Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
PDF Converters: Bane or Blessing?
Thread poster: Sarah Downing

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:58
German to English
+ ...
Dec 22, 2005

Pdfs seem to be a common cause of distress for many a translator. They take extra time to convert, time which many translators don't really like to charge or which agencies aren't prepared to fund.

Wherever possible, I used to save pdfs as rtfs and convert them that way or just copy the text out and paste it into a Word document. For short pdfs with not much formatting, that's not really too much extra hassle, but when it comes to long pdfs (e.g. 50+ pages) with lots of formatting this can be a great big hassle. I tried one pdf converter which I wasn't satisfied with at all because it saved all the text in Word in text boxes, with the result that the document looked rather pretty, but was quite frankly a bitch to edit.

Subsequently, I did some research after having received a tip on a particular program called Solid Converter (http://www.solidpdf.com/). I did a trial download and tested it on a job – It worked very well and also allowed me the flexibility to preserve the formatting but edit the job – i.e. no text boxes unless I really wanted them there – the program offers several conversion options, so you can basically tailor your conversion to suit your needs.

Having used Solid Converter for a few months, I have to say I am quite satisfied with it and it has definitely been a time-saver. Now, I have come across a problem with one of my regular customers, one whom I greatly value. They like their texts to be copied into their company template, which is what I have been doing, but I stopped doing this for the pdfs once I got Solid Converter. Once you have converted a complicated pdf, it is unwise to copy it into a template with a different format … as you can probably imagine. They hadn’t moaned about it thus far and, frankly, I would have thought they would be impressed because it makes it even easier for the end customer to find their way around the document. I even know some end customers who insist that the format remains the same, but they obviously are unfamiliar with the original function of a pdf – It’s not for editing!

Now, however, this customer is considering insisting that everything (pdfs included) be done in their template. Their arguments were that not everything is converted (not the case for my program), not all translators have this software (well it’s up to the individual what they choose to buy) and that the conversions are difficult to edit (also not the case as explained above). We haven’t discussed it in length – they didn’t really give me chance to voice my opinion on these three points on the phone, so I wrote them an email, explaining my position.

My ultimate question is: Have any of you had problems/bad experiences with documents converted to Word with such conversion programs? I’d like to be able to understand my customer’s viewpoint, because at the moment it feels like they are just trying to make life difficult. I really don’t want to have to spend extra time for no extra pay, but it is really difficult to suddenly charge extra if the customer is such a good one – I’m sure some of you have no problems with this, but I do.

Thank you for your views on this,

Sarah


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
PDF Converters: Bane or Blessing? Dec 22, 2005

Sarah,

The problem is not that the customer is asking you to do the translation in their template. It is that they are insisting on sending you PDFs. Why can't they send you the original file?

By sending you a PDF but expecting you to deliver a certain layout, your customer is effectively expecting you to do DTP work but not to charge for it. Many customers don't seem to be able to understand this, but the penny often drops when PDFs attract a surcharge. At that point, the original file is likely to appear.

Marc


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:58
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Original File Dec 22, 2005

Hi Marc,

I totally agree with you, but the problem is that my customer is the agency and not the end customer, so they only get given to them what the end customer gives them. It is a pain in the proverbial! I have even told them that I will have to consider a surcharge if they "forbid" me to use this time-saving program, but I hope it doesn't come to that.

I don't really see them doing the DTP work for me because most of the stuff they get is on a pretty tight deadline anyway ...

Sarah


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
Quick and dirty solution? Dec 22, 2005

You can set SolidConverter to save as text only (or convert as normal and then save your document in text format), then copy and paste it into the client's template. Copy/pasting from Word is liable to spoil the template, but copy/pasting from .txt shouldn't.

Then you can tell your client that you offer two options:
- Either a reasonably formatted approximation to the original document, but without the template.
- Or a version in the template but without any formatting.

Your template-toting client seems to be an agency (because you speak of the "end customer"); I am surprised that an agency seems ignorant of issues such as file formats, layouts etc., and that it insists on the use of a template which is likely to spoil the format of the end customer's document (even if the end customer sends a Word file).


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
PDF Converters: Bane or Blessing? Dec 22, 2005

Sarah Downing wrote:

I don't really see them doing the DTP work for me because most of the stuff they get is on a pretty tight deadline anyway ...


They (the end customer) have already done the DTP work. It's in the original file. It's not in the PDF file, though, which to all intents and purposes is an electronic printout.

the problem is that my customer is the agency and not the end customer, so they only get given to them what the end customer gives them. It is a pain in the proverbial!


Perfect! Send your translations back as PDFs, and they will pass them on to the customer - after all, that's only what they got given to them. At that point, it should dawn on the end customer what the problem is.

Alternatively, how about offering a 10% discount in return for a Word file? That should motivate someone at the agency to get off her proverbial and ask the customer for the original file. Next year, raise both the basic and discounted rates by 12%.

Marc


Direct link Reply with quote
 
RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:58
German to English
Converter woes Dec 22, 2005

Hi Sarah,

We regularly do competitive tests of PDF converters. We've been using Gemini for many years now, as it was most definitely the best of breed (Solid Converter rated pretty poorly, I'm afraid). However, we'll probably switch to the ABBY converter soon as it seems to have edged ahead of Gemini in terms of output quality (including nasty things like tables). This is important for us as well over 50% (by volume) of the texts we receive are PDFs.

What sort of template is your end-customer using? A DTP system template or a Word template? If it's a DTP template, that can only be reproduced for the translation in the same DTP system (and if it's a Word template, why aren't they sending you Word in the first place?).

What you'll never be able to do is reproduce a DTP format in a Word document (apart from plain vanilla stuff, of course). So I'm rather confused about what the end-customer actually wants. As Marc pointed out, PDF is merely an electronic printout, rather like a fax that comes as a file rather than on paper.

We have a couple of customers that send us Word files in a highly formatted Word template, and we then have to translate using that same template (you can forget using TM in these cases). But I must say that I've never come across a situation before where a customer sent a PDF and wanted DTP format back. But I suppose it takes all types...

Robin


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Kevin Harper  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:58
German to English
+ ...
Blessing Dec 22, 2005

OK, we would all rather have the original file than the PDF. As far as PDF programs is concerned I would recommend the one I use. It is ScanSoft PDF Converter Professional 3.0.

Apart from one file, which was also a pig's ear in tagged format, I have saved hours of time with this program. It provides formatted text, does not use only text boxes, and even copes with in-file images and scanned-in PDFs. In the latter case it does significantly better than Microsoft Document Imaging.

The only drawback is that it doesn't support East Asian languages.

If the only other choice is retyping and formatting the document from scratch, this could save a lot of time.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
PDF Converters: Bane or Blessing? Dec 22, 2005

Kevin Harper wrote:

OK, we would all rather have the original file than the PDF.


Not necessarily.

The original file may well have been produced by a DTP program, and working on it might entail buying expensive additional programs, and/or not being able to use preferred working methods, e.g. CAT tools.

Assuming the text can be extracted from the PDF without too much difficulty, a resulting plain text or minimally formatted file plus a file that shows the finished layout, i.e. the PDF file, is not generally a problem for the translator to handle. It only becomes a problem when the customer expects formatted text back.

Also, the customer may actually prefer to have the translation as plain text. I have worked for customers who have preferred to let their own DTP layouters insert the translation in the relevant application rather than have the translator produce translated layouted text. My hunch is that this is the motivation for a lot of Robin's customers. Robin?

Despite all the problems it can entail, one advantage of PDF is that it brings the issue of textual content versus layout to the fore, and erodes the almost religious association of translation with the Microsoft Word format.

Marc


Direct link Reply with quote
 
RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:58
German to English
DTP? Nein, Danke! Dec 22, 2005

MarcPrior wrote:
The original file may well have been produced by a DTP program, and working on it might entail buying expensive additional programs, and/or not being able to use preferred working methods, e.g. CAT tools.


Yes, that's a real pain. When our media agency customers tell us about all the hoops they have to go through, I say "no thanks" to DTP. Too many versions that aren't backwards compatible, too many systems that aren't mutually compatible. Plus, nowadays of course many documents are produced in industry-strength DTP systems that are to Quark & Co what DeltaView is to the MS Word track changes function.

Also, the customer may actually prefer to have the translation as plain text. I have worked for customers who have preferred to let their own DTP layouters insert the translation in the relevant application rather than have the translator produce translated layouted text. My hunch is that this is the motivation for a lot of Robin's customers. Robin?


Definitely. They just slot the translated text into the appropriate place. They've already edited tables, etc. (though not always too well, which is why we *always* insist on a revision of the typeset translation). The last thing they want is some idiot translator frigging around with DTP. When I say "they", of course it's very rarely the corporate customer who does this. It's all outsourced to media agencies or printers. Corporates have better things to do than waste time on typesetting and layout. Same goes for translation - at least in theory...

Robin


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:58
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks ... Dec 23, 2005

... for you input.

Hi guys,

Thanks for you input, which has made for a really interesting discussion. Victor's idea is a good one, but what bothers me more is not so much the formatting itself, but the fact that, often when you save pdfs as rtfs, the order of the text is lost and that is something that they are going to one kept either way. The problem there is that I suspect a conversion to .txt will cause precisely this problem, so I'll still end up going through the document and cutting and pasting stuff to where it's supposed to be - these guys really want their cake and eat it. I don't care about the formatting so much, but most agencies tend to stress that they want a document which the customer can match up with the pdf - i.e. so the customer knows which English text refers to which German one - pdf converters seem to be the quickest and imo the easiest solution to achieve this, because they save me the cutting and pasting drama or the hassle of writing page numbers, etc. which may not sound much, but when it comes to big documents adds up to lots of time.

I shall keep you all posted - the customer mentioned something about making a decision in the New Year.

Have to get back to cooking my mushroom pasta - yum!

Have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year!

Sarah


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
Order of text saved from PDF Dec 27, 2005

Sarah Downing wrote:
what bothers me more is not so much the formatting itself, but the fact that, often when you save pdfs as rtfs, the order of the text is


Surely that's where SolidConverter (or other conversion programs) sort out the order for you. You can then save the results in text format, and the order will not change.

Of course, using the "Save as..." function in Acrobat Reader (or its expensive relatives) could mess up the order as you describe. But that shouldn't be a problem with SolidConverter, Abbyy FineReader or similar programs.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:58
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You would think so ... Dec 30, 2005

... but that's not always the case.

I did a txt conversion with a recent job and some of the order went awhol and it was a bit of a hassle to sort it out - I hate the way we are expected to spend extra time on this kind of shit without getting paid for it.

Thank you to everyone for your comments - I will keep you posted on how things turn out.

Take care!

Sarah


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:58
German to English
+ ...
PDF Converters: Bane or Blessing? Dec 30, 2005

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

Surely that's where SolidConverter (or other conversion programs) sort out the order for you. You can then save the results in text format, and the order will not change.


As I understand it, PDF files do not contain information on the structural relationship between blocks of text, only on their position. Conversion programs attempt to deduce the former from the latter. This might work perfectly with simple layouting, but at some point it inevitably has its limits. This is no critism of any particular conversion program; they are probably the best solution to a problem that ideally shouldn't occur in the first place.

Marc


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Robert Tucker
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:58
German to English
+ ...
Columns Dec 30, 2005

MarcPrior wrote:
As I understand it, PDF files do not contain information on the structural relationship between blocks of text, only on their position. Conversion programs attempt to deduce the former from the latter. This might work perfectly with simple layouting, but at some point it inevitably has its limits.


At one stage I experimented with a pdf document which had a number of columns across a page in landscape layout. KWord imported the document as if a line of text stretched right across all the columns from the left-hand margin to the right-hand. pdf2txt by Foolabs made each column a paragraph (and hence was the most useful solution here).


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 00:58
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Where do PDFs come from in the first place?... Jan 7, 2006

- Either they are generated inhouse, and then it's a question of getting your hands on what's the form of the information before it gets PDFed (a nice expression;P)

- or they come from outside, and I just do not see the reason the customers want to mould the foreign information into their own templates.

So evidently, I must be misunderstanding the situation;)

MY problem with PDFs is much harder - I just as well might start another thread - and it stems from the fact, that the PDF format, used by clients is just a figue's leaf for pages and pages of !! JPG !! images of text.

In other words, PDF is used (on a regular basis, the last project was close to 100 pages of this kind of input) as a container for the purest, unudalterated,stupid, dumb (... add your own epitheton ornans) xerox copies of the information. And of course the client says blue-eyed: "Don't tell me, you can't read it?! But ... it's a PDF file!! Why would you want to have a DOC file?"


regards

smo

[Edited at 2006-01-07 22:30]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

PDF Converters: Bane or Blessing?

Advanced search






Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »
Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs