Many many years ago, I started my PhD and was first introduced to InDesign through a document design course. I cannot adequately describe the wave of disbelief and frustration that washed over my peers and me as we started working with this desktop publishing software. None of us could afford to pitch the computers out a window, so we trudged through it and learned the basics of this software. Once we survived the basics, I started thinking about how I could use this software in my classrooms. And then, I saw how much the software cost. Yikes! Thus, my desire for a free or cheap desktop publishing option. Scribus is a good option for free, though knowledge of InDesign is needed, or you’ll be reviewing as many tutorials as you can find on the Internet.
Goal: Free version of InDesign to create one-page documents (e.g., posters, newsletters) to save as PDFs and post in my classroom
- It’s free. (If you’ve ever priced Adobe InDesign CC, then free is pretty much the best feature of this software.)
- It is software that can be downloaded to a computer so Internet access is not needed beyond the initial download.
- It works on the basic principles of desktop publishing software.
- There is a wiki for help: http://wiki.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus
- Takes time and patience to learn, and then some more time and patience. (I knew some of the basics of InDesign before using Scribus.)
- Like GIMP, this is a no-frills interface without built-in guidance, though hovering over an icon will reveal the icon’s purpose
- Right-click menus are not always intuitive in the phrasing of options
- The built-in help is not very helpful.
- Adding and editing text is a nightmare. I can’t see the font style I’m choosing, the spacing freaks out if I want to create two lines of text in one textbox, and there are two ways to edit text (both don’t make sense).
Insider View: Consider doing a mock-up of the potential document, whether a sketch or even a Word document using a table to organize information. Scribus doesn’t work like Word. Keep in mind that Word is a word-processing tool that can include graphics, but that’s not it’s primary function, though most of us can force Word to do what we want for the most part.
Final Thoughts: Like InDesign, the software is not like Word or other “just start typing” document software. I know that the rating is mostly due to my lack of patience and knowledge about the software, but ultimately, I would not rely on this software for projects that are complex to begin with.