PDF localization - what does it take?

Translation Management


Clients often ask if we can translate from PDF files. Of course, the answer is always “yes.” As with any other project, first we must gauge what the client actually needs back from us. Clients’ requirements for deliverables vary from the very basic to complex. Basic PDF localization could be just a simple text file without any of the graphics that the PDF might contain. At the other end of the spectrum, a complex PDF localization might include reproducing the PDF as an Adobe InDesign file with all the graphics, table of contents, etc. Or it could be anywhere in between. Managing expectations is far more important for PDF localization than it is for any other file type.

Things to know when you need PDF documents translated

On top of whatever requirements the client might have, there’s also a couple of different types of PDF file formats: scanned PDFs, and application-generated PDF files.

  1. Scanned PDF files we receive are generally created from a paper version of the document using a document scanner. For these types of PDF files, there’s a need to use optical character recognition (OCR). OCR scans pages and tries to recognize each character. The quality of the scan has a huge impact on how well the software performs here. Regardless, there’s always need for a human to go through and compare the OCR result to the original document.
  2. Application-generated PDF files are a bit simpler to process for localization. There are tools available online for image and text extraction, but usually localization companies will use their own proprietary tools.

There are a myriad of reasons why clients might not have access to original files, and there are several tricks and hoops to jump through in order for a localization company to produce translations from a PDF file. Sometimes it’s not possible to produce a deliverable of the desired quality, for example, if the provided PDF file is low-resolution.

The pre- and post-processing of PDF files affects the schedule and price of the translation project. Therefore, text files in editable format are always a better alternative. In any case, translation agencies are glad to help customers with the PDF file translation and localization process.

Read another blog article in which we talk more about the elements that the price of a translation project consists of.

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