| August 21, 2010 2:51 pm


During my talk to the local Linux user’s group the other night, I spent a few minutes introducing Scribus.   Scribus is a marvelous tool and fills a much needed void in the world of Linux writing/publishing.  It brings a robust layout and pre-press design tool to the Linux desktop, with the additional benefit that it’s easy to use.  (At least when compared to professional grade tools on other platforms such as Quark XPress or Adobe Indesign>)

However, even though Scribus is a wonderful tool, it can be a bit intimidating to get started.  Desktop Publishing programs are not the same as word processors and shouldn’t be used in the same manner.  That isn’t the purpose for which they were built.  They completely lack important extensions, such as a Thesaurus or Spellchecker, for example, that many writers would consider essential.

Rather, when you use a desktop publishing program, you are exclusively focused on how your document looks.  Desktop publishing programs are typography tools, not writing tools, that come into play after all of the words have been written.

Using a good layout/desktop publishing program, you can tweak any detail related to the appearance of your document.  This includes the the margins, the spacing between letters, the fonts and many other details besides.  Everything.  They are tremendously powerful.

But with power comes complexity and it’s easy to be intimidated by complexity.  We fear what we don’t understand and complex things can be difficult to understand.

In the case of a layout program, the language may be strange or the controls might not behave as you would expect them to; which just freaks people out.  (I mean, is it really fair to expect that someone unfamiliar with the history of typography know that “kerning” refers to the space between letters?)

This is why a well designed example, or template, can make all of the difference between success and failure when trying something new.  During my presentation and subsequent conversations I had with people afterward, this point came up (multiple times, actually).  So, in addition to my presentation slides, I also agreed to upload a couple of Scribus templates that people could use to get started.

In the remainder of this post, you’ll find two presentation templates that can help you get started with Scribus.  These examples/templates are:

  1. A modern style presentation theme (the same theme I used to create my slides, actually)
  2. A modern magazine/catalog layout

Both examples work with Scribus 1.3.6 or newer.  Older versions of Scribus (> 1.3.6) use version 3 of the Qt framework, which means that they are tremendously out of date and, for that reason, dead to me.

(If you’re using Ubuntu, you can install Scribus 1.3.6 by searching for the ScribusNG package in the Software Center.  Both the stable version and ScribusNG can be installed side-by-side.)

Swiss Modern

The first template is a presentation theme in the Modern (Swiss) design style.  It uses Free Sans and Libertine Sans for the default typefaces.  (These fonts were chosen because they can be distributed under the GPL.  In the original presentation, I used Futura, a proprietary font.)  The template includes three different master pages and several example pages, showing both 2-column and 3-column layouts.

Additionally, I have defined a number of paragraph and character styles which should help you to standardize your document formatting.  These include titles, styles for quotations, and code.


Modern Catalog

The second template is a Modern design for a catalog or visual report.  It is based on one/three column layouts common to art-books and auction house publications.  By default, it uses the Liberation Sans font.

Like the Swiss-Modern example, it includes several master pages (with both single column, two-column and and three-column options), in addition to a number of example pages.  Pre-defined paragraph and character styles include three levels of headings, captions, and emphasized text.  Decorative grey and red text styles are also included.




To install, simply download the .zip archives for the templates to your computer.  Then extract it and open up the main document file, which ends in the .sla extensions.  For the Swiss Modern template this is “Swiss-Modern.sla”, and for the Catalog Modern it is “Modern-Catalog.sla”.

Once the file finishes loading, then select the “Save as Template” option from the “File” menu.  Be sure to place a checkmark the “Include font” and “Include color profile” boxes.  Then, type in the path to the Scribus user templates folder:


After you enter the Scribus templates directory, press the “Save” button.  This will launch an information dialog where you can enter details such as the template name, a description and any special usage instructions.  Once you have added descriptions that rival the aesthetic perfection of the documents templates, press the “Ok” button.

When you save a template into the Scribus Templates folder, it will copy the template file, photos, and fonts to the directory you specify.  It will also add the template to the template gallery.  Be sure to save these files into either the master template gallery, or to your users templates folder.  If you do not, they won’t appear in the Template Gallery.

Template Use

Once you have downloaded and installed the templates, you can create a new document by clicking on the “New From Template” link in the “File” menu.  When the template file first loads, it will provide you with several example pages that can be used in your layout.  Simply delete the sample text/images and replace it with your own.

To adjust the appearance of a particular block of text, you can apply character and paragraph styles from the “Text” Section of the “Properties” dialog.  To modify the appearance of a whole page, you can make use of the “Apply Master Page” option under the “Page” menu.


3 Responses to “Modernism and Scribus Templates”

Stephen wrote a comment on August 24, 2010

Did I understand right that you make your slides with Scribus? Do you then show with a pdf viewer?

Can you insert links to video material etc?

Good slides – get away from power point and the clones.

Rob Oakes wrote a comment on August 24, 2010

@Stephen: That’s correct. I usually put my slides together in LaTeX (using the Beamer class) or with Scribus. Then, you can display them using Adobe Reader or another PDF program that has a full-screen view.

If working with Beamer, then it is possible to embed video and audio clips using the movie15 package. To the best of my knowledge, it is not possible to embed video inside of a slide from Scribus. I remember reading that image frames can handle some types of multimedia, but when I searched the Interwebs, I was not able to find any concrete examples.

With the multimedia weakness aside, I really like using Scribus, LaTeX (LyX) and other typographical tools for creating slides. Once you get styles, master pages and templates set up, it’s every bit as fast as using Keynote or PowerPoint and you can ensure that the final output is beautiful and amazing.

Stephen wrote a comment on August 25, 2010

Scribus seems to support LaTeX frames (at least development versions do – which is a great way of incorporating equations), so I may do some experiments to see if movie15 would work in this way. It would be useful to include at least a link to a movie file if the pdf link would fire up the relevant player – even if standalone.

Care to comment?