Adobe InDesign is the dominant player in the Desktop Publishing world. It is used for many books, and also for magazine and pamphlets, and even things like greeting-cards and invitations.

It is almost $1000, and having used it, if I were in the business of professionally producing books, (esp, with complex layouts), I would say it would be worth every penny. How ever, at the moment I'm only doing it as a hobby.

It's lower-end cousin is MS-Publisher, which can be replaced with Scribus. (Feel free to answer with a argument that suggests Scribus can replace InDesign)

conTeXt, a cousin of LaTeX seems like it might be a alternative, but the learning curve seems steep (the few times I've tried).

LaTeX itself might be a good alternative, but it seem that it forces you into the mould of what ever document class you are using (eg memoir, koma-book), and that to define a document-class of your own, you need far more than beginner knowledge.

Important Features

  • Must be Desktop Publishing Software, not word processing, not website design.
  • Must support kerning
  • Must support advance Open type features: Ligatures, Swash/Titling/Contextual alternatives.
  • Should have support for structured document data import/templating (Thus allowing separation of presentation from content. (This would be a huge plus for me).
  • Should have Mail Merge (which is similar to the structured data import, but simpler)
  • Ideally would have better support for OpenType style sets, than InDesign has, but I can live with no support for style sets, as InDesigns support is only just usable.

Cost/Licence: Must be free, Ideally would be Open Source

OS: Any, with slight preference towards Linux > Windows > Mac > OS/2 ...


1 Answer 1


Scribus is an open source desktop publisher.

  • Supports kerning
  • Supports ligating
  • Supports templates to separate content from presentation
  • It has a kind of mail merge
  • Support for font embedding and sub-setting with TrueType, Type 1 and OpenType fonts.

Free and open source.
Runs on Windows, Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation, FreeBSD, PC-BSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, Solaris, OpenIndiana, GNU/Hurd, Haiku.

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  • Scribus is still rather limited on Opentype Features. No Contextual alternatives. And the Scribus palette (via insert glyph) cannot even show all glyphs in professional Opentype Fonts: unmapped glyphs (those variants) are not even visible or manually insertable (Nov 2018, Scribus 1.5.4). Commented Nov 18, 2018 at 0:37

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