Interview with Berry Braster, Etteplan

This week’s podcast is an interview with Berry Braster from Tedopres. If you’ve been a part of the Arbortext community for any length of time, you’ve seen Berry and you know about The Book.

When I say “The Book” and “Tedopress” in the same breath, everyone knows which book I mean. Tedopress is well known for giving away the book that defines best practices for writing for international audiences, for preparing your content for translation.  The  name of the book is “The New Language in International Business, Simplified English” and you can request your free copy here [Ed: The book is no longer available, 2016-12].

Year after year, I always looked forward to seeing Berry. I’ve had The Book for as long as I can remember. It was one of the first references I got when I was learning. Continue reading “Interview with Berry Braster, Etteplan”

5 Tips for keeping your content flexible

One of the articles in our newsletter this month generated a great discussion with one of our customers.  I wanted to follow up here with their questions and some deeper information.

First: here’s the article from the newsletter:

Whether you’re translating or not, some practices can make it easier for you to future-proof your content.

Tip #1: Use numbers for your call-outs and have a legend table.

There are two benefits to this “old school” method. If you ever decide to convert your content, there won’t be an additional work (or charge) to recreate the call-out content in the new tool. It’s rare for two tools to use the same mechanism for drawing features, so it rarely converts cleanly. Second, not all languages fit in the same space, or even go the same direction (right-to-left vs left-to-right). Call-outs will need to be re-sized or moved entirely in a graphic that gets put into a translated document. Both of these mean more work (and more cost) for you at the time the translation happens as well as every time the document is updated. Simply put, use numbers — not text — in your call-outs.ß

Tip #2: Put the call-outs in the graphic itself.

This is a corollary to tip #1. Use the same tool that creates the graphic to insert the call outs so they’re part of the graphic and not an in-between layer. Going to a mobile format? Going to the web? Both of these import graphics by reference. If the call-outs are in the graphic, you get them automatically in the other formats.

Tip #3: Don’t use variables in text for sentence fragments.

Sentence fragments have ripple effects when it comes to translation. First, not all languages have the same sentence structure. Phrases may not be isolated the same way in another language. Variables should be reserved for items that are not affected by translation like graphics, proper names, numbers, or other truly one-for-one substitutable textual items. Before you use a variable, make sure they pass the isolation litmus test.

Tip #4: Don’t nest your topics. (DITA)

Nested topics cause problems for translation houses. Flattened structures can improve the processing because they create a linear-ordering for word experts. This is particularly important when going to Asian languages. Topics need to be fully enumerated before they can be evaluated. Nesting impedes the process and complicates the analysis before translation is completed. With nested topics, the structure is hidden from the translators. It’s generally a better practice to use a sub-mapping structure rather than nesting.

Tip #5: Don’t use tables for procedures.

First, conversion is complicated for for these kinds of structure. Automated conversion can’t tell a procedure from tabular data when a procedure is embedded in a table structure. Second, when you use a table for a procedure, you have to manually maintain the numbering as you insert or delete steps. That’s a difficult situation to maintain, especially as the procedure grows and spans pages. Use structures that support numbered steps when that’s what you’re creating.

Most of the questions had to do with Tip #4 and the notion of what I meant by “flattening” and “nested“.

When I talk about “nested” topics, I mean topics that exist completely inside other topics. That is, the entire topic appears between the open and close tags of another topic. A nested topic looks like the structure below:


In this case, there is a complete concept inside another topic. That’s a nested topic. And, when I say it’s better to flatten, I mean to pull that concept out of the parent topic and make it a topic on it’s own. Typically, nesting is used to simulate hierarchical structure. But with DITA, there are other ways to construct hierarchical structure. You can add structure with a map:


The topics in the red box in this map show three levels of hierarchical structure — what is essentially three levels of heading (head 1, head 2, and head 3) — without nesting the topics.

And just a note about Tip #2: Remember Tip #1. Or, as one reader put it:

“If there is any chance that your docs will be translated, do not embed text (words) in the graphics.  It will cost you $25 to $50 per graphic, per language, to have the LSP (localiztion service provider) open each graphic, translate the text, save the graphic, and replace the file in your authoring tool or CMS.

Cost saver tip: Before translating your docs, replace all text in graphics with numbers and use a legend table below the graphic as described in Tip #1.

Usability tip:  if possible, keep the legend table on the same page as the graphic.”

Common Questions: Language Support in Arbortext

Language support in Arbortext

This week’s topic: Language support in Arbortext

XML publishing systems makes translation less expensive all-around. The biggest cost of translating content produced in traditional tools is the DTP that must be done on the content once it’s been translated.  Some languages switch orientation (R to L rather than L to R); some languages take up more space; and, some take up less.  DTP is the biggest line item in translation costs for content created in traditional DTP tools.

With XML publishing, you get the separation of form from content, so you can send translated content through your localized stylesheets as easily as you send source languages through the stylesheet. As a result, you completely delete DTP costs from your translation bill.

If you’ve got a good component content management system, you also get the benefit of automation. Systems like Arbortext Content Manager can identify, package, and ship content that requires translation automatically to translation vendors. It can also receive and publish content automatically, on demand, or by states defined in the workflow as required by your business process.

With all the benefits that translation brings — and we’ve included a big list of related content in the list at the bottom of this post — language support is a big part of dynamic content creation and delivery systems.

So, today, we’re answering some of the more common and general questions about Language support in Arbortext. As always, if you have a question that we haven’t answered or if you want more details, remember to send us your questions or add them to the comments!

Question: Languages

Which languages does Arbortext support?


At my last count, 42 languages were supported, but PTC adds more support all the time. Check the matrix of supported languages and software features (i.e., Content, Spelling Dictionaries, Thesaurus, Print Hyphenation, Indexing, Localized User Interface, and Localized Online Help) online here.

Question: Index support

Does Arbortext Content Manager support the special cases for sorting indexing in Japanese and other languages?



If you also mean indexing like a DB indexes, search result indexes, or an Index like at the end of a book? Yes.

Question: Unicode

Is UNICODE supported?



Question: UTF-8

Is UTF-8 supported?


Yes, all parts of the XML standard are supported

Question: Automation with translation vendors

Can Arbortext Content Manager hand off source content components to an FTP site for translation?



Question: Automation import from translation vendors

Can the translation vendor pick up the components, translate them, and then return them back to Arbortext Content Manager?



Question: Automation and notification

Can Arbortext Content Manager automatically retrieve the translated content or can authors be notified of the availability of the translated content?



Question: Support for TM tools

Can Arbortext Content Manager be integrated with one or more translation memory tools? Which one is already supported?


Yes, any translation vendor who integrates with Arbortext

Question: Integration with Translation Editors

Is an integrated translation editor (preferably web-based) available that translators can use to compare and translate content?


This is dependent on your translation vendor. Arbortext works with many different

Question: Terminology tools

Is a terminology check tool available that can edit in real time an author’s content as s/he is working? This type of editor provides correct preferred terminology and can indicate if a similar sentence has already been written and queries whether or not she would like to use it (like systematic reuse)?


This is dependent on your translation vendor. Arbortext works with many different

Question: Information Managment integration

Can Arbortext Content Manager hand content off to a translation information Management System?



(You might also want to consult the post on Data Merge that we did previously.)

Question: “Mirror Images”

Does it support “mirror image” language versions? For example, some  systems make a mirror images of the source language (usually in English) and then create a version of the content for each language. The language version is sent out for translation either as a full content set or on a component-by-component basis. When the translated content is re-imported into the system, it is imported into the language-specific version. The translated component and source component are linked (parent/child relationship) so that when the source changes, the workflow triggers a translation change.



Question: Implementing Multiple Languages in source XML

Does Arbortext Content Manager support derivative/filtered integration of language versions? Sometimes systems create derivative versions of the source component for the language, and integrate the translated component into the source component so that all language versions are contained within the same component. The component can then be filtered for publication. This can result in very “cluttered” component.


Yes. How this is implemented is up to you and your business process and the configuration you specify (or don’t).

Question: Additional Content?

Does Arbortext add supplementary content to each component so that the content to be translated can be viewed in context?


This is dependent on your translation vendor. Arbortext works with many different

Note: There are no under-the-cover, additional tags that the Arbortext solution inserts

Question: Content Validation

Is content validated after it has been translated?


Yes, if this is set up.

This is dependent on your translation vendor. Arbortext works with many different

Question: Word Count

Does Arbortext Content Manager provide a mechanism for word count at both the object and job level so cost can be estimated?


This is dependent on your translation vendor. Arbortext works with many different

Note: You can also do word count inside Arbortext Editor.