PDF Presentations

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General Remarks

Creating presentation PDFs in Scribus is just as easy as using Scribus for its other purposes. In fact, using PDFs instead of traditional "presentation" applications has some significant advantages:

  1. They are portable. You can create a presentation PDF with Scribus and display it on almost any computer with Acrobat Reader, available for free for almost every OS. Other types usually require the application – or a special vewer – to be installed, and few are cross-platform.
  2. You can use all the drawing, text manipulation and image handling tools in Scribus, which are in many cases superior to those in other presentation applications. Few can import SVG or EPS files really well.
  3. You will have more precise typographic control of text. It is not likely your audience will comment about pixelated fonts, but even so, your presentation will have a decidedly less polished appearance – is this what you wish to portray?
  4. Because they are created in Scribus, you can export them with a higher resolution and they will print beautifully.
  5. Unlike other presentation tools, with use of the powerful form and JavaScript capabilties in Scribus you can make truly interactive PDFs which can take counts, ask questions with dialogs and more. You are only limited by your imagination and scripting skills.

Think Outside the Box

Don't let your previous experiences with digital presentations limit your ideas about what you can do. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started. Keep reminding yourself that you can create whatever Scribus can do, not just imitate existing presentation software.

The Non-Linear Presentation
The typical presentation will have a list of "slides" from first to last, and only in that order, unless you drop out of your plan and load another set. Let's imagine that somewhere around slide 8, you anticipate there will be questions from your audience (after all, Prof. Fussbudget may be in attendance), for which you would like to be able to take a detour from the presentation, show some additional information, then come back to where you were.

  • If what you need to show is small, create a clickable annotation – showing additional data perhaps – then proceed as you would have.
  • If it's several slides-worth of information, create a visible or invisible onscreen button which links to another PDF, then at the end links you back to where you were. You can even have serial links or forks to choose from, in case Prof. Fussbudget's brother also attends.

Multilingual/Multicultural Presentation(s)
It's hard to please your audience more than to have your presentation in their most familiar language. Whether you are presenting to serial audiences having different languages or a single multilingual audience, Scribus can help.

  • With the ability that Scribus has to hide or show layers, a single Scribus file can generate all the presentations in whatever languages you might care to use.
  • Taking a cue from the non-linear idea above, you can have onscreen buttons to show the same slide in another language as needed – talk about a crowd pleaser!
  • We also live in a world where sometimes we must be diplomats. Changing certain images for some audiences might be desirable or necessary.


  • Down-sample all images to 72–96 dpi. Depending on the resolution of the displaying device, you might go as high as 120dpi, but higher will not gain you sharpness. But do this in an image editing program like the GIMP. Then import them into Scribus. A lower DPI creates a smaller PDF and reduces screen update times.
  • Embed all fonts. This ensures the spacing and layout will remain the same, no matter which platform you are using.
  • You can use US Letter or A4 in landscape mode for your layout. This will most closely match the screen output of Adobe Reader in full screen mode. If you know the display size of your output device, use Custom to create a template of, say 800x600 points – using round numbers may help with proportions and setting up guides.
  • When displaying images like photos or screen shots, use a black or dark background on your page. They will make the colors more vibrant and give your viewers more contrast to see all the details in your slides.
  • Use RGB colors for your images and always use Screen/Web for Export. At the same time, use vivid colors sparingly! Use them to guide the eye to what you want your audience to notice, but don't tire them out with rainbows of color.
  • Load the PDF and run through each page once before giving the presentation, so the file is loaded in memory. This will make for smoother transitions on the screen.

Settings and Options

Presentation effects and settings fall into two categories. The first is controlling the transition between pages when running a presentation PDF for example like you would when on stage. There are a variety of effects which are in the drop down boxes and they are often not only supported in Adobe Reader, but in other PDF viewers like KPDF or Xpdf for example. Moreover, each page can have its own transition, different from the others.



Select the page in the list on the left side and set the parameters of the presentation effect on the right side:

  • Display Duration: Determines how long the page will be shown.
  • Effect Duration: Determines how long the effect will be shown.
  • Effect Type: Determines the effect type.
  • Moving Lines: Sets the direction of moving lines for split and blend effects.
  • From the: Determines whether the effect will start from the inside or the outside of a page.
  • Direction: Determines the direction of an effect across the page.

Depending on which effect type is chosen, some of these parameters are not available. With the button Apply Effect on all Pages, the effect can be applied to all pages instead of just the selected one.

Just because you have these effects, doesn't mean you have to use them. You cannot make an uninteresting presentation interesting with effects, and you risk visually fatiguing your audience. You may actually find that the best transition is a quick fade out of one slide, with quick fade in of the next.

Viewing Options

Viewer Options also give you control over how the viewing application will open a presentation. Most of them will only work in Adobe Reader alone, as they are based on JavaScript commands in the PDF. Special Actions are more advanced ways of controlling the viewer on opening, but require custom JavaScript to work. The most important options to check are "Single Page" under "Document Layout" and "Use Full Screen Mode" under "Visual Appearance".


Graphical Elements for Presentations

Modern presentations have some elements in common – here I'll show how to create some of them in Scribus.

  • Create a rectangular shape with the main colour and duplicate it. Round the corners of the duplicate -- this is an adjustment in Properties > Shape. Fill it with another colour (in our example: blue) and put it exactly behind the first rectangle with some offset at the top. The dialog Align and Distribute does a good job here. Duplicate it again, change the colour to the colour of the first rectangle and put it also behind the first rectangle – with a small offset from the bottom. Now we have got a textbox with rounded corners and a headline in another colour. Group all three rectangles, duplicate the whole group and fill them with a shadow-like colour. Put this second group behind the first one, with a small offset to the right and the bottom (Ok, it looks a little bit like LateX Beamer …).


  • A bubble is nothing but a combination of a rectangle with rounded corners and a manually drawn Bezier curve.


  • There are two ways to create arrows: a line with an arrow as its head/tail or using a shape. Among the different shapes you'll find some predefined arrows. Lines seem to be a little bit more flexible than the shape-arrows.


  • These, of course, are just circles with numbers above them, but can be done with a text box over a circle, or make a circle, Convert to... > Text Frame, then insert the text. This might at first seem difficult, but first enter your number with the appropriate size, then in Properties > Shape, adjust the Top and Left distances to center it. Once you have done this, copy 9 times, editing the numbers in the copies.


  • I placed the header and the footer on a master page of that document, so they are appearing automatically on every page. The page number (Insert > Character > Page Number) is also set correctly that way.


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