I am writing a technical reference book and am looking for some software, preferably free, that will allow me to put a short sentence or two of small notes or tips in the sidebar. Each of these might fall under a particular category and have a specific heading such as "Note:" or "Warning:" as well as a related graphic to go with them. What are some good software options for doing this?

Also, I would need the side note to move with the paragraph it is related to if the paragraph gets moved.


To clarify, I would prefer if these category headings and images were added automatically if I were to specify the the category.

My preference would be software that works on Linux, Windows, and optionally Mac and can output to PDF.

  • Do you have any constraints other than price? OS, tool chain into which it must fit, specific output formats? If so, please edit the information into the question. Thanks. Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 1:25

2 Answers 2


Using OpenOffice, which is free, but somewhat awkward, you may File/Insert a "frame", designate its alignment (page/paragraph/etc.) and position (left margin, right margin, outside mirrored, inside mirrored).
The text that you type inside this frame can be formatted just like anything else, size, color, etc.
You can insert picture(s) into this frame in addition to the text.
I don't have access to MS Word anymore, but this may be possible in that environment as well.

enter image description here

  • BTW, when the frame is anchored to a paragraph, moving the paragraph moves the frame accordingly. Also, OOP outputs to PDF.
    – Chowzen
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 19:43

The easiest solution is to use DTP (desktop publishing) software. It used to be very expensive. It isn't now. There are some free titles available. Personally, I use Serif PagePlus. A free version is available here, but I don't know what the limitations are on this version (usually they then offer you an upgrade for very little).

Although you can do the sort of thing you want using a word processor, it is so much easier to use DTP software.

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