Scribus vs InDesign: All You Need to Know (2023)

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(Last updated on November 2nd, 2022)

Scribus or Adobe InDesign, which software should you pick and why?

We took a look at both programs, comparing the pros and cons of each. Read on to figure out which one fits you the best.

Scribus is an open-source software designed in 2001 by professionals wanting to create a powerful desktop publishing application that was free. Per their website, they want users to have full control over their publishing programs, placing all the power in the user’s hands.

InDesign is a powerful desktop publishing program by the Adobe family, created to make publications with ease. You can print and create digital media easily with access to massive font libraries and many templates to get you started.

Both programs are powerful, capable of creating polished media. We compare these two side-by-side to see which software wins out.

If you’re in a hurry, see the summary of the comparison below.

Comparison At a Glance

1. Features
Winner: Adobe InDesign. Overall, InDesign has more features and is a better piece of software. You can design a publication with more ease and with intuitive tools at hand.

2. Pricing
Winner: Scribus. Scribus is free, unlike subscription-based Adobe InDesign. Scribus designers wanted desktop publishing to be accessible for everyone. They were successful and made a free, high-power program.

3. Collaboration
Winner: Adobe InDesign. InDesign has the Share for Review feature, a built-in collaboration tool that lets contributors provide feedback and markups. This collaboration solution is great because you don’t have to leave the application, making this a smoother process.

4. Compatibility
Winner: Tie. Both InDesign and Scribus have limitations when it comes to compatibility. InDesign works best within the Adobe family of applications. Scribus can import some file types but cannot import InDesign or QuarkExpress, a downer, if you try to switch over from these applications.

5. Ease of Use
Winner: Adobe InDesign. Scribus’ user interface can be called outdated at best and horrible at worst. The UI is reminiscent of design from ten years ago, without smooth, in-program transitions.

To work in the program, you have to open and close windows constantly. The design makes the user experience clunky and gets in the way of getting the project done.

6. Support
Winner: Adobe InDesign. Both Scribus and InDesign have tutorials available online to help you learn the program. However, Adobe also has in-app lessons and an online chat available so you can get in contact with a real person, making it a more supported program overall.

7. Longevity
Winner: Adobe InDesign. While Scribus is a great free tool, it just doesn’t have the same punch as Adobe InDesign. InDesign is used by professionals worldwide. Especially with a field as collaborative as publishing, knowing InDesign is crucial in the professional setting so you can work with other designers.

Scribus vs. InDesign: The Short Verdict

Adobe InDesign is the industry standard in desktop publishing, while Scribus is a free page layout tool offering all the basic features and functionalities. If you’re on a budget, get Scribus. If you’re looking for professional work, Adobe InDesign is the right program for you.

1. Features

Both Scribus and InDesign are powerful programs with many features. Here, we’ll examine what they can do.

Adobe InDesign’s features:

  • Able to create everything from brochures, magazines, posters, books, digital media, interactive PDFs, and more.
  • Master Pages Feature: Create a default page that you can quickly apply to many pages. Objects on a master page will be copied to applied pages. You can quickly save existing pages as master pages or create a new one from scratch. You can also import master pages from other documents.
  • A large amount of presets and templates. Sorted by Print, Web, and Mobile, you can choose the right template to suit your needs. Example templates include standard Tabloid size, Letter, Legal, and more. Of course, the size is editable once you begin working. It is a great jumping-off point when starting a new project.
  • Create basic vector shapes. Rectangle, oval, any polygon.
  • Color modes include both CMYK and RGB.
  • Share for Review: A collaboration tool that lets the user submit versions of the document for review. Contributors can make comments in the chat and even markup the design. You can resolve comments as you go, making the review process as seamless as possible.
  • Smart Conversion: When you are typing in measurements, InDesign automatically converts the measurement into the correct metric. If, say your document is in inches, but you know the margin should be 3 millimeters, if you type in 3 mm to the margins tab, it will convert it automatically for you to inches.
  • Snap Tool: Snaps objects to guides or grids, making alignment simple.
  • Typekit: An online library containing thousands of fonts at your disposal. The downloading process couldn’t be simpler. You can turn fonts off and on with a click of a button.
  • Adobe Stock: An online stock library with thousands of assets. Stock membership is an additional amount per month.
  • Adobe Experience Manager: A comprehensive content management solution that organizes web content and marketing assets. This manager integrates great with InDesign.
  • Cloud Storage. Allows you to access projects and documents online and work between devices. You could start a project on your iPad, upload it to the cloud, and then finish it on your desktop. The documents will also continuously update in the cloud, allowing you to access the project’s newest version.
Adobe InDesign Features

Scribus’ Features:

  • Scribus creates a wide range of written publications, including print-advertisement, calendars, brochures, newsletters, PDFs, and magazines.
  • Color modes support both RGB and CMYK
  • Several preset templates for new designs. Comes with templates for business cards, newsletters, brochures, and more.
  • Can customize pages, adjusting bleeds and margins.
  • Able to integrate vector graphics and photos into the documents. Scribus includes the Bezier curves tool, allowing you to adjust curves with accuracy.
  • You can attach text to paths or set the flow to be inside shapes.
  • The rotation tool is easier to use, adjustable by pressing the up and down arrows.
  • Create and edit frames. You can customize them, rounding corners, scaling them, etc.
  • Able to import Illustrator, EPS, and SVG files.
  • Has workaround Right to Left support for languages like Arabic. However, this needs to be downloaded and installed manually, not as intuitive as Adobe InDesign. RTL support is important for languages like Hebrew, Arabic, Urdu, and Persian.
  • Contains master pages, allowing you set features such as numbering pages across multiple pages without having to do this manually.
Scribus Features

Overall, InDesign has more features and capabilities than Scribus. The updates are more frequent and new features roll out regularly.

Scribus has all of the essentials, but because the maintenance team is unpaid and on a volunteer basis, features and bug fixes take a long time to get fixed. InDesign has more to offer as a whole.

Winner: InDesign

2. Pricing

ProductRegular Price
Adobe Creative Cloud$52.99/month
Adobe InDesign$20.99/month

Scribus is the clear choice when it comes to pricing because it is free software. The programmers behind Scribus wanted to create a program that

Scribus Pricing

was accessible to all at no cost. With this in mind, they were successful. If you love Scribus, you can always donate to show your support.

Adobe InDesign, on the other hand, is expensive. The cheapest plan for just InDesign is $20.99/month with an annual term or $31.49/month with a monthly term. You can get the full suite bundle for $52.99/month with an annual term or $79.49/month with a monthly term.

Adobe Pricing

However, both bundles add up to hundreds of dollars spent every year.

If you are a student or teacher, you can find discounted rates, getting the full suite bundle for $19.99/month on an annual term.

If you are on a budget, get Scribus. A free application is always worth a try.

Winner: Scribus

3. Collaboration

Adobe InDesign beats Scribus for collaboration because you don’t even need to leave the application to receive feedback and resolve issues within your project.

InDesign has an incredible collaboration feature called Share to Review. While maintaining control of the editable document itself, you can send a public link or private invitation so others can review the work and leave comments.

Adobe InDesign Collaboration

Reviewers can leave comments in the chatbox and annotate the document, linking a comment. The review panel lets you hide/show comments and resolve them. Share to Review manages the comments so you can easily delete and organize the process.

Meanwhile, you will have to leave the Scribus application to collaborate. Scribus forums recommend exporting your design as a PDF for the other collaborators because PDF is universal.

Overall, InDesign has a seamless collaboration system for your team. You can easily share documents and provide feedback. Scribus doesn’t have this feature built-in.

Winner: Adobe InDesign

4. Compatibility

Scribus works on Linux, Windows, and Mac. Meanwhile, InDesign only works on Mac and Windows.

Scribus cannot import files from InDesign or QuarkXPress. This lack of compatibility can be frustrating if you want to work on an older project and switch to this program. The program can import Photoshop files, .eps, PNG, and more. Scribus also does not have an iPad or mobile application.

InDesign can import vector graphics from illustrator as well as Photoshop files. InDesign does not have a direct application for iPad or iOS.

However, Adobe Comp is a great sister application that lets you create layouts and then send them to Illustrator, InDesign, Muse, and Photoshop to finish the project.

Both InDesign and Scribus have compatibility limitations. InDesign works best within its family of applications.

Winner: Tie

5. Ease of Use

Overall, InDesign is more user friendly than Scribus. The tools are more straightforward and sophisticated in InDesign.

For layout organization, InDesign has a great feature called Workspace. Workspace allows you to customize the window design layout, using preset layouts like Essentials, Book, and Typography, to name a few types.

You can also reset the Workspace in the drop-down menu. Lastly, you can also save a custom workspace design, fine-tuning the windows to fit your needs.

Adobe InDesign Interface

Scribus is the minimalist version of user interface design. Scribus, upon opening, has no panels, tabs, or anything. It starts with just a simple page, ready for designing.

In InDesign, you can snap windows to any side of the frame, customizing the layout. InDesign’s interface is clean, sleek, and easy to use.

Scribus is not as sleek. Here, all you have are additional windows that don’t integrate with the rest of the Workspace. In terms of design, the Scribus user interface feels outdated.

Scribus has awkward tool control. For example, changing the color of an object is a tedious process. First, you have to create a new color and add it to the palette. Then, you can change the object to this new color.

You have to do several steps to do something as simple as changing a color. Many tools in Scribus are multi-step and take time away from designing.

Scribus wastes a lot of space on the interface with words when icons could easily have been used. Adding more menus would also organize the program.

Per reviews online from users, the user interface was one of the biggest repeated complaints. While many people have submitted suggestions for changing the layout, the Scribus diehards want to keep the program layout as it, sadly, holding back the program’s potential.

All Adobe programs are easy to install. All you have to do is download Creative Cloud, login, then click a button to begin downloading. Once downloaded, installation is done.

For Scribus, you need to download two files, the Scribus application and Ghostscript (for Mac and Windows users, Linux should have it built-in.)

The first start-up of the application can sometimes take a while because of the system in downloading fonts. After this, you should be good to go, no issues.

Overall, InDesign offers a much better user experience. The application is modern and easy to use.

Winner: Adobe InDesign

6. Support

Both Adobe InDesign and Scribus have online resources to help you use the programs. Overall, InDesign’s support system is way more organized and robust. Scribus’ resources are scattered between the website, forum, and wiki, making finding the answers a more difficult task.

To learn Scribus, there is a wiki dedicated to questions, concerns, bugs, and getting started. There are how-to and discussion pages in forums to help you figure out your problem. In terms of solving an issue, there is a decent amount of information online.

Unfortunately, there is no phone to contact a professional from Scribus directly. You can use the wiki chat feature to connect with another wiki user via FreeNode. The software is clunky at best.

For Adobe, there is a dedicated chat available 24-hours, Monday – Friday, to answer questions and concerns, connecting you to Adobe professionals.

There are a ton of tutorials available in-app and online. There is also a huge community forum, sorted by application, to look up questions/concerns.

The lessons and tutorials Adobe offers are extensive. They have written step-by-step instruction and video tutorials, sometimes including documentation that you can download and follow along with.

Adobe InDesign Tutorial

Overall, Adobe InDesign has a better support system that is organized and easy to follow. You can get in contact with a live support agent for the majority of the week, and there are in-app tutorials, making learning a tool easier than ever.

Winner: Adobe InDesign

7. Longevity

Overall, Adobe InDesign has more longevity than Scribus.

In terms of updates, Adobe fixes bugs and adds new features regularly. Scribus’ latest stable release was back in March of 2019. Right now, there is a newer, developmental version out. In comparison, Adobe is constantly updating and upgrading their software on a regular basis.

As a whole, more people in the professional sphere use InDesign over Scribus. To collaborate with others in the corporate design world, you need to get on the same page within the same program.

Therefore, you must learn the standard programs, like InDesign, to get familiar with common editing tools.

Adobe also has a huge suite of programs that everyone uses. Because the apps produced have such a wide range of use (video to photo editing and more), the audience is wide. The variety of applications protects InDesign and other Adobe applications from ever going under.

That being said, many people use and love Scribus. The software is still being updated and worked on. If the UI gets a major facelift and a lot more features get added, it could become a competitor to Adobe InDesign in the future.

Overall, Adobe InDesign has more longevity than Scribus.

Winner: Adobe InDesign

Final Thoughts

Both InDesign and Scribus are excellent page layout programs. InDesign has been the leading publishing software for many years and can be used to design books, magazines, newspapers, flyers, brochures, and posters. Scribus does the same with limited functionality, but at no price at all.

If you are just a hobbyist — get Scribus. It’s way cheaper and can do most of what InDesign does. You may have to spend more time exploring the program (the tutorials are not as intuitive), but you will be surprised at what you can do.

If you want to work in the creative industry — get the full creative suite and learn InDesign. The program works especially well with Adobe programs, Photoshop and Illustrator, to name a few examples. The program is sleek, intuitive, and has many resources to help you learn the features and get support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Scribus as good as InDesign?

Scribus can do everything that InDesign does. However, the user interface is so difficult and tedious that it can take all the fun out of publication design because you get so wrapped up in the task.

Can I get InDesign for free?

No, you can only get InDesign as a subscription. You can get a free trial for one week, but that’s it.

Is there a free program like InDesign?

Scribus is a well-known program and a free alternative to InDesign. It creates a variety of publications and is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Can Scribus edit PDF?

No, because PDF formats were never meant to be editable. You can import and create a PDF in the application, but you won’t be able to import and edit a PDF inside the application.

3 thoughts on “Scribus vs InDesign: All You Need to Know (2023)”

  1. Not sure I agree with a claim that Scribus user interface is difficult. Quite on contrary, I find it more logical than that of the InDesign. Yes, it is old-school (menu- and dialog-based), but frankly, this whole new fashion of sticking every single functionality into the floating toolboxes that clutter the entire screen in the modern software is rather annoying and reduces the productivity. I use both programs and I can confirm that once you learn some keyboard shortcuts, you can do your work way faster in Scribus than in InDesign. I wish all the software kept their “outdated” GUI instead of just mindlessly chasing the fashion.

  2. I have been in the graphic arts field beginning with Aldus Pagemaker 4 in the early ’90’s. I have NEVER had reason to collaborate with anyone! This is an absolutely useless feature for those of us who do not work in big publishing facilities. You want your client to see and edit your work? You send them a PDF copy and make changes based on their reply.

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