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PDFs are a standard file type in most industries but can be nightmares to translate. Standing for Portable Document Format, PDFs are not supposed to be overwritten. Instead, they are generate from original editable files and use to send content easily without the need for a specific program to open it. For this reason, many clients choose to send PDF files of their translation project. However, this can raise the price and complexity of your translation services. Today, we are going to discuss the issues with translating PDFs and what you can do to streamline the process and reduce your translation spending.

Most translation tools aren’t able to handle PDFs because the content is not supposed to be overwritten. A common misconception is that translators recreate the files you send in a clean document, but it is much easier and cheaper to use a CAT tool to extract the text from the original file, translate it, and then reinput the translation in the place of the source, which typically cannot be done with PDFs. While it is possible to export a PDF as a Word file and use it for this CAT-assisted process, that typically ups the cost of translation because you then need to pay for post-translation DTP (desktop publishing), which is the reformatting of the translated text into the original format within the PDF.

A PDF can be a valuable resource for Quality Assurance or reference but is not a great file type for translation. Here are some possible solutions to reduce your project cost and ensure that your project is properly translated:

Copy and Paste


Assuming you have a clean PDF (ie. Not a scanned document), you can open your PDF, select “Edit,” and copy and paste the content into a clean Word document. You may need to clean up the formatting a bit and redo some tables. This is a solid solution for simple PDFs, but may be cumbersome with complex layouts.

Save As


Another option is to save your project as a different file type. Most of these solutions require a subscription, such as Adobe Creative Cloud, but these file extensions (.psd, .ai, .srt, etc.) are supported in CAT tools and will simplify the formatting process and require less work on the target layout.

For scanned documents: Use Optical Recognition


By using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, you can detect the language of a scanned document and create an editable file. Be prudent though, as output varies based on the resolution and quality of the scan. After running the software, it’s a good idea to carefully proofread the product to ensure that all text was transcribed and there are no mistakes in the target text.

Following these simple guidelines will help reduce translation costs, but it’s always best practice to keep an editable version of your project on hand for translation. Any questions about your PDF project? We’d be happy to chat! Contact us at translations@lgotranslations.com today.

With social distancing still in effect to the Covid-19 pandemic, many end-of-year events are being moved online. Instead of coordinating interpreters to show up and help you present your in-person event, remote interpretation is a popular option to connect with your international staff and clients.

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