Hacking Steiner PDFs

Ok, in case you don’t know, there’s an awesome site known as stampalbums.com.  A gentleman by the name of Bill Steiner sells album pages as PDFs for almost every country in the Scott Catalog.

But, unlike me, Bill only provides PDFs for you to download and print.  But what if you wanted to modify these pages in some way?

If you want to do minor edits and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars and software, you can use either Libreoffice or Scribus to edit the PDFs.  What you choose to use, really depending on your needs.

Let’s go over the pros and cons of each solution

LibreOffice Draw

If you want to edit the text of the Steiner Pages, LibreOffice is your best bet.  However there is one drawback: centering of text.  Let me demonstrate by showing you this screenshot of a file opened in Libreoffice.  This is Bill Steiner’s Ukraine 2013 supplement, page 1:

LIbreofficeOk, there are a few things you should notice about this picture.  Tree Leaves and Fruit is outlined in blue, because I clicked inside the text to edit it.  Here is where you’ll have some work to do:

  1. The text “Tree Leaves and Fruit” is not centered inside the box it is in
  2. The font in the upper left hand corner (Helvetica) is italicized

So, here is where the problem comes in.  The font is shown italicized, because you don’t have the font installed that Bill used when he designed the page.  At least I don’t.

The other problem is that, since the text is not centered inside the text box, it is no longer centered on the page.  Depending on which page you edit, this is sometimes more noticeable than on other pages..  So, if you’re as anal retentive as I am when it comes to this stuff, you need to clean it up by shrinking the text box and re-centering everything.

Before:

beforeAfter:

afterThe difference in this example is small, but for some of the text on these pages it can look pretty bad.  But, if you want to edit text and use one of these free tools. Libreoffice is the only way to go.

Which, of course, will let you do other fancy stuff, if you want:

fancy

Scribus

Now, if you’re planning to do something like get rid of the border and don’t feel like editing and re-centering a ton of text, then Scribus may be the way to go.

Here’s the same page opened in Scribus:

scribusThe reason why the whole thing is pink, is because I selected it.  Scribus keeps the whole page grouped.  Press Shift+CTRL+G to ungroup it:

ungroupedSo, notice the box around each individual letter?  That’s because Scribus imports each letter individually, rather than one text box.

So, what do you get from this?

Well, you lose the ability to edit the text, but the text stays right where Bill Steiner put it.  So, everything is still centered.

The only thing this is horribly useful for is removing the border without having to recenter all the text on the page:

bordergoneUseful if you’re going to print on someone else’s pages that have a border already.

If there are other free ways to open and edit these files, please let me know and I will add to this page.

10 thoughts on “Hacking Steiner PDFs

  1. Great information, thanks for posting this. What if you wanted to remove the board AND change the font to match Scott International (do you happen to know that font?), would you need to use both programs?

    Thanks!

    • Sorry for thre late reply. Your message got lost among the spam.

      If you’re going to change the font, you have your work ahead of you. You’re probably going to have to use LibreOffice Draw.

      I don’t know what font Scott uses on their National pages. If you email them, I’m sure they’ll share the info with you.

      At one point in the past Mr. Steiner sold his PageMaker files. If you had those, it’s disgustingly easy. Just change the style sheets with the new font and it all flows.

  2. There is another way. It’s crude, but effective.
    Just use GIMP….GNU Image Manipulation Program. It’s an open source graphics program that rivals Photoshop….. seriously.
    Just open the pdf, choose the page you want to edit. use the text tool or the selection tool, the eraser tool….. whatever and go for it. I think with a little practice it can be done quite effectively.

    • Sorry for the delayed replies. I get an insane amount of SPAM, even with the CAPTCHA turned on and authentication required. For every comment I get, there are 100 pieces of SPAM.

      Ok, GIMP will work, but GIMP is not a vector based image editor. So, all the lines and symbols get converted to pixels. This may or may not cause graininess, depending on the resolution you print at. It will also increase the file size and remove any embedded fonts. But, I’m anal about this stuff. I guarantee you, in the end, you probably can’t tell the difference once you print it out.

      • No, You are right.GIMP isn’t vector based. But I found at a resolution of 300 ppi you can convert it to a PNG and it comes out good. You can further convert to a PDF, which works good… at least for me.
        I wish I had time to learn a vector program or a desktop publishing program but for now, It’s GIMP for me.

  3. Another very easy way is to you an app to convert the PDFs to Powerpoint, then making any changes you want is very easy if you are at all familiar with Powerpoint.

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