Scribus 1.3.5 Beginner's Guide a review by malex

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The latest Scribus book - Scribus 1.3.5 Beginner's Guide by Cedric Gemy published by Packt Publishing is a delicious feast of Scribus knowledge for both beginner and intermediate user alike. I approached the book with open expectations and it did not disappoint. An interested person who would spend few days on going through the book from the beginning to the end would find themselves quite knowledgeable about the document layout process from the beginning to the end. Moreover, they would get a lot of useful information with the hands-on experience to go with it on both the basics and some finer points of font handling, color management, PDF output, preparing a document for professional printing, and working with the PDF forms and JavaScript scripting.

The book covers a lot of ground, but every chapter nicely builds on the previously introduced knowledge and its internal logical structure to increase the reader's knowledge without overwhelming them. When important concepts are introduced they are emphasized and when they are reused gentle reminders point the readers to the wider earlier exposition. Almost every concept is followed by some practical experience. This helps the reader solidify their mastery of the material being learned. Throughout the book the main goal of the author seems to be to help the reader to learn how to use the program most effectively to free them to be creative. At ever possible opportunity multiple approaches to accomplish an action are presented from the most coarse to the most precise with standard keyboard shortcuts at the end serving as a cake topping. Sometimes the advice goes a bit too far for a beginner's book suggesting that a user fire up the fontforge to add numeric glyphs to a font if their other options available to them are not satisfactory, but those instances are rare enough to be glossed over.

The style of writing feels like that of Alexandre Dumas, pere - colorful and engrossing, yet sometimes very cultural. For instance, "Have a go Hero" slogan used for the mini-exercises at the end of sections sound reminiscing of "One for all and all for one" and seems to me to be uniquely French. This brings me to my gripe about this otherwise excellent book - it just reads like a high school student's translation from a French original. The result looks like a hurried and at times literal translation effort, which causes the mind of an English reader to pause and figure out what exactly is being said time and again. Moreover, there are places where the translators (as I think Cedric wouldn't have missed something like that in the original text) have unintentionally introduced some potential traps for the unwary reader. For instance, in the "Changing font" section of Chapter 5 it says "Avoiding good fonts ensures as little trouble as possible" even though the author's likely intent was to express the opposite sentiment as the following sentences show. Whatever the reason for poor translation and underwhelming editorial effort, if someone can get over the lingual shortcomings of the book they'd be left with an excellent source of Scribus knowledge and that's what matters in the end.

Just one more thing. I didn't have a paper copy for this review. The PDF Packt sent me looked alright, but the ePub - my preferred format for enjoyable reading on a 6" Sony PRS-600 ebook I used for reading for this review - wasn't prepared nearly as well. Considering the fact that more and more people are switching from the dead tree format to eInk ebooks Packt could really get ahead of other publishers by putting more effort into preparation of the ePub files. As it is the ePub formatting looked amateurish. The images were perhaps the same ones used for the PDF as they were too small for the ePub and nearly impossible to read. Many informational inserts were broken over the page end. Every numbered list had double columns of numbers, which really should have been caught in the proofreading. Most hyperlinks ran out of the pages on any zoom level but the lowest and the Latex code ran out of the pages at every zoom level. However, in the end it was nice to have any kind of ePub, so thanks for the effort Packt!