[scribus] Using Scribus for novels and short stories

John Culleton john at wexfordpress.com
Fri Jan 7 18:37:59 CET 2011

On Thursday 06 January 2011 13:16:31 John Jason Jordan wrote:
> 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.

If you already know that AM and PM are to be set in small caps then it 
is fairly simple to insert a statement like {\sc AM} (pdftex) or 
\textsc{AM} (pdflatex) to achieve that effect. 

CMYK colors are easily used in any form of TeX, using in LaTeX:
or a similar command in the other forms of TeX.

But my main point is that LaTeX is overly complicated for a novel. I 
use pdftex with the same starting commands in every case:
pdfhorigin .5in
\pdfvorigin .5in
\pdfpagewidth 5.5in
\pdfpageheight 8.5in
\hsize 4.5in
\vsize 7.5in
\font\rm pplr8r at 11bp
\input protcode.tex
\pdffontexpand\rm 20 20 5 autoexpand
\baselineskip 12.5bp

The above preamble includes all the bells and whistles, including 
hanging punctuation and microtypography (glyphs expand and contract by 
tiny amounts to assist in justification.)

The page/text block dimensions and the name of the main font might 
need changing from job to job.  

All the layout decisions made are documented in the preamble. With 
WYSIWYG products you have to chase around to various menus etc. to 
determine just what decisions were in effect when the document was 

I add a macro for the \chapter layout and the rest is just plain text 
with blank lines between paragraphs. I don't have to worry about page 
breaks and so on. They are created as needed.

For more complex non-fiction layouts I suggest the use of Context, a 
LaTeX alternative that is well-documented with free online pdfs and 
about a decade newer in concept. 

For LaTeX users I suggest the Memoir Class. It has magnificent 
documentation. Indeed, the first three chapters of the documentation 
describe book design in general, and are now in a separate pdf:

John Culleton
Create Book Covers with Scribus:
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