Resonable Expectations (On Both Sides): The Quiet War Between Desktop Publishers and Their Clients*

The obstacles facing modern day desktop publishers when dealing with files from their clients.

Communication has always been a concern for businesses. Even more so when your business is to take in matter from others, meld it and return it to them while operating under their instructions, often times indirectly. From English to English can be a challenge by itself. When you are doing translation and a mix of different languages are stirred into the pot, the opportunities for errors can rise exponentially.
These issues can be caught by constant checking and double checking, all this in terms of language, syntax, spelling, etc. Issues all related to the text itself, the black and white documentation. The message itself. Systems for this process can be altered as needed until you and your company develop a workflow for proofreading and quality checking that works best for your specific needs.
Yet often times there are situations where problems can arise when Desktop Publishing and the Client misunderstand the instructions they have given each other and/or are supplied with too much or too little in terms of necessary files.

Re-occurring Issues - The DTP View

For Desktop Publishers the client often seems to make heedless, impossible requests. This is not the case. To the client their requests are simple, basic and no problem at all. The only difference between the two sides is that the client may want a simple alteration, but be unaware of the workarounds and trapdoors that often appear when working with various types of documents.


In almost any DTP department in the world, this issue will rear its head sooner or later. (If not daily.) Certain problems involving fonts may involve:
  • Less fonts than needed. A client sends all the workable files, the images, and the fonts. Except one. Now you have a situation wherein you must go back to the client and have the missing font resent. If that’s not possible? Lost? Missing? What now? Find the font online. Is it free? If not how much will it cost? Not online. Hopefully work with the client to find a substitute font. This process is made much more difficult if you are dealing with fonts that need to support accents, Cyrillic fonts or decorative fonts for titles and headings. Design firms at times may be wary of sending any fonts at all.
  • More fonts than needed. A client may have a series of files many created for a certain product push or event. These files will have commonality, therefor numerous similar fonts. Instead of relaying just the fonts used for all files, a client may send their entire font library. While not really a problem in and of itself, and can be beneficial in just-in-case scenarios, it can be difficult to weed out which fonts you require and which you do not. Also in the case of large files the added size of an extra 20, 50 or 100 fonts can take up bandwidth that will slow down your project at both the upload and download stages.
  • Programs that lack font recognition. There are times when older software must be utilized to undertake a project. This software may not have the font recognition that newer programs possess, such as Microsoft Word 2003. What this means is that if a document is created and paginated using certain fonts and sent to DTP without passing on those fonts, when opened Word will not necessarily use those same fonts. The fonts on the two systems may be different and the program will replace them with fonts that it believes are the closest match, all without warning the user. In the case of most simple text documents (Docs, RTFs, txts, etc) there are tools available to determine the fonts being used inside a document, but it is still best if creating simple text documents to use widely available free fonts and/or supply whomever will be working on your files later with the fonts they will need to match the final product to the original.

Microsoft Word

WORD IS NOT A FUCKING LAYOUT PROGRAM. Though widely available, present on most PCs used in most offices around the world and in most homes too, Microsoft Word is at best a confused substitute teacher and at worst a malicious saboteur when it comes to anything other than typing a resume, cover letter or communique to be printed on your fancy company letterhead. Often times companies will find themselves in need of creating a booklet, manual or newsletter. Since Word is something that they’re familiar with, something that they already have, and probably have at least a few super-fast typists on hand they go with Word to undertake this project. Assuming that the person(s) going through this massive textual adventure survive the journey you are usually left with a yawning chasm of awkwardly formatted, and almost always ill looking stack of scrambled egg pages. If you must use Word, use it for typing up, reviewing and editing the main body text before putting it into a proper page layout program. There are cases when documents are smaller and have few images where using Word to layout a document does not lead to an extended ordeal later on. As a loose guideline, anything 20 pages or more shouldn’t be done with Word.


Also not a layout program. Text boxes are awkward to alter. Embedded excel charts can be easily reformatted simply by trying to adjust them. Numerous images can lead to large filesizes. Powerpoint should not be used for printed materials as a general rule.

Images That Contain Text

When translating a document, occasionally you will find that images are present. If there images with text that needs translation you may run into a roadblock of sorts. Since the text is part of the image, you will not be able to insert the new text cleanly. To avoid hang ups like these clients will need to provide original versions of the images without text or better yet the workable files containing the added text, which can then be altered as needed.


When possible DTP is greatly helped by having a PDF of the original files. This allows the Publishers to have a concrete view of the documents and a reference towards congruency.
These are just a few examples of Desktop Publishing concerns when receiving and working with files from their Clients. The more support given to DTP, the easier it will be to work with your files and get them returned, looking great and on time!

*Rejected blog post for my day job. Revised and placed here so it doesn't go to waste.

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