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How to Survive PDF Editing. Part 2

This is the 2nd part of this post. In the 1st part, I shared my opinion on why editing translation in a PDF might not be a good idea. All right, so we ended up accepting that English to Russian translation for editing, and I was faced with a task of streamlining the inconvenient process of editing a PDF file. Here are some useful tips I came up with after editing this translation.

Optimizing Your Multiple-Monitor Setup

Now, even if you use a multi-monitor configuration (which I think every professional translator should do), I still recommend to display both PDFs, the source one and the target one, on the same monitor. You want to use a 22” or 24” monitor—the larger the display, the better. But if you own several smaller monitors, you might be better off keeping each file on a separate monitor. For the owners of larger monitors, I recommend displaying both files on the same monitor because you won’t have to move your head constantly from one monitor to another, which makes it easier to focus on the text you’re currently revising. The downside of placing both files on one screen is that you may need horizontal scrolling. To avoid it, you can zoom out significantly, but then the text gets too small. However, you can also optimize the space available in your PDF editor, so that as much space as possible is available for the text. For example, I dragged all toolbars to the second display. This resulted in an acceptable text size while the visual distance between the two windows within the PDF editor also decreased, making it easier to move eyes between the source and target files.

Keeping a List of Changes Made to the Translation

I forced myself to copy every repetitive correction I made into a separate file. I found two good reasons to do that. First, the project was huge, and I wasn’t at all sure that on the 250th page, I’d remember to make the same terminology correction that I had made on the 15th page. I’d love to think I would remember to change every “moving part” by a “slip joint” throughout the text… but I really prefer to be on the safe side. With this project, I couldn’t use our standard methods of checking consistency, so this approach came in handy. Additionally, this could be a long-term project, and saving all repetitive changes in a single file for future reference sounded like a good idea to me.

Using Advanced Features to Simplify Translation Revision

Since my editing task was rather complicated, the features provided by the basic PDF software such as Adobe Reader couldn’t meet my needs. Therefore, I used a more sophisticated, full-fledged Adobe Acrobat version (a free trial version is available). Adobe Acrobat makes it easy to insert notes and corrections, thanks to hotkey combinations and other useful functions. Also, other PDF programs sometimes fail to find things I’m searching for although they definitely exist in the file, but Acrobat is free from this problem and always finds text unless it’s uneditable. Finally, Acrobat provides a very useful comment view for easy editing, search, and export. These search features saved me much time, enabling me to focus on the language issues.

Optimizing Your Search

Make sure to use the advanced search feature that enables displaying all search results within the same window for easier navigation. You can start the advanced search in Acrobat by pressing Ctrl+Shift+F. For instance, I noticed that the translator inconsistently used translations “wheel” and “steering wheel” for the same source word. I wanted to correct this to “steering wheel” globally. To avoid going through the entire file using the basic search function, I searched for “wheel” in the advanced mode and got all search results in a single window. This view is very intuitive, with all words displaying as links for quick access. You can click any word in the list to go to the respective place in the file and make the correction. Then, you can return to the list and check the remaining occurrences. This feature makes editing global issues much easier and more consistent.

Saving Time by Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Remember to use various hotkey combinations available in Acrobat to save time. Before you begin, check “Use hotkeys to select tools” in Acrobat’s preferences.

  • I used Ctrl+F to launch the Find feature, and after finding the first match, I closed the Find feature and used F3 to navigate to the next match or Shift+F3 to navigate to the previous match.
  • To switch between the two PDF files, I used Ctrl+Tab rather than my mouse.
  • For scrolling the files by page, I used Page Down in one window, then switched to another by pressing Ctrl+Tab, and pressed Page Down there as well.
  • To select the highlight tool, I pressed U.
  • Finally, I used Ctrl+S to save the edited file regularly.

By using these simple tips consistently, I worked more efficiently while also feeling less frustrated about this inefficient process. But I still missed my favorite CAT tool and translation memory so much! That project didn’t make me change my mind, and I still believe that PDFs are good for proofreading only. For more information about it, check out this article about where proofreading fits in the translation process. And what about you? Do you accept PDF editing tasks from your translation agency clients? I’d be happy to hear your feedback on my two posts.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.