Scribus: Manipulate and Place Objects in a Layout

Cedric Gemy

January 2011


Scribus 1.3.5: Beginner's Guide

Scribus 1.3.5: Beginner's Guide

Create optimum page layouts for your documents using productive tools of Scribus.

  • Master desktop publishing with Scribus
  • Create professional-looking documents with ease
  • Enhance the readability of your documents using powerful layout tools of Scribus
  • Packed with interesting examples and screenshots that show you the most important Scribus tools to create and publish your documents.
        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Scribus, see here.)

Resizing objects

Well it's time to work on the logo: it's really big and we would like it to be aligned the top part of the card. There are several ways to resize an object or frame.

Resizing with the mouse

When an object is selected, for example, click on the logo, and you can see a red rectangle outline. This doesn't affect the object properties but only shows that it is selected. There are little red square handles at each corner and at the middle of each side. If the mouse gets over one of these handles, the cursor will change to a double arrow. If you press the left mouse button when the pointer is on one of them and then move the pointer, you'll see the size changing according to the mouse movements. Just release the button when you're done.

While resizing the frame an information box appears near the pointer and displays the new width. You will notice that the proportions of the object are not kept, and that the logo is modified. To avoid this, just press the Ctrl key while dragging the handles and you'll see that the logo will be scaled proportionally.

Resizing with the Properties Palette

As an alternative, you can use the Width and Height fields of the XYZ tab in the Properties Palette. If you need to keep the ratio, be sure that the chain button at the right-hand side of the field is activated.

Scribus 1.3.5

You can set the size in three ways:

  • By scrolling the mouse wheel within the field. Pressing Ctrl or Shift while scrolling will increase or decrease the effect.
  • If you already know the size, you can directly write it. This is mostly the case when you have a graphical charter that defines it or when you're already recreating an existing document.
  • You can also use the small arrows at the right-hand side of the field (the same modifiers apply as described for the mouse wheel).

Resizing with the keyboard

Another way to resize objects is by using the keyboard. It's useful when you're typing and you need some extra space to put some more text, and that don't want to put your hands on the mouse. In this case, just:

  • Press Esc to enter the Layout mode and leave the Content mode
  • Press Alt and one of the arrows at the same time
  • Press E to go back to Content Edit mode

If you do some tests, you'll find that each arrow controls a side: the left arrow affects the size by moving the left-hand side, the right arrow affects the right-hand side, and so on. You can see that with this method the shape can only grow.

Have a go hero – vector circle style

Since the past two or three years, you might have noticed that shapes are being used in their pure form. For example, check this easy sample and try to reproduce it in the best way you can: copy-paste, moving, and resizing are all you'll need to know.

Scribus 1.3.5

Scaling objects

Scaling objects—what can be different here from resizing? Once more, it's on Text Frames that the difference is more evident. Compare the results you can get:

Scribus 1.3.5

The difference is simple: in the top example the content has been scaled with the frame, and in the second only the frame is scaled. So it's scaling the content. You can scale a Text Frame (with its consent) by pressing the Alt key while resizing with the mouse. The Alt key applies, as always, while the mouse is pressed during the resizing movement.

So did you see something missing in our card?

Time for action – scaling the name of our company

Let's say that our company name is "GraphCo" as in the previous image and that we want to add it to the card.

  1. Take the Insert Text Frame tool and draw a little frame in the page. An alternative could be clicking on the page instead of dragging.
  2. Once you've clicked, the Object Size window is displayed and you can set 12mm or so as width, and 6mm as the height. Then click on OK to create the frame.
  3. Double-click in the frame and type the name of the company.
  4. Select the text and change the font family to one that you like (here the font is OpenDINSchriftenEngShrift), and decrease the size if the name is not completely visible.
  5. Scale the frame until it is about 50mm wide. We can fix the width later.

What just happened?

Most of the time, you will use simple resizing instead of scaling. When you want the text to match some area and you don't want to play indefinitely with the font size setting, you may prefer to use the scaling functionality.

Using the scale options makes it very easy to resize the frame and the text visually without trying to find the best font size in pt, which can sometimes be quite long.


        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on Scribus, see here.)

Rotating objects

The last important transformation tool is the Rotate Item tool. In our example, we'll use rotation to place the company name vertically at the right-hand side of the card. As always, you can choose among several ways of doing it.

Time for action – the quick method for rotating an object

Let's try the first method. It's certainly the easiest even if not the most precise.

  1. Select the company name by clicking on its frame with the Select Item tool C.
  2. In the toolbar or in the Insert menu, choose the Rotate Item tool (R). When the mouse cursor is over a frame, the cursor transforms into curved double arrows.
  3. Press the left mouse button and move the mouse cursor without releasing. You'll see a grey rectangle previewing the place of the frame and an information tip giving the exact value for the angle.

What just happened?

The Rotate Item tool helps you rotate any object while moving the mouse. The more your gesture will be controlled the thinner the result you'll get.

If you want to constrain the angle, just press Ctrl while dragging and you'll get a rotation multiple of 15 degrees as defined in the Other Properties option of the Tools category in Preferences. Turn until it is 90 degrees (which means six steps of 15 degrees) and release.

Scribus 1.3.5

But, again, there is a more precise method, which you will certainly prefer if you want to set the angle exactly to 10 degrees each time you want to reset the frame to its original horizontal position.

Scribus 1.3.5

Just go to the XYZ tab of the PP (F2) and write the angle you want in the Rotation field. Enter if you want to reset to the original position or enter any other value that you need.

For even more control over your work, you can set the Basepoint for the axis of the rotation. The following are some examples of what it does.

The center based rotation is the one you already know from the Rotate Item tool. The other cannot be done with the Rotate Item tool. You will need them if you have precisely placed some object and want to keep some relation. In the illustration, the colored rectangle shows you how the rotated Text Frame can look more distant because of the basepoint chosen.

We will have to find a place for this frame. I suggest you to move it to the left-hand side border of the card. We may have to change some frame settings further on, but let's first have a try. Place it in a way that the name of the company hangs slightly out of the page, "Gr" should be placed above the pink shape with a white color. If you want to check whether the whole text is on the page, enable or disable the Preview mode (click on the icon with an eye at the right-hand side of the status bar) and see what the final result will be.

Scribus 1.3.5

Preview mode
In Scribus, as in other Layout programs, the Preview mode is not a print preview, which is the default in text processors. It is simply the same layout but without helper lines and labels so that you can have a better idea of what you have created. In DTP, it is considered impossible to get an exact preview of the printed result on screen because the final printer is usually unknown.

Have a go hero – Eco power of rotation

Rotation with a basepoint can be really powerful. This illustration is really a simple drawing based on a three-ellipse shape, rotated and grouped with three circles, and so on, finishing with the rectangle. Actually, only seven shapes have been drawn. Other shapes are rotated copies. Try it out yourself!

Scribus 1.3.5

Aligning objects

Scribus has really nice and complete align options. Good alignment is really important in a layout. It helps to emphasize the structure of your layout. Aligning makes implicit relationship between elements that help the reader understand the importance of the objects on a page.

Time for action – aligning an object on another

The address and the logo aren't perfect yet: we'll push them to the right-hand side. We'll manage it by creating a guide and then aligning the frames to this guide.

  1. Put the mouse pointer over the left-hand side ruler, press the mouse and drag to 80mm from the left-hand side page border. The tooltip with the measurement will help you.
  2. Go to the Windows menu and choose Align and Distribute.
  3. Click on the guide you've just created and you will see its position appearing in the Selected Guide field of the Align window.
  4. In the Relative to list, choose Guide. Some of the buttons below are disabled.
  5. Click on the logo and the Align right sides button of the Align window. Select the address frame and do the same. While the address frame is still selected, go to the PP, Text tab, and align the text to the right. You may further enhance the whole if needed.

Scribus 1.3.5

What just happened?

We have aligned two objects to each other. In this case, the object was a guide but it could have been any frame, shape, or line placed within the page. The align dialog , gives you many ways to place one object relatively by matching several criteria. For example, if you want to center an object on the page, just select it, choose Relative to: Page and then click on the buttons to center it horizontally and vertically.

In our case, we have chosen to align to a guide because there were no objects at the place we wanted the shape to be. So we just created this guide at the right place and aligned it. Aligning to guides is also useful because these are not printed. So you don't need to worry about them once you've used them. But if you want to align two frames to each other, you'll need to first select both.

It might take some experimenting to get used to all the options available in this window. But it's worth the effort, because the results are much more precise and quickly achieved.

Placing by using the right coordinates
We could have done this using another way, without the align window;you'll choose! Just select the frame and change the basepoint to a right one and specify the position of this point: here it's 80mm. Done! There are often several ways to do a single action. It really helps to know them and choose them on purpose.

Locking objects to prevent errors

If you want to use this as a template for all the people who work at your company, we need two more things to be done:

  1. Lock an object that doesn't need to be changed to prevent errors.
  2. Save the card as a template.

The PP (F2) has several locking options depending on what you need to prevent. They are all available in the XYZ tab.

Icon Menu Description


Item | Size is locked Lock the size of the frame so that the resizing handles cannot be grabbed. Width and Height of the geometry in the PP are locked, too.
Item | Is locked Lock the size and the position of the frame or shape so that it cannot be moved. In this mode there are no handles around the selected frame. X-Pos and Y-Pos are unavailable.


Click on this button if you want to prevent this frame from being printed. This is useful if you put some sketch in the background to help you do the layout.


The first two are really necessary in many ways because the mouse is sometimes sticky. In our business card, we could lock each frame even the one with the text, because none of the options lock the content.

When you're done, go to the File | Save as Template menu and choose a name. There is no need to browse to a specific directory because Scribus has its own directory for templates which is placed in the Scribus folder of your personal account. Once this is done, you're prompted to give a name to the template so that you can easily identify it. It can be a good idea to give some more detail, especially a Category (simply by choosing one from the list).

Scribus 1.3.5

When you'll want to create a new business card, just click on the File | New from Template menu. In the window, choose the category in the left-hand pane, and the available template in this category will appear in the middle.

Scribus 1.3.5

Then clicking on a template will display its details on the right-hand side pane, and its preview if you click on the Preview button. Open the template you need, change the information that needs to be changed, and save it as a normal Scribus document from File | Save As . There is no need to save it again as a template (twice) and have a second which is very similar!

Grouping objects

You have created your first business card with Scribus. Congratulations! But before we go deeper into each tool, one by one, we'd like to show you two nice features that we'll sometimes need.

The first one, and may be the most important, is the possibility to group objects. Grouping objects enables you to modify several items at the same time and in the same way. To select several objects, just click on each by pressing the Shift key or dragging the mouse over them.

Once they are selected you can move, rotate, or scale them without grouping them but grouping will be permanent until they are ungrouped, so that you won't have to manage each object separately unless you set it. To make them as a group, choose one of these interfaces:

  • Group icon of the XYZ tab in PP
  • Right-click and select Group
  • Ctrl + G
  • Item | Group

Unlike locking options, ungrouping is available with another button placed just below of the menus that have taken the place of the previous. Remember that when you need to ungroup, the current group has to be selected. If you don't like menus, you can use Ctrl + Shift + G to ungroup.

Groups exist for a long time in Scribus but they are considered as an entity with their own settings. Actually, the Group tab of the PP is not completely available. You just need to be patient.

Mirroring objects

We could have talked about mirroring objects a bit later. But we have seen so many transforming tools in this section that it can be the right place for this one too. Plus, you might have noticed that we have already used it. Wondering when? We used it when we were dealing with basepoints. Have a look at the screenshots. Do you see the screenshots of the basepoint options? Don't you see something strange? 3D shadows of the boxes are not oriented in the same way on each screenshot where they should.

Of course, this is just a detail. We've done it this way because we were lazy to create more screenshots. But it will be useful, for example, when you'll want facing pages to be symmetrical. To apply a mirror effect on a frame or a group, you just need to click on the double arrows in the XYZ tab of the PP, as shown in the following screenshot. You can set a horizontal mirror (which match the example we've discussed), or a vertical one:

Scribus 1.3.5

Remember that the mirror applies on the object itself. So you might need to create a copy first. You can do it:

  • With the simple and common Edit | Copy and Edit | Paste options. The copy will be placed above the original, so you won't see any difference. By default, the copy is selected.
  • With Item | Duplicate, which will move the copy according to the File | Preferences | Tools | Miscellaneous Settings | Item Duplicate value.


In this article we saw how to manipulate and place objects in a layout.

Further resources on this subject:

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Scribus 1.3.5: Beginner's Guide

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