Justifying like a boss in Scribus

I’ve been working on a magazine project for the last couple of months and sadly I found that there aren’t that many tutorials for Scribus, specially on the topic of justifying. So if you’re also wondering how to get good justified text in Scribus 1.4, read on!

Let’s start with setting our text style right. Open up the styles editor and set the paragraph style for your text (usually the default) with these settings:

  • Minimum space width: 92%
  • Gylph extension: 95% – 100%
  • Tracking: -2% (this is in the character tab)

Always let your text flushed, unless you’re required to have it fully justified. It can save you a lot of spacing issues and in many cases just looks better.

Make sure you have hyphenation enabled while you type: open the preferences and go into “Hyphenation and Spelling”. If you import text, make sure to hypenate it (Extras > Hyphenate Text).

This should give you a pretty good base. Now comes the fun part: going through all your text to find overly spaced lines, rivers, widows and orphans.

Overly spaced lines refer to lines where the separation between characters or words is notably higher than the rest of the paragraph. Another spacing issue is rivers. Rivers occur when the gaps between words or characters seem to align, forming a line of empty space that runs through the text.

Widows are paragraph-ending lines that end up in the beggining of the next column or page.They can break the flow when reading and make your text look disjointed. Orphans are small lines at the end of paragraphs that cause too much whitespace between them.
Your first task should be fixing the uneven spacing that causes “rivers” of whitespace in your text. You can do this by adjusting the previous settings in the properties window (inside advanced settings). I suggest you tweak paragraph by paragraph, then line by line for the problematic ones.

The next step is reducing widows and orphans. The keyword here is reducing. While you can probably get rid of all widows by adding line breaks, you’ll have to accept some orphans. If the author is ok with it, you can split paragraphs but most often you’ll want to tweak the spacing settings on that paragraph until the orphan is gone. Just remember you can’t always fix them all, don’t waste your time fiddling with orphans if you have to compromise the readability of your text to fix them.
Don’t forget to adjust the space around your paragraphs (about 1pt is fine). Use the paragraph style for this, don’t add unnecesary line breaks!

Check out the Wikipedia article on justifcation for more info.