Using Inkscape replacing Adobe InDesign

I am currently in the process of seeing if I can get Inkscape can be used to replace Adobe InDesign.  Right now just downloaded it to run on the iMac I just restored.  The intention is more to find something which will run nicely on a Linux box, rather than running it on OS X or Windows.

First launch of it, tried to launch, but for some reason failed.  It appears that the “” which is sitting in my /Applications/Utilities/ folder is not enough for Inkscape to run.  So here is saving the draft, and logging out and back in to get XQuartz to install.

Things seem to work well enough for what I need.  In fact, they work well enough that I am able to feel over time I will be able to get a lot better with it than I was really able to in InDesign.

The number one feature which I thought “oh damn, I really need this” actually is way simpler in my mind to doing the same thing in InDesign.  In fact, I may be able to do things with this where the issue with “screwing things up” pretty much doesn’t happen the way that it would with InDesign, as I can handle each thing as simple text (once I figure that out).


  1. Install Inkscape
  2. Test if works on current system
  3. Fails
  4. Install XQuartz
  5. Test again
    1. Seems to be better, but man is this what I’ll have to go through on this computer?
    2. Eventually loads
  6. Try to figure out how things work (note rather differently than it does with what I normally think of.
  7. Get things working well enough that I can start playing with getting things laid out.
  8. Try to figure things out a bit better.
  9. Get rough layout for project working on (essential oil labels).

Install Inkscape

This was a simple download from the Inkscape website.  On my system (current one I installed on) I simply downloaded it, and followed normal OS X install procedures.  This would be different on different systems.

I’d be interested in knowing what type of computer system you would be using.  I can see a bit of that with the system logs which get kept for each request.

Test if works on current system

Seeing that I have a “” in my “/Applications/Utilities” folder, I on a whim simply try it with that.  The install instructions say that I need XQuartz, but the two provide the same services, so let’s give this a try as it is.


Nope, it starts up, or starts to start up, then just quits.  I figure the most likely thing is that it does need XQuartz, or at least something that is handling things “better”.

Install XQuartz

So, I install XQuartz, there is a link to do that on the Inkscape site.  This apparently needs more to get setup than “most” application installs on OS X, I need to logout and log back in again (or so they say) which I kind of feel makes a decent amount of sense, as it is fairly close to “system” level type things.

Test again

I log out, log back in, and try to get it working.  I launch Inkscape the way I normally would, from the .app file in /Applications.  Nice, it opens up XQuartz, it wasn’t opening anything “helpful” last time, so something is moving closer to where I want it.

Seems to be better, but man is this what I’ll have to go through on this computer?

With it opening up XQuartz I feel that things are clearly moving in the right direction, but I’m not getting any kind of feedback that it really is launching (this second time).  The first time it did mention “it can take a few minutes”.

It launches now nicely after having closed

I just decided to give it a try, I have XQuartz still open, and opened the Inkscape app from the normal place.  It was normal launch for me, which I think is quite acceptable really.

Eventually loads

It does eventually load, I need to do more testing to see if any of my impatience was justified, and quick test, it mostly wasn’t worth doing all the fiddly bits (from what I can tell) as the usual launch seems perfect now.  Well, “perfect”.  I have to say it all looks fine at this point, will maybe comment tomorrow if I notice anything after the shutdown and reboot.

Try to figure out how things work

This was the first time going into Inkscape in quite some time, so I need to try to see if I can figure out how things work, and be able to play with them more or less how I want to.

I see that pretty much everything is different than how I expect things to be, well, not everything, the icons are all different for sure, but some of them are self-evidently different so that they make enough sense that I can tell what I want from what I’m looking at.

One feature I use a lot of in InDesign is the creation of text and graphics frames.  I fail to see any evidence that these exists (further looking indicates that they pretty much don’t exist as “frames” but we can handle any object the same way with some pretty minor tinkering) so try to see if I can actually figure out how to get the same effect for stuff which is not “frames”.

It’s really easy, and almost easier.  You just create your object, select it, and the text, and one little click of a button the text goes where the object is (not modifying it).

Get things working well enough that I can start playing with getting things laid out

I now have some ideas of at least some of my tools, so I start to try to figure out things.  I actually create a fairly decent layout but it’s off by enough that I know I am going to have to do a good amount of work to just figure out why with the existing setup, so I for now decide that the best thing is to create a nice template which I can use for labels (not quite perfect, but actually I think based on how things are handled, it may be actually easier to get those guides in exactly the correct place by manually editing them in a text editor).

The cool thing is, I got something that was working fairly well.  I don’t know the software, and at best, I have online or built-in documentation now.

Try to figure things out a bit better

As I said, I tried to play around with a number of features, and everything is feeling like it works “fairly nicely” but as I am laying things out in a bit of a more complex way (each label consists of 3 parts, in the centre the logo, and on either side there is some text) I see that for some reason things are not lining up as well as I would like.

I decide to essentially abandon the current project, and move myself off to getting a really simple layout (simply guides actually) before even starting to tackle how I want to get the labels to print.

Get rough layout for project working on (essential oil labels)

I end up setting up the guides I want to through a combination of eyeballing things, and trying to get the grid feature to give me what I really need in terms of information to lay everything nicely out.  In fine fashion, the grid feature with tweaking all kinds of settings gives me exactly the layout I need, and while in the end I want the guides to end up exactly in certain places, for now the guides can sit nicely just as “rough guides” to give me some idea of how everything is fitting together.

I will fix that layout a bit better in the near future.  I either will go in and edit the positions of the guides by using a simple text editor, or I might take the guides and turn the grid back on, and get the guides to snap (one at a time, but probably pretty quickly) to the grid.  That may well be exactly what I end up doing tomorrow.

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