PDF is an useful format for many occasions. It is an uncomplicated, easy-to-share and, most of all, visual format. It is an ideal format for things like manuals, articles, factsheets, ebooks, presentations etc. All PDF documents have their own layout with different kinds of images, tables and charts. We all know how sophisticated and simple it is to read a document in PDF format not matter how complicated the content itself is.

Thus there are a lot of information available in PDF format. Automatic translation is a great option for understanding and sharing information. Unfortunately PDF is not a great format what comes to automatic translations. From technical point of view PDF is a huge challenge. This is why there are some issues which may cause problems when translating PDF documents mechanically. Here are four most common reasons for an unsuccessful PDF translation:

Reason #1: The text in your PDF file is actually an image

If you try to translate your PDF document but nothing seems to be happening, the problem is likely to be caused by images. PDF files can have a lot of images and there can be text inside the images. Likewise any PDF document that is scanned from a hard copy can be considered as an one huge image. Unfortunately automatic translators cannot read text within any visual element, like image or charts. If you’re not sure if this is the case, you can easily test your document by selecting some piece of the text. All hand written PDF documents are scanned. The rule of thumb in this case is that if you can copy and paste a piece of text to word, then the PDF translator should be able to translate it, too. If you cannot select the text then it is an image.

Reason #2: The text in your PDF file is written with “difficult” font type

If you test your file with copy/paste-method and the pasted text looks weird, the problem is most likely related to the font type. This means that even if your PDF document is a high-quality file with “real” text in it, the document win’t translate correctly. Some font typed are encoded in a complicated way inside PDF files and thus PDF translators cannot understand the text. And like with people, PDF translator won’t be able to translate text it doesn’t understand. So if you try to copy and paste the text and it becomes a bunch of strange characters or boxes in word, you can most likely blame the font.

Reason # 3: Your PDF file is locked

There is a possibility to secure PDF documents. Naturally the copyright owner has the right to secure his creation and locking is a way to prevent any misuse of the information. If the file is secured you cannot select any piece of text in the file and it cannot be translated automatically either.

Reason #4: Your PDF translator is has limited functionalities

If the problem is not that your file won’t be translated but that you get the translation in a plain text file, the issue is related to your PDF translator. Some PDF translators can only translate the text and produce a plain text translation without any additional features, like images, tables or charts. There are also more advanced PDF translators which have the ability to create translated documents with same the layout (with images, charts and tables in their right places) as the original document. This issue is relevant especially if the layout is important in understanding your documents. For example all kinds of guides and scientific articles usually have content with references between text and images and tables.

These are the reasons behind most automatic PDF translations. Naturally there can be a lot other reasons and issues as well, but these four ones cover most common cases.

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