I have used Translation Office 3000
(TO3000) as my invoicing and accounting tool for years, and I like
it. It serves my purposes and requirements and it's been stable and
reliable. And yet, while there really aren't that many must-have
innovations needed to make it better, I have grown very frustrated with
year upon year of promised but non-materializing new releases and products
from AIT's management. (AIT is the company that develops TO3000 as
well as a number of other translation-related products, most notably Projetex, a project management tool for small to midsize LSPs,
and AnyCount, a well-liked word count tool.)
That being said, there actually was a new
release of Projetex last week, though it seems to be relatively
incomplete with a client and vendor web portal still in development. And
another vague promise of a new version of TO3000 in "September
So... I've been looking around a little bit
to see what else is out there -- especially for the freelance translator.
And I'm happy to report that I've had a chance to talk to three different
developers who seem to be on the right track.
I first talked with Eugene (Yauhen)
Kuchynski, the sole developer of BaccS
("Business accounting system"). Eugene lives in Belarus, has
worked as an English-to-Russian translator for the last seven years, and
before that worked as a programmer for an accounting software for two
years. Not a bad combination for creating an invoice and accounting
software for translators, you might think, and so did he. The software he
created is completely online- and cloud-based (the data is hosted by
and it's free. Well, kind of: expect to pay with your eyeballs on Google
advertisements. Unlike what his competitors offer (see below), this
software is directed only toward freelance translators.
Eugene is presently in the process of also
developing a parallel Windows-based desktop product that he plans to
release later this year. This will be a paid product (without
advertisments), and he is still open to what the actual cost should be. (Be
sure to let him know what an acceptable price would be.)
What actually caught my attention with BaccS
is that it's the only product to allow for the migration of data from TO3000
into its own database. You'll understand the relevance of this feature if
you have used a tool to manage your accounting and invoicing for some time.
If you're in that group, you know a) that you've accumulated a lot of data
in your tool's database, and b) it's data that you really want to keep
(after all, the basis of any kind of business intelligence is underlying
data, so to make comparisons between your profitability during certain
stages of your career, you can't just start from scratch to collect data
again and again).
Eugene hasn't "cracked" the
database that TO3000 uses, but he has written a program that queries
the (open-source Firebird) database that TO3000 uses to give
up the data voluntarily (reminds of when I tickled my brother until he spat
out the very last of his secrets he wasn't otherwise willing to share!).
Eugene points out that the data migration function is still in a beta stage
of sorts, but in general it works -- at least for what it's supposed to do.
It's not transferring any of your carefully crafted templates or any
settings in TO3000 but most if not all the data you entered about clients,
jobs, invoices, payments, etc.
I really like that.
Otherwise it's a product that is easy to
understand and easy to use. It doesn't have any bells and whistles, but it
might just do the trick for you.
That many still "need that trick
done" was vividly on display last weekend when I gave a technology
workshop to NOTIS, the
Northwest Translators and Interpreters Society, in beautiful Seattle. There
were about 100 participants, and maybe three or four of them used some kind
of off-the-shelf product for invoicing and accounting. That's not a lot.
Not that it's the only way to do business, but it's sure easier (and more
informative) than with Excel.
("Professional TMS" plus a couple vowels) is the second system I
investigated. Protemos was developed under the auspices of the
Ukrainian translation provider Technolex Translation Studio but is now a
separate entity, headed by Technolex's former CEO Volodymyr Kukharenko
(Technolex still owns a minority stake in Protemos and serves as the
primary testing ground).
I had talked with Volodymir years ago when
then-Technolex launched ChangeTracker
(see my report right here),
a tool to compare edited bilingual files (including all kinds of flavors of
XLIFF, TMX, etc.). I knew back then that Volodymir (and a whole bunch of
other people) had left AIT (the afore-mentioned developers of TO3000)
and started Technolex as their own company, so I wasn't surprised to see
them develop translation tools as well, but I was surprised that it was a
different tool than what AIT had done in the past. Well, it turns out
they've been busy working on a workflow/project management/accounting/invoicing
system that's quite different from AIT's. Protemos uses a different
programming language (PHP/MySQL rather than Delphi), is
online- and cloud-based rather than desktop- or server-based, and has an
altogether different feel.
When Technolex first started to use a
translation management system for its own needs, it used XTRF, one
of the two very large and complex systems that many LSPs tend to use (the
other is Plunet). And they realized, Volodymir said, that "it's
a nice tool but it's like a spaceship when only a bicycle is needed."
That's when they started to develop Protemos about three years ago.
So, I asked, is Protemos a tool for smaller language service
providers? No, he said, it's a tool for companies with not overly complex
Protemos is a young tool (even though it already has 350 user
accounts and 100 corporate accounts), so there is much that still needs to
be done. Presently it's not possible to add custom fields, modify templates
to any reasonable extent, use workflow automation, have vendors and clients
use online portals, or read the analysis logs of translation environment
tools -- but each one of these features is going to be developed in the
near future. Right now, Volodymir says, he is "gathering feedback to
make the system better."
Which is why it's free for everyone at this
point. Come January 2017, language service providers will pay about 80
euros/month or 560 euros/year per simultaneous logon.
Freelance translators, on the other hand,
will always use the system for free.
And really, at this point, it's the
freelance version that is most interesting, I think. Unless you are a very
small LSP, I cannot imagine that you'll have the patience to wait until all
of the above-mentioned features are implemented. For freelancers, however,
the system is already quite usable.
It's unfortunately not possible to migrate
your data from TO3000 if you use this system (clients -- and vendors
-- can be imported only through Excel, or, of course, manually), and
I think it's unfortunate that each of your invoices will have a link to the
Protemos website at the bottom as a quasi-payment (I have a feeling that
could be negotiated away), but everything else looks rather usable.
Any of the data you enter (or any file you
save) in any version is stored in the cloud, which is hosted in the
Netherlands (by WorldStream). (Really, the only difference between the LSP and the
freelancer version is that there is no vendor module in the freelance
version and a handful of reports of the otherwise fine reporting feature
The most mature of these products has to be QuaHill. QuaHill is from
Czechia (my spell checker doesn't like this spelling yet, but it had better
adapt because it's now one of the official terms for what was formerly
known only as Czech Republic). This does explain the product's name,
though, since "qua" is the sound a duck makes in Czech. I'm not
sure how much of a non-sequitur this is, but that's what DEVdivision's
David Ondracek told me the first time we talked a few years ago.
DEVdivision is a company that
custom develops software. They had no particular leaning for or against the
world of translation, but when they finished the custom development of a
project management tool for a language service provider, they liked it so
much they bought it back from their client and started to market it on
their own. Since then QuaHill has become DEVdivision's flagship
product. It comes in two editions, an enterprise edition for language
service providers and for a few months now also as a freelance edition.
The enterprise edition can be had in either
a cloud edition or a server-based installation. The default cloud server is
located in Czechia (spell checker still doesn't like it), but there are
also other slightly more expensive locations available.
The freelance edition cost something like 10
euros a month, but after David and I talked again, the company decided to
give it away for free. (You're welcome!)
Here's what he wrote:
"Yes, QH Basic
will be for free. Problem is that we do not have the web pages updated yet.
So would it be possible for you to mention it in your newsletter but also
say that web is not updated yet and it is really fresh and new
I am very excited about this and I would
really encourage you to have a look at QuaHill.
Surprisingly, QuaHill is a Windows-based
desktop tool (which of course accesses online-based cloud data stored in
robust MS SQL servers). That's surprising because as you can see from the
other tools mentioned above, a browser-based tool is the more likely choice
nowadays, and one that clearly has some advantages.
So, for larger translation companies with a
highly mobile or distributed work force, this might not be the best choice,
but for the typical LSP with a central office location (and of course many
outside vendors), this might work. So far about 150 other LSPs have thought
As you would expect, the difference between
the enterprise and freelance version is the missing vendor component in the
freelance edition and a number of features associated with it. (Here you can
see a comparison chart.) This includes the online portal
for vendors and clients that can be found only in the enterprise edition.
(I asked David how much he thought the two portals are actually being used,
and not surprisingly he said that the vendor portal is used a lot, but the
client portal not so much. Still it's important for LSPs to have that
feature available in a sales presentation to a potential translation
client, I believe.)
The system processes log files (files with
word and match counts) from a number of translation environment tools (Trados,
memoQ, Transit, Translation Workspace) and supports a
more comprehensive integration into Trados Studio Professional,
making it possible to build and create Trados projects right within QuaHill
when files are received. Outlook and Thunderbird are
supported directly through plugins as mail clients so that mails can be
sent directly through QuaHill but also stored and recorded in your
email program. Any data that is produced by the system (such as invoices,
reports, or activity logs) are generated in four different languages (EN,
DE, CZ, and FR).
Automated workflows are supported but not
pre-defined to make the system as flexible and customizable as possible.
It's also possible to use a first-book-first-get system, so that a language
service provider can send out a job to many translators and the first one
to book it gets it, and I really like the way exchange rates are handled:
they are refreshed daily on the basis of your favorite bank or currency
One thing the tool unfortunately doesn't do
(yet) is import data from TO3000 or Projetex. I've talked to
David about that and strongly suggested that this would be a good option,
so I wouldn't be surprised to see that feature soon.
If you are a small or mid-size LSP and in
need of a (new) project management system that isn't overly complex, take a
good look at this tool (and Protemos mentioned above). If you're a
freelance translator without a good way of managing your projects and
finances, you'd be plain silly not to have a look at this (or the other two
tools). In the case of QuaHill, you might have to wait a few days
until the website is updated to reflect the very attractive price of $0
(feel free to change the currency symbol, the number will stay the same).
Once the website is updated, I will also announce it in my Twitter feed.