open source graphic design

Open Source Graphic Design

open source graphic designI have been experimenting with Open Source Graphics alternatives to Adobe software. This post will detail my experiences and opinions.

 The Setup

I am using the following Open Source Graphics tools on a Linux laptop:
Asus laptop.
Replaced Windows7 with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
Intel® Pentium(R) CPU B970 @ 2.30GHz × 2
Scribus Version 1.4.6
GIMP 2.8.16

For comparison, I timed the app launch time on my late 2012 MacBookPro, running El Capitan.
Adobe InDesign CC: 6min 16sec
Adobe Photoshop CC: 1min 10sec
Scribus (Version 1.5.1): 1min 16sec
GIMP: 1min 11sec

Launch time on Ubuntu (Open Source only):
Scribus: 4.3sec
GIMP: 2.7sec

I downloaded Blender. Blender is “a free and open source 3D creation suite.” I am going to try moving from the 2D world of Open Source Graphics Design to the 3D world. They have many tutorials on their site, which I am about to embark on. I installed it on my Mac, but will add it to my collection on Ubuntu as well. OK, here we go!

Opening an InDesign document in Scribus

I read a few blogs on this and tried one suggestion: create an .EPS from InDesign and open it as an editable file in Scribus. That did not work.

Another suggestion was to create an .IDML (an InDesign file that can be read by a previous version) document from InDesign and open that in Scribus. That worked much better. Here’s what I did and the result:

Business Card designed in Adobe InDesign CC

InDesign .IDML file opened in Scribus

Business Card File

This worked fairly well. The only issue I had was that the tracking (space between letters) was a bit off and the upside-down “J” I used to create the lower-case “f” in “Jeff” got flipped over. Otherwise, the styles and colors were all intact.

Book layout in InDesign

InDesign .IDML file of book opened in Scribus

Paginated Book File

The book conversion didn’t go as well. The main body of the text was OK, but the TOC, some drop caps and footers got messed up. Still, it is an editable document. One thing was, though, is that my blockquotes defaulted to Arial. It seems that in some cases there was a character style on top of the paragraph style that carried over from the original Word file. A simple fix, however.

Command-A in the Scribus file

This was interesting. I placed the cursor in the text and hit Command-A to select the entire text string. It highlighted one page. However, that wasn’t really true.

Deleted text in Scribus

When I deleted the highlighted text, it seems that the entire text string really was highlighted, as the whole thing got deleted. Then something even more interesting happened…

Command-Z in Scribus

I hit Command-Z to undo the delete. The text came back, but the formatting was now messed up.

Edit Scribus File in Text Editor

If you open a Scribus file in a text editor and open an InDesign file in a text editor, you will see that Scribus is very readable whereas, InDesign is not. You can make changes in both and save the file, but the results are quite different. Editing an InDesign file in a text editor (TextEdit on a Mac) renders the file useless.

InDesign error message

Editing a Scribus file produces better results. I edited a Scribus document on a Mac using TextEdit. This rendered the file useless, just like InDesign. But, then I tried it on my Linux Ubuntu machine, using Gedit, which I launched from the Command Line and, voilà, the file opens and the changes I made in Gedit were retained. How can this be useful? Say you are a printer and you receive a Scribus file. The client calls and says there is a small typo. Instead of getting a new file, open the Scribus file in Gedit and you should be good to go.

Scribus edited in Gedit on Linux

Scribus opens after Gedit changes

PDF Import in Scribus

I converted an InDesign doc to an .IDML so that I could plop in some PDFs. It seems Scribus is not as easy for this function like InDesign. However, after it failed, I simply converted my PDF imports to JPGs and imported them into Scribus. That worked great. I exported my document as a PDF but noticed that the files size was rather large. I’ll have to investigate that later.

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Jeff Macharyas is a graphics, marketing and publishing professional. Macharyas holds a BS in Communications and an MS in Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics. Macharyas holds the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) and is a frequent contributor to where he writes on various open source-related topics.