Clients will often send us PDF documents to translate. They understand that PDFs are relatively secure, yet frequently imagine that the file format provides an easy way to exchange information. In reality, however, it’s the equivalent of giving us an image and asking us to recreate it. This is because a PDF file is an unwritable document that can require painstaking efforts to convert correctly. For example, content extracted directly from PDFs typically contains innumerable “hard returns” that must first be removed before our project managers can begin the translation process.

So, what do you do? Your document has already undergone several rounds of internal copy editing, design, and approvals. Will a lengthy PDF conversion process also be necessary?

Fortunately, in most cases, no! If your PDF file was created using Adobe InDesign or a similar program, you can provide us with the original files, and we can get started right away. In such instances, we can work directly from the original files without converting them. Our CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools work seamlessly with the original files, maximizing the efficiency of the localization workflow. 

But bear in mind that our services involve much more than linguistic expertise. We also bring our multilingual DTP (Desk-Top Publishing) skills to the fore so that your translated original files display just as well as they do in English. 

In summary, when you provide us with your original files, it allows us to work efficiently within your design and translate without altering your carefully crafted structure.

Why do PDFs not always convert well?

PDFs do not always convert accurately to MS Word, and sometimes not all the text is extracted from a PDF during the conversion process. In addition, not all fonts extract well, which may result in spelling errors in English. When we carefully review a preliminary PDF conversion to identify formatting errors, such as the text suddenly appearing predominantly in text boxes, we can determine if it’s usable for translation. If so, we’ll make the most of the conversion. If not, we’ll need the original files from which your PDF was generated. But in either case, the original files are always preferred for an optimally efficient translation process. 

The importance of a PDF source file

To help ensure a timely turnaround for the translation of your document, we have some guidelines on how you should prepare PDF files for our project management team.  

If possible, always send us the original files. Working directly from these files allows a straightforward document translation without altering your design and takes considerably less time. Without original files, we must convert images or add text boxes over the text for translation. While this method works, it can reduce the image quality of your final document. 

If you aren’t sure what your PDF source file is, you can always check under File > Properties > Description – Application. This action will allow you to see the source software used to create the PDF. 

For example, was it made in Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Word, etc.? We can work within these file types without changing your format. Our translation software will keep your formatting safe while the text is being translated. 

Of course, we’re always glad to receive PDF versions of the source files as references in these cases. Also, since our translators may only get the text, not the entire source file, it’s helpful for them to see how their text will eventually look.

If for whatever reason you are unable to provide us with the original files, it is still possible for us to translate your PDFs. However, when that is the case, the proper steps must be taken to make the process seamless and less time-consuming.

If you have questions about how to format your source files in a way that will reduce the time needed for translation and typesetting of final files, we’re happy to consult with you. Please call or e-mail us at any time. 

To summarize, format your documents in a way that best suits your process and needs, provide us with your original files whenever possible, and we’ll maintain the integrity of your document!

Consider a Partnership with TrueLanguage

Are you looking for a partnership with a language service provider? If so, you may wish to consider TrueLanguage. We offer ISO-certified state-of-the-art business translation services that are on budget, on time, and to the exact specification. Every time. Or perhaps you’re just looking for a cost-free, no-obligation estimate for your next translation project. Either way, we’d love to hear from you!