I'm new to Scribus, and although I've looked in the user manuals, I cannot find any information to answer my question, or to solve the problem:

I imported a PDF which was, most likely, created by an engineering consultancy using a program like Framemaker. I suspect it was created with multiple layers which have, to some extent, survived the translation from the creating program, to PDF, and then into Scribus.

However, if I try to grab individual elements from a layer (for example, a line), Scribus bogs down for a very long time (up to an hour!), and then it will throw up a screen with hundreds of solid-filled, colored squares.

  • What are the squares called (they seem to be a sort of handle)?
  • How do you use these handles or whatever they are?
  • There are so many of them, they obscure the image. How can I turn off their visibility?
  • That's probably the boxes for each of the text objects - sometimes because the text is not actually editable, and just exists as outlines, or perhaps even separate text objects. PDFs aren't really a format intended for editing to be honest.
    – Billy Kerr
    Mar 5, 2023 at 18:11
  • Each one is the same size, and square. And it doesn't matter what layer they are on, they are still square and the same size (and they are colored solid, the with the tagging color of the layer). Seems unlikely that they are associated with hundreds of individual text items of exactly the same length. So I conclude that they are not rectangles around text strings.
    – Birdman
    Mar 7, 2023 at 20:55

1 Answer 1


Scribus is a DTP tool. It is meant for a work-flow where you prepare your "elements" (like texts, illustrations, color-scheme, structures, typefaces or fonts) in their respective "tools".

And then you use Scribus to create or assemble print-ready (or publishing-ready) documents.

Yes, you can edit text inside Scribus, but it does not have a great text-editor.

And yes, you can un-group a vector-file and maybe tweak a color, but Scribus is not really a vector-editor like Inkscape.

I propose, if you are not fully happy with your PDF-document, to use a PDF-tool to fine-tune everything. And only then import the result into Scribus.

You hope to make invisible certain elements: In Scribus you can hide layers, but not individual "elements". (You could hack them and assign "no color" to Fill and Stroke.) And you have not provided enough information to be sure what you are seeing. How did you conclude, for example that there are "layers" that survived the import into Scribus?

If you really have got layers for your import in Scribus, you can use the layers windows (F6)(or menu: Window > Layers) to hide certain layers by clicking on the eye-symbol.

So far my answer.

Some more background-info and some ideas, if you want to take this further (with Scribus):

I can say that I regularly import vectors into Scribus, mostly .eps, rarely .pdf and I have learnt that Scribus is good for fixing the final place/location of the import and for adjusting its size inside my document. Scribus can handle well-formed vectors fine, I have never had erratic behaviour like you describe.

But I would mostly not even try to un-group anything complex in Scribus. I read that you are having a PDF document with hundreds of elements and that your computer is challenged to even display those. This confirms my advice to not try this inside of Scribus.

I just did a test for you: I grabbed a vector-file from pixabay.com, a bulldozer with some 260 sub-elements. I converted that (using Inkscape) into a regular PDF-File and inported that into Scribus. There I un-grouped. That took no time at all, less than 200 milliseconds.

All the elements are not filled, just framed. So I can see the illustration still fine. I can select each element by its frame. I can re-color, re-locate, re-size. I can delete elements which I do not need.

Seems you just got yourself a very complex PDF. Seems that your elements are also grouped: you "grab" one, but many are selected and marked with frames. If you have courage, try to un-group: right-click and chose "ungroup". Now you need to be very careful not to displace any element. But now you should be able to select precicely one element to manipulate.

If you get unexpected behavior, you need to know that many complex PDF consist not of one group but of many groups of sub-groups of elements. So you might need to apply un-group more than once, if you want to work on just one element.


  • Martin--thanks for an exhaustive answer. I will have to pick through it more carefully, and work on the document at the same time, to fully understand the details. To clarify, though, Scribus didn't automatically identify any layers. Boxes around large groupings of elements that (from my experience elsewhere) would've been brought into the original (? Framemaker?) compilation appear when I click randomly on the document which was converted to scribus format, and opened in Scribus. Hence, the idea that there were layers originally, and that somehow they persisted through the workflow.
    – Birdman
    Mar 7, 2023 at 21:00

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