What is the best work flow for long documents?

Previous topic - Next topic


I am relatively new to Scribus but have managed to create a 50 page "book" on my family's history, so not a total newbie. My biggest problem as the document grew larger, was that changing or adding text, adding images etc., would result in images further ahead in the document would end up in the wrong place, as would hyperlink frames, all because the text is "pushed" forward by the newly added stuff.
What is the best way to cope with this? I have read that some people split long documents into chunks, thereby minimizing the extra editorial work when you add stuff to your document. But then how do you merge everything together when it is time for publishing your work? I'd rather not end up with 5-10 separate PDFs.


It was a while since I did major work with Scribus, but I'd say that one of the primary things you should consider is to create the contents in another program than Scribus. Only use Scribus for doing the layout, not the editing.

Working with smaller chunks mainly helps with memory issues and many linked text frames, text moving due to inserted text will still move even if you have split into several documents.

As for joining the parts, Scribus can import pages from one document to another.

Also it is possible to generate 5-10 PDFs and then concatenate them to the final PDF (there are many tools available for joining PDFs).


hi manne

the optimal workflow depends a lot on the style of your layout.

  • in a mostly text based project you should try to split the chains of linked text frames into logical parts (like chapters...) to keep changes manageable. but there's not much more you can do here...
  • if your layout depends on carefully edited spreads of facing pages, you should keep them separately (not in different files, but no linked frames between them...) and add a full spreed where you need more place.
most scribus projects will lie between the mentioned extremes, and it's up to you to decide, how many 'safety cuts' you need in the chains of your book.
i almost never split a book in different .sla files. usually the reduction of the quality of the image preview and some splits in the text chain does the trick. (most of my projects contain lots of images and i have to work 'full spread wise'...)

...as nermander suggested, it's good to create the text and more complex graphics in other programs and use scribus just for the layout work. but in most projects there will be some major adjustments in a late stage – so it's good to be organized for them...



To try and add a little to what Nermander and utnik said above, I would say that two useful tools to have when producing a long document would be:
1. Good Planning, and;
2. Good Workflow.

First, make sure you have your page size correct. This might sound a bit silly but, because Scribus uses absolute positioning, any changes to the size of the page later on will mean a boat-load of changes to every single page.

Then choose which font(s) you will be using. It's very important to get this sorted early on. I know Scribus lets you change text formatting easily but changes to the font can make huge differences to the text in the document. Do whatever testing/printing you need to do to make sure that the font(s) you decide on are right for the document you'll be creating. This includes making sure you have the correct variants for the job. For example, might you be needing italicised or bold text? Make sure you have them before continuing, otherwise you may have to change the font at a later stage and that will cause all kinds of problems.

Then design your master pages with guides while keeping the baseline grid in mind. Add whatever "furniture" you want to have - page numbers etc. - and check that text and images will be placed well in relation to them. Use the baseline grid offset to make sure that text frames can be placed on the page without having to make adjustments each time. Again, take the time to do lots of testing/printing to make sure that everything looks right. (You might find that you need to change the font(s) depending on how things go.) Making sure that you don't have to make lots of changes down the line will save you a lot of time later on.

Then create styles for all of the text you will need. It might be a dull process but it will save you a lot of time. Obviously if you've made the correct font choices early on then you shouldn't need to change anything but just being able to apply the style quickly is much better than direct formatting.

Once you have done all of that you should then have a good foundation on which to build your document. Take the time to do the planning right and you will do yourself a big favour.

To expand a little upon what has already been suggested, the editing of long texts is best done using a text editor with a good grammar/spell-checker. Get the text as you want it in the editor first, then import it into Scribus when it's ready and then apply the necessary formatting using styles. Then you can start applying typographical formatting - hyphenation/tracking/etc. - to get the text looking good. Once you have applied the formatting and got the text looking right you will be able to see how much space the text takes up and you can then add the images and other things in the appropriate places. You might need to make some small edits but these should only be for typographical purposes and not major content changes. This isn't as "fun" as just throwing stuff on the page and seeing how it looks but you will get a better document at the end of it.

Adding PDF annotations (hyperlink boxes) should be one of the last things you do because - as you have seen - they don't move with the text if the text changes. One tip for this would be to create a character style - based on the body text style - with a colour you won't be using for the finished document and apply that style to the text where you want links to be added. Once the text has been properly laid out and you're finally happy with it you can then look for the coloured text and add PDF annotations where needed. Once the annotations have been added, you can then change the colour of the style back to black - or whatever you're using - and no-one will see the join. (Don't use a different font/variant as this might move text around, just change the colour.)

All-in-all, while Scribus makes it very easy to move stuff around and make changes - and it's nice to be able to do so - there's no real alternative to good planning and doing things in the right order.

As for splitting documents up, I think the advice above is good and there is more scattered around the forum. Basically, it usually a choice of getting more memory and/or a faster machine or splitting the document. No-one but you can say which way you go on that. However, try doing the planning/workflow stuff first and you might not need to do anything else.


Thank you Nermander and utnik for your valuable input! It seems Scribus works about the way I had suspected, I just wanted to make sure I didn't miss any useful functionality "hidden" somewhere in the system...
I do use other software for producing the bulk of the text and for preparing the images, most of them photos. However, because of the nature of my book, new material kept surfacing during the course of writing it, and needed inclusion in the various chapters, hence the rather big task of continuously adding stuff into a "nearly" finished book.
Although my book contains lots of photos and images it is definitely a text based project, so in the future I will try to keep it in separate parts/chapters as regards the chains of linked text frames. All the more important as my book will probably never be quite finished (I will be finished before it;) as new material/photos is found. I keep/share it on Dropbox for the rest of the family to read.
When you (utnik) say you need to work "full spread wise" I suppose you mean you need to be able to seemlessly scroll back and forth in one and the same file?
And now I shall read GaryP:s post, I am amazed an extremely grateful for these very swift and informative posts!!