How to translate an InDesign file

Translating an InDesign file is a very time-intensive task when it’s done by hand. But that said, there are a few tools and tactics that can help in preparing the file for translation and automating the manual tasks.
Say you have a document in English that you need to translate into German, how do you proceed?

Most people would translate InDesign files following this process:

  1. Start by copy-pasting all the text from the InDesign file to a Word or Excel file
  2. Send the file to their translator
  3. When the translator is done, they would copy-paste the text back in the original file
  4. And for each paragraph they would need to fix every text style (bold, italic, font size, etc.)

This is a tedious task and requires not only a lot of time, but also a lot of focus since the risk of making errors is high and mistakes are costly.

So how can this process be improved?

3 Steps to a better InDesign translation process

The common tasks that need to be done can be summarized in 3 major points that we’ll see in this page:

  1. Which tools you can use to speed the process up
  2. Some of the best practices that will save you hours of work (literally)
  3. Dealing with updates and content changes

1. The tools you can use to translate an InDesign file faster

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.

In short, the ideal tool should:

  • Quickly extract the text, without time consuming configuration or adaptation, etc.
  • Replace the translated text inside the InDesign document, leaving all the styles intact
  • 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
  • Support basic collaboration tools (in case the translation is done in-house, more on this later)

There are a few solutions around. Here is a list:

Software/Solution Advantages
  • Cheap/free
Translation plugins for InDesign
  • Support
  • Cheap
  • Support
  • Flexible
  • No software to install
  • Easy to use

2. Best practices to save time

A. Think of your InDesign document as a web page

Translating an InDesign file is not like translating a document made in Word.
Word is a word-processor while InDesign is more design oriented.

One of the most common errors is to ignore the importance your layout has in the process. Make your documents translation ready by:

  • Leaving some white space at the end of each text box
  • Prevent overset text in InDesign with “column breaks”

B. Use a single language layout

Avoid multi-language layouts that will slow down your translation process. With documents that contain more than one language on the page, you’ll be forced to manually copy-paste the translations and you won’t be able to automate any part of the process.

C. Work always in your base language

Structure your document and your workflow so that you can focus on editing and working only in your base language. This will save you from embarrassing errors and will speed up your job. Use a tool to then create the language versions of your files and deal with updates and content changes.

Also, we’ve published a free eBook with a few tips to prepare your InDesign file for translation.

3. Dealing with updates and content changes

Unfortunately dealing with updates and content changes when creating an InDesign documents in many languages is hard work.

Without the help of a tool, you’ll be finding yourself following the same process of copy-paste you do when translating an InDesign file multiplied for the number of languages and made more difficult by the struggle of dealing with a foreign language.

Again most people would follow this process:

  1. Apply the changes to the document in the base language
  2. Apply the changes to each language version of their document
  3. Start by copy-pasting all the new text from the InDesign file to a Word or Excel file
  4. Send the file to their translator
  5. When the translator is done, they would copy-paste the text back in the original file
  6. And for each paragraph they would need to fix every text style (bold, italic, font size, etc.)

So how can this process be improved?

Meet Redokun

Redokun is a tool that simplifies and speeds up the production of translated InDesign documents like brochure, catalogs, user manuals, etc.

Designed for InDesign users and marketing teams, Redokun includes many functionalities that help you avoid mistakes, create a lean process, and deliver the project on time.

Redokun’s workflow can be summarized in four simple steps:

1. Upload the InDesign Document

Create your brochure, catalog, or any document you need directly in InDesign. When it’s ready, upload your document as it is in Redokun.

2. Select the target languages

Pick the target languages for your project among the 88 that Redokun supports.

3. Get your document translated by your team

Redokun extracts all the text and allows your team to translate it online or offline. You can send the text to be translated to your translation vendors or invite your colleagues to translate it on the browser.

Translate Online

The simplest translation experience for colleagues and in-house translators. They can speed up their work using previously saved translations and Machine Translation suggestions.

Redokun helps you improve the communication with your translation vendors. Export the sentences from Redokun, and import them back after the translation is done.

4. Download the translated InDesign Documents – with the styles intact

Redokun retains the layout of the document and all the text styles. Once the translation is completed you can easily download your file from Redokun in InDesign format. The document will be exactly the same but it will contain the new language.

Much more than an InDesign translation plugin

  • No additional software

    Redokun just works. There is nothing to install to access it for the designer or the translators.
    You only need your browser and you are ready to go!
  • Avoid weird errors

    Software failures and compatibility issues, which are common with add-ons and plugins, with Redokun they are not a problem anymore since it's web-based and runs in the browser.
  • Avoid lacking support

    We provide real-time support via web chat, email and phone.

Redokun saves you from embarrassing errors and waste of time

  • Avoid hours of copy-pasting in InDesign

  • Expedite your catalogs and manuals to production

  • Improve efficiency in multilingual typesetting

  • Boost the speed of your team

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