How to prepare and save your translation files

You know that great translation delivers value for your organisation. But what about the translation process itself?

Which translation file formats can you use? Which formats do translation agencies handle? As a customer, how can you make the process as frictionless as possible to maximise translation cost-efficiencies and quality?

Translation agencies have adapted to digitization and can handle a variety of specialist file formats with reassuring expertise. Familiarising yourself with the different file formats used in translation is a great way to start making the process as smooth as possible.

This article considers some of the most widely used translation file formats and their main benefits, challenges and characteristics.

7 of the most common translation file formats

1) MS Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint)

The world’s most popular word processing software, Word is usually straightforward in terms of translation. It is often used to create documents like press releases or reports.

Excel is used surprisingly often in translation – particularly for multilingual projects like website localisation where content is arranged by column into different languages. Although this may seem a simplistic approach, it can work well.

PowerPoint files are similarly straightforward in terms of translation, although it is best to stick to slide templates as custom text boxes can add considerable formatting time (and extra cost) to a project.

2) PDF

Given how handy PDF files can be in everyday modern life, they’re not very popular with translators. Formatting can often go awry and translation costs increase because of the time spent recreating the design elements – such as charts and tables – of the source document.

PDFs are usually created from a source file in a different program. It is quicker and easier to translate from this source file than the PDF so don’t be surprised if your translation agency enquires about the availability of this file.

But don’t despair if you only have a PDF! There are ways around issues like this and a translation agency will almost certainly find a way through a PDF document.

3) Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign is the industry standard for marketing design – it’s used to create printed promotional items and also spills over into the digital space with eBooks, banner ads, and social media images.

A specialist DTP translator will be able to translate directly into your files, avoiding the need to recreate designs. They will easily accommodate the different characteristics of the target language and they can also review imagery to check if it resonates in the target culture.

InDesign files have the extension .idml or .indd. It is best to supply your InDesign files in the .idml format for greater flexibility.

4) XML, HTML and HTM

XML, HTML and HTM files contain the markup languages from which you can create, translate and localise a website.

Thankfully, the days of error-prone manual website localisation are a distant memory and you can send your agency your XML, HTML and HTM files to have your website translated into several languages.

Translation agencies can automate the process using translation APIs or import and export your files so the source code is left intact. Alternatively, popular content management systems like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal make it easy for translators as they can work directly with these web-based systems.

5) Adobe FrameMaker

Adobe FrameMaker is a desktop publishing application used in the creation of technical manuals, professional documents and books. A stalwart of the engineering and automotive industries, FrameMaker files are frequent in the translation world.

Before you submit your file you can tweak your file settings for a more streamlined (and thus, cost-effective) translation process. For example, files with the .mif extension are preferred and it is always a good idea to send a .pdf document showing the original file format too. This will help save time during the review stage.


Every translator’s best friend, an XLIFF file is a translation industry XML-based format that allows files to be translated and localised easily. Preferred terms and a translation memory can also ‘travel’ with your .xliff files.

Saving your content in an XLIFF file makes for easy exporting and importing – the file is uncoupled from images and file format so these will remain the same and just the language will change.

7) Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based graphic design software used for illustrations, logos or icons. Editable files are always preferred as these make for straightforward alterations (often using a plugin) by a specialist translation team – thus avoiding the need for expensive redesigns.

Other translation formats

.xml files for Android and .strings files for Apple

The digital world continues to expand at pace and app translation harnesses the potential of international markets with the localisation of mobile platforms. Translation agencies have adapted to this paradigm shift with technical specialists who support translations of .xml files for Android or .strings files for Apple.

Software translation and localisation

In the digital age, user experience reigns supreme and that means software translation that builds trust and functions seamlessly in your international markets.

Nowadays translation agencies are well versed in handling file formats like .js, .java, .po, .pot, .strings, .json, TXT, INI, PLIST, OCR. Talk to your language professionals about software localisation and the particular requirements of each specific format.

Graphic files

With any number of editing apps and programs available – graphics, images or banner files with featured text can easily be edited with the appropriate software. Your biggest consideration here may be whether the image will resonate with your international markets.

Translation agencies work with graphic files including JPG, JPEG, PNG, GIF.

We translate (almost) any format

Ampere Translations offer professional translation services and a flexible approach to handling different translation file types to support its customers in achieving their international ambitions. Its specialist, digital-savvy team help customers streamline their translation needs and embed quality and consistency into their content.

Step into seamless translation – message us today!