Scribus is pretty cool!

I’ve got a cold, but felt okay enough today to come into the office for a couple of hours.

I’ve been playing around with Scribus (an open source DTP/layout program) a little bit over the past few days. It had a problem that forced all PDF layers to print regardless of whether or not they were visible, so you couldn’t use it to create the kind of neat layered PDFs that Fat Dragon, Dave Graffam, and some other companies were doing for their paper models, so it never really entered my workflow.

I was doing a routine Google search on the subject of layered PDFs when I came across a Scribus bug report filed by one of the Cardboard Warriors forum regulars, and the Scribus devs were sort of dismissive and blew it off for a few years. One of the comments in that bug report got my attention, so I put together a quick test PDF and opened it up in Notepad++.

Sure enough, simply deleting the optional /Usage instruction lines fixes the problem and makes layered PDFs work correctly. So, if you want to do layered paper models in Scribus, just do this:

  1. Create your layered PDF in Scribus as you normally would.
  2. Export as PDF. Make sure you choose PDF 1.5 or higher, and tick the box for keeping layers.
  3. Open your newly generated PDF file in Notepad++ or another similar text editor that can handle large documents.
  4. CTRL-F, find all occurrences of “/Usage” (without quotes).
  5. Delete all of these lines.
  6. Save the PDF. Done!

Scribus has another pretty neat feature: you can extend it with scripts written in the Python programming language. I’ve whipped up some quickie helper scripts that speed things up by automating as much of the boring parts of building a layered PDF as possible. I’ll be testing those a little bit tonight.

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