Here at PLG, we deal with many file types and typesetting programs, but for the sake of simplicity, we are going to look at 4 of the most common: Word, InDesign, Illustrator and PDF. In this article, we will answer which file type is the most compatible with translation. Read on to find out more.
For simple translations that contain little to no formatting and images, Word files are best used. This way, the client can use the translation however which way he or she wants. Word can certainly make the job simpler. However, for Word files that contain complex formatting (charts, long tables composed of numbers and text, and images,) using word can become a translator’s nightmare. Word has poor text design capabilities so Word should be preferred for texts with little to no formatting.
InDesign files are the most common file type when translating manuals, catalogs, books, magazines and marketing materials such as brochures and flyers. The best feature of using InDesign is the ability to export text into an XML translation file format. This allows translators and typesetters more flexibility in working with InDesign. Much more can be done with InDesign than with many other programs.
The other most common format used in translations is Illustrator. While commonly used, Illustrator files are generally not very “translation-friendly” however. Illustrator’s XML features are less robust which means text has to be manually copied and pasted, often one text box at a time. If you feel like you would want to translate your manuals or materials with large amounts of text, opt out of Illustrator and use InDesign instead. However; Illustrator is best used when translating packaging or other artwork with small amounts of text (less than 300 words).
Contrary to popular belief, PDFs are the least compatible with translation. The reason for this is that the PDFs were generally created with another software program (such as InDesign or Illustrator for example). In those cases, the original source file should be used. When the source file is not available, the only option is to recreate the PDF in an appropriate format. The only exception is if the PDF is an editable PDF file, which is rarely the case.
Other programs/file types that are translation-friendly include Framemaker, HTML, XML, Excel, and TXT files.
Which file types do you use most often?