Desktop Publishing Educational

How to Use InDesign Files for Translations

If you’ve handled projects that dealt with graphics and translations, you might have already heard about using InDesign files for translations.

But if you haven’t yet, then take this to be your intro into learning how you can get your graphic materials rendered in InDesign to ensure a smooth translation process.

In this article, we’re discussing how to use InDesign files for translation requests.

First, let’s learn about one platform which can magically create almost any type of graphic material – Adobe InDesign. 

Sign up to download the guide on “How to Use InDesign files for Translation Requests.”

What is Adobe InDesign?

Adobe InDesign is the leading publishing software that allows you to create layout and page designs for every imaginable graphic format, whether it’s print or digital media.

The file extension typically used in Adobe InDesign software is the INDD. It includes a set of elements such as the page formatting info, page content, linked files (images), fonts, styles, and swatches. The . INDD allows the user to manage elements such as the texts and the images without disordering the overall page layout.

Whether it’s for promotional, branding, or internal corporate purposes, Adobe InDesign is capable of executing an extensive list of business-related materials which can be any of the following:

Adpbe InDesign Logo


  • business cards
  • flyers
  • brochures
  • letterheads
  • postcards
  • envelopes
  • posters
  • gift certificates
  • labels
  • large format banners
  • billboard


  • websites
  • web ad banners
  • web graphic art
  • infographics
  • blog post covers
  • social media covers
  • social media ads
  • wallpapers
  • photo collages
  • presentations
  • newsletters
  • landing pages


  • ebooks 
  • whitepapers
  • PDF guides 
  • worksheets
  • printables (digital stickers, cutouts)
  • charts / tables / mind maps
  • slideshows
  • calendars
  • planner templates


  • forms
  • invoices
  • catalogs
  • sales sheets
  • invoices
  • contracts
  • resume / curriculum vitae
  • quote templates
  • price lists
  • terms statements
  • questionnaires
  • certificates


  • magazines
  • booklets
  • book covers


  • wrapping
  • boxes
  • cans
  • cartons

The capability of Adobe InDesign in producing page layouts and designs in a tremendous variety of models makes it one of the most powerful and commonly used software in the publishing industry.

It has become an industry-standard format, which continues its scope to the field of translation.

Presenting graphically produced materials in another language requires professional translations to convey an accurate message, both in the text and graphic representation of the content.

However, some predicaments inevitably do occur. The good news is vast experience in encountering translation and desktop publishing projects have taught language service providers like DEMA Solutions 4LSCs to come up with the best solutions.

In order for our team of translators and desktop publishing specialists to achieve a high-quality final output, we need collaboration from the client’s end: that is by sending the correct source files.

The process of translating InDesign files starts with submitting the required .INDD file, or for best results, the source InDesign package containing the .INDD file, the links (for images), and the fonts. 

So how do you use InDesign files for translation requests?

We included the steps to get your InDesign files ready so you can use them for translations.

1.) Prepare the page layout and design

The main goal of the first step is getting the layout ready to be applied with adjustments once layered with texts in the target language. 

If you have graphic designing skills, you can perform and achieve the following in Adobe InDesign alone. But if you don’t, then you can leave it to a graphic design expert.

The following are the suggested tips to get your layout prepared for translation:

  • Translating content includes the changing of spaces between words resulting in modifying the overall spacing of the content. For example, translating English content to languages like German, Spanish, or French expands the whole content by 30%. Meanwhile, translating into Chinese, it becomes less due to that language being logographic. Therefore, you may consider creating a layout that allows space necessary for your chosen target language/s. Also, you can simply leave extra space at the end of each text frame. (Note: ensure that the text frames in question are together if your layout has texts extending from one page to the other.)
  •  Maintaining the same styles throughout the layout will help keep consistency.
  • Mirroring or reversing your whole layout will help make your document similar to the original in instances when you’re translating to RTL language/s like Arabic. For more detailed information, please see this article by Adobe. Also, feel free to ask for assistance from our DTP experts on this matter.
  • Constructing tables using tab characters causes errors especially on the translator’s part. Make sure you create your tables using InDesign’s table tools which you’ll find in the menu bar under the Tables option.

2.) Package your InDesign files

Our DTP specialists need the packaged files to correctly perform layout. 

So, to avoid unwanted and massive changes, make sure to package your project which automatically includes the fonts, linked graphics, and document settings. 

If you’re not sure how, you can check out this easy step-by-step guide with an additional video tutorial by Adobe on how to package your InDesign projects

3.) Save as .IDML for translating texts

The .IDML serves to provide the CAT tool with the content. Once the translation is complete, the translated .IDML file is generated from the CAT tool and re-imported back to .INDD. Then, the DTP process can commence.

What is .IDML?

.IDML stands for InDesign Markup Language. It’s an XML representation format of the content in the InDesign file, which means it’s based on the rules of XML. It was introduced as of InDesign CS4 and replaced the previous InDesign format INX. IDML is used to facilitate the translation of InDesign files to other languages.

To save file in .IDML format:

  1. Go to the menu bar.
  2. Select File.
  3. Click on Export.
  4. Choose file IDML in the file type options.


Make sure to save your .IDML in the same folder with the InDesign project package to ensure sending all the source files together. 

Another supplementary support that will help to ensure the accuracy of the final output is by providing us a reference with complete information about layout requirements from the start. 

Normally, it’s given by a PDF form that also includes the following:

  •  Check with the client what, if any, fonts can be substituted by language (for instances where the source font used is not supported by the target language).
  •  Check all images with translatable text are editable. If they are not, the text needs to be extracted for translation or made editable directly in the .INDD file so that it will get included in the .IDML.
  •  The layout of target languages will need to mirror the Source language file at the DTP level. Languages like German and Italian are far more verbose and we will need instructions to understand if the text can flow or if Page-to-Page (1:1) layout is required.

The more detailed information is provided, the more it’s ensured that the selected resource/s has the right skills and understanding to carry out the task as required.

We hope that this article will help you understand using InDesign files for translation requests.  
If you need more details about this topic, send us an email and we’ll get in touch with you as soon as possible

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