InDesign: Choosing a multilingual publishing solution

by Stefano Bernardi

We all know that working on InDesign projects with more than one language is a tricky process, for a number of reasons.

For instance, copying and pasting text from the original InDesign document to a Word or Excel file back and forth is very time-consuming. Besides, the more the text inside the document, the higher the probability of making mistakes.

After working closely with hundreds of designers and companies, we saw that the vast majority of them work as follows:

  • Copy all the text from an InDesign file to an exchange file (usually Word or Excel)
  • Send the exchange file to a trusted translator (can be in-house, a freelance or a translation agency)
  • When the translation is done, import the text back from the exchange file to InDesign
  • Fix all the broken styles in the translated InDesign file
  • Check that everything is ok
  • Repeat for every target language

But copying and pasting the text to and from external applications, you risk losing the styles assigned to the text. Special characters (eg. soft-returns, glyphs, etc) risk being deleted or neglected by external software used in the translation workflow. This usually results in a lot of work to fix the text frames after the translator's work is completed.

Of course, you can convert an InDesign file to a Word file format, but that would only get you so far. You still need to import the translated text back after the translation is finished.

Is there a software that can help?

An ecosystem of external and internal software solutions flourished in the last 5-6 years or so. The rise of web applications and standards initiated a new era of end-to-end solutions, filling the market with web-to-print software and other InDesign automation applications.

The introduction of the now-mature IDML format also helped a lot and opened the InDesign file format to third-party software vendors who are now able to work with every single aspect of an InDesign file, without having to use complicated XML import/export steps or being afraid of losing document data and settings along the way.

Also, the IDML format provides (relative) peace of mind when it comes to working on a file which would work not only with the latest InDesign version, but also with older versions (almost flawlessly).

What should I look for when choosing a tool for my current translation workflow?

There are various solutions when it comes to translating an InDesign file, but since translating documents is not a designer’s job — but more a combined effort between translators and designers — you have to figure out how to let the translators work on the copy of your file, putting in place the best tools possible for the job.
The list of requirements for picking a solution can vary a lot, especially for big companies, but we can outline a few of them.

In short, the ideal tool should:

  1. Quickly extract the text effortlessly, without time consuming configuration or adaptation, etc.
  2. Replace the translated text inside the InDesign document, leaving all the styles intact
  3. Support basic translation tools. For example, it should save translations for later re-use, which enhances the cost effectiveness of the whole process. This particular feature is usually called TM or Translation Memories
  4. Support basic collaboration tools (in case the translation is done in-house, more on this later)

What solutions are currently available on the market?

The current software market provides a few of them, but each one comes with a catch. Here is a list:

  • Working with XML, although it needs a bit of work to get it right. The translator should use compatible software to work on the exported XML (some people use oXygen). Also, it’s very important that the structure of the XML file is preserved.
  • Adobe InCopy, which is great for working with copy, but not so great when it comes to InDesign file translation because it doesn’t store translation memories, nor does it have flexible licensing (which can be a problem if you’re relying on freelance translators or large teams of in-house translators). InCopy also needs a fair amount of training to get started with and needs to be installed in each workstation.
  • Generic translation tools, which usually work well, but sometimes fail to preserve document styles (eg. kerning, tracking) and special characters (eg. soft returns, bullet chars, “special” space chars, InDesign markers, etc.). Above all, they are usually not-so-easy to use and, again, need training.
  • InDesign translation plugin or script, which extracts all the paragraphs inside the file for later import. This one can be tricky to implement and use as you need to take care of filtering non translatable data, find a way to handle special characters and InDesign markers (Redokun for instance uses tags and markers), handle inline styles inside text frames (which otherwise will be lost), handle encoding problems, etc.

Meet Redokun

Redokun tries to address all the points above, providing a hassle-free solution for translating InDesign documents and it’s flexible enough that it can be adapted to pretty much every workflow.
It can work well for freelance designers, and it can be adopted to scale by companies of all sizes with in-house translators around the globe.

Try Redokun Now – Free Trial

Redokun provides two ways of translating InDesign files:

  • using the easy-to-use integrated translation tool

  • or using the text export/import functionality

Both designers and marketing managers find great advantages in using Redokun. Here is what some of Redokun’s customers say:

“We often translate our marketing material into 4-6 languages and the Indesign task to re-enter the translation was managed by a single person taking 2-3 weeks for each one after the other. Now it’s almost immediate and we can manage several languages at the same time.” – Ambra Lazzari, Marketing @ Pfannenberg

“InDesign should have this feature! :)” — Jennifer Bookhout, Designer

“It’s quite simply the best solution available for multi-language translation of indesign files. A huge help and cost-saver in the day-to-day production of marketing and sales collateral.“ — Simon Kjær Hansen, Marketing

“I did a time study using Redokun in my indesign workflow and then compared it to how we brought translations into similar-type manuals previously. Redokun proved to be a great timesaver.” — Perry D'Elia, Designer

Try Redokun Now – Free Trial

If you’re ready to evaluate a complete InDesign translation solution, then try Redokun now, free for 14 days.

Stefano Bernardi
Stefano Bernardi

Stefano has worked on numerous mid to large–sized InDesign projects for Alstom, DeLonghi, Philips, and many others before starting Redokun in 2015.
As Redokun’s Co-Founder, Stefano spends most of his time helping customers to optimize their InDesign work-flow. He also holds in-house InDesign courses for companies in the Venice, Italy area.

19 Tips To Optimize Your InDesign File For Translation (Free Ebook)

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A short guide for InDesign users who work on multilingual projects. It'll give you an exhaustive look into the issue of creating an InDesign document ready for translation.

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