[NTG-context] Scribus vs ConTeXt

William Adams will.adams at frycomm.com
Wed Feb 29 17:29:30 CET 2012

On Feb 28, 2012, at 2:34 PM, Kip Warner wrote:

> I was wondering if someone could offer a meaningful comparison in a
> nutshell to a layperson of the pros and cons of using Scribus versus
> ConTeXt. I actually just discovered the former today.

With a graphical tool, one is limited to the automation which the developers are willing to build into the tool and sentenced to handling manually _everything_ else, _every_ time that there's a change, e.g., if you have a keyword block on your opening article pages aligned against the outside gutter and the layout program can't place it automatically and contextually, then _every_ time the article changes from opening to a left to a right or vice-versa one has to make that change manually.

I wrote up a longer comparison once upon a time --- Scribus isn't that much different from InDesign and Quark, so the criticism holds:

While I'm no TeX wizard, I prefer it because it allows one to off-load
some of the tedium and repetitiveness to the computer, as opposed to
repeatedly solving variations of the same problems by hand time after
time after time.


- using Quark is like being chained to a an oar which is covered w/
splinters and mostly broken at the other end and which will randomly
break due to being poorly carved (Quark has crashed on me 183 times
this year) leaving one adrift or run aground, or sometimes returning
the vessel to its starting point (a few of those crashes have resulted
in unrecoverable document corruption --- my autobackup folder may
contain 2 or 3 GBs of files for a given iteration of a particular
project each month) --- the oar can be smoothed somewhat and reinforced
(by purchasing or finding XTensions, using XTags &c.) and periodically
one is required to purchase a new oar (sometimes just after the
previous one has been customized adequately). For some tasks, one can
impress any graphic designer as a galley slave to ease the effort for
others, but while charts are available, there are no automagic
navigation options and every journey must be manually piloted.

- using InDesign is pretty much the same except the oar is smoother
and stronger (it's crashed 29 times on me thus far this year), there
aren't as many customization options and it's not quite as easy to find
a candidate for impressment (though soon it'll be as easy as for
Quark). Charts are available, but again, piloting is strictly manual.

- using Plain TeX one has to craft the vessel's oar oneself (as well
as the rest of the vessel unless one is typesetting a clone of _The
TeXbook_), but it's as sturdy and as nice a one as one's skills allow
and can even be an engine which moves the vessel in and of itself ---
it can be difficult or impossible to find people suitable to help w/
either carving the oar or using it though, but once a given journey is
worked out, the oar becomes magical and rows for itself except for when
one runs into an unplanned for obstacle (the navigation charts are old
ones and not often up-dated, with a lot of ``terra incognita''),
allowing one an auto-pilot option for certain journeys, dependent upon
one's skill.

- using ePlain, an oar is provided, can be customized, and can be
enchanted and the charts are okay, but have a lot of ``terra
incognita'' on them.

- using LaTeX, an oar is provided and there're lots of nifty
customizations and improvements already available, and one can impress
additional oars from CTAN, however on a semi-random basis, adding one
oar will break other oars, sometimes leaving one adrift or run aground.
One can enchant a set of oars to accomplish a given journey, easing the
piloting requirement, and the navigation charts are decent and
obstacles are fairly well-known.

- using ConTeXt, a very nice oar is provided, which has lots of
customization options, but the navigational charts aren't easily read
by a traditionally trained navigator at first, although they are fairly
compleat and most journey can be carefully worked out, but once one is,
it is quite automatic and there's a good auto-pilot option.


William Adams
senior graphic designer
Fry Communications
Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow.

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