Laying out facing Greek and English – and being laid out by it

The Eusebius book consists of a Word document containing all the Greek for the Quaestiones ad Stephanum, and another one containing all the English translation of that.  Then there are further pairs of files; text, translation for Latin; text and translation for Syriac, and so on.  Word has no way to get the multiple languages appearing on alternate pages.

For the last three hours I have been experimenting with the trial version of the professional desktop publishing and layout tool, Adobe InDesign.  Others may have been tempted, but put off by the terrifying complexity of this tool.  So I thought I’d say that you can get this working from a state of complete ignorance in about three hours, and not very difficult hours.  Here’s what I did, to get a PDF with alternate Greek and English text.

First, download the trial of InDesign from the Adobe website (you can find that alright using Google, I’m sure).  You will need to register for an “account” – just use one of your email accounts and some junk password, but remember it because you will need it later when you start up the trial.  It takes a fair old while to download, but that doesn’t matter.

While you’re waiting, start using the free video tutorials on the Adobe site.   I’m no great fan of videos, but these were short and easy to watch. I found it useful to rig up external speakers to my laptop, because I had an air-con unit going in the same room.  Do maximise the screen while watching!

Now I only watched the following videos:

  • Getting started – what is Indesign CS5?  (2:33 mins)
  • GS-01: Understanding the application window. (6 mins)
  • GS-02: New documents (7:35 mins)
  • GS-03: Adding page numbers (3:50 mins)

and then I stopped, because I was getting frustrated.  The first three are all fine, and usefully it mentions how to set up the book as 7×9″.  But then you realise that you are looking at excerpts from the Lynda.com site; and that there are loads more tutorials for each bit.  When you look at the fourth one, you feel you have missed something.  However all these are worth looking at, and they are free.

By now InDesign has downloaded.  Fire it up, and do some of the things you saw in the video.  Remember you can pause the video while you try something out!

This tells you how to set up the double-page spread.  But it won’t tell you how to add text from Word, nor how to interleave Greek and English.

What I did then was to register at Lynda.com for the rest of the tutorials for InDesign.  I recommend you do likewise.  They charge $25 a month, and keep right on charging unless you cancel.  But the Indesign trial expires after a month, so just buy a month’s worth, and remember to cancel before the end of the  month.

This gives you the rest of the tutorials.  I watched:

  • Inserting, deleting and moving pages (pretty obvious)  (7:23)
  • Changing page numbering with sections — you do need this, to fiddle with the page numbers for Roman numerals for the intro (5:58)
  • Creating and applying master pages — mainly because you’ll do the alternation of Greek and English by customing a master page (5:20)
  • Importing text — this is the critical one.  You will never manage to guess how you import a word document unless you watch this.  The answer is that you do Ctrl-D to choose a .doc file, then click ‘Open’, and then do shift+click to click on an empty frame.  This says “paste in the text and create more pages on the end until you run out of text”.  Just doing click will leave you with a little red icon at the bottom. (7:49)
  • Threading text frames.  You need this one as well, to understand how to manage the Greek-English.  Because you will be using threading. (4:01)

None of this will tell you exactly what to do for our case, but you need all this stuff.  And… it’s really not that long.  What I did was get some diet coke (full of caffeine) and some chocolate, and watch them all.

The final bit is described here, in the first reply by Peter Spier.  In my case I have one column on the left hand page, for the Greek, and one on the right, for English.  Here’s what you do.

  • Edit the master page, and create a text frame on the left hand page, and another on the right hand page.  Make sure these are not threaded together by using the View|Extras|Show text threads. 
  • By default you will have a single page, page 1.  Add two more pages.  Pages 2-3 will be a double page spread in the page viewer.
  • Change page 1 to not use the master page by clicking on the black triangle on the top.
  • Now click on page 2, and it will display, empty, in the editor.
  • Do your Ctrl-D,choose your file of Greek, and do shift+click on page 2.  You will find that it creates a whole slew of pages, all with the Greek in the left hand page only.
  • Go to page 3, and do the Ctrl-D, open the English, and do shift+click on page 3.  That will fill up all the right-hand side pages, and if need be create more.

There you have it!  You can now do File|Export to PDF for print, and get a PDF with the two interleaved.

One minor problem.  The text and translation don’t line up!  Over a few pages, they get out of step.

The answer?  You get to fix that manually by adding extra spacing, line breaks, etc!  That’s show-business.  That’s why InDesign is used for laying out text.  But at this point at least you can generate something for proof-checking the whole document!

If only InDesign was not so terrifyingly expensive! 

2 Responses to “Laying out facing Greek and English – and being laid out by it”


  1. Seumas

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with this. I’m sure it will come in handy for myself or others!

  2. Roger Pearse

    It’s a bit techy, but it is definitely the thing that when you need to know it, you need to know it. And as far as I can tell, there’s nothing online which says how.