Does anyone know of a free typesetting program that can use I can to do layouts of old Jewish books?

I.e. a page of the Talmud like this (tractate shabbat 3a):

page of the Talmud
Shabbat 3a (click image for larger variant)

  • 1
    What OS should the program run on? Is there a budget involved, or should it be "free" (as in "free beer" and/or "free speech")?
    – Izzy
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:11
  • InDesign would have no problem with this, unfortunately indesign is anything but free. Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 22:23
  • @Izzy windows 7. Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 22:37
  • Toda rabba – added that as tag to your question. WAs Oxinabox right to add the "gratis" tag (I don't see you indicating that requirement)?
    – Izzy
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 23:03

1 Answer 1



Latex is a free and high quality typesetting system with highly customizable layouts. The one you linked could be replicated by use of the custom environments. It might take time to learn especially if you have no previous experience with markup languages, but you can find excellent community support on the StackExchange TeX and LaTeX website.

Here is a very similar question on TeX.SE where this issue was successfully addressed

LaTeX is cross-platform, and you could write it using any text editor. I recommend TeXStudio since it is easy to setup and has a beginner-friendly interface with auto-complete, syntax highlighting, and a built-in viewer. TeXStudio is also free and cross-platform

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    Good find, Timmy (though that's a page of Berakhot, not Shabbat #D) Might note that there are some GUIs to LaTeX as well AFAIK – as in the linked post it looks rather like "cryptic peek-and-poke". I'm just not sure whether those GUIs are capable of a design as complex as this (fonts should be no issue I guess).
    – Izzy
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:14
  • @Izzy I just wanted to find a close enough example to show that it could be done. Is it enough to point to TeX.SE, or should I attempt to typeset the page in the question and post the code?
    – Tymric
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:24
  • Timmy, I was just kidding: any page of the Talmud (whatever tractate from) matches the OP's request. It would be too much to include the details from there (and after all, it's the same domain ;) I'm just afraid it looks like "plain coding" and a "major obstacle". I'm not a LaTeX user – so I was just suggesting, should you know any, to include some pointers to a GUI which might be used in this context (LyX? Or some other?). Those might be OS specific, hence my asking for clarification on the question itself.
    – Izzy
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:30
  • @Izzy I understand. It is mostly "plain coding", especially when you are trying to create a complex layout such as this one. LyX is probably the closest to a GUI as it could get, although I do not use the program so I can't recommend it. I added a paragraph recommending another editor that is also beginner-friendly and cross-platform
    – Tymric
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:42
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    Thanks, +1 from me for this combination. I'm afraid there won't be much alternatives able to cope with such a complicated design (after all, size of all the elements can differ from page to page, and there might even be pages where one (or more) of them is missing – I'm not a Talmud chacham to know all of them by heart). Guess it's too much asked from any "simple DTP program"...
    – Izzy
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:48

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