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How To Translate InDesign Files

We know how difficult it can be to translate InDesign files into multiple languages. InDesign translation is tough!  That’s why we have developed a “How To” guide for how to translate InDesign files.

We’re NAATI translation specialists and have been expertly translating documents since 2011.

In this exclusive guide, we will show you exactly how to translate an InDesign file into any language. For the purposes of this demonstration, we are translating a tri-fold brochure, created in InDesign from English into Greek. Due to our strict confidentiality policy, we are using dummy text and as such, a dummy translation.

We have developed a 7 step process for translating InDesign files:

  1. Prepare file for InDesign translation
  2. Package your InDesign file
  3. Export to IDML file format
  4. Upload IDML file to CAT tool
  5. Translate & Independent Checking/Editing
  6. Edit Design in InDesign
  7. In-Context/Final review

This guide is intended to help describe the process that is involved for translating InDesign files. If you would like to engage us here at Ethnolink to do undertake your InDesign translation project for you, please complete the enquiry form on this page or visit our contact us page.

Step 1 – Prepare file for InDesign translation

Our InDesign project specialists constantly see issues with InDesign translation projects. This usually stems from the way in which InDesign file are prepared and provided to us.

Here are some useful tips for graphic designers who are looking to prepare InDesign files for translation.

  1. Don’t cramp the design/layout – you need to ensure that the design has left lots of white space available. Why? Because when translating from English into other languages, many of the languages result in text expansion. As such, your translated document may look cramped if you have not planned ahead.
  2. Use Styles – using styles in your design will ensure that the translated document that you receive back will have all the relevant styles applied.
  3. Design text in logical flow for a reader – this assist the translator’s who are working on the project to view the text in the correct order.
  4. Mirror File for RTL languages – if you are translated an English InDesign document into a Right to Left (RTL) language such as Arabic or Farsi, you will need to mirror the document. This is a skill that takes many years to finesse and something that our multilingual typesetting specialists can assist with.

Step 2 – Package your InDesign file

It’s important to provide a full packaged InDesign file to your InDesign translation team. This allows the team to have access to the fonts and resources associated with the project. To do this, simply open your document and click File > Package. This will generate a zip folder which can be provided to anyone who needs to translate your files.

The package should also include a PDF of the document which serves to provide full context of imagery, style and layout to the translators.

Step 3 – Export to IDML file format

By default, when you package an InDesign file, it should produce the IDML file as well. An IDML file is an XML representation of the InDesign (.indd) file and allows for cross-comparability with other software. It is also the interchange format for older versions of InDesign. We will need this file format in order to translate the InDesign file.

If you need to manually export to IDML file format, you can simply go to File > Save As and then choose IDML.

Step 4 – Upload IDML file to CAT tool

Once you have your IDML file, you will need to upload it into a CAT tool for translation. What is a CAT tool you ask? A CAT tool is a Computer Aided Translation tool that allows translators to work more efficiently and consistently when compared to translating directly within an InDesign file or a Word processor such as Microsoft Word.

Once you have uploaded the IDML file into your preferred CAT tool, you will see a screen similar to this. As you can see, the English text is on the left, with space available on the right for the translator to translate into the target segment.


Step 5 – Translate & Independent Checking/Editing

This step is relatively straight-forward, yet incredibly crucial to the overall translation quality. You must engage a professional, experienced and suitably qualified translator to translate your InDesign document. Our team of professional translators are NAATI Certified and thoroughly experienced with translating in various fields.

It is also best-practice to engage a second translator to undertake independent checking/editing of the translation. In the same way that your English document is likely to have been drafted, reviewed and then finalised by a number of English speakers, we employ a similar view to translation.

Both the translator and checker will work within the CAT tool to finalise the translation. Once finalised, you can download the translated IDML file.


Step 6 – Edit Design in InDesign

Inevitably, once you re-open your translated IDML file in InDesign, you will notice that not everything is working as intended.

As you can see in our example, there are some serious issues with this translated file.

For one, the translated Greek text has overrun in two places. You will need to make make adjustments accordingly to the text to ensure that it fits.

Secondly, we can see that the original bold font that is used on the headings and on the orange text at the bottom of the brochure is incompatible with the Greek script. As such, font-matching must occur to ensure that a suitable font is chosen that reflects the original style of the brochure and that also works well for the Greek language.

This process is usually undertaken by a professional multilingual typesetting specialist. 


Step 7 – In-Context/Final review

Once the multilingual typesetting specialist has completed their editing, we are ready to export the translated IDML file into a PDF format. This PDF is then provided back to the translation team for their final “in-context” review.

Sometimes they will notice that something has gone astray in the process. For example, a line-break that has been introduced that is unsuitable for the translated language. They will mark up the PDF with their feedback and work with the multilingual typesetting specialist to finalise the translation accordingly


So…what now?

Congratulations. you’ve successfully translated your InDesign file. So, what now?

You will need to export the file into Web and Print-ready versions, depending on what you need the translated file for.

Some final tips for How to Translate InDesign Files

  1. Use a professional translation service provider – using machine translation or individuals who are not professional qualified translators will increase the chances of a poor translation deliverable.
  2. Finalise text first before translating – last minute changes to the text once the translation process has already commenced is likely to lead to problems throughout the project.
  3. Don’t skip in-context review – these are crucial and should never be skipped. You’ve invested the time to find out how to translate InDesign files, so don’t skip on the crucial step.

Ethnolink’s professional InDesign translation service

Ethnolink is able to provide Multilingual Typesetting and Desktop Publishing (DTP) in various design formats and in any language. Typesetting can be notoriously difficult in foreign languages due to incompatibility between software and foreign fonts. At Ethnolink, we have a team of multilingual typesetting specialists who can handle both the translation as well as the lay out/typesetting of foreign documents for publication.

We can handle Left to Right (LTR) script as well as Right to Left (RTL) scripts such as Arabic which can be extremely problematic for many graphic designers in programs such as Adobe InDesign. We work in most design formats including the entire Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Publisher.

For a quote on our InDesign translation services please contact us.

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