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How to Budget for Multilingual Desktop Publishing

Multilingual Desktop Publishing - GPI Translation

In the language service industry, multilingual desktop publishing professionals are usually in charge of making documents suitable for cost-effective translations. Whether these are single-page legal documents or extensive high-resolution magazines created with professional layout programs such as InDesign. This step, called file preparation, generally consists of reviewing and fixing technical and structural issues that may cause trouble during the translation phase. Yet, the job of DTP does not stop there. After the translation is done, it is up to the DTP team to adjust and reformat the file to accommodate the translated copy until it is ready to accomplish its purpose: to be printed, published, uploaded, sent, etc.

While estimating a budget for multilingual desktop publishing projects is not difficult, a thorough review of all facets of the file must be taken into consideration to fully calculate the full scope of work required, and ultimately the cost.


Defining the Project Scope

When a quote is requested, the client is asked to provide a complete set of source files known as the “Localization Kit”, this includes all the corresponding native files (the editable format the file was originally generated in) whenever possible, as well as any other auxiliary files (like fonts and images) that were used in the original layout. Having the editable version of the file is crucial to ensure, not just accurate results, but also a cost-effective quotation. You can read more about this topic here.


The team needs to gather certain information that will shape the scope of the project—some specific to the translation step and some to desktop publishing, like: 

  • What desktop publishing applications were used to create the documentation (Microsoft Word, InDesign, etc.)?
  • What is the final format the client would like for the deliverable?
  • Are there any graphics or screen captures within the documents to be localized and formatted separately?
  • Can the client provide all the required fonts?
  • Can the client provide all the extra material used (photos, graphics, or any other embedded files)?


Multilingual Desktop Publishing Cost and Timeline 

Turnaround time: expectation vs. possibility

The client will most likely have a deadline in mind, but after the desktop file evaluation is completed, the proposed turnaround time may not coincide with the client’s original expectation. The localization company will analyze the case and allocate resources to achieve this request which may impact pricing.


Evaluation for Budget Estimation

When it comes to estimating the number of working hours required for a desktop publishing project, each company, team, and specialist may follow its own process. Regardless of how the estimate is done, it most likely is a combination of the following factors: 


Number of pages

As DTP is mainly involved in the layout of documents, the main metric unit is not the number of words—this concerns the linguists in the project—, but the number of pages (pages, slides, sheets, graphics, etc.) of the target file. Based on the number of pages to edit and factor in the level of complexity for each page as a variable, we can estimate the number of pages to be handled per hour of work.


Source and target languages

Will the scoped translation require small or major layout adjustments? For example, a project might involve fully re-adapting the page structure to change the reading direction from left to right into right to left text or vice versa. A document that requires multilingual desktop publishing from Arabic into Spanish, will take more time than the same document being formatted from French into Spanish. There are other factors like the average text expansion and contraction from one language to another: English into German may expand up to 35% or contract up to 50% when the target language is Japanese!

How to budget for Multilingual Desktop Publishing - GPI Blog

File format

The number of pages worked per hour will be influenced by the file format (.jpg, .png, .mp4, .psd, .ai, .doc, .ppt, .xls, and more). Each file format has at least one editing tool with its own complexity and interface limitations. Depending on the file, editing in a program such as PowerPoint can be a bit faster than working with Adobe Illustrator or InDesign files, since these are far more detail orientated and professional compared to PowerPoint.


Assigned Desktop Publishers (DTPers)

There are companies with many desktop publishing employees, there are others with just a few and, there are also others that prefer using external resources (freelance workers). There are projects where the quality might be compromised if split between two or more people whereas larger, segmented files, are easier to parse out to multiple DTPers. Dividing tasks can be considered to save time as long as it doesn’t affect the overall quality of the final product.


File anomalies

Providing incomplete or damaged source files may require adding re-creation costs to the localization process. Tasks like source or graphics re-creation are most likely added when the working files are partially or entirely non-editable.


Quality Assurance

After the translated file is desktop published, the quality assurance (QA) phase starts. The team reviews the file (sometimes by external resources) to ensure that all copy has been properly set, including adherence to typesetting guidelines for the language. This QA task is also included in the cost estimate. The time for this task can be calculated proportionally considering the desktop publishing time. For instance, if DTP requires 6 hours of work, QA could be a third of that time, 2 hours.



To sum up, the number of pages, source and target languages, file format, the condition of the source files, the clients’ parameters on accommodating expanded text, and other factors must be considered when calculating budgets for multilingual desktop publishing projects. While there isn’t a defined process for estimating a multilingual DTP project, there are key components that must be analyzed and, as experience is gained, intuition slides in as a key variable to the formula.

Multilingual desktop publishing is an essential component of the localization process. GPI’s translation and desktop publishing teams produce language versions of user guides, instruction manuals, books, reports, packaging, training slides, scripts, and marketing collateral, among other forms of content. 

 The benefits of working with GPI for multilingual desktop publishing include: 

  • Highly-skilled DTPers on multiple applications such MS-Office, Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat, Articulate Storyline, etc.
  • Years of experience working with various document types from simple business cards and brochures, to complex technical manuals and video subtitles utilizing XML.
  • Client-driven authoring and publishing workflows.

Training and consultation are available on desktop publishing and design best practices to help companies minimize the time and cost of multilingual DTP.

Learn more about this service here.