Update (3.3.2011). Google Docs now supports OCR and translation of PDF files. Read about it here.
Translation of PDF files can be challenging. The text is often uneditable, making it impossible to run it through one of the automatic translation tools. Today I did some tinkering with Google Translate and found something I did not know previously: you can use Google Translate for translation of PDF files. So if you get a file that is in PDF format, such as an RFQ or a proposal, you can get Google to translate it for you in one click. Here’s how to do it:
In Google Translate, click Choose File. Then select the PDF file you want to translate. Then click Translate. After a few moments the translation is displayed in a browser window in HTML format. You can then select the text (e.g. Ctrl-A) and paste it into a MS Word file for editing and formatting.
I tried this out on a few PDF files and the results were very reasonable. Of course the result depends on the quality of the PDF file you start with; if you translate a scanned file or a fax which is lousy to begin with, it probably won’t go over well in Google Translate.
For now, PDF files are not supported in the Google Translator Toolkit but I would imagine that the folks at Google will make an announcement soon that PDF files are supported, as it appears that they have the technology in place to convert PDFs to text/html format.
Another way to translate PDF files is to use an OCR application to convert the PDF file to RTF and then to upload it to Google. We use an application called ABBYY PDF Transformer which usually does a good job of converting PDF files to text format.
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