Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions, and some help with basic bugs, deficiencies, and workarounds for Laidout 0.097. Click here for help with previous versions.

You can also check out:
Screenshots and Video Tutorials
Issue tracker on github
Mailing List
Feature Overview
Software Comparison

Quick key reference for Laidout. (made with "laidout --helphtml")
Laidout's current file format. (made with "laidout --file-format")

General Questions
How can I get involved?
Trying to make things with Laidout is a good start! You can post any problems to Laidout's issue tracker at github, or post any other comments you have on the Laidout mailing list. If you want to be more directly involved in coding, see this page. You can also donate money, which is always a nice bonus.
Under what license is Laidout released?
It is currently released under the GPL 2.0.
I use Fedora, not Debian, it won't compile!!
Probably you are missing some packages. You can grab them all by installing with this really long command line:
sudo dnf install -y cairo-devel cups-devel fontconfig-devel ftgl-devel glibc-headers harfbuzz-devel imlib2-devel lcms-devel libpng-devel libX11-devel libXext-devel libXft-devel libXi-devel mesa-libGL-devel mesa-libGLU-devel openssl-devel readline-devel sqlite-devel xorg-x11-proto-devel zlib-devel GraphicsMagick-c++-devel libstdc++-devel freetype-devel imake
Compiling breaks, complaining about missing @my_libs@. ?
This is a problem with the imlib2-dev package. Open up /usr/bin/imlib2-config (or wherever imlib2-config is). There should be a line that looks something like:
echo $libdirs -lImlib2 @my_libs@

Simply remove the @my_libs@. It appears to be a bug that's been fixed upstream as they say, but has not trickled down to all the distributions yet.
How can I change the default units and paper size?
There are several ways to go about adjusting units. Within the viewport, you can right click on the ruler, and select a different unit. Currently, this will only change the default units during the current session, meaning it will not be remembered when you restart Laidout. If you start Laidout from the command line, you can also pass in the option "--default-units" to temporarily set the units.

To permanently change units, you must manually edit the laidoutrc file at ~/.laidout/(version)/laidoutrc. Open with a text editor, and find the line for "defaultunits", simply put in the units you want, as long as they are inches, cm, mm, m, yards, or points. Also, make sure there is no "#" at the beginning of the line.

Also in the laidoutrc file is a line for "defaultpapersize". Change that to A4 (for instance), and Laidout will always start with that size paper.

There are plans to make the laidoutrc options editable while running Laidout, but it is currently low priority.
How do I batch process, such as by exporting by the command line? And what about scripting?
You do not have to run the full windowed Laidout, and instead use only the command line. Though, you can also access a command prompt while in a Laidout window by changing the window pane type to "Command Prompt'. Laidout's primitive native scripting ability is superficially similar to javascript, but uses classes, not prototypes, because Laidout prefers to present things in a way that is understandable. My goal is to allow not just processing commands once, but also allow scripting of new tool interfaces, as well as scripting dynamic objects. I hope also to make it easily compatible with python, so you can stick with what you know, rather than having to fudge around with Laidout's weird native dialect.

Scripting is currently not very well debugged or documented, and the various Laidout object types are not all accessible, but exporting seems to work ok. You can pass in a series of commands and read commands from a file like this:
laidout --command "show"
laidout --script /path/to/file/with/commands/n/stuff

There are extra command line options specifically for exporting. You can list the various ways Laidout can export a document, and see format specific options with the following. Specifying export formats with these options does a caseless search for the format, so for instance the svg format name is "Svg 1.1", but will be matched by "svg", "SVG", or "Svg 1.1".

laidout --export-format
laidout --list-export-options SVG

So say you have a 10 page Laidout document, and you want to export pages 4, 5, and 6 to svg files, with powerstroked lines, you could do something like this (first page in a document is page 0):

laidout --export 'format=svg start=3 end=5 use_powerstroke=yes tofiles="exported##.svg"' original-10page-file.laidout
How do I activate color management? Your "dtp program" is totally freaking worthless without it!
The most reliable way is to wait a sufficient amount of time during which it can be finally implemented. In the meantime, unfortunately, Laidout will not be able to help you glory in the splendor of the many-hued sparkle bathing the land beyond a bland and gaunt 8 bit RGB colorspace tunnel, which is littered with page after page of color theory tutorials, mysterious color profiles and faulty assumptions about your hardware. Or you can export to Scribus and do your color management there.
Someone told me I could use Laidout to make booklets from Scribus. Is he off his meds or what?
Indeed you can with or without pharmaceuticals, but with some limitations. You can import a Scribus file, reimpose it, then export to a Scribus file, and viola! Booklet city! If you find any problems, please let me know, as I haven't tested it beyond a few relatively simple test files. See here for more info about the limitations using a combination of Laidout and Scribus.
How can I bypass the new document dialog?
You can pass in a few arguments from the command line such as the following. All the ones with the '-n' option create a new document according to your comma separated specifications. If you have spaces in your spec, you should put quotes around it. You can specify the type of imposition (singles, booklet, net, or other saved imposition resources), the paper size (letter, legal, ...), the number of pages, and whether it is supposed to be portrait or landscape:
> laidout --help
> laidout --version
> laidout file1.doc file2.doc
> laidout -n 'letter, 2 pages'
> laidout -n 'net, a4, landscape, 40'
> laidout -n 'legal, landscape, booklet, 44'
> laidout -n 'box 1 2 3, 6 pages'

Alternately, in your laidoutrc file you can specify a default template to load when Laidout starts. The first time you run Laidout, a laidoutrc file is created that has descriptions of things that you can put in it. This file gets put in ~/.laidout/(version)/laidoutrc. Put a line in there that says something like:

default_template blah.laidout

If it is not an absolute path, then the name you give will be searched for in your ~/.laidout/(version)/templates directory. So for instance, if you have a file named ~/.laidout/(version)/templates/blah.laidout, then Laidout will default to that when starting. You can also specify a template from the command line:

> laidout --template blah.laidout

If you have defined a default template and instead want to go straight to the new document dialog without using that default template, run Laidout like this:

> laidout -N
Selecting objects seems really screwy. Is this human error, or a design flaw?
While object selection and moving got some much needed attention in 0.092, there are unfortunately still some terrible temporary design flaws. You may currently select an object and its parent, and moving those is really bad news. Also moving objects that are nested will not currently update the parent group's bounding box, which is silly. These things will, that is to say should, be corrected by the next release (I know I keep saying that!!).
I click print, and it says "To file:" or "By command:". Isn't that terribly limiting?

I know it's rather silly to have a 'desktop publishing program' and not have a decent way to send things to the printer, like printing with a certain default DPI and other settings, but what do you want for a 'Version 0.097'? There are many plans for it by version 0.1. If you have Cups, you can "print by command" with "lp" as the command. Laidout creates a temporary postscript (at some point I will change this to be pdf, to allow printing with transparency) file, and sends that to the command. If you print to a file, you could do the same thing manually like this:


It is useful to consult the man pages for lp and lpoptions. You can set up different settings in your ~/.cups/lpoptions file to print at different resolutions, and on different paper. It took me forever to figure that out when trying to print things from Inkscape decently. So for instance if you have the proper line in your lpoptions file, then you could use it in the "print by command":

lp -d theprinter/matte360dpi

after you set appropriate options with lpoptions. The following commands will set some options, usually this will change ~/.cups/lpoptions:

lpstat -a #list available printers and their status
lpoptions -d theprinter -l #list the available options for the current printer
lpoptions -d theprinter/matte360dpi -o MediaType=Matte -o Resolution=360dpi -o PageMedia=Tabloid
I just pulled out half my hair trying to undo! How can I undo???
It is not advisable to make mistakes. See also "Laidout doesn't do what I want!" below..
When I export or print documents, how can I tell if Laidout is working, or is just frozen?
Yes, that is a bit irritating, and it is because I have not really implemented progress dialogs yet. In the meantime, you can run a system monitor such as gkrellm. When the cpu box is going full bore, that's probably a good sign. except those rare occasions when it is stuck in an infinite loop.
I exported to pdf, and the file is stupendously enormous. Do you think I like wasting space?
Pdf optimization doesn't quite exist in Laidout yet. Dpi is not adequately taken into account, and if you have multiple instances of the same image, the image is copied into the pdf for each instance, rather than just once, and image data is not currently compressed, which is really stupid, I agree. I'll fix it some day, I swear. But seriously, in this day and age, drive space is cheap.
What is all that stuff scrolling by on the terminal when I run the program? It slows things down a lot!

That stuff is debugging info written to stderr. The easiest way to get that stuff to go away is to run the program like this:

laidout 2> /dev/null

The harder way to get that stuff to go away is to remember to run

make hidegarbage

before compiling Laidout. Even before that, you must do the same thing to the Laxkit before compiling it. The precompiled deb package has done this already.

When I choose Net, it's always a dodecahedron. Wtf?

You may specify a 3-d model to be used as the basis for unwrapping. Currently, the polyhedron will be automatically unwrapped. As of 0.094, you can unwrap in 3-d by using Polyptych, called from the "Edit current document settings" under the document button in the upper left, then "Edit imposition", then (finally)"Edit with Polyptych". Laidout must have been compiled with opengl to make this work. When starting Laidout, you can enter the filename of an OFF file to be used as the basis of the imposition. You might use the fabulous Antiprism programs to generate a plethora of polyhedra to use, but beware that Laidout is currently geared only for definitions of polyhedra where the sides do not intersect each other.

Alternately, you can start Laidout with something like:

> laidout -n 'box 1 2 3, 6 pages'

which will create an unwrapped box with sides proportional to 1,2,3 with 6 pages.

What follows is an imposition based on a cube. It is a simple list of vertices and faces defined by referencing those vertices. Please note that this is very much subject to change. The imposition framework is still undergoing an overhaul, so it may change in future versions!

        #Laidout 0.096 Document
		imposition NetImposition
			name Letter
			width 8.5
			height 11
			dpi 360
		  abstractnet Polyhedron  
			name Laid out Cube
			vertices \
			  1 1 1    #vertex 0
			  -1 1 1   #vertex 1
			  -1 -1 1  #vertex 2
			  1 -1 1   #vertex 3
			  -1 1 -1  #vertex 4
			  1 1 -1   #vertex 5
			  1 -1 -1  #vertex 6
			  -1 -1 -1 #vertex 7
			face 0 1 2 3
			face 1 0 5 4
			face 2 1 4 7
			face 0 3 6 5
			face 3 2 7 6
			face 4 5 6 7
		page 0
		  pagestyle PageStyle
			width 11.44122806
			height 0.8221181412
		  layer 0

Why are there so many red and green corners all over the place?
Those designate axes for the various objects. Red is the X axis, green is the Y (you can remember this by thinking RGB -> XYZ). The corner is the origin. You can toggle the displaying of axes and/or bounding boxes by pressing 'D' (meaning shift-'d').
Why are there awful ugly ridges in my gradients? They should be smooth as silk!!
The colors in the gradients are currently computed from a linearly interpolated stitching function, which basically means you are stuck with stinking, itchy burlap rather than silk. The adventurous might read up on the various export formats and modify the outputted files to instead use more arbitrary sampled functions. This feature might appear in Laidout someday.
I just spent 9 hours making layouts with a lot of page bleeding and it prints all wrong! Where can I get a voodoo doll of you to stick things in?
Page bleeding is not implemented properly. The current actual bleeding can be seen in whichever view you are exporting. This is a big problem. I am in the process of rewriting impositions to be able to do complex nets and bleed properly, so that bleeding will even wrap properly across net impositions that are derived from polyhedra. You're on your own about the dolls.
Laidout doesn't do what I want! What's up with that?
The huge development team, currently consisting almost entirely of one (1) person, me, Tom Lechner, can only type so fast! You are more than welcome to post critiques on the Laidout mailing list, flame Laidout in your own personal blog, or get involved with development. Also, you might consult the current Features page, the development Roadmap and also the software comparison page. If there is something that you just have to have, you are welcome to shower me with money (or otherwise let me know what you are interested in)!
Why is Laidout's interface totally unuseable?

The interface works for me! Besides, what do you want for a version "0.097", in the "Mostly does what I want on my machine" stage of development? I mean who uses version numbers like "0.097" anyway? In future versions, the interface will be much more explanatory and configurable. Maybe.

The entire interface of Laidout, as well as basically all of its code is experimental. In any case, as time goes on, I will be developing a more formal specification of the Laidout Human Interface and Usability Guidelines, which will not be referred to as the LHIAUG, because experts say that that acronym is totally unusable, but will be referred to collectively as Ligaments, which refers symbolically to the glue that binds us all together as a species.

A current first principle, or Ligament, is that speed of use and providing all the functions I need to make my art books trump all other concerns, as long as I am the only confirmed developer and user of Laidout. Another Ligament is that programs should be able to start up from scratch in no more than one or two seconds. Some allowance may be made if the document one is trying to open is enormous, but starting the program, even complex, full featured programs, should be very rapid, such as with Blender. Furthermore, control-w is NOT A SUBSTITUTE for control-q!! Also, developers should NEVER EVER say that their program or distribution "just works", because when it inevitably does not "just work", then, in the eyes of users, the developers become PURVEYORS OF LIES, whether they know about the problem or not. This is "just fact".