Things to know when asking for a typesetting quote

A few things to think about when asking for a typesetting quote

By Felicia Bratu

You want to translate and typeset your company’s brochure into let’s say French, Chinese, and Arabic. You’ve called a translation company and they’ve started to ask you lots of questions. Some of them are about translation and you’ve been prepared to answer these inquiries, but others are about typesetting.

To set up an accurate quote, it’s possible that the translation agency will require the English source files. Using these files, the agency will be able to extract the English text from your document and do a better evaluation of the word count and repetition. Also, the agency can decide from the beginning which will be the best methodology in handling your project and be able to give you a better quote for it. For some languages and page layout programs, the text extracted can be imported back into the source document after translation. This will reduce a lot the steps involved in the regular typesetting process and decrease the typesetting cost.

You should have the original source files ready for the document (in whichever program they were originally created in); a PDF file to be used as a crosscheck for possible file contamination; all graphic image files and the English fonts. All the files together will most likely be too large in size to be sent by email, so you may need to consider using a secure FTP for upload.

But, if all that you have is a PDF file and all that you need is estimation for translation and typesetting – be prepared to answer all of the following questions:

What software was used to create the source document? What version?

The most common desktop publishing programs are: QuarkXpress, Adobe InDesign, Adobe PageMaker, and Adobe FrameMaker. Some designers also use Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia FreeHand, CorelDraw, etc.

If your document is laid out in one of the latest versions of the software, make sure that the translation company has the same version and that they are able to open your files. To give you an example; while QuarkXpress 5 files can be saved in a format suitable to QuarkXpress 4, Quark 6 cannot.

For InDesign, the most recent version on the market is Adobe Creative Suite 2. This package also contains Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Illustrator CS2.

If your file was created in InDesign CS2 and your translation agency is only using InDesign CS, you’ll have to export your document to the InDesign Interchange (INX) format and open it again in InDesign CS. If you get this message: “This is not a valid InDesign Interchange format” update your CS version to CS 3.0.1. This is the only way that you’ll be able to share your files with other people who may still be working in previous versions.

If your brochure was produced with the most recent version of Illustrator, the only way to save the file to an earlier version is by exporting it into an Illustrator Legacy format.
PageMaker is at version 7 (there is also an upgrade to Adobe InDesign CS2 PageMaker, a special version of InDesign available for the licensed Adobe PageMaker users).
FrameMaker’s most recent edition is 7.2

What platform was used to create the brochure: Macintosh or PC?

There are some ways to convert your Macintosh documents into PC and vice versa, but usually, the real problems lie in the fonts used. For some languages, the fonts don’t matter because they will have to be replaced with language-related fonts (Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Korean, etc.), but for languages that are based on the Latin alphabet, you’ll want to keep the same type.

Can you provide the fonts and the images used?

Fonts and images are very important in the typesetting process.

Without images, the translation agency will not be able to create a print-ready PDF file. Also, it’s possible that some of the images will need to be localized. This usually occurs with graphics and charts, when the text is embedded in the artwork and can’t be edited in a page layout program. In this situation, the source image files need to be provided. These could be Illustrator or Photoshop files.

If you don’t supply your own fonts, the agency may substitute their own version. This might work. Or it might result in subtle or obvious differences in your document including text re-flow.

If case your brochure was created on a Macintosh, be sure to archive the fonts before sending them to the translation agency. On a Macintosh, fonts are stored in the resource fork of the file. This is often the reason behind why certain files that are transferred through a network, or by email, often arrive as an empty file or, the data fork.

Would you like to keep the page size the same length as in the English version?

If you are planning on using your brochure or manual in a European or Asian market, it’s possible that you’ll need to adapt the page format to the target market. International standard paper sizes (like “A4”) are now used in all countries except for in the United States, Canada, and a few other countries (who prefer the “letter size” format).

What format do you need to have the documents returned to you as: same as the source files? Print-ready PDF files, etc.?

The final delivery format depends on both the language(s) used and the page layout system of the program being used. Most desktop publishing software supports Roman languages.

If your target language is French or Spanish, Italian, German, etc., the final files can be the same format as the source files. So, if you are providing QuarkXpress files, you can request to receive QuarkXpress files back also. You’ll be able to make design changes from your end, as well as change the colours, or the images…

If your target language is Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc, the final files will most likely be print-ready PDF files and you won’t be able to enter any changes from your end. If the source document was created in QuarkXpress, the translation agency will use an East-Asian version of QuarkXpress. These files can’t be opened in the English version of Quark.

Korean, Traditional Chinese, or Simplified Chinese versions of QuarkXPress 3.3x and 4.x are only available for the Mac OS. Japanese QuarkXPress 4.x is available for Mac OS and Windows.

If your target language is Arabic, Farsi or Hebrew, then it’s possible that the agency will be using a special Arabic extension – ArabicXT. The latest versions are ArabicXT 5.x for Windows and Macintosh and ArabicXT 6 for Macintosh only. The Arabic files created in this way can’t be opened in QuarkXpress.

InDesign support for Unicode fonts allows text input in any language (supported by the operating system). Even if there are special versions for Chinese, Japanese, or Central European languages, the English version can still be used for the typesetting in these languages. A very careful quality assurance check needs to be done after laying down the Asian text in the English version.

Arabic, being a right to left language, needs a special version – InDesign ME. The files created with this version can’t be opened in the English InDesign either, so only a PDF file can be delivered.

Colours and printing requirements

Ask your printer shop about any printing requirements: bleed, crop marks, colours. The agency will need to have this information when preparing a high-resolution PDF file ready for printing.


On August 12, 2010, posted in: Foreign Language Typesetting by