Create beautiful documents with data. Open source pdf (and Scribus) template and mail-merge alternative.
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Mail-Merge-like extension to Scribus, to generate Scribus and pdf documents automatically from external data.

Scribus Generator. Generate beautiful documents from data. Scribus Generator: Create beautiful documents with data. Open source high-quality pdf template and mail-merge alternative.

What is Scribus Generator?

Scribus comes with a broad set of page layout features and functionality. One feature missing is to replace text with data dynamically. This kind of feature you may already know as the typical mail merge functionality in your preferred office application.

Scribus Generator provides this functionality. It allows you to:

  • replace texts and images dynamically
  • change object colors, position, text font or size dynamically
  • generate separate PDF (or Scribus) files for each data entry, or a single file from all your data
  • work directly in Scribus with a nice user interface, or from the command line
  • use any data source (Excel, OpenOffice, MySQL, Notepad, ...) that can export to CSV.
  • and much more...

Generally speaking, Scribus Generator replaces text with data to automatically generate files (e.g. SLA, PDF). It has been originally written by Ekkehard Will and further extended by Berteh.

A short how to video introduces this Scribus Generator. 6 first minutes for the basic overview, 12 last for some more advanced features.

Scribus Generator how to - high quality pdf generation

How to install Scribus Generator ?

Download the script and uncompress it anywhere on the local machine. It can be placed with the standard extension scripts. On Windows platform this location would be SCRIBUS_INSTALL_DIRECTORY\share\scripts\, on Ubuntu /usr/share/scribus/scripts/.

Scribus Generator can then be started by choosing the script ( within the dialog: «Scribus → Script → Execute Script», or from the command line.

The graphical interface of Scribus Generator requires Tkinter to be installed in your Python setup, which may be difficult under MacOSX. There is no extra dependency to run it from the command line, which thus works fine in all OS, including MacOSX.

How to use Scribus Generator

Create your Scribus "template" file

Create and design your Scribus file as any other. At the positions where you need to replace text with data, just add %VAR_name% where name is the column your data file.

You can place the variable at any position within a Text Frame. Apply all format and style to the variable that you wish to apply to the final text.

Illustration: Scribus File for Generator

If you wish to generate one page (or many) for each data entry you're done, congratulations ! If you would rather display many data entries on a single page simply add the text %VAR_NEXT-RECORD% after each entry but the last: ScribusGenerator will automatically load the new data record when it reaches the end of your template.

Create your (csv) Data File

Scribus Generator expects a CSV file (Comma Separated Values), which is very simple to create with a standard spread sheet editor (such as LibreOffice, Excel or GoogleDoc): enter the data and save/export as CSV. Just make sure your CSV file is encoded in UTF-8 to have a full character set (accents, braille, math, cyrillic, symbols,...).

Illustration: Data File for Generator

It is important to make sure the columns have the same name as the variables (%VAR_name%) you reference in the Scribus template file you have designed.

We recommend saving in UTF-8 encoding to enable the full set of accentuated characters, chinese, cyrillic, math symbols, arrows, braille, symbols and many more. Simply copy-paste those for which you lack a keyboard combination.

To export well-formated CSV in UTF-8 encoding is easy as pie with OpenOffice or LibreOffice Calc, less so with Excel. If you are using excel you may be interested in this free add-in that provides good export/import features:

Run the Generator Script - Settings

Run the script via the menu: Script > execute Script and launch

In the script dialog you can configure the input and output settings for Scribus Generator.

Illustration: Input and Output Settings

Input Setting explanation
Scribus File Choose the Scribus File containing the variables to replace. Click ⏏ to open a file explorer, and ↺ to load the Scribus Generator settings from that file.
Data File Choose the Data File containing the comma separated values. Click ⏏ to open a file explorer.
Data Field Separator Character that delimitates data field in your CSV file, comma (,) by default.
From - To To run Scribus Generator on a subset of your data mention the starting and/or last lines of this subset, not counting the header line. Simply leave empty to generate from the beginning (or to the last) data entry.
Output Setting explanation
Output Directory Choose the path to an existing directory where to save the result. Click ⏏ to open a file explorer.
Output File Name You can use the same variables as defined in the Scribus File/Data File. You can also mix the variables with other characters. If you leave the field empty an index will be used. The index/resulting files will be sorted according to the occurrence of rows in the Data File.
Save Settings Store the current Scribus Generator settings in the source SLA file, for future use.
Merge in Single File Select to generate a single output (SLA and/or PDF) file that combines all data rows.
Ouput Format Choose the Output Format of the generated files, either PDF or Scribus.
Keep Scribus Files Select to keep the generated Scribus Files. Otherwise they will be deleted after pdf generation. This option has no effect if you choose Scribus output format.

Additional (more technical) options can be set to tailor the automatic recording of Scribus Generators actions in your system by editing the logging.conf file. You may, for instance, want to move the location of the log file (scribusGenerator.log by default) to a directory that does not need admin rights to edit in Windows (C:\tmp\scribusGenerator.log), or replace file-logging with your default system logger (SysLogHandler in Linux, NTEventLogHandler on Windows). All settings (and more) are described in the Python logging documentation.

Dynamic Images

Images references can also be dynamically modified with Scribus Generator. See the screencast video @6:10.

All images supported by Scribus can be used. However, to work with ScribusGeneratr, they must all be located in a single folder containing all images. This folder can be located anywhere on your PC.

Add an Image Frame anywhere in the Scribus file («Scribus → Insert → Insert Image Frame») and open the dialog for getting an image (e.g. right click Image Frame → Get Image... on selected frame). Within the dialog navigate to the folder containing the images, though there won't be any images selected. Instead, the variable will be inserted into the value field of the File name.

Illustration: Insert variable instead of image

After confirming the dialog, no image is displayed in the Image Frame any longer, however the variable name can be seen.

Illustration: Image Frame containing variable

The images file can be defined just like any other variable described in earlier. There just has to be a column with a column-name corresponding to the variable-name in the Scribus template file.

Illustration: Data file referencing images

Dynamic Colors

Colors can be dynamically replaced just like text. See the screencast video @8:31, or simply

  1. edit the colors of your Scribus file (edit > colours) and rename the colors you want to replace with variable names (typically replace FromSVG#whatever with the now well known form %VAR_name%).
  2. define the colors you want to use in the final document, and use their Scribus names as values in your color data field.

Illustration: Replace colors dynamically

Use this together with the many reknown color palettes directly included in Scribus to make your documents design rich and appealing !

Dynamic Links

A clickable (web)link can be inserted on nearly any scribus object in 2 steps:

  1. right-click > PDF Options, activate Is PDF Annotation
  2. right-click > PDF Options > Annotation Properties, select type External Web-Link and enter the target url, where you can obviously use variables to be subsituted too, as illustrated below.

Illustration: Include dynamic clickable (web)links

Merged output - single document

Instead of generating a single (sla or pdf) file for each data row, you can generate a single file that merges all these. Simply select the option accordingly to get the result illustrated below in a single Scribus (and/or pdf) file. If your document layout has multiple pages (double sided, or folded leaflet), it is important for Scribus Generator to be able to merge the files that your template has the same number of pages (or a multiple thereof). For instance, for a 3-fold document, your source sla should have 3, 6, or 9 pages (or any multiple of 3).

Illustration: Single ouput to merge all generated files

Multiple records on a single page

Scribus Generator allows you to display mupliple data entries in a single document. Great to generate your own listings, team charts, game cards, who's who posters and more.

Simply drop the text %VAR_NEXT-RECORD% in your document between each data entry, following our example document.

Scribus Generator will automatically load the next record when it reaches the end of your template... so don't add the %VAR_NEXT-RECORD% at the end of your last page.

A full example to generate Monsters Game Cards based on Dungeon World is available in the MonsterCards directory, created by Dustin Andrews:

Illustration: Example card deck of monsters, by Dustin Andrew

Dynamic output file location

Scribus Generator allows you to customize the name (and location) of the generated document easily. Add the output file name you wish in your data, and use the corresponding variable (or combination of multiple variables) in the field "Output File Name". Kindly note this file name is always relative to the output directory, and has no extension.

Have a look at the combination of values of parent and outfile in our example dataset and related example template..

Illustration: Name your generated documents as like

More advanced uses

Scribus Generator allows more tech-savvy users you to customize the generated documents even more, changing virtually any attribute of any object, such as the fill or outline color of a line, the color of some text, a line thickness, an object position,... See the screencast video @13:13.

For instance, to change dynamically the font of an object, add an attribute to it («righ-click on object → Attributes → Add »). The Parameter attribute must be set to SGAttribute, it's name to the object property you want to change (in this case FONT) and its value to the desired dynamic value (typically some %VAR_name%). Your data (CSV) file should then contain the font name to use in the column of the given variable, such as "Arial Regular" or "Courier New Bold".

Illustration: Use Attributes to modify advanced object properties

To change the properties of a sub-element (such as one particular text line in a text frame), you may use the RelationshipTo field to define which sub-elements should receive the new property. Use * to modify all direct children, or any other simplified XPATH expression to modify only a subset.

Selected examples of SGAttributes:

Name Value Parameter RelationshipTo Explanation
FONT %VAR_font% SGAttribute //ITEXT[2] Font of the 2d text line in a frame, like "Arial Regular"
FONTSIZE %VAR_size% SGAttribute //ITEXT Text size of all text lines in a frame, like "14"
LINESP %VAR_spacing% SGAttribute //para[last()] Fixed line spacing of the last paragraph in a frame, like "9.5"
YPOS %VAR_top% SGAttribute Margin from the top for vertical element position, like "22.04"

Changes in SGAttribute syntax

Since ScribusGenerator v2.7 (released in April 2018), the syntax of the SGAttributes has been slightly changed to support Scribus 1.5.3. If you had templates written for an older version of the script kindly update your templates according to the documentation above.

This can be done using the classical Scribus Editors windows, simply moving your values of Parameter to RelationshipTo, and setting Parameter to SGAttribute.

If you have many such files, or attributes, a script is proposed to make this update automatically. Run it from the command line as follows, it creates automatically a backup of your old files:

python ./ *.sla

Running Scribus Generator from the command line

It is possible to run Scribus Generator from the command line, and it's fast! Great to automate your workflow or integrate with other tools.

Please note only the SLA generation works from the command line. PDF generation is at the moment not suppoted from the Scribus Generator command line.

Find all needed information from the script help: ./ --help

positional arguments:
  infiles               SLA file(s) to use as template(s) for the generation,
                        wildcards are supported

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -c CSVFILE, --csvFile CSVFILE
                        CSV file containing the data to substitute in each
                        template during generation. Default is scribus source
                        file(s) name with "csv" extension instead of "sla". If
                        csv file is not found, generation from this particular
                        template is skipped.
                        CSV field delimiter character. Default is comma: ","
  -n OUTNAME, --outName OUTNAME
                        name of the generated files, with no extension.
                        Default is a simple incremental index. Using SG variables
                        is allowed to define the name of generated documents.
  -o OUTDIR, --outDir OUTDIR
                        directory were generated files are stored. Default is
                        the directory of the scribus source file. outputDir
                        will be created if it does not exist.
  -m, --merge, --single
                        generate a single output (SLA) file that combines all
                        data rows, for each source file.
  -from FIRSTROW, --firstrow FIRSTROW
                        Starting row of data to merge (not counting the header
                        row), first row by default.
  -to LASTROW, --lastrow LASTROW
                        Last row of data to merge (not counting the header
                        row), last row by default.
  -s, --save            Save current generator settings in (each) Scribus
                        input file(s).
  -l, --load            Load generator settings from (each) Scribus input
                        file(s). Overloads all default values, not provided
                        command line arguments.

    This program requires Python 2.7+

examples: my-template.sla
    generates Scribus (SLA) files for each line of 'my-template.csv'
    by subsituting the provides values into 'my-template.sla' to the 
    current directory. --outDir "/home/user/tmp" example/Business_Card.sla 
    generates Scribus files for each line of example/Business_Card.csv
    in the "/home/user/tmp" subdirectory. --outName "card_%VAR_email%"  */*.sla 
    generates Scribus files for each sla file in any subdirectory
    that has a csv file with a similar name in the same directory.
    Generated files will have a name constructed from the "email" field
    data, and are stored in their respective sla file directory. --single -c translations.csv -n doc_  lang/*.sla 
    generates a single Scribus file for each sla file in the lang/ subdirectory
    using all rows of the translations.csv data file.
    Generated files will have a name constructed from the "doc_" prefix
    and the input sla file name.

 more information:

More details

Clean output

Scribus Generator will remove unused variables from the generated documents, along with their containing text frame if that text frame contained nothing but variable(s).

Illustration: Variables not substituted are removed

If you want to keep these unused variables and empty texts, simply change the default setting accordingly in, setting CLEAN_UNUSED_EMPTY_VARS to 0.

Similarly, if these unused variables or empty texts were preceded by a simple text (such as a single linefeed, or a character like any of ,;-), these list-like separators will be removed, so you can have a clean enumaration by appending your variables in a simple manner such as %VAR_n1%, %VAR_n2%, %VAR_n3%, %VAR_n4%., or in a more tabular layout using (single) linefeeds:

The following will show nicely even if some variable is empty or missing:

If you want to keep these separators, simply change the default setting accordingly in, setting REMOVE_CLEANED_ELEMENT_PREFIX to 0.

Linebreaks and tabulations in your csv data are replaced by the scribus equivalent (newlines and tabulations). To remove them and turning them to simple spaces set the setting KEEP_TAB_LINEBREAK to 0.

Logging and debug

ScribusGenerator records all its actions in a log file located (by default) in your user (home) directory. If you encounter an unexpected behaviour check out the content of .scribusGenerator.log to find out more. You can change the logging settings in logging.conf (see Python log configuration for more options).

Kindly copy-paste the relevant (usually last) lines of your .scribusGenerator.log if you want to report an issue.

Variable Names

Try to use plain word characters (A-Za-a0-9_) for variable names, with no whitespaces or other special characters (like '&'). E.g. use %VAR_first_name% and %VAR_zip_code% instead of %VAR_first name% and %VAR_&zip#code%. The columns of the data file (CSV) then would be first_name and zip_code.

This is only important for variable names in the scribus file and column names of the data file. The data FIELDS (the rows of the CVS) of course may contain ANY characters.

Database source

To use data from a database instead a (manual) spreadsheet you can simply export the related query result to a csv file. Some examples below for common database engines:


mysql --delimiter="," -u myuser -p mydb -e "select f1,f2 from mytable" > /tmp/mydata.txt


mysql  -u myuser -p  mydatabase -e 
"select field1 , field2 FROM mytable INTO OUTFILE 
'/tmp/myfilename.csv' FIELDS TERMINATED BY ','

More over INTO OUTFILE at


toggle unaligned output with the \a switch, activate a comma as a separator with \f ,. Send output to a file with \o myfile.csv, then query your database.


You can use sqlite3 -csv in command line or .mode csv in sqlite's interactive shell

Known Issues

Mac OSX troubleshooting

Some install of Python on Mac OSX do not ship a working Tkinter package, that is required for ScribusGenerator GUI. Either find a way to setup a compliant TCL/Tk environment, or simply use the Scribus Generator command line interface.

If you would like to contribute another GUI to Scribus Generator that works in Mac OSX don't hesitate! Simply fork, branch, code and pull a request to get your contribution reviewed !


Check out the wiki for more ideas, look at the solved and open issues, and then kindly report an issue online, and copy there the few last lines of your log file (it's .scribusGenerator.log, inside your user (home) directory, to help find the reason of this bad behaviour, along with a short explanation of your problem.


The MIT License
(c) 2011, Ekkehard Will (
(c) 2014-2017, Berteh (

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

The software is provided "as is", without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to the warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and noninfringement. In no event shall the authors or copyright holders be liable for any claim, damages or other liability, whether in an action of contract, tort or otherwise, arising from, out of or in connection with the software or the use or other dealing in the software.