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Translation with the use of InDesign – how to prepare materials for translation?

Adobe InDesign is a software that enables effective design of text and its preparation for print. When you are planning to print materials in several languages, it is worth taking care of several issues already at the design stage, which will help you save time and money later on.

In the process of translation, the target text will be longer or shorter than the source text. This will affect the entire layout. Hence, it is a good idea to optimise certain elements of the document so that they can be modified automatically and no manual changes have to be introduced – and as a result, having to prepare the entire material again.

Text layout – what should you pay attention to in the design process?

Several groups can be listed here:

Text elements

  • Numbered lists – more practical than entering points and sub-points manually;
  • Tables – you can create a table using an appropriate tool but never using text frames;


Content layout

  • Anchored elements – indicate where the photo or another object is to be located with regard to the text. When changing the text length, it will not move;
  • Grouping elements – groups of elements will place them in a fixed area regardless of the change in text length;
  • Joining text frames – if the text is separated by an image or another object, then instead of creating two separate text frames, one frame will be a better idea. The text surrounding it will freely move with regard to the image;

Text style

  • Section styles – thanks to defining section styles and character styles beforehand, a particular font will be used automatically in a given place;
  • Style sheet – style sheets are worth using because you can see all formats and fonts used in the documents. It will also help you with easy formatting of the entire document;

Work optimisation

  • Layers – when designing the document, place and describe layers well – create elements intended for translation separately so that the remaining elements can be hidden when working on the translation itself – this will make the work easier.

Translation and saving the project – what happens next

After preparing and accepting materials, they are handed over for translation. This process is composed of the following stages:

  1. Preparing source files
  2. Saving an InDesign file to .idml format supported by a CAT tool
  3. Translation of the text
  4. Saving the translated file in .idml format
  5. Adjusting the document layout to the appearance and style of the source project (e.g. fixing spacing between verses and sections; choosing a font – not all fonts are universal; verifying proper functioning of any links in the file).

Depending on how correctly and carefully you prepare the layout before stating work, the project deadline will shorten at the stage of its technical processing later on (not including the time which should be dedicated for translation itself). It will also reduce the risk of error occurrence when creating the final graphical layout, and most importantly, the time and costs of work.

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