Forwarding Address: OS X

Friday, October 08, 2004


Continuing on my open source rampage, I wanted to make sure to mention Scribus, a desktop publishing app that has been in development for a few years but seems to be really hitting its stride this fall. During my years doing design for magazines and newspapers I lived and breathed Quark XPress, and later I did some advertising work InDesign, so I have some pretty picky ideas about what an application like this should do. Scribus doesn't do it all by any means, and what it does it doesn't always do the way I'd like. But frankly I never thought we'd see an open source DTP app at all. I'm pretty thrilled that it's happening. When we have an open source equivalent to Filemaker (e.g. Kexi or Rekall, or whoever else gets there first), I think the open source desktop will have really arrived.

Other stuff: Check out the documentation. Of particular geeky interest is the Python script interface -- oh yeah! How many days of work would that have saved in my QX days. AquaScribus is a little helper applet that makes launching Scribus simpler and allows you to drop documents on it. FWIW, current Scribus version is 1.2.x, but if you install via Fink as I do you'll get something like 1.1.7. Update: I have been told this is wrong, and that 1.2 is available via Fink, but don't have time at the moment to investigate further. I guess you'll have to "fink install scribus" for yourself and see what happens...


  • Hi! I'm the developer of AquaScribus. Thanks for the mention. It is, indeed, just a small little utility (AppleScript) to make Scribus a little more convenient to use on the Mac. A native port of Scribus is still some ways off, I'm told.

    I love Scribus. It is indeed an incredible tool. My full-time job is in publishing, and I've been using Scribus in a production setting for a number of projects, mainly cover design. Though I still use InDesign as well, Scribus is nearly its peer in terms of capabilities (I'm still waiting for rich text import into Scribus). I think the Scribus team has done an incredible job in bringing this app from nothing to a very robust tool in just a few years, and they are also extremely helpful, supportive, and responsive.

    By the way, if you use Fink Commander--a great GUI for Fink--you can install Scribus 1.2.x as easily as the 1.1.7 version, and you don't have to type anything from the command line--just make sure "unstable" packages are enabled in the Fink preferences (which can be handled from Fink Commander).

    Kevin Walzer

    By Anonymous, at 10:38 AM  

  • Sorry--that first link should be D'oh.


    By Anonymous, at 10:40 AM  

  • > Of particular geeky interest is the Python script interface -- oh yeah! How many days of work would that have saved in my QX days.

    QXP has long provided an extensive - if [ahem] 'quirky' - Apple event interface, allowing it to be controlled from any language that knows how to speak Apple events (UserTalk, AppleScript, Perl, Python, Ruby, Tcl, JavaScript OSA, etc). Admittedly, most languages have been shockingly slow to exploit Apple events and their interfaces have often been decidedly second-rate, but things are gradually improving - e.g. see the new application scripting system I'm writing [for MacPython, but could also be ported to other languages]:

    I think developers of applications like Scribus could do a lot worse than to study the Mac's Apple Event Manager and Open Scripting Architecture. There's a lot of really terrific work there that they could learn from with a view to implementing powerful, user-friendly, language-agnostic scripting support. (Quite a few cautionary lessons too.)


    By Anonymous, at 5:16 AM  

  • I doubt Scribus could support Apple Events at this point, because it doesn't build natively on OS X. It's a Qt application, so it should build, but there are a lot of X11 dependencies in the code (I've tried and tried to get it to build). We may have to wait until Qt 4.0, which is supposed to have a more abstract graphics engine, to have an easier time building Scribus.

    Kevin Walzer

    By Anonymous, at 4:41 PM  

  • Kevin Walzer > I doubt Scribus could support Apple Events at this point, because it doesn't build natively on OS X.

    The first half of my comment was re. Paul's QXP comment. I think a lot of folks don't realise that Mac application scripting and AppleScript are actually two separate things (this is as much Apple's fault for conflating the two in their marketing as OSS languages' fault for not supporting the former more enthusiastically). Python has long been able to control QXP and other Mac apps; it just hasn't been very good at it... till now.;)

    Regarding the second half: Apple events are just a basic transport mechanism for carrying serialised commands between processes, and there's other high-level RPC/messaging systems that can do this just as well: XML-RPC, dbus, etc. Wrapping the low-level transport system in a standard API would give you the language- and platform-agnosticism that would make it worth developing a standard, portable, high-level scripting support framework that any application can take advantage of.

    While it'd be a lot more initial work to develop something like this over leaving individual applications to sprout completely ad-hoc, language-dependent scripting APIs, in the long term it'd more than pay for itself just as having standard frameworks for implementing graphical interfaces does.

    Hope that makes sense. Cheers,


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