In most organizations, documents will circulate either in Microsoft Office formats (such as .docx, .xlsx, .pptx) or as PDF files. Information intended for publication will often be available in the format of a DTP or layout program — and the name of the program today will nearly always be in Adobe InDesign. — Websites and database files are special cases.
There is probably not all that much to be said about Microsoft Office formats. One thing worth mentioning is that the old file formats .doc, .xls, .ppt, which have been obsolete since 2006, should be avoided, as they are unsafe and provide popular ports of entry for computer viruses or other uncouth creatures. Many Word files created by non-experts contain unstructured formatting; we will often replace these files by our own formats.
Regardless of what software evangelists have been trying to tell you for many years, PDF files are not editable files that can be processed further, e.g., translated. Think of them as printouts on paper. Experts features usually produce unusable mumbo-jumbo with undesirable formatting artifacts. PDF files to be translated must always be converted to editable Word files first, with positioning information for the layout person. These Word files will then be translated and delivered in this easily understandable format — never as PDF files.
Documents intended for publication are now often laid out in in Adobe InDesign once they have passed the manuscript stage. This will be the document in the form in which customers would like to have it translated.
Now translators are not usually layout or DTP experts; that is not what they are hired for. InDesign is a considerable investment – not so much in terms of the admittedly expensive software, but more in terms of its complex functions and capabilities and the resultant learning curve, usually requiring the services of a professional DTP person.
Many translators and translation companies therefore do not own InDesign and do not work with this program. This means that the client has to copy the various scattered text bits from InDesign file to a Word or text file manually and return them there once the translation has been delivered. This process is highly error-prone, markups are often lost, and all in all it involves a lot of unnecessary extra work.
Clients of course like to be able to send out texts with an already finalized InDesign layout for translation directly, without time-consuming detours.
Once a few simple conditions are met (see box), we can usually process your InDesign files directly. “Directly” does not mean, however, that the translation is entered in the InDesign program itself. that would take far too much time and it would prevent translators from using their many research and quality and terminology control tools — and the result could well be a bad translation. Rather, what we do is convert InDesign’s original .indd file to an intermediate format (.idml), translate that, load the result back into InDesign and make the requisite adaptations within your existing and presumably approved layout. Such adaptations usually include touchups to fields and tables as well as frames to accommodate the translated text, which will be longer than the English text for many languages (for example, English text tends to “expand” by 10 to 20 percent on translation into German). End-of-line hyphenation will also often need to be fixed, and some visual adjustment of line control, especially in the case of headlines, may also be advisable.
With a bit of skill and a bit of preparation, all of this is possible within the original layout. The result is then saved as an .indd file and deliver to the client.
Indidentally, if you create the artwork for your publications with Adobe Illustrator, we can often work directly with that as well.
The layout person should not have much more left to do than to add some professional artistic flavor.
In the event that the client does not work with the most recent version of InDesign, we can gladly furnish downward-compatible .idml files instead.
Websites are a different — and highly complex — topic.
Direct contact between the translator and the responsible IT technician or web designer is highly recommended.
While we can work with HTML files and many XML files directly, often more will be required for subsequent processing than a simple replacement of text in one language with text in another language.