Tools to convert .pptx, .pdf and .xlsx to .doc
Thread poster: Daniel Erlich

Daniel Erlich  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:51
Member (2011)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Feb 11, 2015

I have always wanted to find something to help me out with this task. I frequently need to convert PowerPoint, PDF and Excel files to Word, translate them (I use WordFast Classic), and convert them back to the original format. I thought Microsoft's new XML-based ".___x" file format would have improved this situation, but it appears it has not. For the past few weeks I have been searching feverishly, but I still can't find anything that works!

I hear that some CAT programs can handle PPT, but is that really true? Every time one person says they can, two people reply right underneath saying that no, it can't – the formatting comes out horribly. Trados seems to have handled my test .pptx quite well, but do I really need such a heavy, "feature-full" program? All I need it to do is convert files.

I currently use Werecat for PowerPoint files, Abbyy for PDFs, and a custom-written macro for Excel files. Surely there's a better way?


Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 18:51
English to Russian
+ ...
.DOC is not really possible, XML is Feb 11, 2015

Daniel, if one could convert .pptx, .pdf and .xlsx to .doc and then back without losing any attributes, what good would be having four different file formats when one could do? Each of these formats has its own unique features and its own purpose. For example, animation in Powerpoint, prepress features in PDF or formulas in Excel have no counterparts in Word. Furthermore, generally speaking, PDF is not intended to be an editable format, even though some subsets of it are indeed editable. So, I am sorry, but no matter how good your conversion to .doc is, it will always be possible to devise come file content that breaks it. On the other hand, all .pptx, .xlsx and .docx files are XML-based, and .pdf does have an XML equivalent as well. Loosely speaking, XML is a superset of all these formats - thus, you need a tool that works directly with XML and preserves the attributes it cannot understand. Trados, among other CAT tools, supports a variety of XML dialects including all these and many other XML-based interchange formats by using appropriate filters.


Mariel Varjão Azoubel  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:51
+ ...
Conversion, conversion, conversion Feb 12, 2015

Maybe there's a better solution to your problem?

Why does it all even need to be converted to .doc in the first place?

The thing with Studio and PPTs is that if you get a very formatting-heavy PPT file to work with, the generated clean target file will usually need some DTPing in order to become just as the original is. With text boxes, for instance: Portuguese is naturally longer than English, so when you translate something and generate a clean target file, the size of the original text box will remain the same, but the text will have become longer, and yadda, yadda. (It's not just that, there are other things in there as well.)

Now, Studio handles Excel files marvelously
At least I haven't had any problems with them whatsoever.

Lastly, PDF files have always been the bane of all CAT tool-loving translators and translation agencies. There are a few workarounds involving OCR tools, but that truly depends on the state of the PDF and almost always requires some sort of DTP action.

Maybe if you get into why you need them all to be .doc a little bit more we might be able to be of better service?


2nl (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:51
You can use CafeTran to create Word documents Feb 12, 2015

You can use CafeTran to create nice tables, that you can translate in Word. The tables are in the .DOCX file format, so you will have to save them as .DOC if your version of MS Word doesn't support .DOCX:




All text boxes etc. are nicely collected and presented in a translation friendly way. After you have finished your translation of the third column in Word, you can use CafeTran to reimport your translation into the originating Excel or PowerPoint file:

To convert PDF files to .DOC you can use any dedicated PDF converter. SolidPDF is my choice.


Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:51
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
.doc and .docx Feb 12, 2015

Not addressing your main problem, but if your version of Word can't read .docx files, there is a free Compatibility Pack from Microsoft that will enable it to do so. Download from:


Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:51
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Time is money Feb 12, 2015

Daniel Erlich wrote:
For the past few weeks I have been searching feverishly, but I still can't find anything that works!

This is why people use fully featured CAT tools; once you've mastered them they save you time. Why waste time converting back and forth when a proper CAT tool will do it for you? The output document will usually need formatting simply because some languages are more verbose than others. If budget is an issue, CafeTran is quite inexpensive and seems to have all the important features.



Rolf Keller
Local time: 18:51
English to German
There are lots of XML editors Feb 12, 2015

Anton Konashenok wrote:

Loosely speaking, XML is a superset of all these formats - thus, you need a tool that works directly with XML and preserves the attributes it cannot understand.

You are right. There are lots of XML editors. Graphical XML editors can preserve the attributes but hide them – a convenient solution.

But in any case, any change to the length of text snippets might spoil the layout – this problem isn't solvable by software. So a touch up work of some sort might be necessary (adjust page breaks, page number references, textboxes, pictures, ...).


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:51
English to Portuguese
+ ...
There is no free lunch Feb 12, 2015

Daniel, if you use WFC like me, there is a way to translate PPT and XLS files with it (unless it has been rendered impossible with newer versions of Windows/Office).

Close all instances of Office. Open your PPT/XLS file on the corresponding program. Open a BLANK document in Word. Press Alt-Dn, and you'll be able to translate one by one the PPT/XLS segments on Word, and have the translatins sent back to either PowerPoint or Excel via OLE.

The process is much more complex than that, and you may find more detailed tutorials on the WordFast portal, but this is the gist of it. Of course, like everything else in WordFast, starting from its $19.99-shareware user interface, the process is risky, unstable, and often incomplete (text boxes left untranslated), but usually works.

Then you have to go back to PowerPoint and fix the layout. Here is where you sing for your supper.

Regarding PDFs, I use Infix. You can have a glimpse of the process from the walk-through I've published. It is also available in PT-BR.

By "no free lunch", I mean that while there is automatic translation, there is NO automatic DTP! This means that text reflow from translation will mess up any PPT, and that will have to be fixed using the obnoxiously limited tools available on PowerPoint.

For the record, I offer my clients an option, when I translate PPT files. I charge my regular translation rates for translation alone, delivering a translated PPT as-is. Some clients say, e.g. My secretary is a PPT wizard. Just translate, she'll tidy it up in no time. Others want me to do all the layout fixes. I charge 30% of the translation cost extra, which is proportional to the volume of text that will have to be adjusted.

IMO Microsoft keeps Publisher alive to prevent PowerPoint from becoming their worst of all applications. I think that if Adobe had bought and revived the defunct Astound Presentation before they buried it, nobody would be using PowerPoint nowadays. (Astound v8 was slaughtered because of unsolvable issues caused by Windows 98 bugs. It performs great under Windows XP.)

But why convert anything minimally 'artsy' to Word? Of course, it's the imposed market standard, however NOT a DTP app, but definitely a bloated word processor, as its name boldly says. Using Word for DTP is like using a butcher's knife to fix a wristwatch mechanism.


Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No conversions for me. Feb 12, 2015

Just yesterday I had another issue with converted files. A pdf converted into docx, with lots of tags and other strange features.

I did the translation in my CAT tool and guess what, the target file would not come out (welcome to T...os And the deadline looming. The error message had no easy or fast solution (or no solution other than cleaning up the source file; an undoable task, given the time preasure).

I had to reuse my translation and copy/paste it manually in the source file, repacing the source text with the target one. It almost takes more time that actually translating it from scratch.

Lesson learnt: no conversions for me. If it is not a straight word/excel/powerpoint/text file, I just do not touch my CAT tool. I build a separate word file from scratch and I reflect it in my rate.

Sorry to be negative on this, but yesterday I did not have the best of the days of my life.

[Edited at 2015-02-12 10:21 GMT]


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