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Cost and Time Implications for Varied Formatting Services

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Understand the expected cost and time involved for keying, recreation, and desktop publishing.

Have you ever had a PDF document translated and formatted page for page? Have you ever been asked if you prefer your graphics keyed or recreated? Ever wonder what that cost difference is? And exactly how much time really goes into formatting translated text back into an InDesign file? How does a company charge for keying vs recreating vs desktop publishing (DTP)?

In the world of language service providers (LSPs), the processing and formatting of a document are all part of the daily grind. These services are such an integral part of translation that you may be unaware that you are receiving them. By understanding the different types of formatting provided by LSPs, as well as how long they take to perform, you can make cost-effective decisions for getting documents at the level of quality you require without additional in-house project time for your team.

To begin, all formatting time, be it keying, recreating, or DTP, is charged by the hour. LSPs may vary on how they break it down; McElroy charges in 1/10 increments, or every six minutes.

There are three levels of formatting:

  • Keying – often performed on into English jobs for internal use, every source graphic appears with circled numbers next to the foreign language text. Below the graphic will be a keyed list with the translated term next to the number it corresponds with.
  • Recreating – also referred to as custom formatting, recreation involves replacing the source text in any graphics with the translated text.
  • DTP – desktop publishing involves formatting translated text within the original editable source files.

Keying: The Default Selection

When having uneditable documents, such as PDFs, translated for internal use, choosing to have the graphics and tables keyed can often be your most efficient and inexpensive option. If a preferred formatting style has not been discussed and there are no custom-formatting instructions, graphics and tables will be keyed prior to delivery.

What you need to know: This is not always more efficient. Tables made up of mostly text are often easier to recreate than to key. If you want to go with the least expensive option and don’t require consistency of formatting based on the end use of your document, inform your project manager. 


Recreating: Easier to Follow

Imagine having a complicated manual where entire pages require translated keys. Flipping back and forth to compare the keys to the keyed graphics will quickly become an inefficient use of your time. Even smaller graphics are far easier to digest when recreated.

However, the decision to recreate is not as simple as do or don’t. The reason recreation is often referred to as custom formatting is because the level to which a graphic or table can be custom formatted varies.

Tables are a great example of this. If you simply need the data in table format rather than keyed, but aren’t concerned with page for page formatting (having content within a single page in the source file on a single page in the translated file), you will get a table with text formatted according to our standard style sheet (Time New Roman, 12 pt font size, 18 pt spacing). However, if you want the formatted table to occupy the same space as the source table, fonts and spacing will be adjusted, and additional time may apply due to language expansion.

What you need to know: How will your translated document be used? You may already know exactly how much formatting you prefer, or you may be lingering on the question of how much you really need. If you have questions or concerns, your project manager will be happy to walk you through your options as well as how much time is involved per option.

Example: Recreating





















































DTP: Editable Source Files

Desktop publishing (DTP) is the process for replacing the content in your original files with translated content. LSPs use computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools to extract text from your formatted document into a file that the translator will work with. Once translation is complete, the text is imported back into the original file. CAT tools are able to do this level of extraction with file formats including InDesign, FrameMaker, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, XML, HTML, and Visio, as well as localization formats for Java Properties files and RESX.

Formatting time for DTP is spent in one of two ways:

  • Optimizing source files for CAT tools.
  • Cleaning up text expansion issues created when importing translated text.

Optimizing source files for CAT tools involves reviewing hidden formatting (spaces, line breaks, paragraph marks) within a document and making sure there are no unnatural breaks within line segments. These breaks can cause issues for your translation memory, as well as disrupt the flow of text that is imported back into the document. Creating files that are optimized for translation will decrease both cost and turn time on future translation projects. For more information on how to optimize source files, read the article File Optimization, by Delia Davila, implementation manager for McElroy Translation.

When translating from one language to another, there will always be some amount of expansion or contraction. When translating from English into a foreign language, there will most likely be expansion. After importing translated text back into the original file, a document specialist will go through the document and expand text boxes or manipulate the font size, spacing, kerning, or leading accordingly to ensure that all content is visible while maintaining the integrity of the original format.

What you need to know: You will be charged for time spent on file optimization (if necessary) and file cleanup for text expansion. The quote you receive will include both processes. Exporting and importing of text is part of the standard project management service and will not be billed under formatting time.

Published - August 2011

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