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Open Source Publishing & FREE Software

Free Alternatives for DTP

Open source solutions have long been available for use in prepress. The primary advantages of free software are that the software is available free of charge and that the source code can be viewed and altered.

One example of a widely distributed open source solution with a long history is the Ghostscript PostScript and PDF interpreter, which appeared as far back as 1986. Not only can the tool convert PostScript and PDF documents into bitmaps, it is also able to generate PDF documents from PostScript. Ghostscript is available as an API (Application Programming Interface) and only becomes apparent when controlled by other solutions. The PS and PDF renderer are used in numerous applications, including commercial software such as Ragtime for Windows.

Setting and Layout

The free Scribus setting and layout software is a more recent example, version 1.0 having been published in July 2003. Scribus is available for Windows, Mac and Linux and in range of functions and operating concepts following Quark Xpress and Adobe InDesign. This DTP program goes beyond its peers. The native document format, is not proprietary (closed) but uses readable and editable XML, in much the same way as the Open Office program suite does. Since version 1.3.5, highlights of Scribus include support for Latex boxes, which allows complex formula to be placed directly in the layout.

Image processing and illustration

In image processing the yardstick against which everything is measured is Photoshop which, generally speaking, cuts any competition it comes up against into the shade. Given this situation, competition from free software would certainly be desirable. Gimp is a function-rich candidate that has long been available but so long as it fails to incorporate professional CMYK processing it is of limited use as a tool for professional use.

Giving variety a chance

It is good to know that work is in hand in the open source sector that, either now or in the future, could offer a usable alternative to the market leaders. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life and will be good for users.

The GNU Image Manipulation Program, for X Windows systems. Official site, including download area, documentation, FAQs, and a plugin registry

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