Suggestions for a General Purpose Layout

During training events I am frequently asked by new Paratext users for the “best” layout to use. I will not be so bold as to say I know what is the best layout, but I can give some suggestions that can be helpful as a place to start. I expect that after reading this article, you will take some of these ideas and adapt them to your own needs and tastes.

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One major problem with making the “best” layout is that a good layout is designed for a specific purpose. One layout will probably not be optimal for all tasks that a consultant or translator needs to do during the course of a translation project. Layouts involve not only the physical arrangement of projects, resources and tools, but also which resources and tools should be open. In the layout described in this article, I will mention why I have selected the resources and tools for my layout. You will see that I have used tabs, a text collection and the autohide area to maximize what will fit on a single screen. I have tried to design a layout that would be good as a general purpose layout. It would not be so good for some very specific tasks such as checking parallel passages, or responding to a large number of project notes for example.

Below is an example of a Paratext layout for working with the DBD project. It would be good for tasks such as drafting, team check, consultant check among others.

Because of the limitations of how this article is published, I will explain each panel separately. This will allow me to zoom in on each section so they will be more visible.

Panel 1 - Back Translation and Translation Project

Panel one has the receptor language translation project (DBD), and its back translation (DBDBT) in tabs. Some consultants place notes to the team in the back translation, and others place them in the receptor language project, so I have both here. Also, since I am using the project interlinearizer, I need the receptor language project (DBD) open in order to open the interlinearizer. There will be more discussion of the interlinearizer panel later.

Below the receptor language text and its back translation are two more tabs. The first is the Biblical Terms Rendering window for the receptor language text. Having the renderings window open is an easy way to see how important terms have been translated. The second tab is the SIL Translator’s Notes Display (TND). This resource has high quality translation advice for each verse. It is broken down into an easy-to-follow clause by clause format. The companion to this resource is the SIL Translator’s Notes (TNN) which will be described later in this article.

Panel 2 - Useful Bibles and Resources

Tab 1 - Text Collection

Panel two has four tabs. The first is a text collection. The text collection has the back translation project (DBDBT) followed by the Bible that the team follows the most closely which in this case is the NLT07. This is a clever arrangement that makes it relatively easy to check to see if all the pieces are there and if anything unexpected has been added. Since there are any number of legitimate reasons the translation could not follow the model text, it is good to have a variety of kinds of resources in the text collection.

Tab 2 - NET Bible

Tab 2 has the NET Bible. I include this resource for the scholarship that went into the translation and for the excellent translator’s notes in the footnotes. The footnotes are a good resource for explanations of difficult Greek and Hebrew issues. They include notes on grammar, syntax, lexicography and discourse.

It is possible to display a resource’s footnotes in a text collection with a few clicks, but long footnotes are hard to read in that format. Since I am including the NET primarily for its long and detailed footnotes, it is better placed in a tab and not a text collection.

Tab 3 - Translation for Translators

Tab 3 has the Translation for Translators (T4T). This is an excellent resource to help you understand the logical flow of a Biblical text. It is also very helpful in identifying implicit information in the text. If your translation goal is to produce a meaning-based translation, then don’t overlook the T4T.

The T4T can go in a text collection, but I like to have it in its own tab for when a verse has had a lot of implicit information made explicit and its translation of a verse is significantly longer than other resources that I am using.

Tab 4 - Berean Study Bible

Tab 4 has the Berean Study Bible (BSB). I have included it for its helpful footnotes. The footnotes on manuscript issues are very simple and clear. If you don’t know what the Greek apparatus is or have trouble reading it, then the BSB’s footnotes on manuscript issues are very accessible.

Panel 3 - Source Languages and List Window

Tab 1 - Source Language Tools

The first tab I have chosen is the Source Language Tools (SLT). I like to configure the SLT with the grammatical information displayed at the bottom of the window to save space. I also like the lemma line enabled (blue line) to make searching for lemmas in lexicons quicker. 

Tab 2 - Enhanced Resource

Enhanced Resources were created to give more translators access to information about the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic source texts. While Enhanced resources and the Source Language Tools provide much the same information, there are enough differences that I have given both a place in my layout. Realistically, you probably only need one as part of your layout. Since Enhanced Resources were developed to give those without Greek or Hebrew a window into those languages, I would recommend the Enhanced Resource for those who do not know the Biblical languages.

Tab 3 - List Window

The List window can cause all of your panels and windows to move all around. In the article Tame Your List Window in Paratext! 🦁, I described how giving the list window a permanent place in your layout will keep your windows from scrambling when a list window opens.

In my general purpose layout I have chosen to put it with the source language resources since there were only two tabs in that panel. You could place the list window in any of the panels if you wanted to.

Project Interlinearizer - Back Translation?

Here I get into something that could be more controversial. Some teams operate with a back translation provided by someone not involved in making the draft. Others only use the Project Interlinearizer. Some have both a back translation project and the Project Interlinearizer. While other teams only work with oral back translations. Given the variety of methods used for back translations, feel totally free to ignore some or all of the parts of my general purpose layout that deal with back translations. Personally, I like having a free back translation to get a sense of how the draft is being understood, and the literal word-for-word information from the interlinearizer to learn more about the target language.

The project interlinearizer needs a lot of space to be readable. If you have a second monitor, I would recommend making the Project Interlinearizer a floating window and drag it to the second monitor. This will also give more space to the SLT and Enhanced Resource that also work best with a lot of screen space.

Autohide Area - Infrequently Accessed Resources

Many Paratext users often have a few resources that are only accessed occasionally but are still important to consult. The autohide area can be used for these and save valuable screen space. I have placed my favorite Greek dictionary/lexicon, the SIL Translator’s Notes (TNN) which is fuller explanation of the SIL Translator’s Notes, and the UBS translation Handbook in the autohide area. Doing this both saves screen space, and keeps them from moving my windows and panels all around when I open them. Actually, you can put a resource or tool in autohide to save space even if you do use it frequently. Note: The autohide area closes as soon as you click anywhere outside of it. For this reason, you probably will not want to put resources that you use frequently in the autohide area.

If you need more information about autohide or creating a layout, check out the following training videos:

Power User Tip - Notes List and Renderings Windows

If you need to process a large number of project notes, then consider adding a notes list to your layout. When you open the notes list for a project, Paratext places it below the project associated with the notes. If you would like the window in another location, then you could move it to a panel or a tab.

Having the BiblicalTerms Rendering window and the Notes List window open below the project makes them all small and hard to view. I will drag the Notes List window over the Biblical Terms Renderings window and make it a tab. This will give the Notes List and the Biblical Terms Renderings window more space but I will not be able to see them at the same time.

For more information about opening the Notes List window check out these training videos:


I have gone through a Paratext layout that I think will work well for most of the tasks that a translation team or consultant needs to do. Much of my sample layout is admittedly arbitrary. (I like having the draft text on the left, while you might like having it on the right for example.) My goal was to give concrete examples that would help new and experienced users with ideas of what can be done with layouts. A secondary goal was to highlight the uses of specific tools and resources that are available to most translators. Many new users are overwhelmed by the large number of resources available. The resources mentioned in this article are a good place to start. There are other specialized resources that I could have mentioned but did not for brevities’ sake. My hope and prayer is that wherever you are in your journey with Bible translation that you have learned something that will help you in your ministry.

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