPS Office for Linux is great. It a near-perfect clone of Microsoft Office so making the transition won’t hurt much. Unfortunately, it is not open-source.

      I have always found Scribus to be more than capable. Of course, I have never used Adobe InDesign so I can’t compare them. I have had people who are experienced InDesign users express amazement and/or disbelief that my desktop publication projects were created in Scribus.

      Apparently, they were under the impression that Scribus was incapable of achieving the results of such quality. They are often equally amazed that all my work is done on a Linux desktop workstation. I find it hard to believe so many still believe the myths concerning Linux.

      With the exception of InDesign, I used proprietary offerings in a professional capacity for years. I have found that with some work learning the software, and a few configuration tweaks, You can achieve the same level of quality and production with open-source software.

      I honestly don’t miss Photoshop, Illustrator, or any of the other stuff because I don’t need them. I do not have a problem with proprietary software but open-source serves me so very well.

    2. Andrew said on May 14, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      I use WPS office on Linux Mint every day. I find that it is much faster than Libreoffice for working with large files. It is supposedly still in the Alpha stage, but I find that it is already so stable that I can’t recall ever having had it crash on me.

  8. Al CiD said on May 12, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    I´m using Scribus for years now.
    All I can say, I really like to work with Scribus and I like how it works together with Inkscape and Gimp and Ghostwriter on Windows and Linux systems.
    I´m not a professional designer or page layouter but I often do some work for my customers… some kind of semi-professional perhaps?

  9. Claus Riis said on May 12, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    I’ve been using Adobe InDesign since it was Aldus PageMaker, but always also wanted to find an alternative.
    The closest alternative at one point was QuarkExpress on Mac. But the lack of proper indexing of pages gave it a thumbs down. Also Pagemaker was much more solid…as InDesign still is
    Actually the closest competitor to InDesign is MS Publisher but not near enough. Scribus is no way near

    1. Enzo said on May 15, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      saying that MS Publisher is the closest competition of Adobe InDesign is the craziest thing I ever heard, mainly when you learn using Scribus and realize is even better than QuarkXpress, so the real contender of InDesign is definitely Scribus !!! Scribus is simply amazing !

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