Generally speaking, the earlier in the documentation process you think about translation, the better. Typically, people think about translation only when the source language document is complete and finalised. At this point, we have probably thrown away the possibility of saving considerable amounts of time and money.
This is particularly applicable in projects with non-standard formatting requirements – basically, anything other than Office applications, such as HTML and other web formats, QuarkXpress, AdobeInDesign, AdobeFrameMaker, etc.
One of the techniques QuickSilver uses is to pay close attention to the early stages of design work. During pre-processing, for instance, it is important that the text ‘flows’, that the format accepts text segments of varying length and that you avoid the use of manual line breaks in the middle of paragraphs.
Layout programs are best suited to this approach. Other programs designed more with graphics in mind complicate the process: Illustrator or its predecessor Freehand, for example, considerably increase the time and cost of text processing, and it can sometimes be quicker to recreate the entire document in a more suitable format.
The example of Freehand highlights some of the key issues that surround integrating desktop publishing and translation.
When it comes to producing multilingual documentation, Freehand can create a number of problems. In terms of text handling, in fact, it is a bit of a nightmare. Text cannot normally be extracted from Freehand in a useful way, because it is ‘traced’ in order to reduce the possibility of the text format being unstable. This means that there is no straightforward interface which allows the source text to be processed and replaced. Achieving these goals manually takes about four times as long and inevitably results in a totally avoidable increase in costs.
Programs such as InDesign or QuarkXPress, by contrast, are optimised for text extraction and reinsertion; they have standard interfaces with other applications, including translation assistance programs. For this and other reasons, at QuickSilver we prefer to work with other programs than Freehand, as these enable us to pass on a significant cost saving to our clients.