11 Aug /15

Need a PDF translation? It is not as simple as you think

PDF translation - EVS Translations
PDF translation – EVS Translations

When ordering a translation, it’s important to send your document in an editable file format, wherever possible. A PDF is a read-only format, so sending this instead of an editable document can have a significant impact on the translation process. Read this article to understand how editable documents benefit the translation process and what our translation engineers can do if you only have a PDF version.

First, let’s take a 500 page user manual as an example. In its original Word file format it is editable, which means it is easy to maintain the original layout and create a print-ready document. A PDF, however, needs to be converted into an editable document, and this is where the translation process becomes more time-consuming. Our translation engineers use optical character recognition (OCR) software to convert PDFs into editable Word documents for our translators and the time for this work varies depending on the quality of the PDF. A poor quality PDF (such as a scanned or handwritten document) is difficult, and very time-consuming, to convert into an editable document.

So, this means that I can just create my own Word document and send that to you, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, it is often not that simple. Our translation engineers have the task of preparing files so that the translator can start immediately and work through the translation as if the Word, Excel, PowerPoint of InDesign file was the original. They are specially trained to prepare files for translation, which means ensuring good segmentation and allowing for language expansion in the layout. Also, our translation engineers find that programs such as Adobe are not sufficiently adept at optical character recognition and the resulting Word document is often not of a high enough quality to use.

With this in mind, then, the best advice is to

  1. Send the source document to translate, not the PDF version.
  2. Or, if you only have an Adobe PDF, send it and let the translation engineers prepare it for translation.
  3. Send a good quality PDF (poorly scanned or handwritten documents will cause problems).


Once the translator has finished the translation, our translation engineers can begin post-formatting work. Since many languages contract or expand when they are translated into another language, the layout after translation often changes, so translation engineers work through the file to make sure that, as far as possible, the final layout matches that of the original. They also ensure that tables of contents and other automated content as well as images and text in tables display correctly, and that these all function correctly and are legible.

It might seem time-consuming to introduce translation engineers into the translation process, but unless you are sending a source file which contains only simple text, it’s unavoidable. It is a question of organisation and ensuring that each member of the large in-house team uses his or her expertise to ensure a high quality job. When a PDF file is prepared by our specially trained translation engineers, the translator is able to work more quickly and efficiently to produce a great translation. And the additional post-formatting work ensures the client receives not only translated text, but a high-quality print-ready document.

If you have a document ready for translation, speak to our expert staff at EVS Translations who can advise you on any formatting work that will be required.