Computer-Assisted Translation Tools: A Digest

I recently asked the community of translators on ATA’s Business Practices listserv to weigh in on the pros and cons of the Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools they use. The question sparked a well-attended discussion, and brought helpful insight on using CAT tools in translation. I have compiled the conversation’s highlights here for the benefit of all.

Functions

Translators first adopted CAT tools—previously known as Translation Memory tools—as a way to efficiently catalog and retrieve their translations of technical words and phrases. These tools helped maintain consistency within a single document or across documents on a specific subject matter. They also saved the translator time by storing translations and supplying them on demand.

Today, CAT tools retain this fundamental memory function, and can further boost translator productivity and quality with the following features:

  • Autosuggest supplies recurring words and phrases and obviates typing them out each time they appear. One translator commented that, in some cases, she translates faster with autosuggest-assisted typing than by dictation using Dragon® software.
  • Quality assurance functions check the translation for omissions and numeral inconsistencies, and proof it using target language standards.
  • Side-by-side alignment of segments from the source and target texts helps maintain workflow by keeping the translator from getting lost while working between two documents.

Use with Caution

Several listserv members warned against allowing the tool to manipulate the translation through imperfect matches and suggestions. CAT tools are not translators, but tools that assist translation. The user should therefore always control the tool, and is responsible for reviewing the tool’s output with an expert’s eye. Furthermore, a tool’s original settings may not be the best; the user must be familiar with the software and be able to manipulate it to benefit his or her unique projects.

Suitability

Most commentators agreed that CAT tools are most useful across technical documents in which subject-matter-specific terms must be consistent, and within documents with frequent repetitions. Creative works such as books or marketing copy benefit less from the tools’ memory function, since artistic expression is less repetitive and restricted than technical language. Nevertheless, a translator may leverage other functions, such as quality assurance checks and assisted typing, to efficiently process artistic translations. Again, the translator is ultimately responsible for the finished product. The skilled use of a CAT tool can help to create a better translation in a shorter amount of time, whereas an inept CAT tool user will waste time and produce substandard work.

Tool Choices

A few key considerations influence CAT tool choice. Several translators who responded to my question pointed out that, while direct clients may not care which CAT tool you use—and may not even be aware that you use a tool—translation agency clients often have tool preferences, and these preferences should guide your choice. You will attract more agency clients by having and being able to use a mainstream CAT tool, and can therefore reap dividends on the money and time you invest in buying and learning to use one. To a point, having and expertly using multiple tools will bring even more work, because you can target a wider segment of the agency market.

Cost may also influence your choice. Prices range from free to over $800; however, group buy discounts on ProZ.com can save you hundreds of dollars. You should also take advantage of free demo versions when they are available. Furthermore, keep in mind the frequency and price of updates and upgrades, which vary widely across tools.

Listserv respondents generally agreed that SDL Trados Studio is the CAT tool with the largest market share, followed closely by memoQ. Other tools that were mentioned (in no particular order) include Wordfast, Déjà Vu, OmegaT, and Across. Respondents recommended using the latest versions. Comments, some subjective, are given on each tool below.

  • SDL Trados Studio, widely used and demanded by many clients, is a feature-rich and powerful tool; nonetheless, it can be challenging to learn, has a congested interface, and is comparatively expensive, at $825 for the 2017 version. (The price, however, dropped to $575 on a recent ProZ.com group buy.)
  • memoQ, like Trados, is powerful and widely used and accepted, but it is nearly $200 cheaper. Some agencies lend a memoQ license, making purchase unnecessary in such cases. One user commented that the browser (online) version is not very useful.
  • Wordfast was described as not having as many features and options as Trados or memoQ, but, as a result, it is easier to master and still widely used. Like memoQ, Wordfast is cheaper than Trados, and was heavily discounted in a recent ProZ.com group buy.
  • Déjà Vu has strong segment assembly powers and is relatively inexpensive (listed at $450, and offered at 30% off on ProZ.com), but has weaker quality assurance features.
  • OmegaT is free and simple, and boasts a helpful support group online. One user complained that OmegaT does not segment Japanese very well.
  • Across: One respondent strongly discouraged using Across, as it apparently does not do much to assist translation. Corroborating this commentary, it has a rating of only two out of five stars on ProZ.com.

As these tools have progressed, so has compatibility among them. A translator may be able to open in his or her favorite tool a translation memory file made with a different tool; or, an agency’s project manager may be able to open a translation in Trados that was completed in memoQ. Some respondents, however, still reported problems with compatibility, even among the mainstream tools. The shrewd translator who is aware of this pitfall will use caution when working across multiple tools. Nevertheless, once one has learned to skillfully use one CAT tool, the next should be much easier to master.

As the listserv discussion died down, I downloaded and began to use OmegaT (it’s free, after all). I had missed the first SDL Trados Studio 2017 group buy of the year in January, so I got the free and fully functional 30-day trial instead. When Trados was offered on discount again in February, I made sure to sign up, and have since purchased a full user license. Now the real work begins!

Header image credit: StockSnap

Author bio

Paul Froese is a freelance Spanish to English translator specializing in scientific translation. A native of Walla Walla, Washington, he holds an undergraduate degree in plant science and biotechnology, and a graduate degree in crop science focused on plant breeding and genetics, both from Washington State University. Though a linguist since his late teens, he only began his translation career in 2016, and sees himself very much as a newcomer to the profession.

Visit Paul’s website at www.lotamtranslations.com and his blog about trends in Latin American agriculture at www.latinagtrends.com. E-mail him with ideas or suggestions at paul@lotamtranslations.com.

Tech Talk: Software and Tools for Translators

Tech Talk: Software and Tools for TranslatorsIn 2014, I made two life-changing decisions: I committed to working as a freelance translator, and I purchased a PC after years of Apple use. I bought a cheap Lenovo, and told myself that, if I wanted to make money (which I wasn’t, then), I needed to spend it. Simple enough.

Then I tried opening a Microsoft Word file, only to learn that MS Office shipped separately from the computer itself. It might as well have come without a screen. What good was a laptop if I couldn’t even write something on it? On top of which, I’d have to pay a subscription for the privilege of downloading MS Office?

You cannot be a good, efficient, professional translator without the right technology, but professional-level software can be expensive, presenting a challenge for some first-time translators.

If you are looking to cut costs in at least one area, take heart: the web is full of free and open-source software that translators can use. Here are five programs I’ve found invaluable, not only because they literally have no price tag.

OmegaT

OmegaT is a free, open-source computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool in the same model as such proprietary CAT tools as memoQ or Trados. It takes up comparatively little space on your hard drive and is easy to learn to use: it comes with a preinstalled guide for getting started, making it ideal for new translators. OmegaT lets you create, manage, and import translation memories and glossaries, breaks text into easily translatable segments, and allows for easy insertion of previously translated terms, which will reduce your translation time enormously. A perk of its being open-source is that independent developers have written scripts and plug-ins, making it more customizable than other tools on the market. Speaking of which, you may wonder why, if there’s a free, customizable CAT tool available, a market for paid ones exists at all. First, OmegaT is not the industry standard. Most translation companies and freelancers use a proprietary CAT tool. For compatibility reasons, especially if you access the company’s TMs through the cloud, you may have to use the company’s CAT tool.  Second, open-source software is not known for its polish. OmegaT’s interface looks like it was designed by someone with Windows 95 nostalgia; personally, I’ve found its layout confusing, especially when looking for other segments. Nevertheless, it’s the quickest, cheapest way to introduce yourself to an essential translation tool.

Google Drive and Google Docs

You generate a lot of files when you translate, and they take up space. They’re also troublesome to search through. Enter Google Drive, a cloud-based (read: not on your computer) storage system for nearly anything with a file extension. Google Drive lets you create as many folders as you need to organize your materials and gives you 15 GB of storage for free. For $1.99 a month, you can increase that to 100 GB. You can use Drive to create any kind of document or file you might create using Microsoft Office with the benefit of instant saving and the ability to revert to previous versions very easily. It’s also portable: files can be converted to Drive format easily, meaning you can take an MS Word file and edit it from anywhere with an Internet connection. Searching for files on drive is also easier than on your computer, for the simple fact that you’re using Google’s search function, and not Microsoft Explorer’s. When was the last time you Binged something?

Drive isn’t the only cloud-based storage system: Dropbox is also free, and you can use Apple’s iCloud or Microsoft’s OneDrive. Still, Google Drive integrates directly with other Google software, notably Gmail. You can add Drive to your desktop as well, making it easyto transfer materials from your computer to the web. As more and more companies move toward cloud-based storage systems, using and understanding Drive will make it easier to collaborate with potential employers.

However, it’s important to realize that the cloud is not completely secure, and someclient contracts stipulate that translators not store any files associated with the translation on cloud-based servers. Nevertheless,many translators still use Google Drive or one of its competitors for collaboration with other freelancers or to have personal documents within easy access, and not all clients are as sensitive to the cloud

OpenOffice

For all its convenience, Google Drive is useless without an Internet connection. OpenOffice, a free version of word processing tools similar to the Microsoft Office suite, works offline like any regular piece of software, and isn’t subject to the connectivity hiccups that can slow down Google Drive. LibreOffice is another free word processing alternative to Microsoft Office many people use. For my purposes, the best thing about OpenOffice is that it’s intuitive: if you can use Microsoft Word, you can use OpenOffice Writer.

OpenOffice’s great shortcoming, which it shares with Google Docs, is that it doesn’t create the same type of files as Microsoft Word. This can lead to compatibility issues and inconsistent formatting. A Word document won’t necessarily retain all its features when you open it in OpenOffice, and vice-versa, meaning you must be ruthless in checking that you send a properly formatted document to clients. The consequence is that many translators do purchase Microsoft Office by the time they work with paying clients.

Evernote

Evernote is a sort of notepad that syncs across devices. It allows you to create checklists, take notes, and collaborate with other users. You can also use it to bundle notes together, making it a great tool for tracking clients and keeping client-specific information within easy reach. Instead of, say, keeping one spreadsheet for client contacts and a separate text file for notes taken at conferences, you can create and link two notebooks in Evernote, making useful information much more easily obtainable. And unlike Drive, it runs without an Internet connection.

ReNamer

I’d had no idea I might need to use a file-renaming device until Jost Zetzsche’s most recent Translator’s Tool Box came out and featured ReNamer at the top. (Are subscribed to the Tool Box? It’s a stream of tech information specifically for translators from one of the most successful translators in the industry, and there’s a free version.) It only takes a few email exchanges with a client to learn just how quickly different versions of documents can accumulate, all of them with the inevitable _proofread_edited_re-edited attached to the end. Say you have a naming system for your files that your client is disregarding, and you want to keep your records consistent: ReNamer allows you to rename files without opening them or using any of the clunky techniques you’d have to use in Windows Explorer, and it can do it in bulk. Ten different files that you’ve translated and want to label as such? ReNamerinserts_translated to all of them with one click of a button.

A good rule for anything software-related is that if a proprietary version of something exists, a free version does too. It takes very little searching and tenacity to derive as much utility from free software as from paid, which can make a big difference if you’re a first-time freelancer looking to move up from living on cheese sandwiches. And these are only five examples; what do you get for free that the rest of us pay for?

Header image credit: Picjumbo
Header image edited with Canva

Author bio

Dan McCartney

Dan McCartney is a freelance French and Spanish to English translator based in Chicago. Before translating, he worked as a consultant, instructor, and freelance math problem writer.

15 FREE Tools for Translators (and Not Only) that You Might Not Know You Need

By Flo Bejgu
Reblogged from Inbox Translation blog with permission from the author (including the images)

15 FREE Tools for Translators (and Not Only) that You Might Not Know You NeedThe advancements in technology have made it possible for people of different languages, traditions and customs to come into contact. As was expected, translators and interpreters quickly became essential for society, because they are the only ones who can make conversations between foreign individuals possible. Every translator in the twenty-first century will tell you that it is impossible to get the job done without appropriate tools for time management, productivity, organisation and even translation. Nevertheless, it is not enough to simply purchase an overly-priced product.

One must invest wisely in the right tools, because as any good craftsman can tell you, owning the best one doesn’t mean that you will get the job done: you must also know where to start. After scouring the Internet far and wide, we have found the best tools for managing time, increasing productivity, tracking efforts and all in all, reducing workload. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to purchase proprietary software at obscene prices, because the Internet is teeming with free, open-source software (FOSS) and reasonably priced tools which can be used to make translating easier.

FOSS is very useful, especially since most translators are self-employed. If you are translator struggling with an unstable budget, or simply trying channel work efforts in a positive direction, you will want to know all about these 15 tools, organised in four handy categories: Productivity & Collaboration, Blogging and Social Media, Design, and Security.

productivity collaboration for translators

 1. Google Drive

google drive translationsGoogle Drive is one of those tools that freelancers and entrepreneurs simply cannot live without. It’s like Google Docs on steroids, because it provides a hefty 15GB space, for free. In addition to this, it has a plethora of features which are extremely useful for business. This cloud storage service can be used for different purposes, especially since it integrates so well with other Google products (such as Google Apps).

Why it is useful for translators:

Besides its organisational and management capabilities, Google Drive can also be used as a collaboration tool. Several people can work on the same document, at the same time, without having the file crash (useful if you have a project with a tight deadline and need to work with someone else). This can significantly speed up the work, and make tracking tasks easier (each action performed by a collaborator is tracked by the software). There is also a handy chat function integrated.

But this is not all, probably the best way is to use it as a very inexpensive (free for up to 15GB) and simple backup tool, you do backup, don’t you? To take advantage of this, all you need is to install it and put your most precious files inside the folder that it creates and you are good to go. This way, those files are also copied in the cloud creating a backup. Pretty neat, I’d say! Last but not least, Google Drive is an invaluable tool in a translator’s toolbox because it makes sending large attachments (over 25 MB) a breeze, organising data easy, and accessing documents from any location with internet access, possible.

Pricing and plans:google drive pricingOut of all the cloud storage units out there, Google Drive is arguably the best. Recently, prices for the tool dropped dramatically. This basically means that you can get ten times the storage that you would get from a competitor, for the same price.

Where to start

First, you will have to register an account with Google, unless you already have an account with YouTube, Google+, Gmail or any other Google services, in which case you already have one.

There are no payments included, and you will gain instant access to all the Google services. Once you have signed in, you can download the desktop version of the app.

Recommended read: Get started with Google Drive: Overview

2. Evernote

evernote for translatorsEvernote has the power to give you your life back, if you only let it. There is no questioning its usefulness as a note taking and productivity tool, but most people don’t use it at its full potential. Evernote is so much more than a simple note-taker: it is an overall superb tool, and the more you add to it, the smarter it becomes.

Why it is useful for translators:

The volume of information that translators must remember on a daily basis will eventually become overwhelming. Luckily for us, Evernote can store all of it, have it indexed and searchable across a single platform. A word of advice would be to use all of its features, not only the ones that you feel comfortable with, to become even more organised.

Interesting features you may not know about:

–          Presentation mode –  you can turn your notes into a presentation
–          Handwriting supported (for Android)

Pricing and plans:

There are three price plans available for Evernote.

  1. Evernote Free: with limited features
  2. Evernote Premium (approx. 4.99$/month):offline notebooks, passcode lock, note presentation, smarter search, more storage.
  3. Evernote Business (approx. 13.75$/month/user):4GB of storage, better collaboration, centralised administration and billing, business and personal note-books etc.

Where to start:

Simply download the app on your smart-phone, PC or tablet and register a free account with your e-mail.

Recommended reads: Getting started with Evernote & How to Use Evernote Correctly

 3. Podio

podio logo translationsPodio is a superb tool that every freelancer/small team should be using. Two years ago it received 9/10 stars from Web.Appstorm. Today, their words still stand, and for good reason. Its key features include customisable project management for teams, content sharing and feedback workflows for clients, email and webforms integration, simple CRM and sales tracking, 24 hour personal support(paid version only), file-sharing integrated with DropBox and Google Drive, mobile capabilities and automated progress reporting and calculations.

podio screenshot

Why it is useful for translators

Podio is the ultimate tool for managing time and organising stuff. It is the workspace app-market that makes it shine. Each website or project has its own workspace. In it you can download apps, keep track of ideas and collaborate. As far as the built-in app market is concerned, it has a tool for absolutely everything. If you are working for home, but have to share data with different people, it is very convenient to have all of it in one place.

One thing we use Podio for in our team is to keep all the ideas in one place and share them with team members. Sure, there’s email, but eventually they will get buried in a pile somewhere and will be forgotten. Sure, you can use spreadsheets, but can you share them? You can via Google (see above), but in Podio you can easily share and organise them, you can label them and approve/dismiss them accordingly, add a date to review them, you and your collaborators (or just you) can write comments, add pictures etc. It’s brilliant.

Pricing and plans

You can opt for the free version (up to 5 users) or, if you have a larger team, Podio for teams is available for $9 per month/user.

Where to start

Sign up and you are good to go.

Recommended read: Podio basics

4. Explain and Send Screenshots Extension for Chrome

explain send screenshotsThe most effective way of building authority online is by sharing secrets of your trade valuable information via blog posts or social media networks. Lots of people do this by taking screenshots and saving them via Paint. Not anymore! Hailing from the world of literally-named-extensions, Explain and Send Screenshots Extension for Chrome is a simple tool that will help you grab and share screenshots directly from your Chrome browser.explain send

Why it is useful for translators

As I have already mentioned, you can make your life a whole lot easier by saving screenshots via the Explain and Send Screenshots Extension for Chrome. You can also share them on Twitter or Facebook directly. There is an editing feature that enables you to add arrows, circles, text and lines to the screenshot. When translating websites this tool will help you quickly show your client various issues that you encounter while testing the translation and this will save you a loooooot of time.

Pricing and plans

The tool is completely free.

Where to start

Download it from the Google store, install and start using it.

5. Gmail

gmail translatorsGmail was released as a beta service back in 2004. Since then, it has revolutionised the concept of webmail through a small, compact interface, aggressive spam reduction tools, extensive mail storage space and fast operation. At the moment, it is the service of choice for tech enthusiasts. Although Yahoo and Hotmail also offer interesting features, many people prefer Gmail. This is mainly because it offers some handy features that freelancers need.

Why it is useful for translators

One of the best things about Gmail is the fact that it offers continuously growing storage, POP access and free IMAP. The advertisements were cut to the minimum and the interface is rich and fast. Nevertheless, it is the integration with other Google tools that really gives it the edge. First of all you can connect to Google Hangouts to chat with clients or colleagues (up to 10 people).google hangouts

You can also use Google Calendar to create events or send invitations. If you are active on Google+ you can even follow other people’s comments and check for updates. Lastly, an offline version which uses HTML5 was released. This will enable freelancers or translators to send emails while offline.

Pricing and plans

The service is free.

Where to start

Register and verify an account on Gmail.

Recommended read: 10 Ways to Use Gmail Like a Pro

6. Skype

skypeSkype is one of the most popular Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) web services available and it couldn’t simply be off this list. I’m sure many of you use it on a regular basis, but I added it for the few not yet familiar with it. It enables people, thousands of miles from each other, to communicate effectively using voice or video calls. There is a reason why Skype dominates the world of VoIP and holds the largest user base of its kind: it offers the best voice and image quality (except for that of Apple’s Face Time). But how exactly can it help freelancers and translators?

Why it is useful for translators

Skype is an excellent tool for communicating with clients and other freelancers. There are several ways to maximise its use, especially as a translator. First of all, you could offer free consultations for prospects. All you have to do is engage in a voice/video call, and share a small part of your knowledge. Another idea would be to schedule consultations/meetings with your clients. You could also use it to make the collaboration between team members easier. You can organise your contacts into groups (translators, Twitterers, agencies, clients etc.). Another nice feature is that you can have several people invited for a call to organise a conference.

The Share screen option is quite handy to either help someone or get help – a lot easier to explain the issue without having to describe it. Sending documents is easy: you can either drag and drop them into the chat box or use the Send file option.

You can also record a 3-minute video to send.

Skype has lots of features, but most people use just a handful of them. You should play with it a little and see all it has to offer.

Pricing and plans

You can use the basic version of Skype for free, or you can choose a premium plan (which starts at £0.69/month). Connecting landlines with Skype also costs. Additionally, you could purchase Skype Credit.

Where to start

Download the kit from the official page, install and use.

One more tip: if you love using emoticons, Skype has plenty. But you can access even more here.

blogging social media for translators

7. WordPress.com

wordpress blogging linguistsWordPress.com is without a doubt the go-to free blogging service for the vast majority of writers, bloggers, entrepreneurs, business people and freelancers. The service was inspired from the WordPress.org, which requested an easy to use, hosted blog service. With the help of WordPress.com, one can create a website (even without HTML knowledge) and monitor traffic. It has an intuitive dashboard and lots of plugins available (Akismet is a great one to use to avoid spam comments).wordpress dashboard translators blogging

Why it is useful for translators

Blogging should be part of any freelancer’s online marketing strategy, no matter his or her specialisation. It is the only reliable way of creating a solid voice. WordPress.com will give freelancers and translators deep control over their websites even if they do not grasp the basics of web design.

Pricing and Plans

–          Free (for a blog hosted on WordPress.com)
–          Paid (various plans available)

Where to start

Simply sign up for a free WordPress.com account, and create a website. If it has the extension ‘wordpress.com’ at the end, it will be free, but you can also purchase your own domain (‘.com’, ‘.org’, ‘.net’ etc.).

Side note (WordPress.org vs WordPress.com): There is also WordPress.org which enables you to download the WordPress software (for free) and host it with your chosen hosting provider (instead of using hosting from WordPress.com).

Recommended reads: WordPress How-To For Beginners & Over 200 WordPress Tutorials

8. HootSuite

hootsuiteHootSuite is the ultimate social media dashboard, and the ideal Twitter client. Its major selling points are the extremely simple and intuitive interface, speed, mobile capabilities and support. The concept of HootSuite is extremely simple: you add your social accounts to it, and monitor their activity in different tabs, at the same time. You can also share links, photos and statuses via Hootsuite.

Why it is useful for translators

Freelancers, translators, business people, interpreters, and pretty much anyone who has an online presence will love HootSuite. You have no idea how much time you can save by correctly monitoring feeds from it. Additionally, you can share files supported by Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), Adobe Suite and RTF, TXT, ODF and MP3 extensions.hootsuite social media management system

Although Hootsuite does a brilliant job on Facebook and LinkedIn, it truly shines with Twitter. You can open up to 10 streams at the same time, manage retweets, schedule new tweets and even repost content on all your other social networks. Of course, you should not rely solely on its automation capability, you are human after all and this needs to come across.

One downside: it does not yet support Google+ profile (it does support business pages however, which is great).

Pricing plans

hootsuite pricing

Where to start

Hootsuite is extremely convenient because you can log in with one of your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter or Google+). You don’t even need to install it. Simply go to the homepage after you have logged in, and customise your dashboard.

Recommended read: HootSuite Quick Start Guide

design tools for translators

9. Canva

canva logo design translation blogsMost graphic design tools overwhelm the user with a plethora of options that he or she probably does not understand. Canva is amazing for the clueless because it makes designing extremely simple, without compromising on performance. The software is tightly integrated with stock photo image banks, ideal for beginners, and extremely intuitive.

canva

Why it is useful for translators

If you are thinking of promoting yourself online, with the help of a blog, but have no idea how the design process works, you will probably need some help. Canva is a simple design service which will enable translators (and not only, of course) to create beautiful presentations, invitations and website graphics in the blink of an eye. It is the perfect shortcut for those who are not graphically inclined because it mostly operates with the help of drag and drop tools and user-friendly controls.

Pricing and plans

Canva is free if you use your own photos or choose from the multitude of free backgrounds, layouts, stickers and images. Stock images must be purchased, but they only cost $1 each.

Where to start

Simply register your account and enjoy!

Recommended read: Else Gellinek’s post on this tool.

10. Pixabay

10 pixabayNot a tool per se, but useful nonetheless. Designers and bloggers are always on the hunt for good pictures, free of copyright. There are certainly many repositories available online, but most of them are not very affordable. Pixabay is a fresh new resource, with a growing selection of excellent imagery (over 40,000 intuitively organised photos and a handy search function). The great thing about it is that all photos are free, and no licence conditions apply to them as the pictures are bound to Creative Commons Deed CC0.  

Why it is useful for translators

WordPress bloggers will be thrilled to hear that Pixabay Images is also available as a WordPress plugin which enables them to pick public domain pictures with only one click. So if you want to enhance the overall appearance of your blog and pages, you can use Pixabay images, without paying attribution or linking back to the source.

pixabay translation search

Pricing and plans

Pixabay is free.

Where to start

Download and install the WordPress plugin or visit the official website.

11. Piktochart

11 piktochart blogHere’s another FOSS that freelancers should consider using: Piktochart. It is basically free, online infographic creator software which can be used to add a little pizzazz to a boring-looking website. It combines graphs, text, and charts which can be easily assembled using a drag-and-drop interface. This innovating service can be used by students who are learning the basics of visually representing pieces of information, teachers who want to make their lesson more exciting, and professionals who are trying to make information easier to understand.

piktochart theme

Why it is useful for translators

While it is essential to promote yourself online, doing so through written content will not get you very far. According to recent statistics, platforms and websites which rely heavily on imagery and videos are more successful. This is why you should consider alternative content to spruce up your blog. If you wish to explain the secrets of translation and interpretation in a more visually appealing manner, we advise you to use Piktochart.

Pricing and Plans

You can use the free version (limited themes) or you can opt for one of the payment plans available:

piktochart pricing

Where to start

Register your account and create your infographics.

Recommended read: Getting started

12. Paint.net

paint.net translators blogPaint.net may have begun as a Microsoft-sponsored replacement for Windows’s built-in image editor, but it has grown to become one of the best free photo editing packages available. Granted, it may not be able to hold a candle to Photoshop, which is clearly more advanced, but considering that it is an open-source freeware editor, it will definitely not disappoint.

Why it is useful for translators

The question remains: should freelancers and translators use it? Absolutely! Paint.net is incredibly easy to use, and it will enhance the overall appearance of your blog, articles or presentations in no-time. The software can rotate, crop, resize images, create collages and adjust colours. It also supports TIFF, GIF, PNG and JPEG formats. For the most part the interface is extremely straightforward, but it also has some sophisticated selection and retouching tools.

Here is an example of what you can easily do in Paint.net:

picmonkey collage

Pricing and plans

Paint.net is a free photo-editing program.

Where to start

Download from the official website, install and use. Check out the plugins while you’re there.

Video Tutorial: Paint.net

13. PicMonkey

13 picmonkeyYou should know from the start that PicMonkey is the first photo editor of its kind. The interface is extremely easy to use and very intuitive. With this tool you can tweak your photos, add banners, symbols, text etc. The great thing about it is that the free version offers enough tools for the clueless, while the Royale subscription offers enough bling.

Look what we did with the logo with just a few clicks:

picmonkey in use

Why it is useful for translators

Just like the previously mentioned tools in this category, it will help you spruce up your blog with its editing capabilities. . Here are some of PicMonkey’s main features:
–          Cropping and resizing
–          Filters and effects
–          Text tools (sizing, transparency, colouring)
–          Frames and textures
–          Editing (including airbrushing, wrinkle removing, teeth whitening etc.)
–          Collages (chose from various layouts)

Pricing and plans

The software is free but you can upgrade your account to Royale, for an additional 2.75$/month or 33$/year. This will give you access to primo effects, overlays, fonts and textures.

Where to start

Sign up for the free version (you can still use it without having to create an account if you want to test it first) and watch a few tutorials to get your creative juices flowing.

security for translators

14. TrueCrypt

14 truecrypt toolTrueCrypt is one of the most powerful encryption programs which enables you to encrypt your information in virtual ’safes‘. It is also an open source program (free/donationware) which can create hidden volumes, or hide an entire operating system. TrueCrypt will render your data unreadable, unless the user has the proper key.

truecrypt

 

Why it is useful for translators

It keeps your data safe, enough said. Here are some of its main features:
–          Creates virtual encrypted disks within a file, which can be mounted as real disks
–          Can encrypt an entire partition or storage device (the recommended way of using it)
–          Encrypt is automatic, real-time and transparent
–          Uses pipelining and parallelization to read data as if it were not encrypted

Pricing and plans

The software is free.

Where to start

Download the software from the official page, install, and use.

Recommended read: Guide to Getting started with TrueCrypt

UPDATE: Thanks to Shai for pointing this out, a day after this post went live the development of TrueCrypt ended. For those interested to read more about the subject, a good read can be found at https://www.grc.com/misc/truecrypt/truecrypt.htm.

15. LastPass

lastpass logo shadowAs a freelance translator or interpreter you most certainly have dozens of passwords from your emails, PayPal, blogs, and other tools. Wouldn’t it be swell if you didn’t have to memorise all of them? The LastPass password manager was designed for this exact purpose. You can use this tool to generate and store passwords and automatically log into any site once you have saved your details.

lastpass features strong password

Why it is useful for translators

If you are having trouble remembering all your passwords, LastPass is definitely a tool you will want to have in your toolbar. Besides its obvious use, it can also be integrated with Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Internet Explorer. You can install it with the universal kit, or use a specific one, according to your browser. The interface is extremely intuitive and user-friendly, which makes storing, managing, generating strong passwords and accessing log-ins a breeze. In this way you don’t have to remember 8 characters and a capital :).

Pricing and plans

There are three plans available at the moment:
–          Lastpass for free: protect, manage and optimise your passwords
–          Lastpass Premium (12$/year): unlimited use of LastPass mobile apps, multifactor authentication options, no ads, tools for locked computers
–          Lastpass Enterprise ($18-24$/year/user): a convenient package which can be used by all employees

Where to start:

Create a new account during installation, and think about your master password (it should be really strong). Import your passwords and you are all set.

Recommended read: Getting started

What about you? What’s your favourite tool that should be on the list? Or are there any features of the featured (the love for language plays is contagious, as you can see) tools we have missed? Let us know in a comment below (you have noticed the rhyme, right?).

Computing for the Newbie

button-2076By Jost Zetzsche

First of all, technology does no good if there are no skills to use it with. No, I’m not talking about great programming or software development skills, but instead very fundamental skills that can’t be assumed to be present.

  • Typing: I’m an OK typist now, but I’m sure that I lost a few thousand dollars in my early career as a translator because I never had formal training and was very slow at first. Take the time to go through some kind of typing course to increase your productivity. Make sure that you learn to type in your target language on a target language keyboard (and learn how to install different language keyboards on your computer). Also make sure to learn how to use as many keyboard shortcuts as you can so that you have to use the mouse as little as possible.
  • Word processing: You’ll need to be confident with basic office software, especially word processing. This does not have to be MS Word, though I would recommend it. You should know how to use advanced search-and-replace features, be familiar with complex formatting and styles, have a good handle on tools like templates and format painting, and know what you should not do in MS Word (such as working in HTML files).
  • Browsing and querying: It’s important to know the basic syntax of more advanced search queries and have a good idea of locations where you can find answers (and those don’t have to be only dictionaries). I would recommend tools like IntelliWebSearch that enable you to find online content right from your desktop. You also will want to know how to quickly find information on your desktop or cloud-based personal storage.
  • Basic computer maintenance: You don’t have to have the skill level of a system administrator, but you should know the basic steps for how to keep your computer in good shape and running more or less seamlessly. You say you can also have your tech guy do this for you? Sure, but the last time I checked, that resulted in lost productivity and income.
  • Code pages: You need to know what Unicode is, how to make a basic code page conversion of text-based documents, and in general understand what code pages are and why they are relevant for translators.
  • Tags: You’ll never need to learn the actual function of tags in formats like HTML, XML, or the many other formats that are based on XML, including all the translation memory exchange formats (TMX, TBX, or XLIFF). But you do need to be able to distinguish a tag from other text and learn to respect and not touch it. (A lack of respect for tags is one of the quickest ways to turn your present client into a former client!)

So much for the general skills to adequately use technology. Now to what the technology should be:

  • Operating system: I don’t care! I personally use Windows and I’m happy with it because I never have to worry about that very question. (So far I’ve never encountered any client who wants me to use an application that is available only on a Mac.) The truth is, though, that it’s becoming more and more irrelevant. You can virtualize Windows on Mac or Linux computers, work in  programs that are supported by various operating systems (such as Java-based programs), and, most importantly, more and more translation jobs are moving into a browser-based system, anyway.
  • Office programs: Same answer as for the operating system: I don’t care. Yet, it’s just a lot easier to have a copy of MS Office so I don’t have to worry about conversion issues with files that clients send me.
  • Translation environment tool or TEnT (aka CAT tool): The first thing you’ll need to do is look at a) what kind of materials you’re translating and b) what kind of clients you are or will be working for. The kind of material might determine whether it’s important to have a translation memory (it might not be so important if you work with highly creative material), and the client might prescribe a certain tool or at least your ability to work in the format of a certain tool. (Many translation environment tools often support the interim formats of other TEnTs).

To come back to the first criterion — the kind of materials you’re translating — it doesn’t really matter what it is; you will still want to manage your terminology. If you’re looking at only doing that, you might want to use tools like Lingo or Xbench (and there are many other tools that manage terminology as well). While these tools don’t directly interact with your translation process, it’s very easy to access the terminology content that they maintain for you and it’s also easy to quickly add more.

If you are working in projects where it would be helpful to access previously translated material (which essentially is the case for any and every technical, legal, medical, or other functional translation) and/or you’re working with many different file formats and/or you’re working in teams with other translators, you will want to use a full-blown TEnT (which will not only provide the translation memory feature but also terminology maintenance, QA features, file conversion functions, and many other tools). You might eventually end up using (and buying) several tools, but you need to make a decision where to start and which tool brings you the furthest.

Don’t start with a “cheap” tool just because it’s a beginner’s tool. If you use a “cheap” or free tool, use it because that’s the tool you really want to use. And forget about the word “cheap” anyway, because what you’re really looking for is a tool that has a good return on investment. A $10 tool can be a waste of money, whereas a $1,000 tool can be a steal.

I would classify TEnTs into these categories:

  • There are large tools like Trados or memoQ (or others) that are powerful and might give you access to jobs that can only be done with these tools. (These are the kinds of jobs where the translation materials are located on a remote server that can’t be accessed with any other tool.) They might also help you market yourself to companies that look for translators for these jobs.
  • Then there are tools that have a slightly geeky approach like the Java-based OmegaT or CafeTran. These can be very powerful in the right hands, and they provide access to almost any kind of job (except the ones mentioned above).
  • Finally there are the browser/cloud-based tools like Wordfast Anywhere, XTM or MemSource that give you a great deal of independence regarding the kind of hardware (even tablets!) and operating systems you use. They also can work with a large number of formats (though you might have to get a little creative when it comes to working at the beach café without wifi).

Here’s the important thing to remember: you can’t really get it wrong. Make sure that the tool has an active and loyal following (most do), and invest in training (either by yourself or through a third party). And don’t think that your productivity will skyrocket immediately. In fact, it might never skyrocket, but it will surely increase if you do it right.

You’ll find all these points mentioned in much, much greater detail in my Translator’s Tool Box, a 400+ page ebook that is the ultimate technical resource for beginning and experienced translators.

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About the author: Jost Zetzsche is an English-to-German translator, a localization and translation consultant, and a widely published author on various aspects of translation. He writes regular columns in the ATA Chronicle and the ITI Bulletin; his computer guide for translators, A Translator’s Tool Box for the 21st Century, is now in its tenth edition; and his technical newsletter for translators goes out to more than 10,000 translators. In 2012, Penguin published his co-authored Found in Translation, a book about translation and interpretation for the general public. You can find his website at www.internationalwriters.com and his twitter handle is @Jeromobot.