What is the best program (or programs) for layout, typesetting, and then printing (at home, or taking files to a printing shop) a book? It would need to be one which takes into account the way pages would be ordered and folded so that I could sew and bind the book myself.


  • What type of book is it? For example, a science text book has completely different requirements to a novel. How much do you want to spend? – S. Mitchell Sep 9 '15 at 16:29
  • A novel, nothing overly complicated layout wise. (Maybe with some illustrations added "separately" as plates) Money wise, I haven't decided. I would be happy to hear all options and then I can budget from there. – Ash Sep 9 '15 at 16:37

You need a desktop layout program, such as Adobe InDesign or Quark XPress. Don't use Word; it's a word processing program and not meant for layout. You could possibly use LaTex, but I don't know much about it.

  • Thank you! I've heard of LaTex, but I don't know much about it either... – Ash Sep 9 '15 at 19:51
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    I have used LaTex and it is good for things which include a lot of mathematical symbols and formulas etc. Unless you are going into that specific realm you will not want to use it, because it is so amazingly cryptic and painful to use. It's like learning an entire other language. – raddevus Sep 9 '15 at 21:10
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    LaTeX is great for scientific work, but layouting with it is a nightmare. The reason is that LaTeX is not visual. It is insanely accurate and you can do almost everything with it, but you need to know exactly, what you are doing, since you don't directly see the effects of your action. To avoid this problem, try InDesign and a crash course in layouting. ID is a professional software, so you need to get used to it, but it's worth it. – Filip Sep 16 '15 at 7:55

If it is something as simple as a novel you can actually use a word processing program. (I know of people who produce relatively complex magazines using Word. My wife has written several books using Word.) Open Office and Libra Office are both free and will produce pdfs if you want someone else to print it. You need to check the layout on the pdf that is produced, but otherwise it is pretty straight forward.

Desktop publishing programs can produce better results if you are prepared to take the time to learn them. I have used Serif's PagePlus to produce several editions of a community magazine as well as tri-fold leaflets, birthday cards and screen presentations. You can download the starter version for free. I am not sure what restrictions it has, other than being an earlier version of the program. Normally, you are then offered an upgrade to the full program for a minimal price with no restrictions (I paid £10).

In the 1990's high end programs (such as PageMaker) offered features that were deemed necessary. Now-a-days cheap or free programs will do just about everything you could ever want. Unless you have very complex needs, I wouldn't pay for a premium product.

Personally, I never use Microsoft Publisher for three reasons. Firstly, it is very restrictive and doesn't allow you to do many things I want to do. Secondly, it is expensive. Thirdly, and this is perhaps the most important point, any document produced using the program is immediately identifiable as being produced using Publisher.

  • Thanks for the info! A question about the desktop publishing programs, is it fairly straightforward to tell the program how many leaves you'll have in a signature? (In other words, will it know that sheet number one could have, for example, pages 1, 2, 7, and 8?) – Ash Sep 9 '15 at 19:50
  • With PagePlus, which I have used, this was very easy (if I have understood your question). You just had to export it to a pdf and check the option 'impose' so that the pages would print in the order they needed to be to print correctly. – S. Mitchell Sep 9 '15 at 20:34
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    Why do SO question-askers ask questions, then even comment like "thanks for answer" but not upvote the answer? Is there some kind of up-arrow aversion going on? Good answer. Thanks for taking time to write your answer. I upvoted. – raddevus Sep 9 '15 at 21:08

Some publishers have their own layout applications. Amazon has their own applications for design and layout for books of a graphical nature or that have specialized layout (they support many platforms as well). They also work with a print business that can make moving your work to a print version a little bit easier and allow you to reuse your existing files. As for working in fiction with low graphical content you're still best using a word processor or there's also Nimble Writer. Its more for organizing your work in chapters and keeping side notes and metadata like pictures related to what you're writing. It's got a few hiccups with the exporters but other than that its a very solid writing tool and worth the meagre price.

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