Does Scribus generate excessively large PDF files?

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Dwight Worker

A friend who uses Adobe's InDesign just told me that he thinks SCRIBUS is generating excessively large PDF files. A 250 page, 6" X 9" book we published using InDesign last year used needed 7 meg. The pdf's that Scribus is generating are averaging around 80k per page.
This is roughly 3 times the file size as the InDesign generated pdf's.

My questions:
1. Is this size issue a problem when I finally have the book printed?
2. If it is a problem, is there some way to limit the PDF size?

I am a complete newbie to Scribus. I have been going over Dai's on-line lessons and find them to be really good. I have REALLY gotten to like Scribus in this short time. I am impressed at what I can do already with it. Viva Open Source! 



Did you learn any more about this?  I'm about to publish a journal issue using Scribus.  the 92 page journal is 3.5 megs, that doesn't seem excessive.  Weird thing is, when I set export to 600 dpi the file size was the same.  I'm thinking perhaps it wasn't "really" exporting at 600 dpi.


mdover, Only 3.5MB for a 92-page journal sounds nice and small to me. One 12-page newsletter that I produce regularly gets to that size.

TIA, as regards to the size of the PDF, in general, any half-decent print shop should be able to handle PDFs of almost any size you're likely to produce in real life. If you need to make sure then just ask your print shop, but they probably don't know what their maximum size is because it's probably not been a problem for them. There may be a maximum individual page size but you'd have to be throwing a hugely complex page at it to break the printer's internal limits. (Back in the "dark ages" printing large documents used to be hampered by small printer memories and unintelligent printer drivers but these problems were fixed a long time ago.)

mdover, as for your file size not changing when you exported with 600dpi, I'm wondering what settings you had before you changed them and what dpi your images are. It may be that all of your images were less than - or equal to - 600dpi anyway, in which case you'll notice no difference. I might be wrong though.

However, on both counts, it's worth mentioning that Scribus doesn't do a "crop images to only what can be seen" function on export. So if you've got a huge bitmap but only display a small potion of it then there will be no difference in the size of the output. The full image will still be "inside" the PDF regardless.

All that said, check with your print shop first. They can probably do a "dry run" to check that the document will be okay before you go for an actual hard copy. And if you're printing lots they might even give you a free hard copy to check if you ask them nicely!


I posted on same topic a while back. Scribus pdf's are very large. I have a 52 page directory consisting mostly of images, 9 or 12 per page. File size is 350MB. The same file using PagePlus is around 35MB.
If size is a problem you can print using something like pdf24, but file size using this varies greatly depending on quality selected. Unless file size is a problem printing I will just accept it. It does limit email options.


Hi dave61430.

Yeah, I imagine that a 350MB file is a bit awkward to email!

You've got me curious now though. If Scribus creates a 350MB PDF whereas PagePlus - with the same images and text, or similar of equivalent size - creates a PDF of 35MB then either PagePlus or Scribus is doing something the other one isn't, but there's no way for me to know which.

Without access to PagePlus I can't do my own experiments but I have the feeling that PagePlus is doing something to the images that Scribus isn't. Whether it's compressing them, or re-sizing them, or cropping them, or a combination, or something else, I have no idea.

There's a chance that PagePlus is actually making an "inferior" PDF compared to Scribus. Unfortunately I don't know of any free software that lets you examine the contents of a PDF down to things like individual image information, but that sort of thing would help to show what was going on.

As an experiment I've just created a PDF from the full plain text of "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" by Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley. And at 12pt Arial, with fixed line spacing, it takes up 135 pages. This is exported to a PDF that is only 3MB (give or take a K or two).

So, in this simple test, Scribus doesn't seem to produce text in a way that adds to an excessive PDF size so I'd guess that the different file sizes are down to the images and the different ways Scribus and PagePlus export them to PDF.

Have you looked at your images to see if they can be "downsized" in any way? Are they at a visible resolution that is higher then you need, for example? Or are you only showing small portions of large images that could be cropped? I realise you've got lots of images but there are many tools available that can batch-change images quite easily.

It's a curious situation for sure. But I'm sure there will be ways of getting a smaller file size. You just need to figure out what PagePlus is doing to make the file size so much smaller.


I once did a very unscientific test on a file, mainly text as I recall. Note ppp extension is PagePlus, clean comment means print output does not contain any added advertising comment. Comparisons can vary depending on content. PagePlus has options like not embedding common fonts and subset embedding, which means only embed fonts actually used rather than complete alphabet. Not shown is pdf24 which is what is currently installed on my machine.

    PP11 is producing a larger .pdf file than previous versions, PDF95
    even worse. Downloaded some other drivers. Using recipes2.ppp

    PagePlus      Exclude and subset fonts - 325kb. Earlier version was 113kb.
    BullZip              79kb Clean      
    CutePDF      99kb Clean
    DeskPDF      65kb Clean - doesn't pick up hyperlink
    PrimoPDF      167kb Clean
    PDF4Free      199kb - Add footer promotion on all pages
    win2pdf:      68kb -    Automatically support pre and post append.
         Adds text on last page. Registration $35
    pdf995      115kb

For any means of generating .pdf output, using many different font families will add to size of output, particularly if the complete family is embedded rather than just what is used. It is not always easy to tell how this is handled. Note also how PagePlus file size grew with a later version.


It would be interesting to see comparisons between the different PDF printer drivers and the in-built Scribus "File -> Export... -> Save as PDF" function.

I would always recommend using the in-built function rather than going through printer drivers unless there is some specific problem.

P.S. On OSX you can usually just create a PDF - in pretty much any application - through the standard Print dialog but Scribus uses it's own dialog that doesn't allow for that function, so I can't check what the difference would be.


I've made some comparisons. Basically, using my PagePlus program, the native .pdf output is 36 mb. Using pdf995 I get 60 mb.

In Scribus, regardless of what .pdf print driver I use, the screen output images look washed out. This might have something to do with color rendition, but I'll stay with native .pdf output.
Scribus native .pdf 350 mb
pdf995 311 mb
Cute pdf 78 mb.

It would be nice if the developers could take a look at reducing .pdf size as long as quality in not impaired.


I agree.

Given the magic that the developers have already woven into Scribus it surely can't be too difficult to add an option to reduce "image bloat" in some way.

Maybe an "experimental" option where Scribus crops each image to the visible area, or something similar? It doesn't have to be a major overhaul or anything like that. Just some ways to tweak the output to see if there's a difference.

It may be very difficult to do, or it could be as easy as giving the user some UI controls bound to internal variables in some kind of "Experimental, Use At Your Own Risk" tab on the PDF export dialog. This tab might only be available by performing some kind of "secret option" to keep it away from normal users.

It's just a suggestion though. There are probably better ones.


I don't think it is a matter of image bloat. Scribus has good settings to control how images are stored inside a PDF, you can chose compression method, quality and a maximum resolution. There's also a checkbox whether to compress text and vector graphics or not.

Also as far as I know, at least in the past Scribus would place each character on the page.

So, instead of:
move to x,y
insert text "Hello world"

a Scribus document would contain:
move to x,y
insert text "H"
move to x2,y
insert text "e"

With 50 characters a line I guess that would make the file like 50 times bigger.

I'm not sure if this has changed in later version, in some cases maybe Scribus at least places text work by word.


Maybe "image bloat" was a bad turn of phrase. I just didn't know what I meant by what I was thinking. That happens a lot these days!

By the little experiment I mentioned earlier - Frankenstein, 135 pages, only 3MB file size - text doesn't seem to be a problem. 3MB is only just over 6 times bigger than the original plain text file and that sounds pretty good to me. (However, I only used basic text formatting so I don't know what happens when you start to use more complex stuff.)

I've just noticed that this is a semi-duplicate conversation of,968.0.html where there's also an explaination of JPEG cropping.