Open Source Desktop Publishing Software

Having once run my own small business I know all about doing things yourself to save money. One of the things that we did alot of was brochures, manuals and other printed documents. When you’re a small company you can’t always afford all the fancy expensive software so alot of our documents were generated in Writer or Microsoft Word now theres nothing wrong with either of these but they not exactly the “best” in desktop publishing applications.

That was all 2 years ago and alot has changed since then. I no longer have my own business so I don’t need to do any desktop publishing and the opensource world has now caught up and there are alot of awesome applications available for free. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on making and designing things I still am constantly tinkering with things although now it’s more a “just for fun” thing.

Below is a list and short description of some opensource applications that I’ve played with. This isn’t everything available and these are not necessarily the only applications available but these are the ones I know about.

One of the things that has changed is that I no longer use Linux exclusively. 2 Years ago I was a Linux guy who occationally booted windows to test something or to play the odd game that all changed when I move to Capetown and got a job I now spend all day on Windows and my laptop (LG Tablet PC actually) runs Windows XP (Tablet Edition) exclusively. I also now have a Mac (Intel Mac mini) what this means is that I spend my time in 3 different operating systems so I prefer software that works on multiple operating systems.

Almost all the software in this list runs on multiple operating systems (MacOSX, Linux and Windows) the other cool part is that all of the software is open source and free.

So without wasting anymore time I’ll start my list.

gnome-gimp.pngThe Gimp

The Gimp is probably one of the most famous applications in this list. For those of you who don’t know what the Gimp is it’s a Photo Manipulation application a sort of Open source Photoshop. It works well and while the interface takes a bit of getting used to, it is very powerfull. I use it all the time for everything from minor touchups to photo’s to resizing them or taking out a bit of Red-Eye or even fancy work like taking out the dis-owned members of family from the family photographs. It’s available for Linux, Windows, MacOSX and many other operating systems. Theres also a version called GimpShop (Also available from that attempts to make the interface more photoshop like.


InkScape is an open source vector graphics editor similiar to Adobe Illustrator, Freehand and Corel Draw. This is great for drawing things like logo’s and any other vector type art work. I’ve used this alot to mess around with doing logo’s and designs for silly company names and things. It’s also a great editor for editing SVG files and other clip art like images. It’s available for Linux, Windows and MacOSX.


Scribus is an open source publishing tool allowing you do page layouts of things like brochures, pamphlets and other printed documents. Things like outputing to PDF make it really useful. This is the perfect tool to take your drawings from InkScape and Gimp edited photos and put them all into a professional looking document. It’s available for Linux, MacOSX and Windows.


OpenOffice is an open source office suite, it’s got a pretty good word processor in the form of OOo Writer which I’ve used in the past to do a bit of design work and it’s got OOo Draw which like my mother says isn’t that bad a drawing application. Of course it’s also got Impress which is there presentation system (like Microsoft Powerpoint.) It’s available for Linux, MacOSX and Windows.


OpenClipart is a little out of place because it’s a website rather than an application. Open Clipart is a website with free user contributed clipart that you can use in your works. I only recently discovered the site (found the link on InkScape’s website) but it’s very easy to navigate and has tons of clipart on.


A honorouble mention is going to a one of my favourite open source applications, Blender. Blender open source 3D modelling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback software. I’ve watched it go from strength to strength as they’ve added tons of features and it’s become more and more powerfull. It would take for ever to list all the cool things you can do with blender so I suggest you just go to there site and look around. Blender does seem a little out of place in this list but it is an open source application, does run on multiple operating systems and is a really cool 3d graphics package so it could be argued that you could use it in desktop publishing.

Xara Xtreme
I’ve only looked at there site and haven’t tried out Xara Xtreme yet. It appears to be only available for Linux and I’m not too sure what kind of Open Source license it’s under. I’ve added it to this list for completeness and as a reminder to my self to one day go download it and take a look.

This is only a small sample of the software out there, the features sets and maturity of these applications are unbelievable especially when you think of who there competition is. Could you run a desktop publishing company using OpenSource software exclusively? Maybe, due to all the propriety formats floating around and the lack of designers and artists with skills on the opensource applications that may be rather hard. But there is no doubt in my mind that you can now actually publish something to professional standards using only open source software.

I do wish all this software was around when I was doing this kind of stuff.