Desktop: More paper, please

Never mind the pundits, prophets, prognosticators and predictors, the paperless office hasn't arrived, and the way things are going, it ain't going to happen for a long time - maybe ever.

By DAVID SHAMAH
November 23, 2006 08:18
3 minute read.
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computers 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Never mind the pundits, prophets, prognosticators and predictors, the paperless office hasn't arrived, and the way things are going, it ain't going to happen for a long time - maybe ever http://www.answers.com/topic/paperless-office). Too bad for me - because I was hoping to finally achieve the seemingly mythical "clean desk" I've always heard so much about, but never experienced. If paper is here to stay, and we're stuck looking at endless reams of it until kingdom come, we might as well try to make dealing with it as palatable a task as possible. Unfortunately, print ads, flyers and circulars are as ugly as ever, maybe even uglier. It seems that the further we get into the age of the Internet, the better the design of Web sites, blogs, electronic resumes, etc., and the worse the quality of the printed version. It's time to put a stop to graphic designers' "cult of the ugly" (http://www.typotheque.com/articles/cult-of-the-ugly/) and start outputting quality work. Microsoft Word and OpenOffice, both highly accomplished word-processing programs, have some desktop publishing (DTP) capabilities, but they're both pretty limited. What we need is a full-fledged application that can do real DTP design - and that's exactly what you get when you download and install a fantastic, free desktop publishing program, called Scribus (http://www.scribus.net/). What's that? The words "free" and "desktop publishing program" don't belong in the same sentence? True, if you're thinking about the DTP giants like Quark Xpress and Adobe InDesign, which cost - well, a lot more than a "pretty penny." Scribus was first developed for the Linux environment, where the software writers are apparently a bunch of communists, giving away very sophisticated software under "open source" licenses. Well, now that communism is more or less dead, we can all enjoy the fruits of the software workers' revolution without guilt, and in the DTP sphere. The free Scribus can definitely hold its own with its expensive cousins. Scribus was designed to supply Linux users with sophisticated layout, printing and color management tools that were not available otherwise, since there were no major commercial DTP products for the platform. But Scribus has since been ported to work with Windows (2000 and XP), as well as with Max OSx, making it the first and only multi (as in three) platform DTP product. Users of other DTP programs will note that Scribus has all the tools, including text boxes, paragraph styles, bezier curves, text in shapes and on angles, color management, frames, layers, text frame linking and all the other sophisticated DTP tools a mid to advanced graphic designer would want. Of course, the program has its own logic and orientation, so users of Quark or InDesign would need to spend some time with Scribus to get used to the tools, menus, terminology, etc. But it's all in there - anything you can do with the big-ticket DTP programs, you can do with Scribus. That includes Hebrew (and Arabic, Russian and dozens of other languages); you can choose to install a Hebrew version, with Hebrew menus, etc., for a Hebrew operating system at setup. Scribus also makes PDF creation easy, providing options for creating, saving and editing PDF files - in fact, having one of "the best PDF export engines on the planet" (http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/7054), according to some. Professional printing, including postscript and separations, is also available to Scribus users, although it does require the installation of the separate (also free) Ghostscript engine (http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~ghost/). While Scribus is good enough to compete in the big leagues, users who just want to produce a newsletter, flyer or advertisement will have fun with it, too. Scribus includes several ready-made templates, and the site offers others that you can install, covering the basic uses you'd want to put it to (restaurant menu, newsletters, etc.). With its Linux roots, Scribus is supported not by a corporate call-in staff, but by hundreds of thousands of users at all levels, on Web sites, forums and newsgroups all over the Internet. There are plenty of tutorials for users on all levels (http://tinyurl.com/yldhry, http://tinyurl.com/e9mpg, and http://tinyurl.com/yco7zz, among others - the latter being a UN-sponsored site, with UNESCO recommending the program for users around the world to develop their ability to "create with the digital arts"). If you were planning to go out and purchase a copy of an expensive DTP program, download Scribus instead - and use the money to buy lots of fancy paper to hold the beautiful designs you're going to create! Get free Scribus for Windows at http://windows.scribus.net (Windows 2000, XP); for PPC Macs with. go to http://aqua.scribus.net; for Intel Macs, see http://tinyurl.com/y2v76y. Ds@newzgeek.com

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