Author Topic: Typesetting: word processor vs. Scribus vs. InDesign  (Read 898 times)

Al Stevens

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Typesetting: word processor vs. Scribus vs. InDesign
« on: September 17, 2020, 11:35:01 AM »
I recently finished tyoesetting the paperbacks for two releases. These are my experiences with that process. I've done it several times before so it's not a new journey.

I report this here because some of you might be getting into formatting hard copy. If you're attached to some automated way, you won't be interested here. I prefer more control over what's on the printed page. Old school, I guess.

-- Word Processor Formatting

The first book is a memoir of my life in entertaining. It has many pictures, multi-level headings, and few pages with only text. In this format, there are few issues with widows and orphans. I used my OpenOffice Writer .odt file to format the .pdf for the paperback's interior. I hit two major snags.

---- Page Styles

First problem was that procedures for changing page styles is fraught with perils and misunderstandings. For example.. the first page of a chatper has a different style than the other pages in chapters;  frontmatter is different, and so on.

I'd change the current page's style and it would change pages before and after the current page. It took a lot of experimenting and online documentation searches to find out how to do it properly. The secret was to insert a page break ahead of the new page, and then delete the new page without deleting the break. Plus to tell the break what style should follow it. This procedure is unintuitive and reeks of a programmer's rush to get something into the program where the programmer doesn't understand the requirements of users -- us, the compositors.

---- Pdf Export

OpenOffice Writer has some kind of bug in its pdf export process that inserts blank pages where there shouldn't be any. The pages have headings and page numbers but no text. I solved that problem by using LibreOffice to export the .odt file to .pdf.

-- Scribus

Scribus is a free open source typesetting program with all the features I'd need for my second book, which is fiction but that has images ine chapters to illunstrate the story.

I'd used Scribus for earler books and had even written a chapter about it in a self-publishing how-to book that I never published. I used my own tutorial to guide me through the process.

It was awful. I should have kept a very old version, but they've improved it so much, it won't work with manuscripts of any length at all. Mine has about 53,000 words, about 160 typeset pages, whichi is a small novel, but it kills Scribus, even when I leave out the pictures. First, once you get past maybe 50 pages, the program begins to slow to a crawl. It takes maybe five minutes to load the document. Then, just scrolling through the document takes forever. Exporting to pdf is equally painful. The worst problem is the program won't exit, even when it crashes. I have to terminate it with the Task Manager, and even then it leaves resource-consuming residual processes running that slow down everything else.

I managed to get the second book typeset with Scribus with great pain and agony.

Don't use Scribus.

-- InDesign

I used InDesign several years ago with an evaluation copy. I didn't buy because I had Scribus, and Adobe was switching to a subscriptioin model. Since then, they released InDesign CS2 for free download, and it is now being promoted as freeware. I didn't use it much because it wouldn't load the files that the later trial version had created.

So, after that horrible experience with Scribus, I used InDesign CS2 to reformat and build the book's interior pdf. It was like a dream. Everything works, it's a steep but climbable learning curve, and there are substantial tutorials online, including a helpful one by Hugh Howey. (Hugh's templates, however, don't seem to work with the old CS2.)

So, my conclusion is an obvious one. Download InDesign CS2 or purchase a newer version from Adobe and have at it.

I'm certain to hear from those who use Word to format their print books' interiors. Fine. Have at it. My books are prettier than yours.  Grin