How To Translate InDesign Files

How to Translate an InDesign File

Next up in our “How To” series (following on from “How to Translate a PDF”) is an overview of the most efficient/effective way of getting InDesign files translated. Indesign is actually quite a tricky file format to translate into – for a number of reasons:

  1. Unlike word, excel or other standard word processing formats Translators don’t tend to have InDesign sitting on their desktops ready to load supplied files into InDesign
  2. Text segment ordering is not driven by the logical text/paragraph flow (as in a word doc) but by the order a designer places the text boxes onto a page in so the logical flow of language can be disrupted for the translator
  3. Translations going out of english into other languages usually cause text overruns and layout issues. English is actually quite a concise language and translating into most other language formats results in text box overrun and other layout issues that have to be correctly managed
  4. Like a webpage or app translation translators need to do a final review of the full file to ensure the correct context was captured. This review and final updating step is vital to ensure the final document that goes out is accurate and correct but can be an extremely time consuming step in the process.

Tips for Creating Translation Friendly InDesign Files

  1. Apply Styles; Trust us on this. You want/need to ensure you have correctly applied styles to the various text formats in the source file. If you do that you will get back translated text  that has correctly inherited the original style types. Don’t do it and your going to be in a bad place having to manually update multiple documents with no idea other than placement if its the right text.
  2. Order your text boxes as the author wrote them/user reads them. If you are wanting a user to read across a page make sure you order the text boxes accordingly. That way there is minimal effort required to ensure the translator gets a logically ordered set of text segments to work on
  3. Don’t cramp your layout. This is especially true if you are working with English as the source language. As the designer make sure your have a reasonable amount of space for text overruns – ideally allow space for around 15% more text than the original English version.
  4. Image text Overlay. If you  have text over images that need to be translated make sure they are not embedded in the image but added as independent text boxes. If there are text boxes in the image you are going to be in copy and paste land.

Making InDesign Translation Easy.

Identifying the challenges in InDesign the technology team set about trying to find some solutions. Below is what we have achieved so far.

Step 1 – Make it easy to get content into a translation workflow.

We built a number of cloud based workbench and translation tools to make it easy for translators to get directly to the content clients need translated. We build uploaders for lots of file types (Word, csv, .po, resx etc) but it was a challenge to get indesign into a format we could easily get into workflows. The solution was to convert the InDesign file into an XML variant and then upload that file format into a workflow. See some screenshots below of how the process works.


An InDesign File Prepared for Upload


Formatting an Uploaded File

Step 2 – First Pass Translation

Using our proprietary RAY platform we can get content out to translators within minutes. Using our certified translators, client briefing forms plus glossary terms, reserved words, Translation Memory  and online collaboration tools we ensure a high quality output that gets incorporated back into the final InDesign document for review. See the translator workbench below:06_TranslatorWorkbench

Step 3 – Getting The  Translations Exported

This is the important part of the technology process – ensuring the translations export properly and the new translated indesign file creates correctly. See below the example of an exported Xliff file and the final recompiled InDesign file ready to review.


and the final .indd file with the translated text inserted


Step 4 – In Context Review

There is no simple automated process for this final step. The translator needs to see the whole PDF of the inDesign file and do a full review to ensure everything is in place and to pickup any context related enhancements.

Its a manual step that involves our Design team inputting the markedup changes directly into the final file, but ensures what goes out is ready to be printed/published (or whatever end purpose the client had in mind).