Need to translate a PDF?
Do this first

Chances are, you use Adobe InDesign to create marketing materials such as posters, flyers, brochures, and ebooks.  The good news is that it is perfectly suited to create translated versions of your original content.  InDesign supports Unicode character encoding, and there are even Middle Eastern versions of InDesign with special settings for right-to-left languages, like Arabic and Hebrew.  It’s simple to create perfectly localised PDFs.  Just follow our tips below to save time and money!

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when writing content and creating your design:

  • Write translation-friendly text
    Short and succinct sentences, no unnecessary white spaces or tabs in order to maintain the layout after translation.
  • Use Shift-Return to insert new lines into the InDesign file
    This ensures that our translation software doesn’t process a single sentence spread across different lines as separate units. Keeping sentences intact improves the quality of our translation database – which will reduce the cost of future translations by obtaining more leverage – and it also facilitates maintaining the layout of the file after translation.
  • Leave enough space in text boxes
    If there is not enough space, this may result in missing text or incorrect line breaks. When translating from English into Romance languages you can expect 20% text expansion, and some languages, such as German, can have a text expansion rate as high as 35% when translating from English.
  • Remove all text that doesn’t need to be translated from the InDesign pasteboard
    Translation software will import this text, leading to higher word counts and therefore an additional cost for work that was not necessary in the first place.
  • Avoid unselectable text
    Translation software will not pick up text embedded in pictures. If your file has unselectable text that needs translation, it will be more costly than if that text was editable. This is due to increased Project Management time, the need for additional files, and increased typesetting costs.
  • Send native format files
    To make the typesetting process more efficient, we prefer to work on an export from InDesign called an IDML file.  This uses an XML format which allows users of different versions of InDesign to open up the file without any problem. It’s also the best format to use with our translation software, and the file size is smaller than INDD files because non-embedded images are not included. If you will be handling the typesetting on your end, all we need is the IDML file and a PDF so that translators can see what the end result looks like.  We will return translated IDML files to you, which are easy to import into InDesign.  If you need us to typeset the translated PDFs, please also send us all the fonts used in the file, the INDD file, and if you’ll be printing from high-resolution PDFs, your specifications for the crop and bleed.

We must add the caveat that following this advice does not guarantee perfectly formatted IDMLs.  As you can see, there are many variables to take into account, but following these guidelines will certainly speed up the process for the design team, whether it is ours or yours, and ultimately save you money.  There is also other design software out there, such as QuarkXPress, but we find that InDesign is the most common and easiest to use.