It’s very easy to get lost in today’s file format jungle: Word files, txt, spreadsheets, presentations, pdf, image files… The list seems to be endless. But what then is the right file format to send to your translator? How can you make sure your translator does not waste time with cumbersome file conversions? Or even better: how can you avoid extra conversion costs? Here are a few tips.

Talk is cheap

Having a talk with your translator first won’t cost you a thing. The best advice we can give is: Don’t make any assumptions about file formats and don’t start doing cumbersome file conversion or exporting work. You might have the intention to reduce your agency’s workload, for example by exporting all your website copy to a spreadsheet file, but actually you are only giving your translator a lot of extra work. A preliminary chat with your translator will also teach you for example that a scanned document is not really a digital text file, but an untranslatable image. Okay, maybe you knew that one, but there’s a lot more to it than that.


Make sure your file is editable

You want your translator to easily access your documents, so translation can go smoothly and you will get your translated files back as soon as possible. The best way to achieve this is by making your files editable. Word or txt files are fairly accessible and require little conversion work. Other file types might require more work.

The most common file type nowadays is PDF. This file type was created in the nineties and has become immensely popular today, because it allows people to distribute documents containing text as well as images and graphics on any computer and on any operating system. This might seem self-evident now, but it wasn’t in the early nineties.

PDFs are not (easily) editable and, depending on how they were created or what the source file was, extracting the text from a PDF document will require some work. So, if possible, send in the source file, not the PDF. If you don’t have the source file, then let your translator know how the PDF was created. It will help us find the best way to extract the content we need for translation.

Images with embedded text

Documents like brochures, flyers, posters or packages typically contain images. Also here, it is important to send your translator the editable design file, for example in InDesign, especially if you like the translated document to have the exact same layout as your source document. Sometimes your images will contain embedded text, which means that the text is part of the image file itself.  Especially here, be sure to send the image source files (e.g. Photoshop, Illustrator, Visio). This way, your graphics expert can access the layered content and make edits more easily.

Translating website content

Today, there’s an abundance of choice when it comes to content management systems (CMS). Most of these systems enable you to build multi-lingual websites fairly easy. And some of these systems also feature an integrated translation management functionality, allowing you to create content and take care of its translation within the same platform.

However, here at Yamagata Europe, we prefer working with exported content from websites. Why? Because working in the CMS itself prevents us from using our standard translation software which plugs into translation memories, term bases and quality assurance software. So, if you can easily export the translatable content and import the translation back afterwards into your CMS, then you should be set for a smooth ride with us.

Translating software files

Yamagata Europe is able to translate the most common software formats out of the box, including resx, GetText PO and Java .properties. This way, we can retain the layout as much as possible and simplify the translation process. So, there is no need to export your software files to Word or Excel.


Translating XML files

XML is fairly easy to translate, because it is a file format that separates form from content and conforms to a well-defined syntax. Translation agencies love XML, although it is advised to follow a set of best practices, as defined by the W3C.  Yamagata Europe is a big fan of DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture), one of the fastest growing XML standards for technical documentation today. DITA is an open standard for authoring and delivering sophisticated modular documentation with a strong focus on reuse and linking.

Again, we should talk

It’s a file format jungle out there. Do you want to avoid unnecessary costs and delays? Then, before you make any rash decisions or do heavy file conversion efforts, have a chat with us first. We can help you decide which format is best for your purpose and prevent potential file conversion problems from happening.