Sep 23, 2009

Infix PDF Editor: useful for some jobs

A few years ago a Brazilian colleague of mine recommended the Infix PDF Editor from Iceni Technology with great enthusiasm. I tried it at the time, but it was obvious that we had very different PDF types that we worked with and different philosophies of translation, so I concluded that the tool was of little value to the translator except in special situations, and I set it aside. What were those situations? For me, it seemed a decent tool for minor touch-ups of a PDF about to go to print (but I don't do a lot of pre-press proofreading), and for translating simple flyers where work with a TEnT makes little sense it also seems useful. For larger documents I did not see the value, because typeovers of large blocks of text in a PDF document, where possible, run just as contrary to my methods of working as typing over large chunks of text in MS Word or another environment. There is too much risk of content being skipped or deleted, and there is no access to integrated TM and terminology tools.

Recently, however, I discovered another area in which PDF Infix Editor makes a very useful addition to my toolbox. Occasionally I am asked to translate large batches of engineering drawings which have been scanned and reduced to A4 in PDF files. These do not contain editable text. The quality is also usually so miserable that one can forget OCR. Years ago I developed a procedure which the client is fond of: I save the individual pages out as graphics, embed them in an MS Word document and then overlay the portions to translate with text boxes in Word (with appropriate opacity settings and rotation). This can be quite time-consuming.

When another batch of some 120+ of these awful documents arrived recently, I thought of trying the Infix PDF Editor, because I remembered that it had a decent text tool. By overlaying white rectangles followed by text boxes, I was able to accomplish the translation task in the PDF document with less effort than required for my previous work in MS Word. Here's an example of the change:

This saves me time and irritation, and the client will save money. Everybody wins.

Since my initial brush-off of the tool I have also discovered a few other positive aspects for translators that overcome some of my initial objections: text copied and pasted from the Infix interface to MS Word or another environment does not contain all the awful line breaks that one usually sees when copying from Acrobat reader. And text pasted into the Infix interface takes on the properties of the text segment over which it is pasted. This has the advantage that I can copy awful, small text out of a PDF in Infix, paste it into a DOC or RTF file, change the font size to something my old eyes can read and translate it there or in another environment such as DVX or MemoQ (where the font change is unnecessary). Then I can paste chunks back into the original PDF and the fonts and formatting will be largely correct. Mind you, this can be an awful way to work in a large document, but it has advantages in some situations. And I can, in fact, by copying out and pasting in, make use of by favored TEnT methods, with the benefit of translation memory and terminology management.

So now I would say that the Infix PDF Editor is in fact a useful addition to the toolbox for handling PDF, which still must include a first-class OCR tool, such as ABBYY FineReader or OmniPage. PDF is by no means a uniform format but rather a "wrapper" for making many formats accessible to readers, and it will continue to be a time-consuming challenge to translators which must be reflected in appropriate service charges for the extra effort involved.


  1. my story is quite different

    I bought it and started using it very enthusiastically with a new customer that asked me to translate a very large editable PDF catalogue, but after some test I fed up using it

    first, there are issues with strange fonts (for example, fonts that are in your customer's system, but you don't have, and they are very expensive, so isn't worth acquiring them) that are impossible to fix, and they ruin the final product (ruined layout, unstranslated words remnants, etc.)

    second and even worst, every IT/editing department, my customer's dep included, has its own routines and is not willing to change them, even if you demonstrate they can save time, may be

    so, I used (and I'm going on using) the old good work-flow, i.e. copy-paste the text in a MS Notepad file, translate it, then copy-paste the text into text boxes directly on the original PDF

    this is only "workflow" they likes, and there's nothing more that can be done

  2. Infix is not the Universal Elixir that a few have claimed, but it's been extremely helpful for some things. Most recently it was the only tool I had which would enable me to get most of the annual reports of the German Patent Court into memoQ LiveDocs, and the story extraction feature has proven useful, even if its seemingly random dropping of line breaks after subtitles can be frustrating.

    I recently translated a few forms with a lot of layout in them - it was tricky fixing some spacing issues when I reimported the XML for translation back into the PDF, but in the end it still saved me time versus the alternatives for that mess. And I continue to find it useful for dealing with certain charts.


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