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Desktop Publishing and Translation

Desktop Publishing and Translation

You have a PDF file, and you need it in another language. The quote comes back with a line item for desktop publishing. What is it?

Translation and localization projects are more than just changing the text for the target audience: they also include adapting the layout. Adjusting the source document to create the same look and feel in another language requires desktop publishing. Desktop publishing or DTP is the use of layout software combining text and images. Desktop publishing documents may be used for desktop or commercial printing or electronic distribution including PDF, slide shows, email newsletters, epub, and the Web.

Is It Important?

If your provider offers desktop publishing it means that they have the ability to work with the source file format to return the same output. Desktop publishing is an important step in creating a localized version of the document. It takes time to properly format the translated text in layout, especially if space considerations were not anticipated.

Translation can cause the original text to expand or shrink. For example, English to Spanish has an expansion factor of 25%. 1,000 words in English can correlate to 1,250 words in Arabic. Conversely, there is also a shrinkage or contraction to consider. 1,000 words in English can contract to 900 words in Danish. English to Finnish can contract as much as 30%.

To get the same look, you need someone experienced with multilingual desktop publishing who can modify the source file to create a print-ready target file. The PDF you have was generated from a layout software program. There are many different programs that may be used to generate a PDF such as Word, FrameMaker, Illustrator, QuarkXpress, InDesign and many more.

The original software uses what is called the source file format, which is often not widely shared in an organization. A PDF file is sufficient for distribution and printing purposes and is manageable in size. The source file (it may also be called the native or original file) is used if document modifications or updated revisions are necessary. The source file can be very large in size due to graphics and may have supporting files such as fonts. Usually the source file can be found with the graphic artists or publications department in an organization.

Even if you only have a .pdf file, an experienced graphic artist can recreate the layout. Images and fonts may be needed for higher resolution outputs, but a quality PDF can be replicated without the source file. This does require extra time, so it is always best to locate the source file if possible not only for quality sake but time and cost as well.

If you are making an investment for a professionally translated file it is best to also ensure that the layout is handled by someone experienced. A translation service provider will have a native speaker ensure all text reads properly in the final format. You may save money with a text-only return but may end up with an out-of-sync document if you have a non-native speaker placing the text in layout. If you want your translated version to be professional, then formatting and text should be picture perfect.

What Does Desktop Publishing Include?

  • • Changes to columns, tables, and graphs
  • • Text related to graphics and photos
  • • Font changes to match the target language, especially for languages that read from right to left such as Arabic or Hebrew.
  • • Recreating .pdf files
  • • Expanding or shrinking text layout
  • • Anything else necessary to make the document polished and professional
  • How Can I Keep Costs Down?

    • • Ensure the original document has a simple design; try not to embed images or too many photos in different sizes especially if there is related text.
    • • Make sure you have enough space for the expansion of the text, otherwise the line spacing or font size may have to be reduced and the look may not be as close to your original text as you would like.
    • • For ease and consistency, it is best to use style sheets.
    • • Make sure your font supports the characters in your target language; otherwise it may have to be changed.
    • • Supply all the original files, including supporting images and fonts. Remember when using columns to make them wide enough to accommodate the target language, otherwise it will appear messy.

    Is There Anything Else I Should Consider?

    • • Consider how abbreviations or acronyms should be addressed in the target file. Provide information regarding these terms.
    • • Advise if you want imperial and metric measurements to be used together or metric only.
    • • Check to ensure the contact information (address, phone number, etc.) is appropriate for the target audience or if it should be changed.

    Most important is to use a service provider with experience in both translation and multilingual desktop publishing. When using translation tools such as translation memory, the translator will need to export text and properly import it back into the layout. A seasoned provider will be able to do this seamlessly.

    When you receive your translation proposal with the desktop publishing line item, hopefully it will now make sense why multilingual desktop publishing is worth its weight in gold.

    Terralíngua is a translation service provider that has worked with some of the world’s top brands. Providing translation, localization, and multilingual desktop publishing services, we only use native speakers who have a deep understanding of the country’s culture and are experts in their field. If you need assistance sharing your message on a global platform, please visit our website.

    What Is Desktop Publishing and Why Do You Need It?

    What Is Desktop Publishing and Why Do You Need It?

    What Is Desktop Publishing and Why Do You Need It?Desktop publishing is often something you will see offered by translation companies, but what is it? Why do you need this service added to your translation project?

    Making Translation Perfect

    Desktop publishing utilizes layout software to format text and images. A professional translation provider will offer this service to return a translated document in the same format as the original file. This is often referred to as multilingual desktop publishing, as the correct version of desktop publishing software is required for certain languages. Therefore when the Portuguese version of your brochure is returned, it will be print ready and formatted for this language. Translators who do not offer desktop publishing can only return translated copy in a text based format which will require manipulation on your end when the work is completed.

    Many companies have an in-house graphic artist or a team to turn over the desktop publishing duties to at this point. However, especially if there is not a native speaker of the target language in the team, errors and omissions can occur when the text is placed into layout unless they are very careful. Many companies want their professional translation partner to provide this service so they have the peace of mind that the text is properly placed with the correct accent marks and fonts. A translation provider’s desktop publishing charge often includes a service called a post-layout proof, which means that the translator will review the text again in the formatted version to look for any improvements.

    Desktop publishing is not a simple matter of replacing text with text. There are many special considerations such as an expansion rate with some languages (meaning it takes more words in a certain language to express the same idea). Unless space has been planned in advance for the expansion, extra time formatting is required to ensure the translated version has the same look. Some languages require less text, so the copy area becomes condensed unless a graphic artist is skilled in desktop publishing software.

    It is important to ensure your localized document does not look as if it is a translated version. You want your audience to know that the same care that was taken to craft the original document was also given to their material.

    Languages such as Arabic are written from right to left, which means that the original document needs to be modified and any graphics edited to fit the layout. Your clients will appreciate receiving documents that they can read comfortably and quickly in their own language, set out exactly how they should be read.

    While it is true that translation does its job in communicating your message from the source language into the target language, it is desktop publishing that delivers the cultural or technical nuances in a layout that suits the target language. This is what makes your document not only readable in a foreign language, but embraces the cultural and technical differences in such a way as the document appears to have been originally written rather than translated into the target language.

    Use a Professional Translation Company

    Multilingual desktop publishing requires working with the correct software that provides multi-platform documents as well as being able to work in languages based on characters such as Chinese or Japanese. Though someone may be an excellent graphic artist in their native tongue, certain languages have complex rules and requirements to ensure the text will read properly. Your company may have desktop publishing software; however your software may not be the needed version to handle the fonts or layout of another language. A professional translation partner is your best bet to ensure the correct format will be returned, especially if you are unsure of your in-house abilities to handle a language.

    If you work with a variety of languages in a number of formats and need to re-use your content, then a desktop publishing solution will increase productivity and reduce costs.

    Productivity increases because with a desktop publishing service, such as DITA, you can maintain your content and re-use it efficiently. This reduces the time spent copying and pasting from one document to another. For example, you may have several instruction manuals with similar content.

    A system like DITA also makes use of Adobe InDesign, which is still the definitive desktop publishing design system according to Forbes writer Tony Bradley. If you are dealing with customers abroad, presenting your documents in a professional format will only enhance your company’s reputation and ensure brand loyalty.

    In summary, desktop publishing is a vital part of your company’s professional image in any language. When you market a product or service abroad, you will earn more confidence and trust in your brand if you provide material that effectively represents your message to your target reader. By utilizing a professional multilingual desktop publishing service, you can be assured your company’s image will be properly represented, and it also provides your staff time to concentrate on other tasks and projects.


    Terralingua is a translation company who has assisted some of the world’s top brands with the power of multilingual desktop publishing. If you would like us to help your company properly translate, format and localize your documents for the global stage, please visit our website for further information.