Top tips LSPs can share with their clients to speed up file prep

Tom Imhof 17 Nov 2022 10 mins read
Top tips LSPs can share with their clients to speed up file prep

In the last 10 years, file type support in modern translation environments such as Trados Studio has come a long way. As a result, most documents that are sent for translation can be opened and translated smoothly today without further preparation or post-processing which, in the past, used to be a common task in the translation process. However, even today, the results might not be optimal in some cases. For example, translators can encounter situations, where sentences are cut off in the middle and continued in the next segment, making the content difficult to translate.

The challenges in preparing difficult files

When files are difficult to process, they can sometimes take a very long time to load in the translation editor, if they can be opened at all. Once opened, translators sometimes have to wait several seconds when progressing from segment to segment. Translators might also encounter situations, where a customer is unhappy, because text got translated that shouldn’t have been or, even worse, some content was not translated at all (i.e. the translation editor did not even make it available for translation in the first place). Translators working into double-byte, right-to-left, and eastern European languages may find out, after completing their translation, that the text is looking garbled in the target language document or does not even show at all. Another common problem: the layout of the translated document looks completely distorted, therefore a lot of time has to be spent fixing it after translation.

To sum up the above-said – we are still far from a 100% trouble-free translation process. In many cases, a considerable amount of engineering effort has to be applied to make documents translatable or to fix layout issues after translation. Why is this happening and how can customers be educated to avoid or at least minimize bad surprises like these in the future?

Time-saving file preparation tips to share with your clients

Here are a few useful tips with general recommendations to share with your clients that will help to get the best translation results out of their documents from the very start (which will also save your project managers a good deal of time). Most of them should be taken into account when creating the content, i.e. in the authoring process:
  1. Avoid monolithic documents that are hundreds of mega-bytes in file size, rather organize content into smaller chunks in order to avoid memory problems on the translator’s PC. In modern translation environments, such as Trados Studio, the text is extracted from the source document and put into a bilingual intermediate document that will contain the source and the target text while the translator is working on the file. Since the intermediate bilingual file contains both source and translated text, the text is actually doubled, thus the file size of the intermediate file might become very large.
  2. Leave room in the layout for the translated text as it will expand in most cases. For example, Roman languages such as French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian but also Eastern European languages such as Polish, Russian, Croatian, Serbian etc., compared to the same content in English will show a considerable text expansion. As a result, the translated text in many cases may no longer fit nicely into the layout.
  3. Avoid text on pictures (JPG, PNG, TIFF) as in many cases, it cannot be extracted for translation. When creating translatable content, avoid the text functions in graphics applications such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Rather use InDesign, Word, Framemaker etc. to create the translatable content and the graphics application to create the visual content.
  4. Avoid paragraph breaks in the middle sentences rather use soft line breaks for that purpose. Remember that when translatable text gets imported in a translation editor, the text is segmented, i.e. the translation editor creates smaller chunks, e.g. each sentence will become a segment. If you use the paragraph break to layout a document, the segments will get cut off in the middle and translation will become a nightmare.
  5. Use styles, avoid manual formatting when creating layouts. Avoid creating indents using space or tab characters – if at all possible, use styles with automatic indentation
  6. When selecting a corporate font as part of your corporate identity, plan ahead whether you need to localize and into which languages you need to localize. Select a corporate font for your CI that supports all character sets of the languages you want to get your content localized into.
  7. Avoid sending PDF files to translation. Prefer open formats. Even if content can in many cases be extracted from generated or scanned PDFs, the resulting target layout will not look as nice as when working with the underlying open text format.
  8. Avoid embedding PDF documents into the main document, rather embed the open formats as those can be imported into the translation editor in most cases.
  9. Before sending documents for translation, make sure you know which text must be and should not be translated and make sure to tell the translator or LSP about it. Modern translation environments such as Trados Studio avail of many functions that allow translators to include or exclude text for translation and thus control, which parts of the document are imported or ignored for translation.
In addition to the more general recommendations I’ve provided, here are a few more useful things to know when dealing with some specific file types.

How to process CMS content
When exporting content for translation from a CMS (content management system) or PIM (product information management), XML is always preferred over Excel. Even in the year 2019, Excel cells can contain a maximum number of characters. Hence, when the text expands in the translated version, the content might not fit the limitation of the Excel cells and therefore will get cut off. Also, XML is much easier to configure as a translatable format compared to embedded HTML codes in Excel cells and in most cases, segmentation in the translation editor will be better using XML from the start.

Tips for processing files from desktop publishing applications
When receiving files from desktop publishing software such as InDesign and QuarkXPress, I recommend applying the following best practices:
  1. Use layers to separate text to translate from text that should not be translated.
  2. Use the built-in table editor rather than tabs to create tables. Leave enough room for the table headers to expand.
  3. Avoid creating multilingual documents (one layer per language) because this makes the documents bigger in file size and thus more difficult to handle on lower spec’d computers. Also and most importantly, if you want such a document to be translated into multiple languages, the translation can only happen sequentially, i.e. one language after the other; you won’t be able to easily send the same document to multiple translators for translation into multiple languages at the same time and consolidate all translated versions back into the same file afterwards. It is much easier in that case to start from one document per language.

Tips for processing files from Microsoft Office applications

  1. Avoid long text chunks in table cells – table cells in Excel are limited to 32767 characters per cell.
  2. When working with MS Word or PowerPoint, separate text to be translated from text not to be translated using styles or the hidden text feature. For Excel documents, always tell the translator which row/column contains the text to translate and which contains text not to translate. Do not collapse or hide any columns or rows that you would like to be translated, as these will not get imported into the translation editor.
  3. When working with macros, avoid translatable text to be hard coded in the VBA code.
  4. Ideally accept all tracked changes before handing the documents into translation.
  5. Avoid using the old binary file formats (DOC, XLS and PPT) rather use the modern equivalents (DOCX, XLSX, PPTX).
  6. Avoid using Microsoft Publisher if at all possible, rather use InDesign (or QuarkXPress) as there is no reliable file type filter available at the moment for MS Publisher, so translating these documents always means tedious post-processing work.
Alex Rodrigues

Tom Imhof

Senior Business Consultant, Localix
Tom has been working in the translation industry for many years, having started his career as a Russian translator and terminologist. He founded his own language technology consultancy business,, back in 2009 and works with corporations, language service providers and freelance translators, helping them implement translation technology into their processes.
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