Word files becoming warped when I send them to other people/computers
Thread poster: Vivien Green

Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
Dec 12, 2014

I have a large project that involves numerous MS Word files all involving semi-complex formatting (lots of tables of all shapes and sizes, tables within tables etc).

I have completed 3/4 of the work and it is perfect on my computer, format-wise (I still have to do a final proof). When I send it to my client/agency, however, she says that when she opens the files they are warped. I have switched on an old computer and downloaded them onto that too and they are also coming out warped on that. I have tried exporting the files from Word and changing the file type to every file type it is possible to change them to. I then send them to my own email address and try to download them onto my old computer but the files are still warped when I open them. If I view the files online, however, on either my old or new computer, they look perfect.

I use Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013 and my OS is Windows 8. I've asked my client what she uses but haven't had an answer yet. On my old computer I seem to have two versions of Word. The one the computer automatically uses to open downloaded files is called "openoffice.org Writer" (OpenOffice.org 4.1.1 which I just updated from 3.3.0 to see if that might help) although it's not online as far as I can see. The other one is Microsoft Works Word Processor version 9.0. and I've tried opening the files with this too but I'm having the same formatting issues.

Incidentally, I had this problem with my first ever client; seemingly incompatible versions of Word and I ended up buying a new computer and new version of Word to solve the problem. I then did a huge amount of work for her over several years, much of it in Word files, without any problems. Now this is happening again I am at my wits end. I can't afford to buy a new computer/new software every time a client has a version of Word that isn't compatible with the one I use. Can anyone help?


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
What do you mean by "warped"? Dec 12, 2014

Dear Vivien,

what exactly do you mean by "warped"?

Generally speaking, it is simply not possible to guarantee the detailed layout when exchanging word files. That's what PDF has been invented for.

Best regards,
Erik



[Bearbeitet am 2014-12-12 15:59 GMT]


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Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
That's interesting - thanks Erik. Dec 12, 2014

By "warped" I mean that the files, when opened on another computer, just don't look anything like they looked when I uploaded them and sent them and they aren't of a professionally acceptable standard. Tables and their contents run off the side of the page, table columns and rows do not align as they should, information is just scattered all over the page basically and is pretty much unreadable.

That's interesting what you say about there being no guarantee. I wouldn't have known that and to be fair, it is letting me send pdfs that look as they are supposed to. The final files are supposed to be delivered in pdf so this is a relief but for review and proofing purposes the files are supposed to be in Word.

Incidentally, has this happened to you or anyone else you know? If my client insists I submit acceptable Word files do you think I would be obliged to start the whole project again on another computer with another version of Word and deliver these? I'm hoping the pdfs will be ok but it's all very stressful.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:42
Member (2008)
French to English
MS Word Dec 12, 2014

Vivien Green wrote:

On my old computer I seem to have two versions of Word. The one the computer automatically uses to open downloaded files is called "openoffice.org Writer" (OpenOffice.org 4.1.1 which I just updated from 3.3.0 to see if that might help) although it's not online as far as I can see. The other one is Microsoft Works Word Processor version 9.0. and I've tried opening the files with this too but I'm having the same formatting issues.


Neither OpenOffice nor Microsoft Works are Microsoft Word. Although both claim to be able to open and save MS Word documents with .doc or .docx formats, neither do it perfectly. You will definitely have formatting issues when using OpenOffice - I don't have experience with Works.

I have also had issues when I have exported a Word document in .docx format from Office 2010 and the recipient opened it with Office 2007 - there were some incompatibilities. In that case I solved it by saving from Office 2010 in .doc format.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
It's a complex issue Dec 12, 2014

Vivien Green wrote:

By "warped" I mean that the files, when opened on another computer, just don't look anything like they looked when I uploaded them and sent them and they aren't of a professionally acceptable standard. Tables and their contents run off the side of the page, table columns and rows do not align as they should, information is just scattered all over the page basically and is pretty much unreadable.

That's interesting what you say about there being no guarantee. I wouldn't have known that and to be fair, it is letting me send pdfs that look as they are supposed to. The final files are supposed to be delivered in pdf so this is a relief but for review and proofing purposes the files are supposed to be in Word.

Incidentally, has this happened to you or anyone else you know? If my client insists I submit acceptable Word files do you think I would be obliged to start the whole project again on another computer with another version of Word and deliver these? I'm hoping the pdfs will be ok but it's all very stressful.


This is quite a complex issue. Generally speaking, the actual formatting depends on a whole lot of factors, many of which you have no direct control over. Your client may use different page borders, you may have used a font that isn't present on your client's computer, different Word versions (indeed).

The main problem, however, is this: In theory, you might get quite close if you really followed all the professional DTP procedures while writing your document - but chances are that you can't, because you're (probably) not a DTP specialist. If you're working with a CAT tool, you will even have to work with the formatting that's already there. Most probably, this means (mis)using tab stops, manual formatting instead of using paragraph styles, etc. pp. Chances are very slim that this will produce a well formatted document in the target language.

In my professional career, I haven't seen more than one or two Word documents with complex formatting that were created by a true professional - I'm pretty sure that the respective translations will look just fine on the vast majority of Word installations.

Word really isn't useful for anything else than small documents without much formatting to begin with, or producing heavily formatted, non-professional birthday invitations. Some interesting reading about the reasons: http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/wp.html Still, it's the de-facto standard we all have to cope with.

In the hand of a DTP specialist, useful work can be done, but these will probably prefer other tools as well.

So what does this mean for your work? I offer my clients to follow the layout of the original as much as possible, but I do not offer DTP work. That should better be left to professionals, in the same way that you don't want your clients to hire their nices and nephews to do translations work (they've had Spanish in school, after all!), you don't want to do their DTP work unless you're properly qualified. You're paid to do a translation, not DTP.



[Bearbeitet am 2014-12-12 16:32 GMT]


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Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:42
Member
French to English
+ ...
I have had similar problems Dec 12, 2014

I have had this type of problem in 2 quite different circumstances:

In the first, files created on my newer PC running Word 2000 under W7 looked markedly different (though not totally corrupted!) when I tried to print them out on my old PC running Word 2000 under XP; most of the problem in this instance seemed to result from the simple fact that I had used fonts in my document that were not installed on the other machine, and the substitute fonts it used changed all the spacing (unsurpsiingly!) However, even when using the 'standard' system fonts available on all machines, I did still notice certain detail discrepancies.

A much more serious case arose when I tried to open my Word files via OpenOffice; in this instance, the corruption was much more severe, rather as you describe — any kind of 'complex' formatting produced unpredictable results. In this instance, the most worrying thing was that merely opening and then closing the file again in OpenOffice seemed to cause the corruption, even if no changes were made! And this happened even on the same computer. I never did get to the bottom of the whys and wherefores of the problem — but it took me a very long time to manually repair all the formatting on what was fortunately only a fairly short document.

As Erik says, Portable Document Format is about the only way of being (reasonably!) sure a document isn't going to float around all over the place.

It is only a hunch (as I'm not a computer boffin!), but I suspect it may be to do at least in part with the fact that certain elements of styles used in the document may depend on the machine's 'normal' style etc., which may well not be the same between different machines. I'm sure there must be a way of forcing the styles in any given document, but it's something I've never really learnt to master...


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Vivien Green  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2013)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you - all very interesting. Dec 12, 2014

Hmm, all very interesting.

I managed to get access to a couple of other computers that I downloaded the files to and they turned out ok. Both have full versions of Word like my own, new computer, so maybe this is the main issue. I have used Times New Roman as a font which I'm pretty sure is available in all or the vast majority of word processing packages. I'm also not using a CAT tool for this particular project so things aren't that complicated, theoretically.

Strangely, I wasn't actually aware that DTP specialists exist. I've never come across any in real life. I'm pretty used to doing formatting work myself though and thought I was getting to the stage where I was quite good at it as I haven't had any major issues for a while. And now this! But at least it sounds like I haven't done anything wrong, which is reassuring. However, if I tell clients that I'll follow the source as much as possible, I still feel that I have to hand something in which someone else can work with. I'm not sure if a DTP specialist could do much with the warped files I get when trying to open them in the non-Word programs. But if pdfs are acceptable then I have completed work pretty much ready to go.

I will also look into this Portable Document Format; it looks like a very interesting alternative. Thanks so much for your input to everyone who's replied!


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Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:42
English to Spanish
RTF format Dec 12, 2014

Hi Vivien,

Why don't you try saving the Word files in RTF format? You can send the RTF files to your client and see what they say. The RTF format is much less version dependent than the various Word formats, and it is considered their equivalent.

Good luck.


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GD Stackhouse  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:42
Russian to English
It may be your client's software. Dec 13, 2014

MS Word has been produced in several versions and problems can arise when users of older versions have not downloaded the updates necessary to display and edit newer .doc and .docx files correctly.

I suggest that you put it to your client that she needs to download a compatibility pack from Microsoft.


Search online for "Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word"


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:12
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
I face this problem too Dec 13, 2014

In my case, the Word file (containing mostly Hindi text in unicode encoding) looks ok when you open it first after an export from Trados, but when you close the file and reopen it, the Hindi text gets corrupted. I have tried various things such as saving the file as .rtf, .doc, etc., but nothing works.

Curiously, when I paste the same text in an excel file, the Hindi text magically becomes ok. So it seems to be a problem with the normal template of Word, as explained by Tony. When I examine the style and font information in the file, I notice that complex text (Hindi is a complex script) is being treated as Arabic which is a right to left language, whereas Hindi, like English is a left to right language. Part of the problem seems to be this. The corruption mostly affects punctuation symbols such as brackets, exclamation marks, etc, and numerals. Hindi uses some of these symbols from the English alphabet. So a ? (question mark) which should appear at the end of the sentence, gets shifted to the beginning. And para symbos ( ( and ) ) get inverted, that is () becomes ) (.

I have no clue as to how to correct this.

I have also noticed that this happens mainly when the client sends me a bilingual export from memoq as an .rtf export.

So the problem is either with Word or with memoq. I have not been able to figure out how to solve this and have mostly handled this by sending my client the translation in a non-Word format such as excel. This of course eliminates all the formatting.


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Jessica Noyes  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:42
Spanish to English
+ ...
Tables Dec 14, 2014

This used to happen to me now and then when I was making complex tables. The tables would flicker and ripple up and down.
Ever since I started making my tables one row at a time (instead of starting with a big multi-cell grid and merging and splitting cells as needed) I have never had this problem again. 's
This may not be what is happening to you, but I just thought I'd mention it.


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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:42
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Embed the fonts Dec 16, 2014

If the distortion is a result of the target computer not having the (TrueType) fonts installed that are used in the document, the solution is probably to "embed" the fonts in the document. See, for example:
http://www.howtogeek.com/106681/how-to-embed-fonts-in-a-microsoft-word-document/

(Word 2000 has something similar: start with "Save As..." and then select "General options " in the Tools dropdown list. One of the options is "Embed TrueType fonts")

Oliver


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