Despite the advent of XML and HTML, much of the work translated by device and drug companies still gets formatted and printed using traditional tools. The choice of desktop publishing (DTP) or formatting application has far-reaching consequences when working in multiple languages. For one, some tools lend themselves better to foreign-language publishing than others. For another, different applications have various strengths and weaknesses, making them more or less applicable to certain types of documents.
Consider some of the following challenges:
- Manuals vs. MarCom: Technical documentation sets require the ability to manage chapters and indices. The design of marketing pieces requires the ability to handle graphics, special effects, and various print formats.
- Multi-language vs. single language: Pieces that contain multiple languages have different formatting needs than single-language documents.
- Single-sourcing: An increasing number of companies are switching to a write-once-publish-many process to support web, PDF and print publishing.
- Language-specific issues: Double-byte, right-to-left... 'nuff said.
- CAT tools: Computer-aided translation tools are increasingly common in the translation process. CAT tools do not support all DTP applications equally. This can have a significant impact on price and turnaround times.
Commonly used DTP/formatting applications include QuarkXPress, InDesign, FrameMaker, and MS Word. They are all available under MacOS and Windows. Each of these applications has been around long enough to attract its share of users and supporters (as well as detractors).
These four common applications differ widely in features, benefits, and optimal use. They also vary in their usability and the speed with which layouts can be created "from scratch."
The following is a comparison of the time required to format a typical page:
- Word: 6 minutes per page
- FrameMaker: 10 minutes
- InDesign: 15 minutes
- QuarkXPress: 20 minutes
One tools does not fit all
Before rushing to switch all of your layouts to Word or Frame, bear in mind the following six questions.
1. Which application is best for English documents?
FrameMaker is designed from the ground up to write and maintain multi-chapter books. InDesign, on the other hand, is intended as a mid-level desktop publishing application and is much for suitable to the production of brochures and short pieces. Choose the right application for your source documents.
2. Will you use translation memories?
TRADOS, the industry-standard translation-memory (TM) tool, provides filters to InDesign, Word, and FrameMaker. The difference is that the Word and FrameMaker filters work while the ones for InDesign and Quark do not.
As more and more companies use TMs, this distinction becomes important. You want to work with a supplier that will maintain a TM on your behalf. This TM will reduce the time required for future updates, improve consistency across translated documents, and provide you with (potentially significant) cost savings on your translation work.
3. What tools do your translators use?
Few translators and translation companies are "expert" users of any DTP application. Having said that, you will find more vendors that are comfortable with InDesign and Word than with FrameMaker and Quark. Sure, everybody will claim to know everything but once you kick the tires, you'll notice that many translators do not know a pixel from a pica.
4. Will you publish in double-byte languages?
Recent editions of FrameMaker, InDesign, and Word come with support for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean built in. If you want to produce Quark documents in these languages, you (or your translators) need to purchase three different versions of QuarkXPress.
5. Is turnaround time important?
Per-page production times in FrameMaker run between 25% and 50% of those in page-layout applications. There are significant time savings to be had!
A note on MS Word: While Word shows the fastest layout times in the list above, the production time very much depends on the type of document being formatted. Word does not do well with long, graphic-intensive documents. For these kinds of pieces, production times quickly double and triple.
6. How tight is your budget?
As always, time equals money. Most translation vendors charge for formatting work on an hourly basis. If it takes fewer hours to complete, it will cost the client less money.
And the winner is...
There is no single correct DTP application that will fit every situation. However, if you are working with single-language manuals and work in Asian and/or Middle Eastern languages, then FrameMaker and InDesign should come out on top of your list.
Take a look at ForeignExchange's desktop publishing and multimedia services and request a detailed proposal for your next multilingual desktop publishing project.