Translate Adobe FrameMaker files and put them in perfect layout

Adobe FrameMaker is the standard tool for structured, comprehensive documentation. If it is correctly set up, an Adobe FrameMaker file can be efficiently translated and formatted, even if it is several 100 pages long.

Technical translation of FrameMaker files

Adobe FrameMaker is the standard for structured technical documentation. We know all the tricks and hacks – you will be surprised about the price at which we can offer technical translations with professional layout in FrameMaker.

In this article you will find valuable tips as to how you can prepare and carry out follow up work on your Adobe FrameMaker file in such a way that the entire translation workflow is as cost-effective as possible.

We assume that the scenario is as follows:

  • Several FrameMaker files have been combined into a book.
  • All book files are to be translated.
  • Cross-references between these documents exist.
  • The book contains a table of contents and an index.
  • The graphics are either language-neutral or are marked with a language abbreviation at the end of the file name (with screenshots).
  • The translation is to be carried out from German to one (or more) foreign languages such as German to English and German to French.

Depending on whether you want to translate catalogs, user manuals or datasheets, you will find software-independent notes concerning document optimization on the relevant pages of our homepage.

Check an Adobe FrameMaker file

With an Adobe FrameMaker file you can usually assume that the author is well trained and has worked carefully with paragraph and character formats.

However, a brief check of the required functionality can’t do any harm. In order to do this you need to see the control characters:

Show control characters

In an Adobe FrameMaker file you can display the control characters using menu command Display->Control characters.

The rulers should also be visible: Display->Rulers.

Translating Adobe FrameMaker files - Control characters

The control characters in the screenshot above have the following meaning:

  1. First row indent
  2. Left indent
  3. Tabulator position
  4. Tabulator characters in the text
  5. Line break
  6. Paragraph break
  7. End of text

Recognizing formatting errors in FrameMaker files

Space formatting

You often find the following formatting:

Translating Adobe FrameMaker files - Formatting with spaces - Original

An enumeration with a line break and spaces has been formatted here.

After translation it then looks as follows:

Translating Adobe FrameMaker files - Formatting with spaces - Translation

The problem here is that within the CAT tool the translator cannot see where the translated text will be in the FrameMaker file. He cannot insert line break characters or the required spaces or tabs in the right location.

This can be optimized with clear definition and assignment of stylesheets in Adobe FrameMaker.

Optimizing the formatting in an Adobe FrameMaker file

Defining stylesheets for enumerations

A considerable amount of reformatting work was needed in the example further above.

A good formatting definition for enumeration looks like this:

Adobe FrameMaker files - stylesheet for enumerations

  • A first line indent (1) has been defined. Here the enumeration character is set.
  • A tab position (2) was defined that corresponds with the left indent (3) for the remaining text.

The translated text starts at the tab character and then flows automatically again at the right position. The formatting is always the same, even if the translated text contains more or less lines than the original text.

Defining stylesheets for headings

Adobe FrameMaker has the useful function “Break with next“.Open the paragraph design (STRG+M) and activate the “Page break” tab.

Adobe FrameMaker file - Defining style sheets for headings

If the check mark is activated next to “Break with next“, the last line of the current paragraph will always be on the same page as the first line of the next paragraph.

Under “Paragraph control“ you can determine how many lines of the paragraph formatted with “Heading1“ are together on one page.

In the shown case, a paragraph formatted with “Heading1“ which has no more than 3 lines will always break together with the next paragraph. This prevents orphaned headings at the end of a page.

Use special characters

It is often desirable to keep certain character sequences in the same line.

This applies to figures with units (e.g. 8 kg) as well as fixed expressions such as Adobe FrameMaker.

If you do not want DIN EN 15038-1 to appear on two different lines, you can insert non-breaking spaces and hyphens.

You can add a non-breaking space with CTRL+space and a non-breaking hyphen with ESC++w.

It will then look like this in Adobe FrameMaker:

Adobe FrameMaker file - Inserting non-breaking spaces and hyphens

Advantage: these characters are retained in the translation. You therefore no longer need to check all occurrences of such character sequences for unwanted wrapping after translation.

Optimizing graphics and screenshots in Adobe FrameMaker files

Making graphics language-neutral

Graphics inserted in FrameMaker should not contain any language information whatsoever.

The CAT tool cannot extract texts from inserted graphics, and these will not be translated. Special treatment is given to screenshots. See further down in Screenshots.

There are two ways of keeping graphics language-neutral:

Insert text frames

Remove the text from the graphic completely and insert a text frame in the same location in FrameMaker instead:

Adobe FrameMaker file - Graphic with text frames

Insert legend

Insert reference points into the graphic files instead of the texts.

Adobe FrameMaker file - Graphic with referencing

Repeat the reference points as a legend next to or below the graphic in Adobe FrameMaker in the form of a table, and insert the labelling there.

Optimizing screenshots

Choose a suitable file format

Screenshots usually have large areas with a uniform color value. File formats which provide good quality with high compression are:

  • Graphics Interchange Format (*.gif)
  • Windows bitmap (*.bmp)
  • Tagged Image File (*.tif)

Do not chose the popular JPEG format under any circumstances. This is optimal for photos but can make screenshots illegible.

Naming screenshots

In order to differentiate between screenshots which have the same content but different languages and be able to assign them, we recommend that you use the same filename and add a suffix to identify the language

  • Main_Screen_DE.tif
  • Main_Screen_EN.tif

Commissioning technical translation of Adobe FrameMaker files from PRODOC

We provide our customers all of the possibilities – from translation only up to complete layout processing by us.

Files required for the complete service

If you would like us to take over the entire layout, then please compress all FrameMaker files, book files, graphics, and fonts into a ZIP file that you can then send to us via ShareFile.

Files required for translation only

If you would like to deal with as much of it as possible yourself in order to cut down external costs, please provide us with the following files.

PDF files

Our translators need to see the original text and graphics. PDF format can be used for this, since it can be created quickly, it is compact and it can be viewed by anyone using the freely-available Acrobat Reader.

MIF files

CAT tools cannot usually read FrameMaker files. MIF format is used for this purpose. MIF (Maker Interchange Format) is an exchange format which can be read in directly by the CAT tool.

Create MIF files for all of the files to be translated using the “Save as“ command.

Generating Adobe FrameMaker MIF files


If the files to be translated contain screenshots, these should be created before translation starts and given appropriate names. See Naming screenshots above.

Sending the files for translation

Pack all PDF and MIF files as well as the German and foreign language screenshots in a Zip file.

  • If this file is smaller than 5MB, send it to us by e-mail.
  • If the file is bigger than 5 MB, send it to us using ShareFile.

Delivery of the translated FrameMaker file by PRODOC

With the complete service

If you have commissioned us to carry out the entire layout, you will then receive a ZIP file from us via ShareFile which you simply need to unpack in a suitable location. This contains the entire translation including the foreign-language PDF file, which you can use directly.

Translation only, without layout

If you have commissioned us to do translating only, you will receive a translated MIF file.

The way to generate a finished FrameMaker file from this is described in the following.

Store translated FrameMaker file

Copy original data

Copy the folder that contains your source files, rename it and delete all FrameMaker files.

If several files are combined in a book, take care not to delete the book file!

Copy original FrameMaker data

Rename MIF files

Rename all MIF file supplied by us from *.mif to *.fm. The files should now have the same names as the previously deleted FrameMaker files.

Rename MIF files

Move the renamed MIF files

Move the renamed MIF to the location of the original FrameMaker files.

Move the renamed FrameMaker MIF files

Convert the translated FrameMaker files

If you now open the FrameMaker book file, all of the files in the book are recognized by the *.fm extension, even though they are still in MIF format.

Select all of the files contained within the book and open them by pressing the Return key.

Opening the FrameMaker book

Adobe FrameMaker now opens all of the files. Now close FrameMaker.

The following query appears:

Query when closing FrameMaker

Confirm the query with Yes.

The Save Document dialog opens:

FrameMaker query and the Save Document dialog opens

Confirm Save as an FM file.

A confirmation query to overwrite existing files appears:

FrameMaker query to Save and confirmation query to overwrite existing files

Also confirm this with OK.

You can elegantly save all FrameMaker MIF files as FM files one after the other in this way. This procedure is particularly suitable for books containing many files.

Finishing the translated FrameMaker file


Renaming the files

To avoid having files with the same name with different contents in different folders, it is recommended to rename the translated files.

Open the book and double click on the filenames of the Frame files one after the other.

Renaming the translated FrameMaker file

You can now rename the individual Frame files. FrameMaker automatically adapts cross-references and index marks.

Carrying out necessary corrections

Even if you have taken all the measures in advance in order to automate the layout of the translated text as far as possible, adjustments to the text and graphics are unavoidable due to differing text lengths.

Text corrections

Adapting page breaks

Depending on the formatting settings and text lengths, the following may occur:

  • Unwanted empty spaces
  • Texts that belong together divided between two pages.

Adapt the page break in accordance with your requirements. It is advisable to use the “Page break“ tab in the paragraph design, see Defining stylesheets for headings above.

Adjusting the line breaks

Even if the correct spellcheck dictionary is already selected after processing with the CAT tool, unwanted separations may have occurred due to selecting unsuitable separation specifications. Examine the ends of the lines in the document and correct any unwanted separations. The following may occur:

Unwanted separation of numbers, units and words by FrameMaker

  • Separation of numbers and units
  • Separation of two words which are connected with a hyphen
  • Unwanted word separation

The following result is wanted:

Adapt line break in FrameMaker to avoid separations

This is done as follows:

  • Insert non-breaking separator (CTRL+space)
  • Insert non-breaking hyphen (ESC+-+w)
  • Insert separation suppression character (ESC+k+t)

Adapt graphic labelling

If text boxes have been used to label graphics they may be too small.

It will then look like this:

Adapt text box in FrameMaker

FrameMaker displays missing text in the form of a continuous line at the bottom edge of the frame. Increase the size of the text frame until the entire text is displayed.

Assigning foreign-language screenshots

Storing screenshots

Delete the German screenshots from the directory containing the translation.

You have sensibly stored all screenshots in a shared subdirectory and marked them with the language abbreviation *_de.*.

Instead, copy the foreign-language screenshots into the same location.

Copy screenshots in FrameMaker and store in the same location

Incorporate screenshots

Now open all FrameMaker files in the book: CTRL+A and then press Return.

FrameMaker now no longer finds the German files and asks for each missing file:

Replace German screenshots with foreign-language screenshots in all FrameMaker documents in the book

Since only the filename extensions differ, you can now quickly and easily assign the relevant translated screenshots:

The German screenshots can be replaced with the foreign-language screenshots in all documents in the book with minimal effort in this way.