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freestyle, lecture on scribus

Lecture at Freestyle - FLOSS In Design, Piet Zwart Institute Rotterdam


During my 6 year freelance graphic design practice and 4 years study I gradually became aware of working methods in the general sense. In every aspect of my practice working structures developed, some are critically looked at, some are educated and some seemed to be accepted as they seemed to be litrally connected with my work. One of these structures I immediately accepted, is software because of their seemingly neutral qualities used for each design-solution. But did during these 10 years my work become more dependent on the possilities as presented through the programms?

I was asked by Matthew Fuller to design the leaflet for this seminar using only open source software. As I didn't have any experience with open source software and I needed to use a Linux computer on the Piet Zwart Institute I made before I started two descisions:
- the maximum amount of time I could spent on the design was 24 hours
- I'd keep two diaries, a formal and an emotional one. The formal one was the recording of events and the emotional one the recording of my thoughts (as a frustration/happiness index).
The following text is the offspin of these two diaries.


Roger Teeuwen, graphic designer; first experience with open source software
Matthew Fuller, course director Piet Zwart Institute
Femke Snelting, curriculum an research development Piet Zwart Institute
Calum Selkrik (Cal), systems administrator Piet Zwart Institute
Michael Murtaugh, mentor Piet Zwart Institute
Todd Matsumoto, student Piet Zwart Institute

31 march 2004

Calum set me up, made an user account on a linux computer.
I'm started with three open source programms:
The Gimp (alternative Adobe Photoshop),
Scribus (alternative QuarkXpress) and
Sodipodi (alternative Adobe Illustrator)


Talked with Femke about the difference between open source and proprietary (copyright+), that new functions and opening the program language are the most potential area's. For example dreamweaver (which is not open source); connection of visual and code, in this programm the possibility exists to use ór a visual-based way ór a code-based of developing a site. As a user you can switch between the two.


So language and definition are essential in programme development. But why base the program you are developing on existing software rather than think about ways to redefine workspace or software alltogether? If the code is visible during the time you are using software the possibility to change and experiment appears. The connection between language, code and form becomes more explicit and therefor the user is more aware of the possibilities ánd more aware of the way his or her actions are defined through software.

Scribus is really inlogical when you are used to work with xpress. There is a disconnection between textinput and the textfield, but only when creating a textfield, after doing this it's defined and you can change and activate the field.
A pdf writer seems to be incorperated, so publishing should be possible. This is one of my biggest concerns as a graphic designer!


Found a mail when doing some research which seems to be the start of the development of 'The Gimp'.
Date: july 29th 1995
Suppose someone decided to write a graphical image manipulation program (akin to photoshop). Out of curiousity (and maybe something else), I have 2 questions:
What kind of features should it have? (tools, selections, filters, etc.)
What file formats should it support? (jpeg, gif, tiff, etc.)


In the Gimp there is an option to write scripts and to incorperate them in the programme!
Computer litracy demands a new way of reading, the language is sometimes so specific and needs so much knowledge it's hard to find an answer for the question you formulated!

Need the the open source user manual for Scribus! The user manual isn't functioning!


During some kerning actions in Scribus the programm crashed! Of course I didn't save my document!

Selecting a text in Scribus really takes a while, and it feels unstable!

Imported my first picture in Scribus, also feels unstable!

Switching to Sodipodi, really looks like a stripped version of Adobe Illustrator: the functions and interface resemble. Why are visual elements not included when developing open source software? Every programme looks like a old copy of Microsoft Word.


I'm actually considering to use paper again to write idea's down!
This work-enviroment feels so new and so inefficient!

What is software? A collection of definitions and functions which control your behaviour and actions? Or a way of structuring and capturing ideas?
What should software be?

Switching to The Gimp.

Made my first collage, an open source collected image.


Thinking about the way software is presented when purchasing. Could there be some sort of a scedule or map which explains why open source is a legible option? As a visualisation of the pro's and con's of open source.


Needed Cal's help to print a document from Scribus.
Printed at 17.21, turned out you need to make a pdf from the document and than run GGV PostScript Viewer and print from this application.
So much trouble to print a document. Intresting though that Cal thought the document (which was only a test) had a meaning and was a design! If you need to put a lot of effort in making a print you seem to need a reward!


The Gimp crashed. Lost an schematic on how open source could be visualised! The programme name has (unstable) behind it, this is correct!

Partially remade the lost image, this is a way of learning a program!
(not an appealing one though)

Back to Sodipodi and Scribus to remake the Gimp pattern as a test. It seems patterns and structures aren't as easy to create as in Adobe Illustrator or even Quarkxpress! A lot of features which I use a lot are ór really hidden ór not present.

Sodipodi crashed when attempting to step and repeat.
So easy and so complicated!

I start to feel a connection with The Gimp, maybe because I get tired or maybe because it's the only application so far in which I'm succesful in my attempt to create a image...
I do get constantly confronted with the different way of functionality.
Got the feeling I could even be more efficient in Texteditor (Macintosh) than in all open source software combined! At least in terms of speed and meaning!

Definitions of my existing work-enviroment:
Proposal for a action based work-enviroment:
Q: what do you want to do during this session?
are you going to use text?
what kind of typographic elements do you need?
are you going to use images?
are you going to use forms?
what would you like for a color today?
what kind of sound would you like to hear?
do you need a source of information?
if yes
what kind of subject are you interested in?
repeat answer if you have multiple intrests

what kind of typefaces do you need?
do you want to choose from a database?
if yes: schreef or schreefloos, postscript or truetype
what kind of sizes are you going to use?

14 april 2004

Cal helped me getting started.

Decided I'd focus on Scribus to design the leaflet because it's closed source rival Quarkxpress is the programme I use the most often.

Can't find scribus, need Cal.

Using terminal to start scribus (instructions cal).


Talked with Matthew about the time schedule, he suggested I'd finish the design today. I'll start with the information side first and concentrate on the typography!

Installed bitstream vera, one of the only open source typefaces I could find.

Can't seem to find a&u in scribus, seems no typographic subtilities are possible. Why the same typographic lack of possibilities as in Microsoft Word? Unbelievable that the 'alternative programme' isn't precise in the key element of a dtp programme, typographic refinement!


Interesting, I can make buttons in scribus which allow me to import or use other actions when activating. Could be a very interesting automatisation for correcting large amounts of texts! This is an example of a functionality which I hope(d) to find more often when using 'alternative' software.

Trying to link two textboxes. I figured out the difference between active and passive text boxes but the actual linking doesn't work (annotation properties)!

I actually think a programme like Scribus is much closer to a writer (programmer, etc.) than a designer, much more litrally a text-editor. It looks it's more the other way around, thinking through content about the format.


Because of the last statement I suddenly feel I understand the software more, and I'm more and more looking for functions which I use a lot in Xpress in Scribus and I'm much more succesful is my quest!

Are there connections or explanations possible which emphasise the 'cross-influence' between the different programms, so open and closed source combined? As a translation of the best of both worlds, the user specific elements of the closed source ánd the idea's and possibilities of open source.

Matthew suggests I should also think about the programmer/user relation (reacting on programme/programme and profession/crossover relations).

Trying to print the document, no luck, need Cal.
Also found out that when exporting to pdf there is a fontproblem.
Why is there always a problem with printing? Doesn't give me confidence for the final printing of the leaflet!

Pdf works, printing is possible.
But it's impossible to print a different paper size than A4!

Talked with Cal about open en closed source programmedefinition-combinations, using his specific knowledge and using freshmeat.net


Talked with Femke about the combinations and concluded combinations between writer, programmer, artist, designer should be more self-explanitory.

In the evening I tried to make combinations with 4 definitions. I ended with 12 programme-combinations and 12 definition-combinations.

15 april 2004

Starting up.

Continued working on definition-combinations.
I've got two sets of definitions, programms and users.
How can I combine these and make sure it's readable ánd on the other hand stress the difference in meaning?


I've got two sets of 12 combinations, the trick is now how to make the difference between programms and user-definitions visible.

Talked with Todd about the concept of the flyer and tested if the combinations were readable, and they were! The programms were much easier than the users but I think they should function as the bridge between the two.


Finished with both sides, need a print now.

When I export the document to pdf or postscript file the linked textboxes dissapear and gradients turn upside down! This is a reason not to use Scribus, really bad for you're confidence when making a 300 pages book if you know texts can dissapear and things can change!


Cal suggested that I should save the file as a postscript document and than use the viewer to check and print.

Cal updated Scribus in an attempt to solve the problem, have to wait a few minutes until its compiled and I can test it.

Seems linked textboxes are the problem, so i'll make them by hand, seperated!
Which is a strange job, compare it to use typograpy in photoshop. I recognise this with second year students which I teach. The students without experience also use the programme they know best to do everything, even if the programme is not made for it.

Scribus isn't made for typograpy that's for sure, when I printed the document you immediately see a sort of 'Microsoft Word' feel. This lack of specific quality is problematic if it's aim is to be an alternative for dtp programms which do have these qualities.


20 april 2004

Today is the last day of the open source leaflet project. A few things remain to do, the corrections, the logo's and the final proof.
I'm actually getting more and more used to Scribus, or am I getting sentimental?

Finished the corrections and scribus crashes!

Started again with the corrections.

Finished the corrections for the second time, but I can't finish the leaflet today because of a missing logo.

21 april 2004

Final corrections and importing the last logo.


Printing problem, the logo's seem to change into black squares when printing, they are visible on screen?!
Maybe the problem is in the image boxes?
Printing without image boxes.
No change
Maybe the problem is in the proportional scaling which I turned on?
Printing with proportional scaling turned off.
No change
Maybe the problem is in scaling in general?
Printing without scaled images.
No change
Maybe the problem is in textrunaround?
Printing with textrunaround turned off.
No change
Maybe the problem is in the file format?
Yes, there is a problem importing tiff, when using eps the problem is solved! Another Scribus mistery!

Printing final flyer, doing some last minute detailing.

Mailing the pdf to richard (V2_) and now cross my fingers that the printer can cope with the document!

22 april 2004

What I was afraid for becomes reality. When the printer test-prints the document a lot of problems appear: spaces become squares, numbers, points, comma's, dashes etc. dissapear!
Following a transcription of the e-mail contact between myself and Jasper, responsible for prepress at the printer.



From: Roger Teeuwen
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2004 14:47 PM
To: Jasper de Koster
Subject: Op verzoek van V2_


Dag Jasper,
Hierbij opnieuw de pdf, hopelijk gaat het nu goed.
Als ik hier print gaat alles ok!
Groet en succes, Roger

april 22 14:47
Hi Jasper,
Attached again the pdf, hopefully it will work now!
When I print in my studio everything looks ok?!
Regards Roger


On 22-04-2004 15:25, "Jasper de Koster" wrote:>

Hoi Roger

Nee, dit gaat niet goed. Het blijven vierkantjes, alle spaties. Via welk
programma heb je dit gedistilleerd?
Pagina 1 gaat wel goed, overigens. Kun je het omzetten naar

groet, jasper

april 22 15:25
Hi Roger
No this doesn't work either. The spaces remain squares, áll spaces.
Which programm did you use to destilate this?
Page number one is ok.
Can you convert the document to Illustrator and use lettercontours?
Regards Jasper



From: Roger Teeuwen
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2004 15:38 PM
To: Jasper de Koster
Subject: Re: Op verzoek van V2_

Wat ik trouwens niet begrijp is dat als ik bij mij op mijn laserprinter
print alles helemaal goed gaat?! Beschadigd het document tijdens mailen?
Print jij gewoon of draai je direct een film uit?
Gr Roger

april 22 15:38
Hi Jasper,
What I don't understand is that when I print the document on my laserprinter at 1200 dpi everything looks ok. Does the document get damaged during mail? Do you print paper or directly to film?
Regards Roger


On 22-04-2004 16:19, "Jasper de Koster" wrote:

Hoi Roger

Misschien print jij niet via een laserprinter of belichter? Ik heb dit
probleem nog nooit eerder gehad. Zowel op film als op onze laserbelichter
worden alle spaties vierkantjes. De asci code van het spatieteken in Linux
kennelijk een vierkantje in postscript level 2.

Ik probeer photoshop wel als deze pdf niet lukt.

groet, jasper

april 22 16:19
Hi Roger,
Maybe you don't print using a laserprinter or a film-exposer?
I've never had this problem before. In both the laserprinter and the film-exposer I get the same errors. The asci code for a space on a Linux is appearently a square in postscript level 2.
I'll try photoshop if this pdf doesn't work.
Regards Jasper


From: Roger Teeuwen
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2004 16:35 PM
To: Jasper de Koster
Subject: Re: Op verzoek van V2_

Hi Jasper,
Toch wel, hp laserwriter 5000 op 1200 dpi geeft geen probleem hier!?
Heel erg vreemd...
Hoe zit het met kwaliteitsverlies als je het photoshopbestand gebruikt?
Gr Roger

april 22 16:35
Hi Jasper,
I use an hp laserwriter 5000 on 1200 dpi and I don't get any problems here?!
Really strange....
How is the qualityloss when using a photoshop rastering?
Regards Roger


On 22-04-2004 17:59, "Jasper de Koster" wrote:

Hi Roger

Ik ben er nu uit. Ik maak een combinatie van de beste elementen uit de
De logo's uit de eerstaangeleverde PDF, het kopje uit het Tiff bestand, de
tekst uit een PDF bestand, dat ik heb gemaakt door het originele PDF bestand
als PS te bewaren en opnieuw te distillen.

De fout ligt kennelijk in jouw distiller, want opnieuw gedistilleerd
verdwijnen de vierkantjes (maar helaas ook de datum en de cijfers).

gecompliceerd, dus

Onderstaand "monster van frankenstein" PDF komt bij mij netjes uit de
En ook (hoogstwaarschijnlijk) mooi op film.

groet, jasper


>april 22 17:59
Hi Roger,

I've got the solution. I'll make a combination between the best of both options.
I'll use the logo's from the pdf, the head from the tiff, the text from a pdf file which I made trough saving the original pdf file as an ps file and than destilling it again.

I think the error is in you're destiller, because when I re-destille you're file the squares dissapear (unfortunately also the numers).

So pretty complicated.

The 'monster of Frankenstein'-pdf on the bottom does work on my printer and problably also on film.

Regards Jasper



From: Roger Teeuwen
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2004 18:21 PM
To: Jasper de Koster
Subject: Re: Op verzoek van V2_

Hi Jasper,
Ingewikkeld! En nog een probleem, in de magenta teksten op de tweede pagina
onderaan (sprekers en colophon) valt een en ander weg (leestekens en
cijfers!). Vergelijk met tif.
Helpt het voor een betere kwaliteit als ik je een tiff op 600 dpi stuur?
Dus nog niet ok!
Groet Roger

april 22 18:21

Hi Jasper,
Complicated! And another problem, in the magenta text on the second page at the bottom (speakers and colophon) information is lost (numbers and so on). Compare to the tiff.
Does it help for the quality if I send you a tiff on 600 dpi?
So still not ok!
Regards Roger


On 22-04-2004 18:35, "Jasper de Koster" wrote:

Hoi Roger

Oei, wat een klus

Ik denk dat het niet veel uitmaakt. Het blijven gerasterde letters op die
Ik ga wel voor 70 lijns tiff die je eerder gestuurd hebt.
Of ik gebruik voor sprekers en colophon de tiff, net als bij de tekst

Tenzij jij nog een ander soort PDF kunt aanleveren...

groet, jasper

april 22 18:35
Hi Roger,

My god what a project!

I don't think it will make a difference. The letters will stay rasterised!
I'll use the 70 lines tiff you sent before.
Or I'll use the tiff for the colophon and speakers, just as the text on the upper side.

Unless you can deliver me another pdf...

Regards Jasper



From: Roger Teeuwen
Sent: Thursday, April 22, 2004 19:08 PM
To: Jasper de Koster
Subject: Re: Op verzoek van V2_

Nee, een ander soort pdf gaat mij niet meer lukken.
Hoeveel minder van kwaliteit zijn gerasterde letters?
Volgens mij moet jij beslissen of je het bestand verder gaat plakken en
knippen, wat het beste resultaat is.
Laat even weten waar je uiteindelijk voor gaat.
Gr Roger

april 22 19:08

No, I can't deliver you another pdf.
How much does the quality decrease if the letters are rasterised?
I think you have to decide if you'll use the 'collage' file or the tiff, which one the best result is.
Let me know which you will use.
Regards Roger


Van: Jasper@Tripiti.nl
Onderwerp: RE: Op verzoek van V2_
Datum: 23 april 2004 9:13:46 GMT+02:00
Aan: rtgo@xs4all.nl

Ik ga dan voor de Tiff versie, omdat ik geen vertrouwen heb in de PDF. Er kunnen cijfers en interpunctie zijn weggevallen of veranderd. Dit risico wil ik niet lopen.

Je kunt wel nog films controleren als je wilt, we drukken vanmiddag.

groet, jasper

april 23 9:13
Ok, I'll use the tiff, because I lost all my faith in the pdf. Numbers or spaces can dissapear or are changed. I don't want to risk this.
You can come and check the films if you want to, we'll print this afternoon.

Regards, Jasper


So in the end, despite the efforts of the printer, the open source programme 'Scribus' was unsuccesful in accomplishing one of it's main goals. Beïng an altenative for existing dtp-programms such as Quarkxpress or Indesign. As a designer I need to be sure that the document I create is printable, if it isn't I can't use it as a tool.

Through using open source software I did rethink the tools I use and the enviroment and work structures which are created by these tools. And I think this is an important issue which is crucial for all designers, artists etc. So I think one of the main goals of open source software development should be to make the programms formally usable, so designers, writers, artists will start using them.

On the frontside of the leaflet I stress the combinations of different positions. The different positions become more and more interrelated and I think the real gain in development will be in exploring these combinations. So let's start thinking about the way a designer, writer, artist and programmer can contribute together from each specific perspective and knowledge to the development of the software.