HarewordHareword logo
Back to blog

Transcending Language Barriers: The Optimal Path to Translating Technical User Manuals

September 28, 2023
operator checking the translation of the technical user manual
Like the article? Spread the word

In the realm of manufacturing, technical user manuals serve as an indispensable way of communication between the creators and the users. So, the spectrum of users is often broad and diverse, This diversity necessitates the translation of technical user manuals into many foreign languages.

However, the journey from a meticulously designed user manual to its translated counterparts is full of challenges. Many of these challenges emanate from the format in which these manuals are shared with translation agencies. The common practice is to share these documents in PDF format, a path fraught with complications. Today, we try to explain the challenges of the document's formats.

As we venture into the nitty-gritty of technical user manual translation, we will unravel why the choice of format is pivotal. So, at Hareword, we advocate for the IDML format over PDF. This narrative will not only shed light on the inherent limitations of PDFs but also unveil the merits of IDML, guiding manufacturers and their marketing cohorts toward efficient, accurate, and cost-effective translation solutions.

Understanding Technical User Manuals

The genesis of a well-structured technical user manual lies in a thorough understanding of the product, coupled with a keen eye for design and layout that facilitates easy comprehension. The process commences with a detailed inventory of the product's features and functionalities. This inventory is then transmuted into coherent, user-friendly text, often accompanied by illustrations, diagrams, and other visual aids. The aim is to distill complex technical jargon into understandable, actionable instructions.

However, its design and layout are the crowning jewel of a practical technical user manual. A well-designed manual is not just visually pleasing, but it also orchestrates the flow of information logically and intuitively. We can mention Adobe InDesign in this step. Known for its prowess in handling page layouts and typography, Adobe InDesign is the go-to software for crafting professional technical user manuals. 

The beauty of InDesign lies in its ability to meld text, graphics, and other elements into a harmonious layout that speaks the language of clarity.

We are going to discover in the ensuing sections, that the choice of file format when it comes to translating these manuals determines the accuracy and efficiency of the translation process. The subtle and significant shift from PDF to IDML, as advocated by Hareword, unveils a pathway to transcend language barriers without compromising the integrity of the original design.

The Conundrum of PDFs in Translation

The allure of PDFs as a medium for sharing documents is understandable. They encapsulate text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display the document in a self-contained, platform-independent way. In the context of technical user manuals, PDFs retain the design and layout precisely as intended by the creator, making them a seemingly ideal choice for sharing with translation agencies.

However, the veneer of simplicity and precision masks a labyrinth of complications that emerge during the translation process. When a PDF document lands in the realm of translation, several inherent limitations come to the fore:

  • Text Parsing Difficulty: PDFs are akin to images of text rather than text itself. Extracting text for translation from a PDF can be a perilous endeavor fraught with parsing errors. The text may not be selectable or may get extracted inaccurately, often leading to missing or garbled characters.
  • Design Preservation Woes: While PDFs excel at preserving design, they need to improve when it comes to allowing modifications to that design. The rigid layout can be a double-edged sword, especially when translated text expands or contracts, necessitating design adjustments to accommodate these variations.
  • Font and Formatting Frustrations: The nuances of fonts and formatting can get lost in translation when working with PDFs. The fonts used in the original document may not support the characters of the target language, and manual adjustments post-translation are often required to restore the formatting.
  • Resource Intensiveness: Translating from PDFs often demands additional resources – both human and technological. Manual interventions to correct parsing errors, adjust layouts, and restore formatting are time-consuming and costly, extending timelines and escalating budgets.

These limitations don't just pose logistical challenges; they also threaten the accuracy and quality of the translation of the document. A mistranslated instruction or a missed safety warning due to text parsing errors can have serious repercussions.

At Hareword, our translation experts have recognized the need for a more efficient, accurate, and cost-effective solution for the translation of these documents. The quest for such a solution leads us to the doors of Adobe InDesign and the treasure trove of possibilities encapsulated in the IDML format, a topic we will delve deeper into in the following sections.

The Translation Odyssey: IDML vs PDF

As we embark on the translation journey, the choice of file format isn't merely a technical decision but a strategic one that reverberates through the entire process's accuracy, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. We can compare the IDML and PDF formats in order to present a clear pathway to understanding the profound impact of the choice. Let's have a look:

  • Ease of Text Editing:

    IDML: The editable and practical nature of IDML facilitates straightforward text extraction and editing, making it a friendly format for translators. The text is easily accessible, and the XML-based structure ensures that text elements are clearly delineated from design elements.

    PDF: On the contrary, text editing in PDFs can be an arduous endeavor. PDFs' rigid, image-like nature impedes text extraction, often leading to parsing errors and necessitating manual interventions to correct inaccuracies.
  • Preservation of Original Design Elements:

    IDML: IDML preserves the original design while allowing for text edits. The design and text elements are intertwined yet distinct, ensuring that the design integrity remains unscathed during translation.

    PDF: PDFs, while excellent at preserving design, become a fortress that's hard to modify when needed, especially when the translated text requires adjustments to the layout.
  • Efficiency and Accuracy in Translation:

    IDML: The compatibility of IDML with Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) tools amplifies the efficiency and accuracy of translation. Features like Translation Memory (TM) and termbase (TB) management are fully leveraged, ensuring translation consistency and accuracy.

    PDF: The need for more seamless compatibility with CAT tools in PDFs impedes the utilization of these efficiency-enhancing features, often resulting in longer, more tedious translation and page layout processes.
  • Cost-effectiveness:

    IDML: The streamlined workflow facilitated by IDML and reduced manual interventions translate to a cost-effective translation process. The savings in time and resources are significant, ensuring that budgets remain in check while timelines are met.

    PDF: The resource intensiveness of translating from PDFs, marked by manual corrections and layout adjustments, escalates the cost and extends the timelines, making it a less economical choice.

The narrative above delineates a clear verdict favoring IDML as the preferred format for translating technical user manuals. Its essence lies in harmonizing the meticulous design of the manual with the linguistic precision required to communicate effectively across language barriers.

Hareword's Approach: Excellence in IDML Translation

At Hareword, our approach to translating IDML files is a melange of technological sophistication and linguistic expertise, ensuring that the translated manuals are linguistically accurate and aesthetically congruent with the original design.

Here's a glimpse into IDML format translation:

  • Integrated CAT Tools: Our integrated online Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) tool is a linchpin in ensuring a seamless translation process. The IDML format's compatibility with our CAT tools allows for accurate text extraction and translation.
  • Translation Memory (TM) Utilization: The essence of economical translation lies in avoiding redundancy. Our Translation Memory system ensures that previously translated segments are reused, bringing down both the cost and time required for translation, without compromising on quality.
  • Terminology Management: Technical user manuals have industry-specific terminologies that need precise translation. Our terminology management system ensures that brand and industry-specific terms are translated with pinpoint accuracy, ensuring consistency across languages.
  • Collaborative Dashboard: At Hareword, the collaborative dashboard acts as a central hub for team collaboration and project management. The modularity of IDML files dovetails with our collaborative platform, allowing for simultaneous work on different manual sections by translators and designers, orchestrating a harmonized workflow.
  • Quality Assurance (QA) Tools and Monitoring: Our commitment to quality is unwavering. The integration of QA tools alongside constant monitoring of translator performance ensures that the translated manuals are impeccable and ready to cater to a global audience.
  • Client-Centric Customizations: Every brand has a unique narrative and specific requirements. Our approach is tailored to meet these unique needs, ensuring that the translated manuals resonate with the brand's ethos and narrative.

The milestone of Hareword's approach is a harmonious blend of technology, linguistic expertise, and client-centric solutions, ensuring the translation of technical user manuals is a hassle-free, precise, and enriching experience.


Taking every step mentioned here into consideration, we traversed through the intricacies of file formats, and the superiority of IDML over PDF for translating technical user manuals emerged unequivocally. The IDML format, with its editable nature, coupled with the robust, collaborative, and quality-centric approach of Hareword, paves the way for translations that are not just linguistically accurate but also visually congruent with the original design.

Translating technical user manuals contains transcending linguistic barriers while honoring the original design and intent of the manual.

We invite manufacturers and their marketing teams to embrace the IDML format and explore the specialized translation services offered by Hareword. It's an invitation to transcend language barriers, communicate effectively worldwide, and ensure that machinery's operational essence is comprehensible to a global audience.

At Hareword, we are transcribing the language of innovation and safety encapsulated in technical user manuals, ensuring global resonance. Our doors are open for dialogues, collaborations, and crafting a narrative that transcends languages while preserving the design ethos of your brand.

Like the article? Spread the word
Serkan Haşlak

Serkan H.

Serkan is a seasoned expert in B2B marketing with an emphasis on delivering substantial ROI. For over a decade, he has been deeply involved in various projects, from B2B acquisition and conversion to content marketing, nurturing programs, and beyond.

Subscription icon

Weekly Newsletter

Get Guidance on Localization, Drive Top-line Revenue