The Tool Kit

A biweekly newsletter for people in the translation industry who want to get more out of their computers.


1. Dragging: Moving or Copying?

2. Digital Natives

3. Word Count and Text Boxes

4. The Last Word on the Tool Kit

1. Dragging: Moving or Copying?

Even though the following shortcuts for moving files have been available since Windows 3.1 (for those who have never worked with Windows 3.1, this is the version of the operating system where you actually worked in "windows"), many users have quite successfully ignored them.

There are various ways to move a file, i.e., to change the location of a file and/or to copy a file within Windows with the help of a mouse. And though I'm consistently abused by readers when I mention anything that can be done with the mouse rather than the keyboard, here I go again:

When you select a file within Windows Explorer or any other file display within Windows and drag that file with your left mouse button while pressing Ctrl+Shift, the operation creates a shortcut. This is helpful, for instance, if you would like to create a shortcut to a document or a program on your desktop, within your Start menu, or the Quick Launch area (the links to the right of the Windows Start button). Windows will show you where you are allowed to create a shortcut by displaying a little shortcut symbol alongside your cursor. As soon as a stop sign appears instead, you'll know that you can't create a shortcut in that particular area. If you play around with it you'll be surprised at how much you can do with it, such as creating a shortcut to a file within a Word document.

And speaking of Microsoft Word: You can also highlight a section (several words, a paragraph, or a graphic) within Word, drag that section using the same method as you would with a file, and create a shortcut (i.e., a cross-reference) within your document or even in a separate document. Clicking on that shortcut will make you jump to the original text. By the way, it works the same if you drag your selection part to your desktop. Windows creates a little "scrap" link that opens your document to the very place in the original text if you click it. This is a great trick if you're tired after a long day of translating or editing and want to jump right back the next morning with fresher eyes to the place where you left off. (By the way, if you at a later point need to delete the bookmark out of your Word doument, select Insert> Bookmarks, search for the bookmark, and click Delete.)

Of course, all this can also be done with just the Ctrl key rather than Ctrl+Shift. The difference is that in this case a copy is generated rather than a shortcut of the file. As soon as you start to drag your file, you can see a little plus icon appear beside your cursor, indicating that Windows will copy that item rather than just move it.

This procedure not only works within Windows Explorer to make copies of files or folders (if you move a file or folder within the same folder, Windows will make a copy of that file or folder and rename it to "Copy of <OldName>"), but also within most Windows applications.

And I don't have to tell you that this is extremely helpful when translating in a bilingual environment (as you would when you translate with the help of a computer-assisted translation tool). . . .

Also, if you forget which key is used for what -- Ctrl or Ctrl+Shift -- you can drag a file or a text fragment by holding the right mouse button down. As soon as you drop the dragged content you will see your choices in a context menu.

2. Digital Natives

I have been carrying the term pair "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" around with me for a few weeks, and I finally realized why they've made such an impression on me. Here is how Wikipedia defines these terms:

"A digital native is a person who has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3. A digital immigrant is an individual who grew up without digital technology and adopted it later. A digital native might refer to their new 'camera'; a digital immigrant might refer to their new 'digital camera'."

(Were I a digital native, I would probably have referred to this quote only by a hyperlink or by saying "the dictionary" rather than "Wikipedia.")

Many—if not most—of us are digital immigrants. After all, the reason why I am writing about technology was to "interpret" technology and make it palatable for the many immigrants among us. In a way, it's shocking to have to identify myself as an immigrant and realize that I'll never have the same technology fluency as twenty-year-olds or teens; however, I also think that these terms offer some real hope.

We are all translators, and most of us did not grow up with more than one native language. I cannot imagine anyone who has learned a foreign language to translation-level mastery who did not feel great excitement in the process of learning that language. Remember waking up after your first dream in the foreign language? Or when you felt that you could express something better in the new language than in the language you grew up in? Or when you first felt as much confidence talking in your new language as you have in your first language? I remember those moments vividly. The challenge is to transpose that same excitement into learning yet another "foreign language": technology. And here's the deal: We know we can do it and be good at it, because we've already done it to the point of mastery.

I recently visited Poland for a conference, and I was amazed at how little I understood—there seemed to be so few cognates that I could cling to. I'm afraid that this is how many of us feel when we look at the technology that can and should support us in our work as translators. If I had the time, I would love to study Polish, and I'm sure that I would enjoy it. As far as technology goes, the question is not whether we have the time or not—the question is whether we want to continue to evolve in our profession or not. And we can do it grudgingly or we can try to approach it as we would enter into the adventure of learning a new language.

Przejdźmy do rzeczy!

3. Word Count and Text Boxes

I realize that some of your eyes will just glaze over when I once again mention word count, but just because I've covered it before doesn't mean that it simply "goes away." I'll try to touch on a couple of things that may be interesting for all.

Reader Jean-Marc Guilloux wrote this a couple of weeks ago:

"I have a question for you. I don't recall ever reading anything on this topic (but I might have missed it [he did ;-]): I am translating a manual in MS Word using Trados Workbench. There are many boxes (about 200) containing text (2000 to 3000 words). I was wondering if there is a way to 'extract' all boxed text to be able to do a word count."

Because of Word's rather sad word-counting abilities -- it does not count text in text boxes, WordArt, comments, footers and headers, hidden text, or footnotes and endnotes -- translators (and any other professionals who charge on the basis of word counts) are presented with a real dilemma: we may be aware of those limitations, but our clients usually are not, especially if they are end clients rather than language professionals. While we can explain the situation with text boxes, it may be problematic to use a completely different word-counting tool. Though the tool may be able to count text in Word files including text boxes, we may get radically divergent word counts, and not just because of the additional text in text boxes.

Let's take Jean-Marc's example of Trados. The parameters that Trados uses for word counts are different from the ones that Word uses. For instance, Trados counts text in text boxes but does not count numbers unless they are part of a segment with "real" words (i.e., "These are 4 words" is counted as four words, but "1,000,000" as a stand-alone segment is not counted). While this may make sense from a translation angle, Word does not look at text from a translator's point of view and counts all numbers as words.

So what should be done? Unless the client uses a different word-counting tool than Word (such as a translation environment tool like Déjà Vu, Trados, or Star Transit), in my opinion the goal is to emulate but enhance Word's word count parameter (i.e., include text boxes, etc.). One easy way is the sweet little macro by Shauna Kelly that you can download at It's free and works very well. It even allows you to control which categories to count that Word does not count. The only shortcomings of this little application are that it counts neither hidden text nor embedded objects (such as embedded Word or Excel files).

Applications such as Practicount &  Invoice ( count all of the above, in addition to emulating the word count that Word uses (provided that you set it under Settings> General> MS Word Delimiters, something that I failed to do the other day and embarrassed myself badly with a client of mine . . .). A very comparable application is AnyCount from AIT ( Of course, both of these also count many other file types as I have mentioned in previous newsletters.

But let's talk about text boxes for just a bit longer. Some translation environment tools have had a difficult time with Word text boxes. It is simply annoying to translate text boxes in Trados while working in the Word interface. Because of the sizing limitations prescribed by the text box, either the source or the target text is not visible. This often leads translators to simply forego the help of Trados in text boxes and translate that text by just overwriting it. Fortunately, this problem has been solved in the newer editions of Trados where Word files can be processed in TagEditor, and text in text boxes is treated just like any other text.

Other tools have had their share of problems as well. SDLX simply ignores text boxes (at least in the slightly outdated version that I have), and Déjà Vu duplicates text boxes. The reason for Déjà Vu's oddity is that every Word file actually contains text for two text boxes. Microsoft introduced such radical changes in the structure of text boxes between the versions of Word 95 and Word 97 that text boxes could not be converted into versions prior to Word 97. To allow for backward compatibility between different versions of Word, Microsoft simply adds an additional Word 95 text box to every existing text box. Déjà Vu reads the content from both and displays them both. Though it's sort of annoying, the good thing is that you still have to translate it only once and just deal with a perfect match in the second occurrence.

4. The Last Word on the Tool Kit

If you would like to recommend this newsletter to a colleague or friend, send them to

If you would like to promote this newsletter by placing a link on your website, I will in turn mention your website in a future edition of the Tool Kit. Just paste the code you can find under into the HTML code of your webpage and the little icon that is displayed on that page with a link to my website will be displayed.

Back to the Main Page

©1999-2006 International Writers' Group, LLC