You’ve created a stylish brochure in InDesign but you now need it translated. In this article we explain how to translate an InDesign file along with some of the key considerations, such as format, space, fonts and right-to-left languages.

It takes a lot of time and a great deal of hard work, but you’ve got that finished brochure in your hands. Then… a request for translation of the document comes in. It should just be a simple task of replacing the content, right? Well, not exactly… But hopefully some of the tips below will help guide you through some of the various issues which can arise during the translation of InDesign files.


The biggest development in the translation industry over the past decade has been the influence of CAT tools (Computer-Assisted Translation). These provide benefits for translators and customers alike. One area that has been markedly streamlined by CATs is the number of workable formats. What this means is that you can simply send over your Indesign files (.indd, .idml or .inx) with the links and fonts, and translators and reviewers will be able to translate directly into the documents. Simple!


Although the translator can mostly be left to their own devices, one thing that is important to think about pre-translation is space. Certain languages are notably longer than others (French is around 20% longer than English, for example), and if space is already at a premium then you may need to think about a possible solution to the problem. Some ideas here could be to reduce the font size, move copy around, scale down images to create more space, or simply to reduce the amount of content altogether.


Consistency is key – you may have chosen a specific brand font for your brochure and will want this to be replicated in the translations. Unfortunately, not all fonts will be available in every language. Whether it be the extra characters for Eastern European languages, or different scripts for Asian or Middle Eastern translation, choosing the right font is a vital consideration. If, like Sure Languages, your translation company provides desktop publishing, they will be able to guide you through this and offer fonts.


With most languages the translated text and images will be arranged in the same way as the original InDesign file. However, this is something that needs to be rethought with languages such as Arabic, where the text runs right-to-left. For an InDesign file, the whole document is flipped and restructured to accommodate the new text direction. In this situation it is imperative to make sure you have a professional typesetter working on the design.


The translations are finished and reviewed, but how do they look in the final file? Is all the text visible? How does the copy look in the document? Are the brochures consistent? Are the line breaks, non-breaking spaces and special characters all correct for that language? There’s a lot to think about, even after the translation is finished.  At this point a fresh pair of eyes is needed and it’s often a good idea to export the file to pdf to help you pick up on anything you may have overlooked within the software. Your specialist translation company will do this for you.

Can I do it myself?

Some clients take a translation and manually paste everything into InDesign. This is the old way of doing things, and thanks to the advancement of technology in the industry, the process is now more streamlined and efficient, and greatly reduces the margin for error. We would always recommend using a professional multi-language translation and typesetting company for all InDesign translations.

Hopefully these guidelines will give you a brief introduction to InDesign translation and some of the things that are important to think about before pre- and post-project. If you have any other questions, just get in touch with a member of the Sure Languages team at

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Sure Languages is a professional translation company based in the UK. We help businesses from all sectors communicate in over 100 languages through our specialised translation, interpreting and voiceover services.