Advanced Typographic Features

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Fonts and Font Technology


Fonts are the key ingredient in print publishing. They display the personality of the document − stately, playful, hard-sell, etc.

But they can also be difficult to deal with. There are a number of different font formats; some work better than others. There are hundreds of thousands of fonts available. Some of them are painstakingly crafted by professionals; others are amateur productions created with relatively inexpensive tools. If you’re sending a job to press, you don’t want to find out when your brochure ships out that its fonts look awful. This chapter is intended to help guide you through the maze − what font formats work, or work better than others; what foundries produce fonts of reliable quality; and how to manage fonts and find characters.

Fonts as Intellectual Property

Font foundries claim that fonts are “intellectual property.” The web has many sites that describe font piracy policies, but debate continues on exactly what it is about fonts that can be covered by copyright. Whether these claims are valid will depend on the jurisdiction you are living in. For instance, while fonts seem to be recognized as “software” (not as a piece of art) in U.S. case law, which means they are protected by copyright law, German courts have refused to grant copyright protection for fonts, either as a piece of art or as software. Independent of the jurisdiction end users who don’t create fonts themselves should consider the license that comes with the font as valid

You can embed fonts when you are printing to a PostScript file or by creating a PDF file. The Scribus File > Preferences > Fonts as well as the PDF export dialog have check boxes to let you decide whether you want to embed the font. This is a difficult legal hurdle, and frankly, many well-meaning users ignore it. Some vendors of fonts include a special number called “fsType Flag” in their TrueType and OpenType font files (unavailable in Type 1 fonts) to indicate the embedding permissions or restrictions for their fonts. Programs that can read this number will refuse to embed those fonts in a PDF or PostScript file. Scribus does currently ignore it, so that you better read the license of a font before you decide to embed it.

There are many “free fonts” on the Web, and some of them are included in Scribus. Free (as in “gratis”) fonts are not always completely free. Some have restrictions, such as not to be used in a commercial publication. If the license doesn’t permit embedding a font in a PDF or PostScript file, you still have the option to convert it to outlines. See PDF Export.

You should also be aware of issues caused by many gratis (and some commercial) fonts. They may look good on screen but bad when printed on a press. If you find some of these, it’s better to delete them rather than suffer again. The corollary is to pay attention to which fonts you are using, so you can meaningfully identify these problems when they occur.

Kinds of Fonts

Here are some kinds of fonts you will find on your system:

  • PostScript Type 1
  • TrueType
  • OpenType

PostScript Type 1 fonts were an important part of the Desktop Publishing revolution, along with the Apple Laserwriter, the first output device using these fonts. (Other font types are also defined in the PostScript language specification but are rarely encountered. The most common was Type 3, made by font-creation tools like Fontographer. Moste Type 3 fonts have been created before 1990, because until then only the Type 3 specification had been released by Adobe. When Adobe published the Type 1 specification in 1990 [1], the Type 3 format became more or less obsolete. Type 3 fonts are generally of lower output quality on screen and in print than Type 1 fonts, especially at low resolutions. Another, still encountered, is Type 42, which is essentially a Type 1 wrapper for TrueType fonts).

A PostScript Type 1 font has two major parts: the printer font and the screen bitmap font (plus information about font metrics and kerning). Font files with extensions PFA and PFB are Type 1 printer fonts, PFM files contain the font metrics. The major downside of Type 1 fonts is that they can only include 256 characters.

TrueType fonts [2] have been available for almost a decade, but they were generally scorned by pre-press users, who often reported production problems with them. This distaste has largely gone away as fonts and printer technology have improved. Like PostScript files, TrueType fonts are “scalable,” meaning that they are mathematical outlines that can be scaled in whatever increments your application supports, eg. 10.25 points, 10.2625 points (Note for trivia fans: the TrueType font project was initially code-named “bass” (as in the fish) because a bass can be scaled.). They stand alone – they are complete in themselves and don’t need separate screen and printer components.

OpenType, a joint venture of Microsoft and Adobe [3], is an extension of the TrueType specification which adds support for Type 1 data. An OpenType font may contain TTF, Type 1, or both; the differences are resolved at output to a printer, Raster Image Processor (RIP), or PDF file. The development of OpenType was intended to end the “font wars” between the two font developers. As implied by their components, OTF fonts are fully scalable.

There’s another important thing to know about TTF and OTF fonts: Both formats have the capacity of containing many more characters than Type 1 fonts. They support an emerging international standard called Unicode, which provides the possibility of accessing some 65 535 characters. If you are using, for instance, Adobe fonts, those with “Pro” in their name include Central European (CU) glyphs; those with “Std” in the name do not. Note that OTF fonts with TrueType content often continue to use the TTF file extension, while OTF mostly indicates Type 1 content in an OpenType file.

OTF fonts may use a different approach than Type 1 or TrueType fonts to define the distance between two adjacent letters (kerning pairs). The Freetype2 library used by by Scribus to access font informations can’t read the OTF kerning informations, so that they won’t be available in Scribus. There is, however, a workaround for the issue.

If you have FontForge (see the section about FontForge) installed your system, you can open the OTF file with it.

  • Go to File > Generate Fonts. This will bring up a file dialog.
  • Select “OTF (CFF)” as the export format and click on “Options.”
  • Under “TrueType” check “OpenType” and “Old Style ‘kern’” and click “OK.”
  • In the file dialog click “Save.”

Now your OTF font contains kerning pairs that can be read by Freetype2.

Two other use typical cases for the use of FontForge with Scribus are related to PDF files for screen-only or web display. OpenType fonts can’t be embedded in Scribus and are converted to outlines, so that PDF files that use them can’t be searched for text content. It’s possible to convert an OTF font to a TrueType font with FontForge, to make the PDF file searchable. Another issue with OTF fonts may arise with certain sans serif fonts like Arial or Myriad. Lowercase “l” glyphs often look ugly on screen if an OTF version is used. Converting to TTF or Type 1 (PostScript) can resolve the issue, as you can see on the screenshots below. Beware, though, that the font license may not permit such a conversion.

Be aware that the file names you see in your font folder(s) are not necessarily the same as you will see in the Scribus font menus. The name displayed in the application is stored within the font itself. If you scroll to the far right of the available fonts list in File > Preferences > Fonts, you will see the name as it shows up in the source font folder. For example, what may show up in your font list as Nimbus Roman No9 L Regular may be stored as /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/URW/n0210031.pfb. These odd names are a heritage of the old DOS/Windows 8+3 naming restriction for files.

A variation in Adobe fonts is Multiple Master fonts. These allow you to use Adobe tools to create new “instances” of the base font by modifying one or more characters. They are not used much now; the tools for manipulating them are not available in Scribus, but instances of the MM font can be created by using the command line utilities mmafm and mmpfb from the lcdf type tools. [4]

Another special font format that can’t be used by Scribus yet is Adobe’s CID (Character Identifier) format, which is a container format for Asian (especially Chinese, Japanese and Korean) characters. Since these scripts may use thousands of different symbols, Adobe created the composite CID format to include more than 256 PostScript glyphs per file.

Mac Fonts

OS X knows two additional font types which are related to the old Macintosh specific “file forks.” In short, files are divided into a data fork (the normal file) and additional resource forks. Traditionally, font data have been stored in the resource fork, but this practice isn’t used much in OS X any more. Still, some fonts like “Times” continue to use this format:

-rw-r--r--   1 root  wheel         0 Mar 28  2005 Times LT MM

As you can see, the listing shows a size of 0 bytes, since the data fork is empty. These files can only be copied with special tools that convert it to BinHex format. There’s the fondu utility, which helps to convert these fonts to formats that work on other platforms. [5]

Later, Apple introduced the dfont format, which is basically the same format as resource fonts, except that all font data is in the data fork:

-rw-r--r--   1 root  wheel   1624875 Mar 21  2005 Times.dfont

While normal Linux distributions will probably not install those fonts, Scribus is able to use them if they are found in the font path. It is also possible to use fondu to convert these fonts to a suitable format for other platforms.

Newer fonts on OS X are all in OpenType or TrueType format, both of which work as-is on Linux/UNIX and Windows.

Font format support in current operating systems

* Mac font formats can be converted to other formats with fondu.

      1. ** Only on the command line with mmafm and mmpfb.
        1. ==== Typographic Niceties ====

“Artificial” fonts (Adobe calls them “faux” fonts) are mathematically modified to produce variations such as italic and bold. Some programs, particularly word processors, employ this technique; Scribus does not. This decision was made by the developers though some users still want artificial fonts available in Scribus. If your fonts do not have actual italic, bold, bold italic, condensed, etc., Scribus will not attempt to create them, as artificial fonts can cause enormous problems in a pre-press environment.

The techniques used by Scribus for subscript, superscript, outlined – you can create “faux” bold glyphs by enlarging the font outline and using the same color as the glyph – and small caps (available via the Properties Palette or Paragraph Styles) are safe but aesthetically not optimal. Especially with “scaling width of characters” you will have to experiment to see what’s acceptable.

Typographic purists will point out that, for example, small caps generated by scaling are not the same as “true drawn” small caps. Here’s an example: Note that in true small caps, the vertical elements are thicker than those in the Scribus scaled version. There are similar issues with other kinds of characters: ligatures, fractions, superscripts and subscripts. The Adobe OpenType User Guide describes them in detail. [6] It’s possible to access these characters with Insert > Glyph, but that takes a lot more time than just typing. You have to really want them.

The difference between scaled small caps (top) and real small caps (bottom) is bigger than most people think.

We have almost always used here the term “character” as it is popularly understood. But font experts will make a differentiation between “character” and “glyph.” An “A” is a character, in a sense, an abstraction, applying to the first letter of the alphabet. A glyph is the particular letterform(s) which make up that character in a particular font – for example a small Cap A or a “decorated” A. A serif font and a sans serif font each have their own glyph to denote the same character. A character may be made up of more than one glyph, eg. an accented character, or two characters might be represented by a single ligature glyph, like st instead of st.







Getting and Using Good Fonts


There are hundreds, maybe thousands of places to get fonts on the web. If you google “fonts,” you will get several paid ads for sites selling fonts and dozens more showing fonts for sale.

A well-made and well-designed font takes a lot of skill and time to build, especially an OpenType font with possibly thousands of glyphs.

Many fonts now available in digital form originated in the world of metal type or other now seldom-used forms such as filmstrips. So the fonts you buy today, like Garamond or Clarendon, may have histories going back hundreds of years.

If you know where to look, you’ll be able to find some excellent fonts for free or even Free. Beware, though, that it’s highly unlikely that a free/Free font provides all the font faces of a commercial font offering. Even though a project like the Open Font Library is attempting to change this, you probably can’t avoid buying a commercial font for some purposes any time soon.

Below is an annotated list of sources for free/Free, cheap and commercial fonts.


  • There are some great freely licensed URW fonts from Artifex (makers of Ghostscript and GhostPCL) that are well worth grabbing. There are some good quality fonts in there, like Clarendon, URW Bookman, and Antique Olive. They are shipped with the Windows version of Scribus. [1]
  • The Gentium font family provides excellent serif fonts under the SIL Open Font License. It supports Unicode, but so far, only regular and italic are complete. [2]
  • Linux Libertine is an Open Source project, which is working on a Free alternative to proprietary serif fonts, especially Times/Times New Roman. It offers different font faces in OTF format. As of this writing, regular and italic are complete, bold, bold italic, underlined and small caps will work for most European languages. [3]
  • Liberation is a set of fonts created on behalf of Red Hat. It is intended to serve as a replacement for the Microsoft fonts Times New Roman, Arial and Courier. It is distributed under the GPL v2 plus exception. [4]
  • Jos Buivenga is maintaining a website called exljbris. His carefully crafted fonts are available for gratis use in Type 1, TrueType and OTF format. [5]
  • The very prolific and very gifted type designer Manfred Klein has put a huge collection of high-quality TrueType fonts on the web at his Fonteria. Perhaps the best thing about Klein’s selection is the large number of good text fonts that take off in subtle ways from classical serif faces. He offers the fonts “free for private and charity use. They are even free for commercial use – but if there’s any profit, please make a donation to organizations like ‘Doctors Without Borders’.” [6]
  • TypeOasis, the site that hosts the Fonteria, has nice work by other designers, too. [7]
  • Some free TrueType fonts can also be downloaded from schriftgrad which also hosts a good glossary on typography/printing/DTP in German. [8]
  • is a directory with 20 590 free TrueType fonts of mixed quality.
  • contains 6500 TTF fonts, also free as in beer.
  • Valery Friedman hosts a list of his Free Quality Font Top 25 with some excellent fonts. Updates in Smashing Magazine. [9]
  • Gerrit van Aken offers links to some excellent fonts and also provides reviews (German). [10]
  • Pedro Reina has listed 189 freely available fonts, all of them Type 1, TrueType, PC/Mac. [11]
  • Luc Devroye has a regularly updated list of font foundries and desginers, including those offering free quality fonts. [12]
  • The MS Core TrueType fonts might be useful too, though they’re not really designed for print use. [13]
  • With Vista, Microsoft has introduced a new set of Core Fonts. To make them available on older versions of Windows, you need to install the PowerPoint viewer 2007. The EULA explicitly forbids the use of the fonts on any other operating system.
  • Fry Fonts offers some popular fonts like Apple Garamond or Coca Cola in TrueType format for free download. [14]
  • If you can get hold of an older printer driver CD from c. 2000, you may find a collection of high quality Adobe Type 1 fonts, including “classics” like Garamond on it.
  • The Linux Box offers an archive with 6760 True Type fonts for free download. Beware of its size, though: it’s huge (157.7 MB). [15]
  • Another place worth looking at is the German TeX Users Group (TUG). It provides some free high quality Type 1/TTF/Open Type fonts. [16] Similarly, the Comprehensive TeX Archive Network (CTAN) offers a wide range of excellent fonts. Previews are available. [17]
  • For using Chinese fonts under Linux, Gentoo developer Alastair ‘liquidx’ Tse, has written a guide on Gentoo Linux Chinese Fonts HOWTO. Worth to check it out. [18]
  • An affordable source for fonts is the German manufacturer of the multi-platform office suite Softmaker Office. They offer one “font of the month” for free download. If TrueType fonts are sufficient for your work, you can buy a CD-ROM with 10 000 fonts [19]. In case you need professional grade fonts, they are offering 6000 TrueType and Type 1 fonts. [20]
  • Corel WordPerfect has the TTF fonts and CorelDraw has the TTF plus PS fonts. At least this is true for WP 8/9 and Draw 8/9. The fonts are in their own folders and can be copied WITHOUT installing the product anywhere. Despite rumours to the contrary, CorelDraw fonts are high quality Bitstream fonts which have been used by pre-press folks for years without incident.
  • Fontshop [21] is also a good place to go, but you might have a look at Linotype [22], Lucasfonts [23] and maybe Fontfabrik [24] (they only retail) as well. They are all German companies offering some really nice fonts, that unfortunately aren’t affordable for everybody.
  • Adobe Systems does not have a long history of building fonts, but it was a pioneer in development of digital fonts, first with PostScript fonts, now with OpenType faces. A number of fonts ship with Adobe products, and others may be purchased online. And if you have an ample budget, you can buy from Adobe its OpenType Font Folio: more than 2200 fonts on a CD. Adobe also used to offer a “Type on Call” CD with its applications; you could install the font and buy an unlocking key. It has discontinued this, and if you have a Type on Call CD, you can throw it away.
  • is associated with Monotype Imaging, a long-time supplier of fonts from metal to digital.
  • offers fonts from Bitstream, Linotype and URW, all well-established developers of quality fonts.

There are many other less well-known foundries; if you want to experiment, most offer fonts in the $20 range.
























Font Preview and Font Management

The Font Preview

Once you have installed more than a handful of fonts on your system, you may need to preview the fonts available to you. Scribus comes with a versatile font previewer. You will find it the Extras menu:

On top of the font list you see a search field. You can use it for searching the names of fonts. For instance, you can insert “garamond” if you want to list only fonts whose name include this string, or you can list all regular font faces by entering “regular.” Note that the search isn’t case sensitive.

Below the search field you see a font list. It consists of 5 columns:

  • Font Name: This is a list of fonts available to Scribus. They are listed in alphabetical order, the names displayed are the ones stored in the font files. You can switch the display from ascending to descending by clicking on the caption of the column (the arrow will indicate the order).
  • Doc: Fonts used in your document are marked with a check mark here.
  • Type: Indicates the font type (Type 1, TrueType or OpenType).
  • Subset: Shows whether the font is being subset during export to PostScript or PDF (see below).
  • Access: Indicates whether a font is system-wide installed or only available to you.

Next you will see a field in which the font is previewed by using a sample text. You can change the preview font size as well as the sample text. To change the sample text, you can edit it in the “Text” field. After you inserted the new text, you have to click on the “Set” button. If you want to return to the default sample text for your language, click on the button with the “Undo” arrow.

With the “Append” button you can add the font to a font selection in the Style menu, which we decided to ignore, as explained above.

Font Installation

Scribus will load and use fonts from three sources:

  • System fonts are the fonts which are normally installed on your system. See below for installation instructions. When you install a new font, you need to restart Scribus, if you want to use it.
  • The Scribus Preferences allow to specify additional font paths. If you put any font file in any directory of this path, Scribus will detect it on startup.
  • Additionally, when you open a document, Scribus will look for its fonts in the same directory as the document. This makes it possible to work with documents that where collected for output, without installing additional fonts on your system.

Scribus is really picky about fonts, so sometimes a font will not load owing to the font detection code finding internal errors in the font. This is not a bug, this is a feature. Scribus will not load and will ignore bitmap fonts (which are totally unsuitable for publishing), fonts with internal format errors (while most applications will use those fonts, Scribus rejects them since they tend to create havoc at the print office) and fonts without a Unicode encoding (most notorious examples are some Symbol fonts). If you wonder why a font that's installed on your system isn't available in Scribus, you can start Scribus from the command line using the command scribus -fi (scribus.exe -fi on Windows and OS/2), where the parameter “fi” means “font information.” Scribus will then list all the fonts it has found and whether they passed the font test, if they are duplicates and why it didn't load a font.


The usual locations for system-wide fonts in a Linux/UNIX environment are /usr/share/fonts and/or /usr/local/share/fonts. These fonts are available to all users. Individual users have their own private font directory, in their home directory: ~/.fonts. It’s possible to install fonts by simply copying them manually to either of these directories. But there are graphical front ends for font installation as well.


For KDE users, the best way to install and delete fonts is to use the Font Installer which is part of the KDE Control Center, under Administration. If you are an ordinary user, you can use this installer to add and delete fonts in your own font directory. If you switch to Administrator Mode (requiring a password), you can install and delete fonts for all users.

In either mode, when you click on the “Add Fonts” button, you then navigate to a source of fonts. You can select individual or multiple fonts, then press the OK button. A progress bar charts the installation process, and reminds you at the end that the new fonts will probably not be available to open applications until you close them and restart. This is generally true of font-consuming applications. Note that when you start Scribus and look at the bottom of the “splash screen,” you will see a note about “initializing fonts”; this is the process by which Scribus comes to recognize newly-installed fonts. (The same is also true if you add a new font path to Scribus.)


To install fonts in Gnome, open Nautilus and type “fonts:///” in the adress bar. Then you can copy your fonts to the folder.


As of this writing, an Open Source font manager for Linux/UNIX, Fontmatrix, is evolving quickly, and it’s already quite usable. Originally developed for Linux Systems, it’s also being ported to Mac OS X and Windows. [27]

Its features are:

  • It can read almost every bit of the internal workings of a font which are human readable, eg. copyright, encodings etc.
  • It shows a sample text as a font preview.
  • It can examine glyphs.
  • It’s possible to activate and deactivate fonts.
  • It permits the tagging of fonts and to collect the tags.
  • It can generate fontbooks (PDF files with font informations and sample text).
  • It can start Fontforge to edit a font file.
  • It can load and activate fonts from network resources, including the internet.


According to Microsoft [28], the recommended way to install new fonts in Windows is the following:

  1. Click “Run” in the Start menu.
  2. Type %windir%\fonts, and then click “OK” or press the “Enter” key.
  3. On the File menu, click “Install New Font.”
  4. Select the source directory that contains the fonts you want to add.
  5. Select the font files you want to add. To select more than one font at a time, press and hold down the CTRL key while you click each font or press the Shift key to select a range of fonts.
  6. Check “Copy Fonts To Fonts Folder.”
  7. Click OK.

There is, however, an easier way to install fonts in Windows, as you can just copy/move the font files to the folder Windows\Fonts on Windows XP or WINNT\Fonts on Windows 2000. In both cases you need to have Administrator privileges. Note that this might not work with Type 1 fonts.

Mac OS X

On OS X, Scribus automatically recognizes all fonts installed in the standard locations (/Library/Fonts, /System/Library/Fonts, /Users/name/Library/Fonts) paths. To install a new font in Mac OS X, simply copy the font files to either of those directories except /System/Library/Fonts, to which not even root has write privileges. Fonts in /Library/Fonts will be available to all users, those in /Users/name/Library/Fonts only for the respective user. Additional font paths for Scribus can be configured in the Scribus Preferences.

OS/2, eCOMstation

Not surprisingly, the OS/2 way of installing fonts is similar to Windows:

  1. Open the “OS/2 System” folder.
  2. Open the “System Setup” folder.
  3. Open the “Font Palette” object.
  4. Select “Edit fonts.”
  5. Click the “Add” button.
  6. In the resulting “Add Font” dialog, type the path to the folder that contains the font(s).
  7. Select any file in the left “Font files” pane or press Ctrl+/ to select all the font files.
  8. Click the “Add” button.
  9. Close the “Edit font” dialog and all other folders.

Font Management in Scribus

Scribus has its own internal font management tools. If you go the the “Fonts” dialog in the Preferences or the Document Setup (depending on whether you want to do document-specific font management or general font management in Scribus) you see three tabs.

The first tab is called “Available Fonts.” It lists all fonts Scribus found and accepted during launch. You may not see all of your installed fonts, depending on their quality. Scribus is quite picky with fonts, and it may reject some suspect files to prevent problems downstream.

The tab consists of 5 columns:

  • Font Name: This is a list of fonts available to Scribus. They are listed in alphabetical order, the names displayed are the ones stored in the font files.
  • Use Font: If you uncheck a font here, the font won’t be available to you. By default, all fonts are available. It is possible to do this when a document is open, but you will see no effect on your font menus until you quit Scribus and then start it again. When Scribus is launched, one of the things that happens is initialization of the font system; at this point, the changes you made before quitting take effect.
  • Embed in: If you uncheck a font here, the font won’t be embedded in PostScript files made with Scribus. By default, all fonts will be embedded. If you don’t embed a font, you are counting on the user‘s printer having exactly the same font installed.
  • Subset: This option will prevent fonts from being embedded in PostScript and PDF files. You won’t be able to select them for embedding in the PDF export dialog. By default, all OpenType fonts are selected for subsetting, as they can’t be embedded for technical reasons. Scribus will also subset fonts instead of embedding if they contain too many glyphs or if you try to embed TrueType fonts in PostScript.
  • Path to Font File: As the caption says, you can see the path to a font file in this column.

The next tab is called “Font Substitution.” The functionality of the font substitution varies, depending on the kind of operation you execute. If you open a Scribus file that uses a font, which is not available on your system, you have to substitute this foreign font with one from your collection. For that purpose, you will be shown a dialog that lets you choose a replacement for the original. By default, Scribus shows the standard font selected in Document Setup/Preferences > Fonts. You can also decide to make this substitution permanent. If you don’t make it permanent, you will have to make the decision each time you open the document, which may not be what you want, considered the risk of destroying a layout by inadvertently using a wrong font substitute. By checking “Make these substitutions permanent,” you will store them. If you decide to make your substitutions permanent, this information will be stored in the Preferences and in the Document Setup, where you can either delete the substitution(s) by selecting it with the mouse and pressing the “Delete” button, or you can select another font for replacement. Any changes in the Preferences will not affect the layout of your current document if you load it again.

If you import an ODT or SXW file (see Working with Text) that contains a font unknown to Scribus, you can substitute it as well, but there is no option to make it permanent, as the replacement will be stored automatically in both Preferences and the Document Setup – even if you close the dialog without clicking “OK.” If you want to change the substitution for future documents, you have to do this in the Preferences. Changes in the Document Setup will only affect the current document. Your options for changes are either to delete the substitution or select another replacement font as desribed in the previous paragraph. Note that any changes you make will only affect future imports of ODT and SXW files; text that has already been imported won’t change its formatting.

There are two things you should be aware of when you import an ODT or SXW with unknown fonts. First, as you learned in Working with Text, while Scribus will import existing paragraph styles. Text within a paragraph that uses a different font will be treated like other formatting options, for instance text color or underlined. Thus, Scribus will ask you for a replacement of the font, independent of the paragraph style. However, Scribus will not create a different paragraph style, only the individual formatting, even if it’s just an empty space that uses a different font.

The second issue is one that may result in problems with your text layout in Scribus. and other word processors permit the creation of so-called “faux” font faces like bild or italic. As already mentioned in Fonts and Font Technology, Scribus does not support this feature to prevent pre-press issues. If Scribus detects a faux font face in an ODT or SXW file, it “assumes” that there was an existing font face in use that’s just missing on your computer. For instance, the popular free Gentium font currently only consists of regular and italic font faces. If you format text using Gentium as bold in a word processor and save it in ODT or SXW format, Scribus will ask you to select a substitution for the font “Gentium Bold,” which simply doesn’t exist. There is no easy solution to this issue. Your best options are probably to import the text without formatting (see Working with Text) or to use another font in the word processor. You could also replace the faux bolds or italics with the regular font face and later change the font settings for the paragraph styles you imported, but that’s probably too much trouble.

Please note that the font substitution works only with Writer and ODT files. If you import Draw or ODG files that contain text in a font that’s not available on your system or that uses faux font faces, Scribus will automatically replace it with the default font for text frames. In this case you should convert the text to curves before you import the drawing into Scribus (see Importing Vector Files for instructions).

To add new paths to fonts that aren’t stored in the standard directories of your operating system, you have to use the tab “Additional Paths.” By clicking on “Add,” you open a file dialog to browse for the respective directory. This may be useful for testing a font before you install it on your system. Note that you can only add new font paths if no document is open.

Drop Caps

The methods described below are a little more flexible than the built-in features for drop caps in paragraph styles, and also allow for some more effects.

  • Create a text frame and load your text. Adjust the font, size etc. as you please.
  • Delete the first letter of your text.
  • Create a new text frame (we’ll call this frame “initial”) and type the letter you have deleted in the other frame.
  • Set the size of the text frame “initial” to a high value. Remember, it contains only one letter!
  • Change the text frame “initial” via Item > Convert To to Outlines. If necessary, the drop caps’s size can be changed like a drawing.
  • In the Shape tab of the Properties Palette enable “Text Flows around Frame” and then “Use Bounding Box” on the “initial” frame.
  • Now just move the “initial” frame, so that its position is in the upper left corner of the original text frame. The text in the frame will flow around it:
  • The look of the drop cap can be changed in many ways. Here are some examples:
  • A second drop cap behind the first one. After some color changes we have a shadow:
  • Filled with a gradient:
  • Last, but not least: the outlines can be converted to an image frame.

Short Words

What the Short Words Plug-in Does

Short Words for Scribus is a special plug-in for adding non-breaking spaces before or after abbreviations or single-letter words.

These short words are specific to every language’s typographic rules, eg. according to Czech, Polish, and Slovak typographical standards, it is not allowed to leave one letter conjunctions at line ends if the line contains more than 25 characters. A common issue in all languages is in regard to measure and weight units, where for obvious reasons non-breaking spaces should be put in-between the preceding numbers and the units. Last but not least, there are plenty of abbreviated academic degrees, military ranks etc., which should not be separated from their owners.

Although the Scribus team cannot individually address every one of these national standards, one of the Scribus core team developers, Petr Vanek, decided to provide Scribus users with a plug-in, that can be easily customized to meet one’s specific needs.

How it Works

The screenshot below shows a sample text containing a short word before applying non-breaking spaces.

Text sample before executing Short Words:

The same text after applying non-breaking spaces. The red encircled word Mr jumped to the next line, because the normal space between Mr and Justice has been replaced by a non-breaking space:

How to Execute Short Words

Go to the Extras menu and choose Short Words.

Your options are:

  • Selected frames: Applies non-breaking spaces to selected text frames.
  • Active page: Applies non-breaking spaces to all frames of the current page.
  • All items: Applies non-breaking spaces to the whole document.


Short Words for Scribus provides a system-wide configuration file scribus-short-words.rc, which is usually located in the ~/lib/scribus/plugins directory (the actual directory depends on where you or your distribution installed Scribus).

This configuration file is almost self-explanatory. Basically it contains a list of short words for a given language, preceded or followed by a space and separated by commas. The position of the space, before or after a short word, indicates to the plug-in, where the non-breaking space should be put. Every line with configuration settings has to start with the language it is meant for, eg. en for English or cs for Czech:

#  English stuff START here
   en=Dr. ,Dr ,Mr. ,Mr ,Mrs. ,Mrs ,Ms. ,Ms ,Prof. ,Prof ,Rev. ,Rev ,
   en= Kg, kg, g, mg, oz, lb, cwt, km, Km, m, cm, mm,
#  Czech short words START here
## hanging conjunctions
   cs=K ,k ,S ,s ,V ,v ,Z ,z ,O ,o ,U ,u ,I ,i ,A ,
## physics and math
   cs= kg, g, m, cm, mm, l, hl, s, %,

If you want to create your own Short Words, eg. for a new language, you can create a scribus-short-words.rc yourself by using the Preferences. Just type your text into the field (it’s up to you whether or not you want to remove the existing short words). Then click on the “Save” button on the right of the dialog. Use “Reset” to restore the default settings.

If you successfully created a configuration file for your language, you might consider sharing your work with others by sending it to one of the Scribus developers or by posting it on the Scribus mailinglist.


Hyphenation is an important part of typography, because a well-hyphenated text eases readability and doesn’t disturb the eye of a reader by leaving white “holes” in it. The smaller the columns in a text frame are, the greater the importance of hyphenation, especially if the text is justified. Just take a look at a newspaper and you know what it means.

There are some rules of thumb you can apply if you want to produce a layout of higher quality. These rules are reflected in the default hyphenation settings in Scribus: don’t leave less than three letters at the end of a line, and don’t use more than two consecutive hyphenations. Where many consecutive hyphenated lines occur, the resulting appearance is called a “ladder,” and type people regard ladders as undesirable. On the other hand, if you are putting text in narrow columns, like, for instance, in a newspaper, and sharply restrict consecutive hyphens, you will get “loose” type, with wide interword spaces (“rivers”) because you’ve limited hyphenation. And that’s ugly too. Take your pick.

The hyphenator tab in the Preferences and the Document Setup offers you some more options that need an explanation. If you check “Hyphenation Suggestions,” Scribus will ask you to confirm or change the suggestions derived from the hyphenation dictionaries. This may be annoying, since Scribus will ask for each word in the text. It may be necessary, though, as Scribus uses the same dictionary files as, and they are far from perfect.

If you agree with a suggestion, click “Accept,” if not, you can place a hyphen with the “-” key elsewhere or add a new one. If you don’t want this word to be hyphenated, click “Skip.” To abort the hyphenation of your text, click “Cancel.”

By default, Scribus doesn’t hyphenate text. The regular way is to select a text frame and use Extras > Hyphenate Text. You can change this behaviour by checking “Hyphenate Text Automatically During Typing” in the “Hyphenator” tab of the Preferences and the Document Setup. This means that each text that will be inserted after checking this option will be hyphenated automatically. Texts that are already there won’t be affected.

Another important option is the choice of the standard language for your document, as each language has its own hyphenation rules. By default this is the language of your system. But if you create a document in another language, it’s better to switch the standard language to prevent ugly or nonsensical hyphenations.

If you are working with a document in more than one language, you can apply different languages to text frames by selecting them and choosing another hyphenation language in the Text tab of the Properties Palette:

The result of automatic hyphenation may not be sufficient, and you might want to add some additional hyphens. You can do this, but don’t use the “-” key – insert a smart hyphen instead. Smart hyphens are invisible in a regular text. They only become active if a hyphenation is actually possible. To insert a smart hyphen, use Insert > Character > Smart Hyphen or press Ctrl+Shift+- on the keyboard. The shortcut may not work in some environments, but you can assign another one in the Preferences.

Hyphenation can only be applied to one text frame or a chain of text frames at a time. Also note that hyphenation is not recorded by the Action History. Select a text frame and use Extras > Dehyphenate Text instead. Smart hyphens won’t be removed by by dehyphenating text, you have to delete them manually.

Sometimes applying hyphenation to a text chain may result in text frames that are rendered as if they were empty. If you run across this issue, don't worry. Just close your document and open it again. Your text will then be visible again.

Special Characters

Inserting Special Characters with the Character Palette

When you are in Story Editor or edit contents mode of a text frame, you will see these choices in the Insert menu. This allows to insert foreign language accented characters, special symbols not found on the keyboard, typographic symbols (such as typographic quotation marks, em dash, en dash, variably sized spaces, for example), and ligatures.

Selecting Insert > Glyphs brings up the dialog you see here, containing all available characters in your font. Which font will be displayed, depends on the formatting of the text in which the cursor placed, but you can select another font from the drop-down list in the upper left. Since the characters are displayed in your chosen font, if you see the character here, it should display on the page, which may or may not be true in Story Editor, depending on its display font.

On the upper right you can choose if you want to display all glyphs of a font or subsets like “Basic Latin” or “Ligatures.”

Each time you click on a glyph in the palette, it will be added to the gray field at the bottom. Thus, you can insert more than one glyph at once. To insert the selected glyph or glyphs at the cursor position in a text frame, click “Insert,” and to clear the field, click “Clear.”

You will note that the palette displays the Unicode string for each glyph. If you know this string, you can insert it directly in the field labeled “Code.” That can be a big time saver, if you’re working with huge fonts that contain hundreds of glyphs. While in Story Editor or Edit Contents of Frame mode, you can also press F12 on the keyboard, then the 4 digits of the Unicode number.

Inserting Selected Special Characters and Formatting from the Insert Menu

The Insert menu offers some submenus that can be used to insert selected special characters and special formatting. Let’s have a look at these submenus and their entries, one by one.


Of the first three entries only “Non Breaking Dash” needs an explanation, since “Page Number” and “Smart Hyphen” are already explained in the “Page Numbering” and “Hyphenation” sections. A non breaking dash is a dash that won’t be accepted as a hyphen. Imagine you write “A–Z.” You surely won’t want a line break after A–, and therefore you add a non breaking dash.

The “Copyright,” “Registered Trademark” and “Trademark” entries don’t need an explanation either, as their use is widespread. The following entries, however, might be less familiar.

  • Solidus: The Solidus looks like a slash, but it isn’t the same. It’s used to denote the British currency Shillings and also in Mathematics to typeset fractions like 1/5 .
  • Bullet: The Bullet point is used for unnumbered lists.
  • Middle Dot: The Middle Dot can be used as a more reluctant version of a Bullet Point, but it can also replace a comma in continuous texts when used for enumerations. It can also be used as a symbol for multiplications in mathematical formulas.
  • Em Dash: The em dash is mostly used in English typography. It represents a dash with the width of the letter “M” (uppercase). It can be used to typographically replace parentheses or parenthetical commas. The general recommendation is to use the em dash without spaces, like in this example: “all people—young and old, black and white—celebrated.” However, this recommendation cannot be generalized, as many typographers use the em dash with Hair Spaces on both sides of the dash. Even in English typography, though, the use of the em dash is on the decline. Instead, Anglo-Saxon printers and tyopgraphers use the en dash plus regular spacing more more extensively. Outside the English typography the em dash is sometimes used as a replacement for double zero decimal places. For instance, 2.00 EUR can be represented by 2.— EUR. The em dash is also used as a replacement for the quotation dash (see below).
  • En Dash: The en dash is a dash with the width of the letter “n” (lowercase) in a given font. It’s smaller than an em dash or a quotation dash, but wider than a hyphen, a minus or a figure dash. The en dash is used for two purposes: First, it indicates a range between numbers or dates (12–14 °C). In this case, no space is added between the two values and the dash. The second use case is the same as the em dash, namely to replace parentheses or commas, but in contrast to the latter, it is used with spaces on both sides.
  • Figure Dash: The figure dash isn’t available in many fonts. It’s a dash that represents the width of a digit in Monospace fonts. It can be replaced by a hyphen or a minus almost all of the time.
  • Quotation Dash: Just like the figure dash, the quotation dash is rarely available in most fonts. It is used to indicate quotations, just like quotation marks. It can easily be replaced by an em dash, because even trained eyes won’t notice the the difference.


There are many kinds of marks to denote quotations, some language-specific. In English, the proper typographic quotation marks will not be obtained directly from the keyboard, so here you have the ability to precisely choose the correct mark for your purpose.

  • Apostrophe: This actually not a typographic apostrophe, but a typewriter apostrophe. You shouldn’t use it, unless you are trying to use it in connection with the “Straight Double Quote” in mathematics or to denote inches, like in: 5'45". Another use case is the emulation of typewriters. The “Apostrophe” name is derived from Unicode naming standards.
  • Straight Double: The remarks made above also apply to the “Straight Double.” Don’t use it for quotes!
  • Single Left: This name actually refers to English quotation marks. In English typography (and some others who adopted the English model), the single left quote is a comma, both horizontally and vertically mirrored, then used in superscript style. To describe the different uses of so-called curly quotes, typographers use the ciphers 6 and 9. The English single left quote is a 6-comma in superscript style.
  • Single Right: Another English quotation mark. It is a (9-)comma in superscript style. It’s also used as a typographical apostrophe in most languages that use a European alphabet.
  • Double Left: Is the double version of the English left quotation mark.
  • Double Right: Is the double version of the English right quotation mark.
  • Low Single Comma: This is the standard left single quote in German and Austrian German, Danish and in many Central European typographies.
  • Low Double Comma: This is the standard left double quote in German and Austrian German, Danish and in many Central European typographies.

An additional note about “curly quotes”: Afrikaans, Dutch, Polish, Finnish and Swedish use a mix of both systems: Low commas are left quotes, and the English double right mark is used for right quotation marks. In Greek it’s the other way around: Left English quotes on the left and low single commas on the right.

  • Single Left Guillemet: This is the standard left single quote in Spanish, Portuguese, most Eastern European countries and in Switzerland. It’s also the standard in French, but with an additional space between guillemet and text.
  • Single Right Guillemet: This is the standard right single quote in Spanish, Portuguese, most Eastern European countries and in Switzerland. It’s also the standard in French, but with an additional space between guillemet and text.
  • Double Left Guillemet: This is the standard left double quote in Spanish, Portuguese, most Eastern European countries and in Switzerland. It’s also the standard in French, but with an additional space between guillemets and text.
  • Double Right Guillemet: This is the standard double right quote in Spanish, Portuguese, most Eastern European countries and in Switzerland. It’s also the standard in French, but with an additional space between guillemets and text.

An additional note about Guillemets: In German and Austrian German and many Central European countries, guillemets are also frequently used as quotation marks, especially in books. They are, however used reversed, ie. a “left” Guillemet is a right quotation mark and the other way around.

  • Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) use special corner brackets as quotation marks. These are only available in Asian font files

If your special character fails to display, this most often means that it is not available in your chosen font. Just because it shows in Story Editor does not mean it will show on the page – that only means it exists for Story Editor’s display font.

Spaces and Breaks

These are special size and purpose spaces. The first on the list, “Non Breaking Space,” is actually a normal space with a particular behavior. One may have, for example, a couple of words like “Dr. Smith,” so you would want a nonbreaking space between the two words so they do not get separated at a line break. See also Short Words.

The rest of the upper section shows many different sized spaces which can be used. They will only be available if your chosen font includes them:

  • En Space: Has the width of the letter “n” (lowercase) in the font.
  • Em Space: Has the width of the letter “M” (uppercase) in the font.
  • Thin Space: Has the width of one fifth (sometimes one sixth) of the letter “M” (uppercase).
  • Thick Space: Has the width of one third of the letter “M” (uppercase).
  • Mid Space: Has the width of one fourth of the letter “M” (uppercase).
  • Hair Space: Is the thinnest possible space: 0.5 point.

The lower section first shows the ability to force a line break without creating a new paragraph – “New Line.” The keyboard shortcut may not work in the Story Editor, however. A “Frame Break” will apply when you have linked frames – use this to force a break to the next frame in the linkage. Similarly, in a frame where there is more than one column, “Column Break” forces text to the next column.


Ligatures are special characters, representing the combination of two (or more) characters, such as “fi” and “fl” as you see here – they are not two characters close together, but one glyph. They must be present in your chosen font to be used. The OpenType format (OTF) provides some features for automatic replacement of two letters by the appropriate ligature. However, Scribus 1.3.3.x doesn’t support them yet. To replace two letters with an appropriate ligature, you can use the “Search and Replace” feature described above, but be careful! The replacement of two letters may not always be correct. Therefore, you have to check each case. For instance, replacing “cufflink” with “cuf-fl-ink” (to describe the effect of using a ligature) would be dead wrong.

Entering Unicode Values Directly Into a Text Frame

While you are in Edit Contents of Frame mode in the main screen, or in the Story Editor, you can press F12, then the 4-digit Unicode string for a character and it will be entered into the frame. This is in hexadecimal format, so digit choices are 0 to f, and you will find these codes underneath the glyph in the glyphs palette. Example: press F12, then “00a9” for the Copyright symbol: ©.


Numbered Lists

You may be familiar with the concept of automatically created numbered and bulleted lists from your word processor. Unfortunately, Scribus 1.3.3.x doesn’t offer this feature yet. There is, however, an easy workaround, which has the advantage of giving you a maximum of control over the layout of your list.

First, create a new paragraph style for your list. In this style you create a tabulator at, say, 15 pt. This will be the distance between the number and the text. You also need to set the indent for the first line to a negative identical value to the tabulator, in our case -15 pt. This is almost all of the magic.

Create a text frame and write your list in the frame or in the Story Editor:

  1. [tab key] First Topic
  2. [tab key] Second Topic etc.

All you have to do is to apply the style to the list entries:

Bulleted Lists

If you want to create a bulleted list, even with some unusual bullet points, you can do this easily and also with high precision. After creating your paragraph style as explained above, you have to use a unique combination of characters like &% as placeholders for your bullet points:

Now you can choose a Dingbat font for bullet points. If you’re not sure which symbol you should insert, you can use the preview of the Insert > Glyph dialog or Extras > Font Preview. Now open Edit > Search/Replace. Under “Search for:” insert “&%”. Under “Replace with:” insert e.g. “4” and choose a Dingbat font in the font selector:

Now click “Search” and then “Replace All,” and you’re done:

Custom Lists

If you want to use your own symbols for list entries, you have two choices, namely inline graphics and the use of the Multiple Duplicate function.

In the example below, an arrowhead in SVG format had been imported into Scribus and then scaled down for use as a bullet point. You can see the result on top of the text frame. The next step was to copy the arrowhead with Ctrl+C, double-click on the text frame to enter the edit mode, move the cursor to the beginning of each line and then paste with Ctrl+V. As described in Working with Text, inline graphics can be resized and moved with the text formatting tools of the Properties Palette. If you know you need a certain distance between the bullet and the text, you can also create an invisible text frame or a shape of that size and group it with the arrowhead before you copy and paste.


If you need even more flexibility with respect to lists you can use the Multiple Duplicate feature, which is explained in its own section below. The downside of this approach is that you have to be sure that the text in your list doesn’t change its formatting or its line spacing.

To create a list like the one shown below, you need to place the graphic you want to use as a bullet before the first item in the list. You are advised to do this at least at a zoom level of 400 %, because precision matters, and you will have to trust your eyes. Once the graphic is placed to your satisfaction, go to Item > Multiple Duplicate. Under “Number of Copies” enter the number of items in your list. Set “Horizontal Shift” to “0,” and for “Vertical Shift” insert the value for line spacing as indicated in the Text tab of the Properties Palette or, in case you use a paragraph style for your list, the value set in the style. In the example below, the line spacing was 14 pt. Since there is an empty line between each item, it was necessary to double the value for vertical shift, thus, 28 pt. After clicking “OK,” the list looks like this:


Note that you should group the bullets immediately after creation to prevent single bullets from being moved incidentially.

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