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In case you didn't know: machine translation is considered unsuitable for commercial use. Yes, interesting to try and figure out meaning, but POS will have much higher standards required. So you will need to take up the offer to translate: be sure it is done by native speakers of each language (or at least that you are not accountable if it is not).
One other thing to beware of is that the amount of translated copy can be very variable. Can your layouts cope with 50% more text?
What you described is basically what Redokun (https://redokun.com) does.
The process is really simple:
1. Upload the InDesign file in the original language
2. Redokun extracts all the text from your file (in Excel format)
3. After your translators are done with the translation, you just have to upload the translated Excel file into Redokun and download the translate InDesign file.
I was wondering if anyone knows of or has used any software that can translate English copy into various different languages and populate various different InDesign documents with the translated text.
We are currently working on some POS materials for a client and they have asked us if we could do their European units as well as the UK. They have said that they could supply the translated text in Excel format so I'm not sure if the software would need to do the translation as such (that would be a bonus though) so I guess it would just need some solid mail merge features or something along those lines!
I've used a variety of translation memory tools that do what you are trying to do. How much volume are you talking about, here? Tools like SDL Trados, memoq, and Wordfast all do exactly what you're talking about. You take their Excel translations, and create an alignment wherein one sentence of English matches one sentence of, say, Portuguese or Urdu or whatever, and you use that alignment to create a database of pairs. You then feed an IDML file into the tool, and it automatically populates the source IDML with your translation segments.
The links posted by Derek and agopaul look good; I've not used those tools, but they look pretty very straightforward. They look like single-purpose IDML-specific versions of the industry-standard general tools I describe above.
The reason I ask about volume is that the tools that I'm describing aren't cheap, and the skills to use them successfully (without turning your Urdu into scrambled eggs) aren't the kind of thing you acquire in an afternoon. The fact that you'd appreciate automated machine translation (as "a bonus") tells me that there is a significant risk that you will be better served by contracting some of this work out. If I use machine translation in a project, I find a bilingual contractor who has experience doing post-machine-translation editing. If I automatically flow translated segments into an IDML file, I use a language industry InDesign pro (that's me) to do post-translation-memory cleanup.
But, in short: yes, the mail-merge-on-steroids product you want does exist. Take a look at memoQ; I'd want to know a lot more about your project and staff before making a serious recommendation, but that's probably the price/performance hotspot for you, and the free trial is fully featured. Redokun looks good too, if your language list is short. If I look at the pricing page, I think that it seems really expensive once your list of target languages starts getting beyond the five-hundred-euro pricepoint.
Dan, great suggestions here in answer to your question. Are you looking for software to extract the strings and then send them to translation and put them back in the right place and build? Do you instead want some translation memory tools and a translator workbench? Are you looking for software to automatically translate the strings? Or something else? There are open source tools for string extraction. Check out a few of these:
Our Continuous Localization System, Serge, is now Open Source! Evernote Tech Blog | The Care and Feeding of Elephants
Mojito: A continuous localization platform Introducing Mojito: A Continuous Localization Platform | Box Blog
Also try lingotek.com, opentag.com
As for pure, raw MT as a finished product, that's another story. We do use MT extensively at Adobe but in very specific use cases. I agree with the others that you cannot expect a publication-quality output without some human intervention.
While there are many commercial translation and localization companies, you can also consider paid crowdsourcing. See this article There’s Big Money in Crowdsourced Translation – Or Is There?