| even years ago I
published an article on Translators Café called Fiendish
Files and Funky Formats about translating desktop publishing
formats. While some of the specifics mentioned in the article changed
during the years that followed, its general thrust still proved to be
pretty accurate for a long time.
Well, I now believe this has changed, and I just wonder
whether this could foreshadow larger changes in our world.
But let's first talk about why translators even have to
worry about desktop publishing formats. The truth is, of course, that
we don't have to.
There are plenty of jobs out there in easier-to-deal-with formats, and
the vast majority simply don't know enough about tools like InDesign
or Quark to start with.
But what about the good, long-standing client for whom you've
translated all kinds of Word, PowerPoint, and HTML
documents over the years and who now has a batch of InDesign
documents to translate? Do you reject the client outright? Or do you
present the client with a battery of prerequisites so that you can do
the job? These might include requiring the client first to export the
file into a format you can deal with, then to produce a PDF for you to
proofread in context, and finally to fix issues like overflowing text
without your help. It might sound kind of weird and, ahem, just a
little unprofessional—but that's essentially how many of us dealt
with those kinds of jobs for a long time.
Programs like InDesign were simply
too expensive for that every-once-in-a-while job.
Programs like InDesign were simply too
expensive for that every-once-in-a-while job. And the problem was that
once you shelled out the $700 to purchase the program, the next upgrade
costing $300 was just around the corner, and that would be the version
that your next client would need for his files. So we were caught in a
never-ending spiral of payments for something that really did not seem
to pay out. The result: most of us happily declined.
This whole scenario is not only true for InDesign
but for many
other products as well, including Photoshop, Illustrator,
and even Flash.
You might have noticed that all the programs above are
Adobe programs. This has two reasons: First of all, each Adobe product
is the leader in its respective field (InDesign in design-based
desktop publishing, Photoshop for pixel-based graphics, Illustrator
for vector-based graphics, and Flash for, well, Flash). More
importantly in our context, though, they're now all available by
subscription through Adobe—either collectively as a package with
offering for $50 a month or individually for $20 a month.
I regret that it wasn't I who persuaded Shantanu
Narayen, the CEO of Adobe, to introduce this for the sake of the many
thousands of translators who might benefit from it. In fact, I'm afraid
that translators didn't even cross the minds of the powers-that-be at
Adobe when they launched this last May. But it sure is perfect for us.
From now on out, this means that you can download (and
pay for) the tool you need when you need it (despite its name, the
offering is not a true "cloud" offer; you still have to download and
install). You'll never have to worry about upgrades again because you
will automatically have access to the latest versions, and there is no
reason for you to refuse a job because of a format that is supported by
Of course, here's what I wonder about: Doesn't this
sound like a great time to introduce a new business concept? Clients
expect us to own certain tools, and as professionals we should have
access to these basics, including the typical office programs and
probably a translation environment tool. Then there are the tools that
are (now) accessible but that have a—very transparent—price
tag (which would include the monthly fee and the time you'll spend for
the download and the installation). What a perfect opportunity for us
to say: "My fee consists of a service fee—based on the size and
the complexity of the job—and a software usage fee—based on
whether this software should be expected to be in a translator's tool
box." This would have been hard to justify with the typical licensing
scheme that was used in the past, but now this fee structure should be
a no-brainer, even though the software has ironically become more
And what about actually using the software? Wouldn't
that require training as well? It sure would—if you intended to
become a professional layouter or graphic artist. But for what we need
to do in InDesign, Photoshop, or Illustrator,
the level of expertise is typically so minute that it should be a
breeze to find your way around the programs. In most cases, the actual
translation typically takes place in a translation environment tool
(virtually all of which support the InDesign export formats,
for instance), and the work in the DTP application consists of merely
making sure that the text fits the intended space.
And while we're talking about InDesign files,
Kilgray (maker of
the translation environment tool memoQ) has started to offer a
free online InDesign conversion service as part of its online
storage and sharing site Language
Terminal. Here you can upload your original InDesign INDD
file (of any version) and have it converted to an XLIFF file which can
be translated with any supporting tool (essentially every translation
environment tool supports XLIFF). If you don't use memoQ, it
admittedly takes a bit of finagling with the Language Terminal file
before you can process it in another tool—but the MQXLZ file you
receive is actually just a zipped file, so you can simply extract the
XLIFF file. Ideally you will want to process it in memoQ,
though, since here you can see a very cool live preview of your
translation in the original InDesign layout as you translate so
that later fixes to overflowing text can already be reduced.
Image 1: memoQ translating and
previewing an InDesign file that was prepared in Language Terminal
I know. I was happy about all of this, too!
At the beginning of this year—2012—I
wondered in my ATA
Chronicle column whether this year might become the year of the
translator. I think in many ways it has. Nataly Kelly's and my
Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and
Transforms the World
was the first book produced by a major publisher about translators and
interpreters from the viewpoint of professionals. Our video—featuring
you—has been viewed thousands of times.
Translation technology has made some fundamental—and
challenging—jumps forward. And fresh licensing models like the
one described above are opening new doors for us to offer innovative
services and charge for them differently. It's been a good year. Have a