In the previous post in this series, we looked at the basic design tools used to create labels and business cards with gLabels: the drawing tools, text tools, how they compare to raster- or vector-graphics editors, and the object manipulation tools. We also covered how to print your creations, and what formatting options gLabels provides to make life easier. Chances are, though, that at some point you will need to take advantage of some of gLabels’ more advanced features, such as the ability to do “mail merge” printing, to incorporate readable barcodes, or to edit label templates of your own.
by Nathan Willis
Following is an excellent two part series on gLabels by Nathan Willis: Getting started with gLabels and Advanced usage with gLabels.
Labels and Cards with gLabels (Part One)
In the world of label creation software for Linux, gLabels is the long-standing market leader. It offers a convenient graphical interface in which you can design labels with the same tools you are used to finding in image editing software, but it also supports business-friendly advanced features like “mail merge” and barcode generation. In addition to that, its focus on label creation offers some advantages in printing over general office or graphics alternatives, like simple control over printing partial sheets.
You can download source code for gLabels from its SourceForge project page, but most Linux distributions include it in their package management systems — the gLabels site maintains a list of such distros on the download page. gLabels uses GTK and is designed to work with the GNOME desktop environment, but it runs just as well under KDE.
Are you ever overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of open source software projects produced by the community? Even when looking at just a subset — such as graphics applications — if you are not already familiar with the options, the volume can make it hard to track down the application that fits your needs. The major categories tend to break down the same way, however — just a few major players; the large projects often catering to slightly different design goals, and a second set of smaller projects each of which has a smaller team and a more narrow focus.
Let’s examine each design field in turn. We’ll start by describing the leading program or programs in each, followed by the smaller or younger projects, and end with the special-purpose tools.
by Nathan Willis Continue reading
If you use the open source Mozilla Thunderbird email client, you’re probably familiar with its powerful address book features: import and export, online status information for your friends, even synchronization. But one thing that’s not so obvious is how to do a mail merge to your address book contacts. Fortunately, where there’s a will — and some source code — there is a way.
By Nathan Willis
Office applications like OpenOffice.org can bring out the worst in people. The same people who wouldn’t dream of driving a car without a few lessons will start pounding away in a word processor as though it were a typewriter, ignoring basic features like styles and templates. In the end, they may produce the documents they want, but only with far more effort than is necessary. They might as well be pushing a car instead of turning the ignition key.
Nothing stops you if you really want to format manually, any more than anything prevents you from using the soles of your shoes to slow down a car instead of the brake. OpenOffice.org does nothing to stop you from indenting each new paragraph in Writer or setting each number format in a Calc cell on its own. For small, unusual documents, manual formatting may even be quicker.
By Bruce Byfield
OpenOffice.org is an excellent all-around productivity suite as it is, but you can add a few useful features using extensions to make it better suited for use in a business environment. Here are a handful of extensions worth considering if you are using OpenOffice.org as a business tool.
by Nathan Willis
Alan Jackson’s PostScript::MailLabels is a Perl utility to automate production of high-quality label layouts. it is designed to be useful to Perl scripters, who can easily incorporate high-quality PostScript output into their scripts, but the scripts included in the base package are, themselves, an easy-to-use set of command-line tools for label printing. Best of all, the package provides printer calibration and alignment tools.
Inkscape 0.47 by Nathan Willis – Totally solid release with lots of new cool tools and functions
The free open source vector graphics editor Inkscape has released an update packing several new features, new tools, effects, and improved SVG compliance. Version 0.47 is available for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows, as well as source code. Ubuntu users can also add the Inkscape Testers package archive to automatically upgrade.
If you want to keep tabs on your deadlines, you don’t need a fancy project management application — often, a simple spreadsheet can do the job. To see how, let’s create a spreadsheet that tracks task deadlines, shows the current status of each task, and highlights scheduling conflicts. In the process we’ll learn a few useful Calc techniques.
To keep things simple, we’ll create a separate sheet for each month, with three columns: Task, Deadline, Days left, Status, and Conflict. The Status column might hold values such as “In Progress” or “Completed.” Depending on the current status, the cells in the Days left column will display either the number of days to the deadline or “OK.” If the deadline for the task has passed but the article’s status is not “Completed,” the Days left column will display “OVERDUE,” making it easier to quickly locate unfinished and overdue tasks. Finally, we’ll use the Conflict column to identify scheduling conflicts: if two tasks have the same deadline date, the Conflict cell of the offending task will display a “CONFLICT” warning (ideally, the spreadsheet should mark both conflicting tasks, but I’m still working on how this can be done).
Scribus is the leading open source solution for desktop publishing (DTP); it supports professional features like press-ready color separations and PDF output, as well as every media file type under the sun. With Scribus you can design high-end documents with a separate workflow for authors, photographers, and graphic designers in an office environment, but it is easy enough for single-user work, too. The latest release, 1.3.5, just hit the Internet, and packs a suite of new features. If you have never taken Scribus for a test drive, now is the time.
You can download Scribus installers for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows from the project’s Web site. Version 1.3.5 boasts major improvements in OS X compatibility, for the first time integrating completely with the native windowing and menu systems, which should encourage many Mac owners who found earlier releases not quite “Mac-like” enough to blend in.