I want to create a MS Word master document with the subdocuments as different translations....
October 27, 2005 1:38 AM   Subscribe

I want to create a MS Word master document with the subdocuments as different translations....

I work at a company where we need all our materials in 3-6 different languages. After reading this post I learned a lot about master/sub-documents and think they could be very helpful. But beyond the formatting (which can be handled with styles), we also have a lot of repeated information (charts, graphs, etc.) that would be great to sync through all of the documents.

If anyone has any experience doing something like this, I would be extremely grateful. Since a lot of secretaries work on these documents, it would also be great if anyone is aware of any user-friendly tutorials, etc.

posted by BigBrownBear to Technology (7 answers total)
Translations is one of those things you're almost always better off outsourcing than doing it in-house. Translation agencies make use of Computer Aided Translation (CAT) tools (e.g. Trados, Déjà Vu, SDLX, Wordfast) that help translations stay synchronized, and means whenever the document changes you only need to translate the changes, and reuse the translations from one document into the next. The more repetitive the documents are, the more you can reuse existing translations from previous documents.

Any home-brewed solutions will almost always end up taking more time, costing more, and with a lower quality result.

(disclaimer: I worked part-time for the last few years for translation agencies)
posted by Sharcho at 10:40 AM on October 27, 2005

Yikes. I notice that no one in the other post mentioned the notorious behavior of Word's Master Document "feature" - to quote the MVP site: "Master Documents have only two states - corrupt, or about to become corrupt."
Seriously, many professional Word wrestlers have lost hours (nay, days!) of time to this dubious feature of Word. Double that if you have non-experts working on the docs.
I'd suggest finding someone to help you develop some XML docs for those re-usable sections, and plug them in as needed.
With proper use of styles (base NOTHING on Normal), and a good template, Word is actually pretty stable up to 800 pages (the limits of my professional experience). So it might be possible to combine the template and the XML and get a decent end-product.
posted by dbmcd at 11:09 AM on October 27, 2005

800 pages... until you start inserting graphics, using footers/headers that change on a per-section basis, use page references, add an index, build the ToC, or do other common tasks.

I suggest that for ALL serious technical documentation efforts, you use either Adobe Framemaker (popular) or Corel Ventura (more functionality, better UI) or develop a text-based workflow.

For the latter, I suggest investigating LaTeX and Docutils. LaTeX mixes formatting instructions in with the text, which makes it rather more difficult to focus on content.

Docutils uses simple wiki-style markup (ReStructured Text) in plain old text files. It then transforms these files into XML, LaTeX, HTML, etc. You can easily enough transform XML into PDF using XSL:FO and an application like FOP or XEP.

The biggest benefits to Docutils are:
  • focus on content, not style
  • non-proprietary, plain ol' text, it will always be accessible to you
  • easily repurposed content
  • CVS/Subversion-compatible
  • can be easily automated

    I've developed a workflow using this system and, IMO, it rocks. Email if you want more advice on it.

  • posted by five fresh fish at 3:12 PM on October 27, 2005

    I doubt you can teach the average secretary LaTeX. If you're using a wiki-style markup, you might as well be using a wiki.
    posted by Sharcho at 4:41 PM on October 27, 2005

    Response by poster: Thanks for the comments!

    A few clarifications: I don't have the option of solutions that go outside MS Word, unfortunately.

    Few documents are more than 20 pages and most are less than 5 (promotional materials, etc). It still can be a huge chore, though, when we have to do versions in Spanish, English, Catalan, French, Portuguese, and German. We do all translations in-house.

    I think what I need to do is link certain data between the subdocuments (like the styles are linked). I guess I could play with link tables between the subdocuments like you can link tables in Word to Excel charts.
    posted by BigBrownBear at 1:11 AM on October 28, 2005

    Response by poster: i guess no one has any suggestions?
    posted by BigBrownBear at 1:12 AM on October 31, 2005

    I'll repeat the suggestion of using one the CAT tools mentioned above.
    posted by Sharcho at 8:59 PM on October 31, 2005

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