Jan 12, 2009

Linux Page Layout Setup

One of the the projects I am slowly working on is adding a linux file server and a linux desktop to my network; the file server is of obvious use, but I would really like to set up a combined windows/linux workstation and try open source Scribus out as an alternate page layout program. I have always used and continue to use Quark as my primary page layout and book creation software, but over the past year or so--as I have used and tried to familiarize myself with linux--I am investigating whether I could utilize it as a solid alternative to a windows or mac system.

I have still to settle on a linux distro however; I am not dual booting this workstation setup, rather the idea is to have one windows PC with a dual monitor setup, using a KVM unit to switch one of the monitors over to a older but still functional linux PC I have. This is a pretty straightforward process, except for the fact that the newest versions of Ubuntu/Kubuntu choke on my graphics card, Mandriva refuses to run my wireless card, and Freespire won't add new programs. PCLinuxOS seems to work just fine, however, so while I would prefer Ubuntu, I may just go with that.

As far as Scribus is concerned, it seems to offer most of what I would need. It supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation, along with useful vector drawing tools, SVG import/export and support for OpenType Fonts. I have read some of the accompanying documentation and comments which mention a "new" approach to page layout; being rather stodgy at times, I'm hoping it isn't too new. All in all, this is really just an experiment, and it will be interesting to learn whether a switch to open source tools is really in the cards for me. As for my approach on evaluating all of this, I will probably just pick an upcoming project and then set to work on it, using this setup.

Apparently FLES Books has just come out with a very comprehensive manual for Scribus (about $43 as I write this, not bad for a 439-page guide) which provides a detailed overview over the hundreds of features it offers, as well as numerous tips and tricks. Also, I found a nice list on the Minuteman Press/San Diego website that lists a number of other page layout and design tools for linux, including GIMP (image editing), Hamster Font Manager and others. I'll update you on how this progresses, but don't hold your breath just yet; I have hardware issues to clear up.

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