Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I've always created dumb looking pdfs by just writing a word doc and converting it into pdf.

Now, I want to write an e-book and I want it to look professional like other e-books.

How to create professional looking PDFs?


I'm a pro in Photoshop & Gimp. I want to make my e-book look like this one.


Where can I browse some good designs? Also, I've installed LYX its just a text editor. How am I going to design things?

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

The look of your book doesn't so much depend on the tool you are using, but on your background knowledge. A design pro could use a glorified text editor and still make a better layout than a novice working with InDesign.

The topic you are looking for is known as "desktop publishing", abbreviated to DTP. And yes, the learning curve of LaTeX is steep, but the effort of learning how to do DTP with LaTeX is negligible compared to the effort of learning what you need to do for the book to look good.

If you really want to learn, use this manual for LaTeX: It is free, and LaTeX is also free. It won't teach you how to make beautiful designs - for that you need first some talent and second quite a few experience. But it will teach you the technical side. There you'll also learn what kind of problems you must learn to solve if you're really serious about DTP. (Example: what to do if your automatic page breaking leaves a single row on a new page, followed by a heading?). And don't just read it and try to memorise it, or just do the small exercises there; make a project of sufficient length (maybe 7-8 pages of text) and then try to apply everything you learn. Then you'll have enough technical background to create any layout you wish. Your only constraints will be your own taste, talent and imagination.

Of course, there are many other programs for DTP out there, but the ones which can really do something also cost several hundred dollars. And just because they are WYSIWYG it doesn't mean that making a good design with them is easier. It is certainly quicker, if you're a pro, but you obviously aren't. LaTeX is free, open, compatible, and in some fields (especially academia) a quasi-standard. Besides, the manual I can recommend is meant for LaTeX ;)

Wish you good luck!

share|improve this answer

I would recommend using Latex, which on windows could be in the form of Miktex or Tex Live.

It does have a steep learning curve in that you don't see what it will look like whilst writing it, and you have to compile the source to produce the finished document. However, the benefits are worth it, with a very professional looking document output. You can also use links in latex, so the contents page of your e-book will actually link the user to the correct page.

I'm not affiliated with either of these programs, I just use Latex.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for the upvote, I have now added the other link. – Dom Mar 22 '10 at 16:09

I would recommend lyx. It's based on LaTeX so you get the same nice output, but it's much more accessible to new users.

share|improve this answer
  1. Go to design school until you know how to create a professional looking anything.

  2. Learn how to use InDesign or Quark.

share|improve this answer
I know how to make any professional looking things. I'm just in search of right tools for pdf creation. – claws Mar 22 '10 at 15:43
What have you made professionally? It might help others provide you with more appropriate answers if you provide us with some idea of your skill level. – Hasaan Chop Mar 22 '10 at 16:16
I've actually designed posters for many events in Photoshop & GIMP. You can consider me a pro in photoshop. If I've to design a cover for this book, its a peice of cake for me. But I'm not familiar with the design & layout of other pages of book. – claws Mar 22 '10 at 16:38… this is the thing I've in mind. I want to make my pdf book look similar to this book. – claws Mar 22 '10 at 16:44
Photoshop has very little to do with design, and GIMP has even less. The vast majority of books are put together in one of the two applications I've already mentioned. – Hasaan Chop Mar 22 '10 at 16:58

You can create professional looking documents in MS Word. It's not a easy in some cases as it is in a program like Quark or InDesign or even FrameMaker, but it can be done.

The question that you're asking has no easy answer because you need more than a few bullet points or software recommendations. You'll need to learn the fundamentals of graphic design & related subjects, and how to implement those concepts into your work with the tools that you have.

share|improve this answer
+1. Telling someone who doesn't have a clue to sue LaTeX will just produce slightly-less horrible results but not good ones. So learning is the way to go. – Joey Mar 23 '10 at 10:31

Been a little while since I've done anything, but in the past I have always used MS Word to create the content, then MS Publisher to create the layout, then converted that to PDF by using a Print to PDF tool.

share|improve this answer

An open source competitor to Quark, InDesign, and FrameMaker is Scribus. It has been used in the design of several award-winning books, and is also suited to magazine, brochure, and poster sized projects.

From the website:

Scribus is an Open Source program that brings award-winning professional page layout to Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation and Windows desktops with a combination of "press-ready" output and new approaches to page layout. Underneath the modern and user friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, Spot Colors, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.

As with any tool, you still have to know how to approach a design. And as the Q notes, the inside of a book is a whole different problem than the cover.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .