How Scribus is Different from Other Software

6 min read


You might be fully interested in free software, may be running Linux or any other system except Apple Mac OS or Microsoft Windows, and in this case, you don’t have much choice except for Scribus, Scribus, or Scribus. This is mostly because proprietary equivalent software such as Adobe InDesign or Quark Xpress is not available for Linux-based platforms.

Desktop publishing software versus text processors

If you have already used layout software before, these arguments are not new to you. However, if you come from any other computer-assisted profession, you may be surprised at the way such software is organized. Especially, most of you would have certainly used text processors such as Microsoft Word, Writer, and maybe Microsoft Publisher. Once you go deeper into the details, you’ll see how Scribus is different.

I’ve heard many people explain that they were trying Scribus, because they thought or heard it was a better piece of software. Text processors are very qualitative when it’s time to handle text (and this is an important point) but not when there is a need to customize a document. Just take a look around: you can identify any magazine or any book collection because of their visual identity, which is made possible by the Desktop Publishing set of software. Could you identify as easily the origin of a Microsoft Word or OpenOffice document? I’m not sure, because all of these documents will be very similar.

Generally, you won’t use a layout program if you need to save time and work very quickly, because it is not intended to save time, but to let you be as free as possible to create a unique document: the one that will make you change the world, or the one that will help you improve the communication of your company and make it more efficient. Scribus will give you everything to be as productive as possible. However, every time you need to choose a color, every time you need to add a shape, or every time you need to change the text settings, every single little task that you will find yourself doing to get the best graphically designed final document will add to the time taken. This is a very important point if you want your layout project to succeed. I have experienced many projects where people really underestimated the time taken to perform these tasks.

To help you create your document, remember that a layout program is not based on text handling, but on the page. In Scribus, the page is an object that you’ll be able to manipulate. On the page, you’ll add shapes or frames that you’ll place precisely, one by one, and each of these will have their own properties. Especially in a layout program, images are drastically apart from the text, whereas in a text processor both will be in the same flow. This again results in a different way of considering the elements you will have and may change the way you work. This is for the best, and once you get used to this, once you have the major but quite simple software possibilities integrated, and once you have the print process specificities in your work, you’ll be more free than you’ve ever been to create a unique document. This document will be the result of your own creativity and not only the default settings defined by a product or another.

To InDesign and Xpress users

If you’ve already used a layout program, you will certainly have questions such as:

  • Is this software as good as mine?
  • Can I import what I’ve done with my actual software so that I won’t have to do everything again?
  • Will I have many things to learn to be as productive as I actually am?

For the first question, Scribus is in some ways very good and has very original features but in some other ways it is less than perfect. The real question is: what do you already use in the software you have and does Scribus have it? I used to be an Xpress teacher and I’ve often met graphic designers who don’t even use styles or master page and Scribus has it. Scribus can use spot color, set bleeds, and many other features required.

As an answer to the second question I could simply say “No”—mainly “No”. As far as I know, it’s always the tricky part in whatever software you use. Scribus will soon be able to import Xpress tags and IDXML, but it is still in development and is actually not usable; if you use Microsoft Publisher, there is really no way.

As for the last question, I don’t think there are so many things to learn. Scribus has an original user interface but can be inspired by some de facto standards. And mainly, the principles are the same in Scribus and in InDesign or Xpress. Of course, you will use some of your habits, but in two or three days of Scribus testing, everything will be perfect again and you’ll feel comfortable with it.

Shortcuts will certainly be the most difficult to learn. Xpress users, especially, use them a lot and even InDesign users use them for text handling. Scribus shortcut defaults are much simpler. You can use the Keyboard Shortcuts category of Preferences to change them.

Scribus 1.3.5 Beginner's Guide

Simply select the function for the shortcut you want to change in the Action list, click on the User Defined Key option, click on the Set Key button, and perform the shortcut you’d like to assign. If it is already being used, you won’t be able to assign it unless you find where it is assigned and erase it.

    • Applying master pages:

      In Scribus, unlike in InDesign, the left-hand side master page can be applied to a right-hand side page. Scribus never automates the way master pages are applied, except when creating the document. So, if you’re confused by that, don’t worry; you’ll be able to do what you want even if you have chosen the bad side.

    • Frame conversion and text to outlines:

      In Scribus, frames are central. Adobe InDesign, in some ways tries to avoid them by using a single tool for text edit and text frame, and at the same time it can import pictures without requiring a frame. But in any case, a frame is made even if automatically.

      Another good feature with Scribus frames is that they can easily be converted to any other kind of frame. So, if you created a Text Frame and want to put an image into it, you can still do so without deleting and drawing a new frame. This is very important because the default frame shape is set to rectangle and cannot be changed.

  • Importing several pictures

    In Scribus, it is actually impossible to import several pictures (as it can be done in InDesign) at once. This can be done with Scribus Python scripting. There are already some scripts for this on the Scribus wiki at Check for the script that suits your needs.


In this article we saw how Scribus is different from other kinds of software.

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