Accents are distinguishable in all languages

Multilingual documentation

BEAT KIPFER InDesign offers more than just solid layout functions. When creating templates for larger documents such as catalogs or books, it pays to dig deeper into the functionality of this program and thereby obtain “more intelligent” documents.

This procedure requires a little more thought and definition work at the beginning; This effort pays off very quickly in the form of documents that can be edited more quickly and sources of error are eliminated.

Multilingual documents

In Switzerland, the challenge of creating documents in several languages ​​arises for a variety of reasons: Several national languages, tourism and the export industry deal with multilingualism on a daily basis.

Use of levels

When creating multilingual publications, the question arises whether the images and graphic elements are language-independent and whether they should remain in the same position in all languages. If so, a single document can be built for all layered languages. InDesign knows hardly any limits: There are complex documentation that was easily created with over 20 language levels in the same document. Advantage: If images or graphic elements are changed, the correction only has to be carried out once for all languages; this also guarantees that these are used identically in all languages.

Procedure for creating language levels:

  • Create one layer each for the images plus - if necessary - for backgrounds. Lay out all text articles, tables, captions, etc. in the first language on a corresponding language level.
  • After completing the layout of the first language, duplicate this level for all other languages ​​(see Figure 1).
  • Assign a clearly distinguishable color to each level (see Figure 2).
  • Note that when editing a text layer, only this is shown and that all other layers are locked. In this way you prevent elements on other levels from being unintentionally changed (see Figure 3).

Glyphs: Use OpenType Professional

In order to have all the accents of Latin fonts available, the use of fonts in the OpenType Professional format is essential. These fonts are known to be identical on Mac and Windows, which makes collaboration easier. They contain, for example, all Nordic, but also Eastern European accents, e.g. for Swedish, Czech, Polish (see Figure 4). If texts from the mentioned language areas are placed in Word format, there are no further problems. Pure text files are best delivered as UTF-8.

Language-related paragraph formats

With text-intensive documents, we cannot avoid creating and using separate paragraph formats for each language. This is the only way to ensure proper automatic hyphenation and spell checking. One could argue that this is not necessary for titles with little or no automatic hyphenation. The use of language-separated paragraph formats for the titles is necessary to generate language-related tables of contents. At least for those titles or subtitles that should also appear in the table of contents.

How can you make it easy to create so many paragraph formats while maintaining clarity? A tried and tested tool for this is the creation of language-related format groups (see Figure 8). By clicking on the small folder symbol at the bottom of the Formats-Control panel is created quickly. The required formats can be dragged and dropped into this folder.

So that after duplicating a format group not all formats have to be converted from German to French, for example, we create a language base format on which all other formats are based. This format is not used directly for text formatting, it is used solely for language definition (see Figure 5). This format could even keep the same name in every language group, because it can be clearly assigned via the folder affiliation. In our example, a letter for language identification has been added to the front of the name (see Figure 6).

Once all paragraph formats have been defined and tested, the format group can be duplicated (see Figure 7). The duplicate is renamed according to the language (preferably with numbering). Then in the basic format contained therein under extended character formats adapted the language. Now test the other paragraph formats included: The language was adapted immediately everywhere! This is the case even if other formats based on one another exist within the group.

Table of contents per language

A table of contents should be generated at each level of the multilingual document. Therefor are in dialogue Table of Contents in the menu layout all options available.

How the table of contents generally works in InDesign can be read elsewhere. Here are just the special features of multilingual documents:

  • A separate format group is advantageously created to accommodate the paragraph formats for formatting the table of contents and a possibly required index (index).
  • Since there are hardly any hyphenations in the table of contents, there is no need to create multiple paragraph formats for the same entry style in the different languages.
  • This also applies to the character formats that are used to format the page numbers and the punctuation.
  • In the example (see Figure 9) the main and subtitles have been added to the table of contents. If all definitions are correct, it is worthwhile to include the directory with Save format to deposit. This table of contents format can then be used as a template for all language versions.

InDesign functions for larger documents

Book function(File> New): Extensive works such as catalogs and books are advantageously not structured as a single document. Rather, it is worthwhile to create a template with all the definitions - including the special features shown here for multilingual documents. This results in several documents, for example structured according to chapters. Means File> New> Book a chapter list is created through which all book documents can be managed. Tables of contents and indices can be created for the whole book, of course also language-related.

Text variables(Font> Text Variables): among other things for automatic chapter numbers and «living running headings».

Footnotes(Font> insert footnote): Automated pagination of footnotes with many options regarding placement and design.

Labels(Object> Annotations): This means that captions can be automatically inserted directly from the metadata of the placed images.

The author

Beat Kipfer is an FA trainer at PubliCollege GmbH in Burgdorf. This also includes courses and seminars, company training and support for publishing and prepress. He is also a specialist teacher and course leader at the schools for design in Aarau, Bern and Zurich.