Scribus – Open Source Adobe Indesign

Updated 28-May-2024

Update May 2024 - I can't recommend Scribus due to their model of very long time between releases, the fact that only two programmers work on it in their spare time, and the advances to Inkscape (mainly supporting multi-page SVG / PDF). Yes, I'm sure the programmers are working hard, but they've got an inherited system that doesn't allow for much transparency or insight into what is happening.

Scribus was a maturing publishing tool which has much to like. The upcoming (when? who knows?) release of 1.6 (still waiting) should put it squarely in direct competition with Adobe Indesign, it's proprietary competitor (or not). Scribus is free and open source software, developed with love. However, there is one bad part, which is the development lead who believes that new versions (e.g., 1.6) should be released over several years, rather than several months. Too slow for my tastes, though they are doing incremental releases at a faster rate, and frankly it is a nice piece of 'ware.

When and Why to Use Scribus

Scribus, if it were further developed, might fit in between a few different document niches, and is specifically a desktop publishing layout editor. Other document editors which are different enough, but useful for comparison:

  • Libreoffice (wysiwyg spreadsheets and text documents)
  • Markdown + Pandoc + LaTeX (text + markup)
  • Inkscape (svg editors)

For example, all four of these can create PDF files, that can result in a book or other printed or digital material. However, Scribus excels at doing complex but repetitive layout and having text flow across pages.

  • For short documents with simple layout, something like Libreoffice would work.
  • For more complex layout and graphics, but still short documents, things like infographics, then Inkscape would be good.
  • For longer documents that have a standard layout, such as ebooks, then pandoc + markdown + LaTeX is a solid performer.
  • For longer documents with complex layout, then this is where Scribus would fit. One cannot easily create an epub out of Scribus, but for things like fixed layout books or pdfs, this is highly functional.
Short Documents Long Documents
Complex layout Inkscape Scribus (for now, Inkscape + Inkex)
Simple layout Libreoffice Pandoc + Markdown + LaTeX

Scribus is pretty good and should be tried out. It is the future (and possibly current) replacement to Adobe Indesign. Along with GIMP, Inkscape, and Blender, the Adobe Suite or so-called Creative Cloud can be retired. I personally have not used any Adobe software since 2010 (and any Microsoft software since 2007, with the exception of Github which is now owned by Microsoft).

Scribus Resources