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“Please send us the original files!”

Why we need the original files!

If you’re already a client of ours you will be familiar with this request. And while we understand that sometimes it’s inconvenient — you may have to contact your designer, or find them in your archives — we do have a good reason for asking! First of all, by “original files” we mean the InDesign, PowerPoint, or Word file in which your document was initially created. NOT the PDF file that you sent to the printer!

The Quotation Process

In order to quote we first have to extract and analyse your text. From the original files extraction is a simple process, which takes seconds. However, from other formats the process is more complicated and takes longer — so we can’t quote as fast.

If you send a PDF, the extracted text will not “flow”. That is to say, where the sentence has been split across a line, it will appear in our software as two broken segments.


A segment is the basic semantic unit of a text: ‘the red house’, for instance, or ‘eighty-three’. For example, the TM learns that ‘the red house’ means ‘la casa roja’ in Spanish. So, next time it sees ‘the red house’ in an English to Spanish translation, it suggests the translation ‘la casa roja’. A segment can also be a complete sentence — a brand message, or mission statement, for example.

The translator can choose to accept the suggestion (‘candidate’), replace it with a new translation, or modify it to better match the source (original) text. This means our translators don’t need to waste time re-researching something which has already been translated, and approved, for the same client.


This enables a consistency of translation in the work we do. Naturally, we build a TM for each of our clients. So regardless of which translator works on a given text, we use consistent terminology in all translations for them. TMs also enable us to store industry-related terms, guaranteeing a precise and accurate translation of technical vocabulary.

If we’ve translated for you before, we can analyse your files against your (client-specific) Translation Memory, and give you a discount on any repeated text. However, if the segments don’t find a “match” in the TM then we can’t see that they’ve been translated before.

Images and diagrams

From a PDF, we also can’t extract any images that might have text which needs translation. Firstly, this means we can’t get a definitive word count. But we also can’t see whether the text from the images can be extracted from the original graphic files (quick and easy!); or whether it will have to be re-typed (less quick).

Basically, without the original files, your quote may be more expensive than it should be.

The Translation Process

Broken segments (see above) can lead to mistranslations, so we need to connect them. This takes time making the process slower and more expensive. We need to access any images with text, to either extract the text or re-type, as appropriate. If you can provide the images (ask your designer for an InDesign package), we can usually extract text easily from original graphic files.

Note: We can, of course, convert your PDFs to Word files, but this doesn’t solve these problems.

Find out more: Preparing Layouts for Translation

In conclusion

We can quote and translate from a PDF is necessary, but it will take longer and be less cost-effective. For the most accurate and cost-effective quote we need the original files — “I will send you the files if the quote is accepted” will simply make the project more expensive.

If your originals have been lost, we also offer a service where we will re-create them for you. So you will have a fully formatted, editable version to ready to update next year!

Find out more: What can I do internally to Streamline the Translation Process?

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