The great challenge of desktop publishing was always to develop techniques to allow changing the content without losing the whole work of accomplished formatting. It is called “processes optimization” — a utopia for many, a goal for others. The result brings time and cost reductions while preserving the graphic excellence of the traditional publishing processes. Multilingual publishing benefits from this de-coupling as well.
Globalization resulted in increased need for immediacy of multilingual versions. Materials authored in one language need to be available in over 30 languages and it must be achieved in the shortest possible time at the lowest possible cost. It means that a small change in the product or service initiates an entire difficult and slow process of revision of all material with corresponding correction, re-format and re-print (or “re-publish”, in the case of the electronic medias).
New technologies enabled separating the formatting information from the document content, which means documents can be reformatted easily. Also, Unicode support and OpenType fonts allowed inputting text in any language that is supported by the operating system. It is the necessary first step for multilingual publishing, but it does not constitute full language support. In other words, it does not mean that you can work with long documents, which are typographically correct in those languages.
Language support actually means several features need to be available within a DTP application. For most languages, this means at least hyphenation and spell checking dictionaries must be available. But language support can also include the ability to alphabetize lists correctly, such as table of contents and indexes, as well as the availability of additional import filters to handle language-specific characters or languages that need special composition treatment (double-byte and bi-directional languages for example).
Future posts will cover some aspects and issues involved with working in multiple languages and future trends in publishing services as well. Stay tuned!