Magazine lay out software?
October 13, 2005 6:28 PM   Subscribe

I'm founding a small magazine, with some friends. What software should we use to lay out the magazine? I think we want something like Quark. It needs to be freeware, 'cause we're starting out really small, with minimal income (we'll just cover printing).
posted by Count Ziggurat to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
scribus is very decent.
posted by Grod at 6:38 PM on October 13, 2005

I think you're going to have a tough time finding freeware comparable to Quark or Adobe InDesign, which are the two standards for print work like this -- especially since it's the software that most professional printers will have.

If you do find something, you're going to want to make sure you can output your files to press-ready PDFs since it's doubtful the software will output to Quark or InDesign formats.
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:40 PM on October 13, 2005

Grod shows that I'm wrong! Three cheers for open source!
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:41 PM on October 13, 2005

Of course, if the Count isn't running Linux. I don't know what to tell you, Count, we've been publishing our magazine using less-than-legal copies of industry standard programs for a few years now.
posted by Captaintripps at 6:50 PM on October 13, 2005

Scribus runs on MacOS X.
posted by zsazsa at 6:55 PM on October 13, 2005

I have Windows 2000. Unfortunately.
I was rather hoping for legal options.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 7:00 PM on October 13, 2005

Depending on how fancy "schmancy" you want it, you could just learn PostScript. It really isn't all that difficult for small uncomplicated things.
posted by user92371 at 7:09 PM on October 13, 2005

Umm, why not just run a version of Linux on your PC and then run the aforementioned Scribus (which seems to run on Linux)? You can dual boot Linux and Windows 2000. Seems like the perferct solution and free to boot (no pun intended).
posted by qwip at 7:12 PM on October 13, 2005

If you really want to use Scribus on a Windows PC there are options. The easier one would be to grab a linux liveCD like Knoppix that includes scribus (note: the Knoppix CD version includes the base scribus package, the DVD version also contains the documentation.) You would then boot from that and work on your layout, and save your changes to the HD / network drive / flash drive, then boot back to windows when you're done.

Alternative B is a lot more complicated: Install colinux and an X11 (e.g. Cygwin/X) or VNC server. This will be somewhat harder to setup, but once you get it installed you'll be able to run the linux version of scribus alongside windows.

You could also use VMware, but that costs money and that would be defeating the point of this exercise. Both of the above are 100% free and legal.

I'm not necessarily recommending either of these as the best way to proceed, but if you do find that scribus is the best free option, you might consider it.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:26 PM on October 13, 2005

There's information on the Scribus wiki about installing Scribus on Win32. You only need to run a few commands to unpack the scribus binary and make the DLL available to it.
posted by formless at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2005

Depending on how fancy "schmancy" you want it, you could just learn PostScript. It really isn't all that difficult for small uncomplicated things.
I can't really tell if you're being serious of facetious...

"small uncomplicated things" when talking about raw postscript generally means "Hey, I can place a word in the middle of the page and rotate it by 45 degrees." You can't seriously be suggesting that someone would lay out an entire magazine by writing postscript directly? Columns, justification, kerning, pagination, insets, color seperation... Maybe you missed the "something like Quark" in the question. You don't need Quark for small uncomplicated things. If he could have accomplished the task with OpenOffice or Word I don't think he would have asked.

Writing postscript by hand would be like using a spoon to dig an olympic sized pool... I'm sure you could if you really wanted to, but most people value their time.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:44 PM on October 13, 2005

What software do you have? Depending on the required artistic quality/direction, you could even type all your articles out on a typewriter, cut n' paste, scan in, and PDF the whole thing for the printers. Of course, this doesn't really work so well if you're not looking for a zine aesthetic. On the other hand, that's how things used to be done before DTP, and for a lot of magazines that wasn't so long ago.

Slightly less archaic solutions include getting very well acquainted with Word (again, this assumes you have something that'll make PDFs; no professional printer will take kindly to you if you send them Word files) or Paint Shop Pro (but then all your text will be rasterized). Neither solution is even close to optimal, but them's the breaks if you don't have the cash for InDesign or Quark.

Know any students (or are ones yourselves)? The Creative Suite student price is amazingly cheap considering what you get, and includes both InDesign and Photoshop. I've not tried Scribus, but let me just say that I'm extremely skeptical of its abilities; do you see anyone in the publishing industry using Gimp?
posted by chrominance at 8:49 PM on October 13, 2005

Few if any people using the program like Quark (the company). But the application is designed for the job you need to do, and as mentioned it is one of the industry standards. You'll be putting in a lot of time; you may as well learn on a standard tool.

You can run older versions of Quark (3.3 or 4.1) quite well on an old Mac under OS9, even an original iMac.

And I suspect it would not be too hard or expensive to find a cheap copy of the older versions on ebay. (checking...yep right [ebay link]).
posted by omnidrew at 9:16 PM on October 13, 2005

How small is the magazine? You could use something like Inkscape to lay out individual pages, if they're not too many and you don't have a gazillion page spanning articles.
posted by signal at 10:14 PM on October 13, 2005

yay omnidrew --- Quark 3.32 and 4.x run like a champ on Win2K. Most printers will either laugh at you or tack on a surcharge if you come at them with a non-standard file. (i.e., not Quark, InDesign, PageMaker, Illustrator, FreeHand, FrameMaker, or a really good PDF).
posted by nathan_teske at 11:21 PM on October 13, 2005

dunno if this really helps, but if you or your co-founders have ties to a university, you can pick up the adobe creative suite at a reasonable price. i just got the entire cs2 package for under $250. this might not fit into "small budget" but it is definitely a worthwhile investment, imho...
posted by slogger at 11:21 PM on October 13, 2005

Learning and using a common page layout program (I use InDesgn for the Mac) will pay for itself many times over. Printers will charge you far more for having to work with a format/program that the are unfamiliar with. For Mac users, Pages, which is half of the iWork package is a low cost starting point but if you are going to publish more than two or three issues, the time you spend using something like InDesign is a good investment.
posted by leafwoman at 7:16 AM on October 14, 2005

I tried Scribus about a year and a half ago and found it not really stable enough for production use. It may have improved since then. If not, I had excellent luck with Serif PagePlus, which is not freeware but is only $130 (possibly less if you order it as a download, not sure) and a pretty good deal compared to, say, PageMaker (to which I infinitely prefer it — much easier to use without losing much power) or InDesign (which I haven't used). I sent its PDFs to offset printers for newsprint printing and had no problems. I can't vouch for the reliability of its color seperations, having only used it for single-color work.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:54 AM on October 14, 2005

I've used Microsoft Publisher, which you can usually find for $99 or less, and should be able to do all you need for your project. You could probably find an older version on eBay for a song.

I've also used GreenStreet Publisher, which is only $50. Their website sucks but I reall the product being nice enough.
posted by Tubes at 7:58 AM on October 14, 2005

If you want to avoid a lot of future headaches, it is sometimes worth it to just suck it up and buy the right tool for the job to begin with. I can't think of any software for layout that's better than InDesign, and I can't think of any reason you would ever need anything better in the future, so you don't have to live in fear of the Upgrade God.

I apologize that this doesn't address your need for freeware, I just don't think there's anything out there right now that satisfies that requirement. I hate to say it, but if you're just starting out and really can't afford even the student price, download a pirated copy and promise yourselves that you will do the right thing and buy it the second you have the cash.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:05 AM on October 14, 2005

Do NOT use Microsoft Publisher unless your 'magazine' is going to be printed on your home ink-jet. Bite the bullet and buy InDesign. If you buy the suite you'll also get photoshop which is absolutely necessary for magazine work as well. And do take your printer's requirements seriously-- they exist for a reason.
posted by miss tea at 8:23 AM on October 14, 2005

Serif PagePlus (an older version) can be downloaded for free here:
posted by rumbles at 7:12 PM on October 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

Serif PagePlus was the best choice. Free, simple, usable, flexible. Thanks to those who responded.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 1:49 PM on November 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

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