Multilingual Desktop Publishing

Create smart e-documents with multilingual desktop publishing

Desktop publishing (DTP) refers to the process of getting your documents ready for publication either offline or online by taking care of formatting, typography, and images. When your documents are going to be read and used in different languages, multilingual desktop publishing is used. If not done well, your readers are going to see junk characters, overflowing text boxes, misaligned text elements, and so on leading to a very unsatisfactory experience.

What is this service exactly?

Where are multilingual DTP services used?

Where are multilingual DTP services used?

Steps in multilingual DTP

Steps in multilingual DTP

Challenges with multilingual DTP

Challenges with multilingual DTP

Multilingual DTP services are required for e-books, PDF files, presentations, brochures or user guides or any other document that needs to be printed in another language.

The digital publishing industry continues to grow as people tend to read online rather than offline. In compliance with ePub3.0 – the latest standards for e-publishing – multilingual DTP has to take into account various factors such as font formats (for traditional as well as web-based publishing workflows), multimedia, text-to-speech capabilities, metadata support for languages, and accessibility features such as navigation, semantic markup, and dynamic layouts.

  1. File or document translation often presented challenges and was tedious as text had to be extracted and passed on to translators. The translated text then had to be re-inserted into the original file. This took a lot of time and was error-prone. Now, the file preparation stage is highly automated and hence error-free. Typically, software programs such as Adobe InDesign, QuarkXpress, and Adobe Illustrator are used to typeset documents and do the final design. Files created with these tools can now be directly imported into computer-aided translation (CAT) tools and made available for translation. After the text is translated and edited, the file is exported back into the page design tool where it is formatted.
  2. If images contain text, it has to be extracted separately, translated, and re-inserted into the image.
  3. During file prep, the DTP engineers tag the sentences so that it’s easier to know where to break up the text without disrupting it in the design stage.
  4. The formatting of the page needs to take into account the different fonts and the space that they may take up may vary from the original language fonts.
  5. A quality assurance (QA) check needs to be done to make sure no errors have crept in. After this, the document is published in the format desired by the client and handed to the client.

It’s ideal to provide some context in notes, as it will help translators do their job better. This needs to be attached as a separate document.


When a document needs to be published in multiple languages, font changes and text orientation can inevitably cause issues. Being aware of this can help in setting the expectations and understanding why something may need to be done differently in multilingual DTP.

Different languages pose different challenges: For languages with right-to-left orientation such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Hebrew, it’s not just the text that is to be aligned right, but other elements in the page such as numbered and bulleted lists, graphics, and icons.

Some languages such as Turkish may have special characters. With Asian languages such as Thai, there are very long compound words which are difficult to break up. So, a balance has to be struck between preserving formatting and not distorting the meaning. Working with Indian languages means that one must have access to and use the different typefaces and font families used in these languages.

The other challenge in DTP localization is text expansion. Some languages such as German may take up 30% more space to use words that convey the same meaning as in the original. This also ends up in creating more pages than in the original document.

Style sheets need to be set up in advance and used consistently to avoid different fonts, font sizes, and other styles being used over a period of time in documents your company produces. Even if you work with different DTP companies, style sheets can help maintain consistency.

Multilingual DTP often happens behind the scenes and is only noticed if done horribly wrong. Conversely, a good job makes sure that Chinese, Arabic, or Russian users can use the document with as much ease as their English-speaking counterparts.

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