[scribus] Using Scribus for novels and short stories

John Jason Jordan johnxj at comcast.net
Thu Jan 6 19:16:31 CET 2011

On Thu, 6 Jan 2011 14:38:14 +0000 (GMT)
LORN MACINTYRE <lorn.macintyre at btinternet.com> dijo:

From: Jean-Louis Cordonnier <jlcord2 at wanadoo.fr> dijo

>>I agree with the choice of LaTeX. If your book is only text + chapter
>>titles, it takes only 10 minutes to do the whole job with LaTeX !
>>Try to know if this tool fits to your wishes.

>Thanks for this advice about LaTex being preferable to Scribus for my
>purposes. How does the transfer from Word XP work? 
>Do the files go straight into LaTex or via Open Office? 
>Will headers and footers (running titles and page numbers) be
>preserved? What do I do about kerning?
>Can I transfer pages into PDF format?
>Where is the best place on the Web for a tutorial on LaTex?

It may be possible to do your book in ten minutes with LaTeX. But it
may take a month to learn how. At the same time, I know Scribus well
and it would probably take me not much more than ten minutes to do an
all-text book in Scribus as well. But it may take you a month to learn
how to do it in Scribus, the same as LaTeX. 

I spent a week trying to do a book in LaTeX (using LyX as a front end),
and eventually gave up. It was one of the most frustrating computer
experiences of my life. 

Yet others love it and think I am crazy for not using it. One of my
professors once said "brains don't come off an assembly line." Every
time I see a debate like this about computer programs I realize how true
that is.

It's not just that Scribus is close to 100% instant visual GUI and LaTeX
is text-based so you have to export to PDF in order to get a visual
image of what you have done. I do prefer to see the results of what I
am doing immediately on the Scribus canvas, but I could manage the
LaTeX way if it really had features that I needed. 

My real beef with the whole TeX family is the philosophy. They were
designed initially for academic papers, e.g., dissertations and theses,
where the formatting is as important as what you say. (Don't get me
started on the insanity of universities.) The result is that by default
you are forced into "good" design decisions. The idea is that someone
who may know an academic subject thoroughly can produce an elegantly
formatted paper without the slightest knowledge of the rules of
typesetting and design. 

Yet, as great as that is, LaTeX does not cover everything that a good
typesetter knows. For example, did you know that "am" and "pm" are
properly set in small caps in English? Well, TeX doesn't know that
either. It's very good, but you still have to know a bit about what
you're doing. It also can't do CMYK colors and several other things
that are necessary for a design application. Yet, it does great
typography, and automatically, and somewhat better than Scribus,
although Scribus is almost as good.

To me, the beauty of Scribus is that it does not continually annoy me
by forcing me to decisions when I know and prefer another way. I've
been doing layout and design for a long time. I know the rules,
including when they should be broken. Scribus gives me the freedom I
need, and for that I love it. But I must caution that, while Scribus
gives you freedom, that freedom allows you to create stunningly
awful work. And Scribus will let you do so without a peep. Yet, when I
pick up a book I can almost tell if it was done with TeX. It is done
generally properly, but the effect strikes me as cold, mechanical and

LaTeX is Mozart. Scribus is Mendelssohn. Some love them both; others
prefer one over the other. I encourage you to give LaTeX a shot. But
don't kick yourself if it turns out not to be your cup of tea. You can
always come to my house and we'll put on the Hebrides Overture. 

:) :) :)

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