Translation tips: Importing IDML files into CAT tools

May 26, 2016

Translators can be faced with many file formats that require translation, from simple text files to complex DTP files. These more "exotic" files, such as .mif (FrameMaker file format) or .idml (InDesign format) sometimes bring hell on earth for translators trying to import texts from such files into their CAT tools.

In particular, one of InDesign's neat features – layers and conditional text – allows users to create different versions of a document. However, the presence of more layers or text conditions in an InDesign file may easily become a confusing factor when importing text into a CAT tool. Text may become "lost" at various stages.

InDesign: Where to find relevant text

Let’s take a look at some InDesign features that might contain relevant (and sometimes hidden) text:


An .idml document can be organized by placing text (and objects) onto different layers. It's possible to show and hide those layers to display relevant text.

TIP: To show and hide the layers palette in InDesign, go to Windows > Layers (or press F7). With the layer palette displayed, layers can be hidden and unhidden by toggling the “eye” icon on and off.


This is content within a document that is meant to appear in some renditions of the document, but not other renditions.

In InDesign it's possible to create text conditions and then apply them to text just like it would be done with character formatting.

TIP: Similarly to layers, certain text can be shown or hidden by toggling conditions on and off. In InDesign, go to Windows > Type & Table > Conditional Text to show the Conditional Text palette. With the layer palette displayed, conditions are hidden/unhidden by toggling the “eye” icon (just like you’d do for layers).


There is yet another place in InDesign where irrelevant text may have been “parked” by the author of the document – the pasteboard. The pasteboard is that blank area around InDesign layout pages. Make sure to clear the pasteboard, otherwise any text that is found there may end up in translation!

One last useful TIP: Translation companies and translators should ask document authors to hide all unnecessary layers and conditional text in InDesign documents that should be translated. This will allow the translators to focus only on the intended content, which saves clients' time and money.