PDF Wordfast Classic

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Important note: Wordfast Anywhere (http://anywhere.wordfast.net) can convert a PDF document into a Word document, for free as of Spring 2011. This even concerns "dead PDFs", i.e., PDF documents that contain screenshots of text, or scanned text. Wordfast, as a brand, was the first translation tool maker to offer really free (no usage restriction, no advertizing, no platinum upgrades) PDF-to-RTF conversions.

The PDF (Portable Document File) format was designed at an age when fonts were scarce and expensive. Many systems lacked fonts, or were equipped with very different fonts. The PDF format contained the fonts it used, making it very portable.

Unfortunately for us translators, the success of PDF is found in another feature: the difficulty (or the near impossibility for most people) to alter PDF content. As a consequence, one cannot directly edit, therefore, translate a PDF file: text has to be extracted from it. To make things even more complicated, many PDF documents (so-called "Dead PDFs") either lock their content, or worse, only contain graphics (screenshots) of text, not actual, selectable text.

The bottom line is that there is no tool that will let you translate a PDF "from within", and deliver a translated PDF at the push of a button. PDFs must be converted to another format, and even that process is hazardous.

WFC can convert most "live" PDF documents into Word documents, in the Windows environment, provided:

  • You have Adobe (PDF) Reader version 7, 8, 9, or above, installed (note: Adobe Reader is free, and found on most systems).
  • The PDF document is not password-protected again copy/pasting (to verify: in Adobe Reader, use the Edit menu: if Copy and Paste are greyed out, the document is locked).
  • The PDF document actually contains text, not pictures of text, or screenshots.

There are two methods to import PDF into a Word document with Wordfast:

  • Drag-drop the PDF file straight into Ms-Word (drop it in Ms-Word's window title bar, not inside the Ms-Word window). Wordfast should detect the .pdf extension and start the import process.
  • Open the PDF file with Abobe Reader (double-click the PDF file). In Adobe Reader's Preferences / Display (View) options, set the mode to the "One page" view, not the "One page continuous" view. In the PDF document, make sure that text (like individual words) can be selected with the mouse.

Get back to Ms-Word, create a new, blank document, press Alt+Down (this is the same process as with Excel and PowerPoint files).

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