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Translating PDF files

PDF files (PDF for Portable Document Format) are not designed for editing, they are intended especially for viewing and printing.

There are two possible ways of translating source PDF files:

  1. An ideal option is to get hold of the original document from which your PDF has been created. This will in most cases be MS Word, but it can also be a file created in InDesign, FrameMaker, PageMaker or html (you will find more details about the history of your PDF file under File - Properties - Description). If your partner seeking translation services is able to provide such a source file, you do not necessarily need to have a copy of these applications on your workstation in order to translate the source files. Ask your customer to provide the source files along with the PDF file which will serve for reference. You can then directly import the source file into your CAT tool and translate. Here is a list of formats Memsource is capable of processing (i.e. files you can import a translation project)

  2. If for any reason it is impossible to track down the source file, the second option, and unfortuantely a more complicated one, is to convert the PDF file into a Word file and import this doc or docx file into your CAT tool of preference. The applications that will help you complete this task are referred to as OCR (Optical Character Recognition). While there are also some free programmes available on the market, ABBYY Fine Reader will probably do the best job for you (examples of some other OCR programmes include SimpleOCR and OmniPage).Converting PDF files with the help of OCR can be a simple task if your are dealing with plain text, which is often the case of letters, business communication, contracts, e-mail messages, etc. where you may only need to fiddle with the formatting of captions, headers and footers, bold text and italics. If, however, your text includes pictures, diagrams, tables and graphics, converting such a complicated structure into editable format may require some editing and graphic skills, and you will often end up doing some sort of a compromise (like entering texts from a complicated diagram into a two-column table and translating the right column in order to create a simple glossary).