Have you received an estimate from a translation agency and are now wondering what “DTP” means in the list of service? Read this article to know what DTP is, why you may need it, and when you can choose to do it yourself, in order to cut costs.
DTP, or desktop publishing, is a broad term that means creating documents with attractive layouts on a computer. More specifically, with regard to translation, it means adjusting the format of a translated document to make sure it looks neat and matches the formatting of the original document. Synonyms include formatting, doing layout, and typesetting.
Why DTP is important
- The length of translated text is different from the length of the original. It can get longer or shorter, depending on the language combination, and so the layout of the translated document does not perfectly match that of the original. The layout issues may be minor or major. If a paragraph gets longer in a Word document, so that the entire document gets longer, this is usually not a big deal (although it can be, for example if a client is producing bilingual text side by side, and the length of the two sides have to more or less match). But if the translated text in an image extends beyond the original boundaries and becomes illegible, this is clearly a problem that needs to be solved.
- When post-DTP proofreading is also scheduled in a translation project, the translation team gets a chance to see the translation in its final form, which they—since translation is done using a CAT tool, where layout is not visible—otherwise do not have. This enables the team to spot problems they could not foresee in the course of translation.
Underestimating the importance of DTP is dangerous. When a translated document looks terrible, the client will not care how good the actual translation is.
DTP in Microsoft Word
DTP in Word is usually the simplest of all possible DTP routes. Clients may even wonder whether something sounding as serious as DTP is really necessary for a simple Word file. The good news is that often translation vendors, including ourselves, offer DTP as a separate service. If clients do not want to pay for DTP and believe they can do it themselves, a vendor simply delivers a raw, unformatted translation.
Often, a translated Word document does not have any formatting, for example files used as an intermediate format for translating software strings. In this situation, no DTP is required at all.
DTP in Microsoft PowerPoint
PowerPoint files are usually more challenging in terms of DTP than Word files. Because there is no flow of text between the pages as in Word, PPTX files are not well suited for text expansion. When the translation gets longer than the original, it expands past the boundaries of the original text boxes and displays incorrectly.
Another common problem is images. A typical PPTX file contains uneditable text in images, which is more challenging to handle than regular text. You need to extract the text from the images into an intermediate format first, so that a translation team can work on it. Otherwise, they will leave this uneditable text untranslated. Inserting the translation back into the image is not easy either.
DTP in Adobe InDesign and other DTP software formats
This is the most challenging, and hence most expensive, format. First, it is professional software, and using it requires a specific skill set. Whereas many people know Word or PowerPoint well enough to do DTP in them, fewer can say the same about InDesign. The basic process is the same—import the translation and adjust the layout —but since InDesign is used for more challenging design tasks that cannot be accomplished with Word, the DTP process is more complex in this software.
This is an optional step in the DTP process. Ideally, all files should go through some form of proofreading, at least a quick review. With simpler DOCX files, this is less critical, whereas with complex INDD files, it is crucial. When it comes to Word and PowerPoint, a reviewer, preferably someone from the original translation team, may work directly in the file. With more complex formats, a DTP specialist may export the document to a PDF, the reviewer will review this PDF and add notes to it describing the issues, and the DTP specialist will implement the required changes.
Both DTP and post-DTP proofreading are services that are separate from translation. Normally, they are not included in the translation rate. This allows clients to skip them or do them on their end.