Expat Tech: Google Translate – Now Supports PDF and Office Docs

Google TranslateGoogle Translate has been an  indispensable tool in my move to Buenos Aires and I’ve written about the many benefits of using it already. I’ve used it to translate local Spanish language web sites, decipher emails from new Argentine friends, help with my Spanish homework, etc.

Google has just added a new feature: the ability to translate PDF files and Office documents from one language to another. It does this by converting the document to HTML on the fly, and then displaying the translated HTML file back to you.  The cool thing?  It can do this even if the document is not indexed in Google.  So, how do you do this for a document on your computer or in your email that you want translated?  Glad you asked…

First, you need to put your document up on the web somewhere.  I use my favorite file sharing site, Drop.io, to create a new “drop” and upload the document. Drop.io lets you create shared web folders with up to 100MB of storage for free. You can pick the name, set a password and access permissions, etc. For this to work, make sure that your drop is public.

Once the drop is created and the file is uploaded on drop.io, click on “Full Page View” under the document. This opens a new window with the document displayed. Right-click on the “Download” link in the upper left, and select “Copy Shortcut” to save a copy of the link to that file.  You now have a URL for your file that you can give to Google to translate.

Next, head over to Google Translate. Click on “Text and Web” at the top and paste the link from drop.io. Make sure the language settings are correct and then click “Translate.”  That’s it!  You’ll now have a translation of your document available for viewing.

It works fairly well, but it seems to be limited to smaller documents right now.  I tried to translate a 47 page document and received an error: “The page you requested was too large to be translated.” The limit seems to depend on the file size and number of pages of text.