Software Frustrations with Scribus

After working the last couple of weeks on a publication design project for the design and advertising firm where my mother works, I have the unpleasant “fortune” to tell her that it is not done and I will not be finishing it. It is due later today.

I have had scanner problems. A Canon CanoScan N676U quit working after upgrading the laptop from Ubuntu Linux 6.10 (Edgy Eft) to Ubuntu Linux 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). I moved it to my desktop computer also running Ubuntu Linux 7.04. It did not work there either. After a searching on Google for a solution, I quickly found scanbuttond and pulled it from the Ubuntu repositories.

Scanbuttond works around a limitation in Feisty’s handling of USB ports that was not there in Edgy. What it is really supposed to do is make the buttons on the scanner work. I do not use the buttons. I use XSane. Typing “scanbuttond” in a terminal window activated my scanner. It worked well enough, but sometimes XSane failed to see the scanner or the lamp (and scanning motor) would lock up at random points in the scanning process or upon initializing. Toggling scanbuttond off by killing or stopping the process and then restarting it usually fixed it. Although sometimes it required doing this several times before XSane located the scanner and it initialized properly.

This was a minor inconvenience. The major one was the publication/design software, Scribus. Scribus is available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, OS/2, and GNU/Linux. It works. But not well. After trying to set 48 pages plus the outside and inside of the cover, I am giving up in frustration.

Why? I set global font properties on text boxes and they do not stick. I draw a text box and have to reset the font properties. I place a text or image box and apply a border and it nudges the outside edge of the box over the guides. It fails to snap to the guides or grid with a hefty border applied to the box. There appears to be a lack of available border styles. It does not handle fonts well at times. Leading “automagically” changed in a few cases after reopening a document. The majority of crashes were of the “Signal 11” variety. It crashed often enough that I can now use “Signal 11” as swear words. It crashed often enough that I thought I was running Windows 98 again. It crashed often enough that I had to redo countless pages, sometimes in spite of having just saved it. I am not pleased with Scribus to say the least.

Now I will give the developers credit. Scribus is rounding into shape slowly, but there is no way at this point that I would depend on it for production jobs. And this is where using open source software has burned me. I prefer open source software. I prefer open source operating systems. I have not run Windows on my computers for over five years. I do not even have Windows installed on my computers, although it is on my wife’s computer. I use Ubuntu Linux… proudly. Before Ubuntu, my computer ran Lycoris, PCLinuxOS, SUSE, Red Hat, and Slackware Linux. On average, the software that I have installed has been excellent examples of quality. Perhaps that is why I am so “bugged” about my experience with Scribus.

The best layout/design software that I have used is QuarkXPress. Granted I last used it in 1998, but it was so easy to use, so intuitive, so very good at WYSIWYG, and so good at doing more than WYSIWYG. In 1995, I used MultiAd Creator and found that a highly capable layout/design product. One product that I did not like using for layout/design work was Adobe PageMaker. There was very little I liked about it. Scribus seems to take most of its interface influences from PageMaker. I wish Scribus would not.

I cannot afford QuarkXPress and the OS to run it on, so I am stuck with Scribus. Until it becomes a better application, I will not us it for any professional publications. It also limits what freelance work I can undertake. I need work. I do not need software frustrations.

The frustrations fed a verbal argument with my wife this evening. I do not need software frustrations added to the frustrations of helping raise a very young kids and keeping a happy spouse while trying to keep bill collectors at bay. The bill collectors were one of the reasons I agreed to undertake this design job. Freelancing has a high degree of frustrations, but raising a family should not. Keeping your spouse happy should not. I do not think she is sleeping well tonight. Arguments never allow her to. I am sorry for that.

It is approaching 2:00 a.m. I need some sleep after struggling with Scribus for several nights and days now. I will not sleep well.

I just hope my mother did.



  1. My scanner works with no tweaking in Ubuntu (since 6.06 or 6.10, can’t remember which), but I found this post as a result of my “Signal 11” fun with Scribus. For a tech course, I am supposed to create a brochure. When I had to do one in the past, I used Photoshop because I wanted something totally custom (and was still using Windows at the time… ugh). This assignment doesn’t require anything fancy, and I only boot into Windows once every few months, so I did a quick search to find what was recommended for Linux and Scribus was the unanimous answer. I installed it and hit a signal 11 within a minute of opening a brochure template. I installed some additional templates and tried another brochure, same result. It’s utterly unusable.

    Some other sites mentioned Passepartout, so you might want to check that out if you’re still doing desktop publishing. Personally, I’m just going to use OpenOffice and throw something together to be done with the assignment. I’m sure going “above and beyond” won’t be rewarded anyway…

  2. Have you ever looked at KOffice? (I assume you’re running Gnome of Ubuntu, but…).
    From what I’ve heard, KWrite uses a frame-based layout that might get enough functionality for simple DTP. (I use Serif PagePlus on Win2000 – at least it’s cheaper than the name-brand DTP programs – but am looking for Linux options for newsletters, etc. What I hear about Scribus scares me…)

  3. It is now Sept 22, 2009. Almost 2 years after this article was written. Would you care to update the users of DTP software with the latest findings about Scribus? I was an early user of Quark, Ventura Publisher, and Adobe PageMaker so I am well aware of the growing pains of all of these tools and the workflow required for brochures, large documents (books) and newspapers. I still user Ventura Publisher and sell professional style sheets for over 20 years.

    I am curious about this users experience or lack thereof with a “free” DTP tool… its pros and cons.

    1. At the time I wrote that I was working on a DTP project. Ended up losing the project because I could not get Scribus to do what I could so easily do in Quark, PageMaker, and Corel Draw. Since then I have not had a need for it. I have been concentrating on greater passions… my family, fiction and screenplay writing, and long distance running.

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