Best Apps for Facilitating Document Localization

Category: Software Translation, Technology

Last week Acclaro held a webinar on the basics of technical document localization. We touched on a lot of areas in document translation, including how to write in Global English, best practices for images, and an overview of the document localization process.

One burning question many people have concerns file formats and desktop applications — specifically, what they can do to make the localization process easier.

First, let’s just note that if you aren’t using XML, you should! XML is by far the best file format for localizers to work with on large documentation projects:

XML and to a lesser extent HTML (it’s not as customizable) are great tools to use for document localization. Formatting is embedded in code that typically gets externalized during the translation process. Because of this the engineering end is lighter as it’s less likely to have the same problems as MS Word, FrameMaker,  InDesign or Quark. With most XML projects, we’ve seen that the client remains in control of their docs. Acclaro will execute a quick QA, but once prepped and translated, the bulk of our work is done. What does that mean for you? Fewer costs!


The biggest selling point to XML, however, is that you can create a variety of outputs from a single source — with print docs/PDFs and user assistance, etc., only being localized once and then output to whatever end product you want. That’s the kind of freedom you’re going to want in the long run.

Sounds pretty good, right? But what about desktop publishing platforms? We asked our resident expert on desktop publishing and localization to tell you about the various applications out there. Here is his opinion…

First, InDesign towers over Quark, Pagemaker (is that still around?) and various other programs of this type. It is mostly used for very colorful pieces with a heavier concentration on the design element, rather than text. A few years back when InDesign was in its infancy it blew Quark out of the water with its ability to handle a variety of languages in one doc. Quark did catch up with that technology. InDesign  managed to keep the lead, however, as it is owned by Adobe, which also makes the industry standard tools Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. These tools simply work better together and though this may not be from a strictly localization perspective, it is from an operations perspective.

I might sound like a dinosaur when I say this, but I would like to give praise to FrameMaker — particularly over MS Word. The pre-translation process might be a bit heavier, but FrameMaker is a great program that gives the user much more control over its main competitor MS Word as well as others. Its automation features enhance the DTP process, making for quicker fixes and quicker QAs. Also, FrameMaker can be output not only to doc quite fluidly, but with the aid of ePublisher (WebWorks) you can also create help systems — HTML and XML, etc. MS Word can also be converted but the end product is not as good and sometimes there is more clean up once you get there.

Any specifics of why InDesign is better than Quark today, other than its integration with other Adobe products?

Mostly now it is just perception that Adobe has greater language support. They both do the same thing. They have similar issues: for example, publishing in Arabic both require Middle Eastern versions. Both have exports that work with various versions of the translation memory tool Trados. Adobe has been a bit more aggressive with its innovation — though most of this is the result of the more fluid interaction between their other flagship products.

InDesign was quicker to ride the Mac OS change and incorporate these benefits in their products. Prior to OSX and InDesign, you needed a separate version of Quark for each Asian language (as well as language-specific operating systems for each). This is no longer the case, but it took Quark up until their current version (Quark 8) to really offer full language support (Arabic/Hebrew excluded).

Lastly, some people argue that Adobe has become more user friendly, but this is really just personal preference.

So there you have it! Everything you would ever want to know about deskttop publishing applications and how they relate to localization. Ready for more tips? Check out our Top 10 Tips for Technical Document Translation.