Back in the day I used to publish an amateur fanzine dedicated to the old school Commodore 64 computer and whilst it wasn’t the way most teenagers spend their time it was something I genuinely enjoyed doing. This was a fanzine which enjoyed worldwide, low scale distribution and those who are even slightly interested can still find some information about this 12 year old magazine by looking up ‘Zine 64 on Google as some of the articles were voluntarily archived by our readers online.
Rather than bringing you here to talk about the past, my reason for mentioning this old fanzine was that I used to spend a great deal of my life using the Serif PagePlus Desktop Publishing (DTP) utility to create the fanzine and since stopping publication I haven’t had the need to touch a similar piece of software. It occurred to me this week that I haven’t yet covered a DTP application in Click despite having been publishing Herald Express articles for over six years so I went on the lookout for a suitable application as now seemed the right time to redress my mistake.
Desktop Publishing software is used to organise text and graphics to make them presentable for publication as a newspaper, magazine or simply for a school project. Basically you start off with a blank canvas which you then drop text, images, shapes and other assorted elements on to before altering their size, shape and position as well as controlling the way that they interact with one another; allowing text to wrap around images for example. This process of manipulation should result in your final work looking a lot more professional than if you were to have just used a word processor such as Microsoft Word.
Open Source seems to be the current buzzword and determined not to disappoint the application we will be looking at today, Scribus (www.scribus.net) is indeed also Open Source meaning that it is created and supported primarily by users rather than a large profit making company. This particular piece of open source software has been designed as a DTP application for Windows, Unix, Linux, Mac OS X and even the IBM OS/2 Operating System. Those of you who haven’t heard of OS/2, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much but if I get nostalgic I may cover it in a future article.
Since it’s fairly safe to say that the majority of readers are Windows users we’ll stick to this version of the software which comes in a free and relatively small 18mb download. Needless to say all the usual Desktop Publishing functions are present in Scribus; you can lay down text and graphics frames, wrap text around graphics present on the page and create master pages for allowing you to keep a design present over a multi page document. The interface is primarily intuitive and it shouldn’t take those familiar with any similar application long to pick it up although there are a couple of annoying points, such as manually having to resize images to fit a frame, which take a while getting used to. If you delve a little deeper you’ll find a number of fairly advanced features such as CMYK colour separations (important if getting your work professionally printed), ICC colour management as well as supporting a modern XML based file format or the ability to export your work as a Adobe Acrobat PDF file.
There is no denying that Scribus is a nifty little application although it is fairly rough around the edges and some of the features of the application do take a little getting used to and whilst there are certainly more powerful applications out there you do have to pay for these unfortunately. If I was pushed I would also recommend taking a look at the free version of Serif PagePlus available at www.freeserifsoftware.com. This particular application although lacking in some of the more advanced features of Scribus is designed from the base up to be user friendly so some users may find it a better alternative.