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Open Source Desktop Publishing

Forget Adobe vs. Quark, Go Open Source (It's Free)


Page layout using Scribus

Page layout using Scribus

© Dan Fink
For some reason, most of the publishing world doesn't take open-source software seriously. There are exceptions: a great number of national governments, large corporations, gigantic ISPs and web hosting firms use it. But in desktop publishing? It's hard to find even a mention of open-source in print or online.

The recent article here on About.com entitled "Mix and Match Software" was a case in point -- even at the very end of the article where both inexpensive and free software options were listed, the most powerful, professional-grade, and free tools for photo editing, word processing, layout, and press-ready PDF generation were completely omitted. Which is why I'm writing this article!

Note from Jacci: True, the Mix and Match article focuses primarily on the Windows and Mac software from Adobe, Quark, Corel, and Microsoft. However, the open-source Scribus and OpenOffice are listed on the free software lists for Windows/Mac.

When I started my own small publishing company two years ago, the budget was a shoestring combined with peanuts. I had already been using the Linux operating system for many years, including some extremely powerful open-source photo editing tools for my "real" job as a professional photographer. It didn't take long to find all the free software I needed to write and publish a large book, full of photographs and CAD drawings.

The proof is in the proofs and the press, of course. Fast forward 2 years. Every printing press I contacted for both the bound galleys (short-run for 150 Advance Review copies) and the final press run (2,000 copies) said "Linux? Scribus? The GIMP? What on earth are you talking about, never heard of them." But two of these presses (Bookmobile for the bound galleys and Friesens for the final press run) also said they were willing to work with beginners, and that they couldn't really care less what platform the press-ready PDFs were produced on, as long as they passed pre-flight.

So, I thought, "why not?" I had been using these open-source tools for photo editing and promotional materials for years. They seemed to work fine, and local printers never had a problem with the PDFs, even with CMYK at 2,400 dpi.

The first session of fingernail chewing came while waiting for the bound galleys. Result? No problems, your books arrive next week. The next session involved hair pulling as well as fingernail chewing, as I had invested about $10,000 in the press run. Again, same result, the PDFs were fine. The open-source pre-pre-flight showed 100% OK, and pre-flight from the big press showed the same, 100% OK. The book looks great, and is already selling well. And my tiny new publishing company saved thousands of dollars in software costs!

I'll cover the free, open-source tools I used for this book in an ala-carte fashion, just like the original About.com article. >> Next Page

More on author Dan Fink and his book, Homebrew Wind Power
Pick Your Path to Desktop Publishing
Get Started:Basic Guidelines and Requirements for Desktop Publishing
Choose Software:Desktop Publishing and Design Software
Tips & Tutorials:How to Do Desktop Publishing
Training, Education, Jobs:Careers in Desktop Publishing
In the Classroom: Back to School With Desktop Publishing
Make Something: Things to Make Using Desktop Publishing
Use Templates: Templates for Print and Web Publishing
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