Many of us know the story of the Tower of Babel, but if you don’t here is a quick recap:

All of the people in the land gathered to one place and decided to build a large tower in order to make themselves known. But the Lord saw what the people were doing and decided that nothing would be impossible for them to do if they continued to speak a single language so he created a bunch of languages, confusing the people when the spoke and reducing their power as a collective group.

The result? The world is filled with hundreds of languages, and Salesforce Admins everywhere have the pleasure of working with the translation workbench!

If you haven’t worked with this tool, it is not easy! In my opinion, it is the single most frustrating feature of Salesforce and is a productivity nightmare when creating new translations. Before going any further, I should preface that I am a translation workbench novice; only in the last few weeks have I really worked with the tool, but my opinion will remain the same until someone can persuade me otherwise!

Salesforce does have some information about the translation workbench published including this somewhat helpful Translation Workbench Export and Import Quick Start Guide. There is some additional information in the Help & Training section, but the content seems to be limited through either resource and not terribly helpful. Additional information on errors and how to fix them would have been fantastic!

Because this was my first attempt at working with this tool, I learned through a process of trial and error, along with some help from a friend. Here are some of the areas that I found to be important.

Don’t pull a translation file from your sandbox environment for translation – they Keys will not match up when trying to load the sandbox version of the translation file into production. This is exactly what I did and it required that I export a new file from production and create a VLOOKUP function to pull over the translated values from my original workbook.

You will probably receive a number of errors. My most common errors were Maximum character limit (40) for CustomField translation which means that the translated field label is too long, and Invalid Key which means that for whatever reason, there is at least one key in the KEY column that doesn’t match the key in Salesforce and should be verified.

Files need to be imported in a .stf format. Salesforce provides no assistance in their documentation (that I could find) on how to change your Excel file back into a .stf for upload. Below you will find my instructions for converting and saving the file in .stf.
Before you walk through the steps outlined below, you will need to install a free tool called Notepad ++ to proceed. Please do this first, then follow the instructions below.

  1. Open your saved Excel translation file
  2. Click File | Save As
  3. Choose the destination and file name. File type should be Text (Tab delimited) (*txt)
  4. Click Save
  5. Open Notepad++ and click File | Open and select the file.
  6. Click Open
  7. Click Encoding | Convert to UTF-8 without BOM
  8. Click File | Save As
  9. In the File Name section, change the .txt extension to .stf
  10. Click Save

Now, you will be able to navigate to the import section of the translation workbench and import the .stf file. Once the import is complete, an email will return informing you if the file was successful or had errors. If errors occur, open your Excel workbook, make changes, then save and start from step two (2) in the above instructions. Rename your files to keep a history of changes if you wish.

After several days and multiple attempts, I am happy to say that my file finally uploaded into the production environment without errors! However, I still have quite a bit of manual work that needs to be done to remove special characters and add those translations that I had to remove from the file for character limit errors.

I would love to hear if you have any other advise or recommendations for making this process easier. Connect with me or comment below!

8 thoughts on “ Tower of Babel and the Translation Workbench ”

  1. Thanks for the article! This is the most informative one I have found. I’m attempting to use Translation WOrkbench import/export for our org. A couple questions – why would the keys not match between sandbox and production if the sandbox is recently refreshed? Also, did you actually enter all your translations in Excel, then save per the steps in the article, in Notepad++? If so, did you have any problems with quotes being inserted unexpectedly? I ask because using Notepad++ is not very user friendly, given the columns don’t line up.


  2. Thanks for the kind words Linda. I never did figure out why the keys were mismatched and what caused the issue. I even refreshed our full sandbox and exported the values to be translated from both production and the sandbox and found that some of them were different.

    As far as the process above, those are the exact steps I used to update the file. While I don’t believe that this is the best or only way, it seemed to work for me well. The primary reason for using Notepad++ was to get the appropriate encoding and saving the file in the appropriate format.

    The import thing is that even this process isn’t seamless. While I was able to get a lot of our values updated through this process, I still had to do quite a bit of manual updating.

    Good luck!


  3. I know this is old but thought I’d throw in another tip. Rather than mess with the pain of import / export, you translate in sandbox and deploy with IDE – pull all metadata and just deploy the languages and translations.


  4. The Salesforce translation tools are head-and-shoulders above the competition. The only issues our clients have had is related to getting content into their translation memory tools while simultaneously ensuring that the content that is imported back into SF is properly formatted. Our product, LinguistNow piggy-backs on top of the existing SF translation workflow tools so that the export/import processes are automated and the incoming translations maintain proper formatting. It’s the best-possible marriage between an awesome CRM and high-quality translation solutions.


  5. Thanks to Andy’s tip I managed to transfer the Custom Objects and Custom Labels translations in German pretty easy using the Migration Tool. Here’s my package.xml file:







  6. BTW, in Notepad++, they relabeled “Convert to UTF-8 without BOM” to just “Convert to UTF-8.” Same function.

    Translation Workbench is still exactly the same. (Sigh.)


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