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 A computer journal for translation professionals

Issue 15-9-253
(the two hundred fifty third edition)  


1. The Tool Box Journal and InterpretAmerica Present: The Tech-Savvy Interpreter

2. Wordslow

3. Smart as a CAT (Premium Edition)

4. Dealing with Image-Based PDFs

5. XTM 235 (Premium Edition)

The Last Word on the Tool Box


I'm so pleased that Katherine Allen and Barry Slaughter Olsen from InterpretAmerica have agreed to write a regular column for the Tool Box Journal.

No, let's try that again:

I can't believe how lucky you and I are that Katherine Allen and Barry Slaughter Olsen from InterpretAmerica have agreed to write a regular column for the Tool Box Journal.

It's going to be great.

Traditionally there's been a very distinct differentiation between translators and interpreters (I'm the first to confirm that I am not an interpreter), but for many the distinction is not so clear. In many languages there is not even a different term for the two professions (see above), and it's also clear that some of the differences between translators and interpreters are fraying. (Anyone translating tweets in real-time? Or would that be written interpretation?)

And even for those of us who feel quite comfortable staying where we are without venturing into the Other -- it's going to be a blast to hear what's happening over there technologically.

So, welcome Katherine and Barry with me! 

1. The Tool Box Journal and InterpretAmerica Present: The Tech-Savvy Interpreter 

A column about interpreting in a translation technology newsletter? Really? Why? Well, much like translators did at the turn of the 21st century, interpreters are seeing their work and workplace change and expand because of technology. And let's be honest, there are many translators who also interpret. If you are one of them, or moving towards becoming an interpreter too, then this column in the Tool Box Journal is for you.

Today, technology is a huge component of any successful translation practice. This is quickly becoming the case for interpreting as well because the influence of technology on interpreting is a rising tide that interpreters need to understand to remain competitive and successful.

In the coming months, this space will provide news and insight about a wide range of technical aspects of interpreting, from the underlying technologies that are fueling the growth of remote interpreting like standards-based video codecs and WebRTC to specific hardware and software that help interpreters become more productive and make their job easier, like terminology databases, web-based interpreting platforms, new headsets, smart pens and tablet computers.

Do you have a question about a specific technology? Or would you like to learn more about a specific interpreting platform, interpreter console or supporting technology? Send us an email at



Interested in the business or technology side of interpreting? 
Mark your calendar now to attend think! Interpreting 2016 in New York City!

The 3rd installment of the groundbreaking GALA/InterpretAmerica collaboration think!Interpreting will take place at the 2016 Language of Business Conference in New York City from March 20-23, 2016.

Have an interesting business model or technology project to share? Submit a proposal. Call for proposals open through September 30, 2015. Need a few more days to submit? Mention you saw this ad in the Tool Box Journal and submit your proposal by October 5.

Read this recent blog post to learn more, then be sure to join us in New York City in March!



SDL roadshows coming to a city near you

This autumn we are back on the road visiting customers in 17 cities across the globe. If you haven't already, visit our website and register for a free event near you.

The SDL roadshows give you the opportunity to keep up-to-date on industry news, new product information and tips and tricks to get the best out of SDL's translation technology.

 "There's no substitute for a hands-on, face-to-face session with the experts."

Claire Cox, Owner, CC Translations

Read a blog by Claire Cox who shares her experience of our spring roadshows.

Register for a roadshow and join the conversation on Twitter #SDLroadshow


2. Wordslow

For a long time, Atril was the company among vendors of translation environment tools that many liked to mock (a little, and very kindly at that) for the long time it took to release promised upgrades to their software. Well, I think we can clearly pass that honor to Wordfast now, or, more specifically, the team around Wordfast Pro (and we also do it kindly).

Wordfast Pro 4 was announced with great fanfare at the ATA conference in San Antonio in, yes, 2013. Just now, two years later, I had a talk with Wordfast sales and marketing manager John Di Rico, who is quite confident that it will be released in January of 2016. We shall see. (But, again, we want to stay kind.)

The version that I looked at and that we talked about (which actually already carries the version 4.5 designator) is in beta or maybe even pre-beta stage, so I won't bore you with the bugs or not completely developed features that are apparent, but it still gives a pretty good idea of what the final product will be like.

I asked John what he thought the outstanding features of the tool are, and he pointed out the ease of use (easier than other tools and easier than the previous Wordfast Pro 3) and the low price (if it stays the same as it is presently, the regular price will be 400 euros and the update for existing users of Wordfast Pro 3 will be free). I can see where he's coming from. While I'm not sure that it is indeed easier to use than all other tools in all of its aspects, it's simple enough once you understand some of its core principles.

Like most other tools, Wordfast Pro 4 will no longer have the traditional menus but a ribbon interface and a different and fresh-looking one at that (though it's unfortunately not very customizable). This is what the ribbon interface looks like with an open translation file ("TXLF Editor"):

Wordfast 4

You can see the other views listed in the Wordfast 4 menu, through which you can also cycle with the Alt+W keyboard shortcut (that's essentially the central trick you'll need to know when working with this version of Wordfast).

You can also see a couple of other new features in the screenshot, including the bilingual table, a two-column Word file that allows you to translate and/or edit outside the Wordfast environment, and the preview which allows you to preview ongoing translation in its native environment (Word, InDesign, web browser, etc.). One response to those features would be: Great! I would expect that response especially from users of Wordfast Pro 3. The other response might be: Don't essentially all tools have those features?

And I suspect that these responses will predominate once Wordfast Pro 4 is released. Aside from the great usability and the (continued) low price, I could really not see any groundbreaking new feature in the release that I looked at. I confess that this disappointed me a little because we had been promised a bit more. When I asked tool vendors in the webinars I did in 2014 about a number of features, Wordfast's response was often: "It will be there in Wordfast 4" (such as generic terminology resources, subsegment matching from MT, automatic fixing of fuzzy match segments using sub-segment TM and MT suggestions, specific user profiles for different project participants, exportable keyboard shortcuts), and I see only very few of those promises in this new version (none of the ones mentioned just now).

Here are some new and important features, though:

  • The translation format is not the odd TXML format anymore but a standard XLIFF format (which can be easily processed in tools like Déjà Vu, memoQ, and Trados Studio -- in the latter even with preserved WYSIWYG functionality)
  • AutoComplete from complete MT and TM matches as well as TM subsegments
  • Package export and import for projects to ease communication between PM and translator
  • WYSIWYG display for the most common formatting choices
  • Filtering on segment status
  • Templates for projects

So, all around a great catch-up to other tools, but nothing where I would say that this really makes Wordfast Pro stand out. And the reason that I hark on that so much is that I think it's strange because the other Wordfast products -- Wordfast Classic and Wordfast Anywhere -- do have features that make them stand out. Wordfast Classic, for instance, uses AutoSuggest with subsegments from multiple MT engines (and has done that for quite some time) and Wordfast Anywhere -- well, you'll read about that elsewhere in the newsletter.


3. Smart as a CAT (Premium Edition)

I can vouch for that: Cats are smarter than dogs. Yes, I have to admit that I have given up my disdain of dogs. I love my dog (along with my cat) with all my heart -- but he ain't smart. Yesterday we went out to the beach (as we do every day) and he found a gigantic seven-foot sea lion lying in the surf (typically not a good sign for the health of the animal). My dog ran up to bark at the ailing creature and the poor, sick sea lion, probably for the last time in his life, reared himself up to twice the height of my dog, barked back, and then slid back into the ocean. My dog (with the unfortunate name of Chase) spent the next 20 minutes swimming and diving in the surf, searching for his new acquaintance so he could continue the posturing -- with no such luck (in any sense of the word). Today we found the poor sea lion dead on the beach, and what does my stupid dog do? Turns around and looks at me with a grin to say: See what I did?

Cats on the other hand? Check out these real-life stories of what your office would be like if your CEO were a cat. Smart!

Anyway . . .

I touched base last week with Anna Sidorova, the marketing chief at ABBYY Language Services, about SmartCAT. I've written in length here about SmartCAT before (see edition 240 of the Tool Box Journal) and in a review in MultiLingual (if you want to subscribe for free to the digital edition for the next six months, go here and enter the code that you'll find on that page -- you're welcome!), so I don't have to go through the whole rundown of what it actually is and what its features are again. Instead, I would like to reflect on where (I think) SmartCAT stands after some time on the market, what that means for all of us, and then look at some of the new features.

. . . you can find the rest of this article in the Premium edition. An annual subscription to the premium edition costs just $25 at I would encourage you to subscribe. Your support makes my research and in-depth analyses of the translation technology market possible.



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4. Dealing with Image-Based PDFs

When I talked about Trados Studio 2015 in the June edition of the Tool Box Journal, I mentioned how different tools deal with image-based PDFs and how difficult it was to find a halfway decent result.

First, though, it's important to remember that the vast majority of PDF conversion tools just don't deal with image-based PDFs at all. Period. (That's actually three periods.) (Now it's four.)

The ones that do, employ an internal process of optical character recognition (OCR). ABBYY SmartCAT naturally has a real leg up on that since ABBYY is the owner of PDF Transformer, which many like as the best tool in the class of stand-alone PDF converters. But does that automatically mean that SmartCAT is the best tool?

I did some testing with an admittedly difficult document -- my own bibliography -- which contains a number of different languages and a number of made-up words (don't ask!). I converted the first page into a graphic and then had the tools have a go at it.

This is a section of the original:

OCR Original

Here is what the latest version of ABBYY Transformer+ made of it (an earlier test with an older version of Transformer was very poor):

ABBYY Transformer

You can see that in general it did a good job. It did not like words like "lobotomy" (who does?) and other strange words; it had a difficult time when formats were switched (see the "mATA" rather than "in ATA" in the first line); and it had a hard time knowing where to use commas and where to use periods.

Here is what we get from ABBYY SmartCAT:


Overall I would say it's about the same, with slightly different errors but overall very acceptable.

Now, to give you an appreciation of the quality, let's see what the latest version of Adobe Acrobat (DC) does with its integrated OCR capabilities:


Clearly a lot more errors, and many of you would agree that it would be easier to retype the text rather than correct it before translating it.

Or how about this from Trados Studio, which also boasts OCR capabilities:

Trados Studio

It's sort of humorous that the only reason it got better halfway through the mess is that it essentially gave up and just placed an image starting with "Good Right" -- well, it's neither good nor right, I'm afraid.

But the most surprising result comes from a tool that you wouldn't really expect it from (at least, I didn't): Wordfast Anywhere.

Look at this:


I would call this really, really good. It capitulated with terms like "TEnT" or "Craze," but my sense is that this is maybe the best of all results. And what's behind it? I have absolutely no idea, but Wordfast's Yves Champollion promised to tell me over a few beers sometime. So, I'd like to go on record to say that I'm ready to sacrifice myself for you, and I can't wait to drink with him and find out.

Here is one other curious thing that was introduced in the latest version of Acrobat. It's a feature that's not helpful for translation but might be helpful for last-minute touch-ups: Acrobat DC internally converts image-based documents into editable PDFs by essentially faking the look of fonts that it does not have installed or characters that in reality it does not recognize. And if you enter new characters, it will also try to emulate the look of the previous text.

Our particular example does not look too impressive, but I tried with other text containing fonts that I didn't have installed and it worked quite well. Here's how it looks with our example inside Acrobat (note the text that I entered at the end and which was automatically entered in the correct font and style):

Acrobat Internal



"I had been working with another CAT tool for a few years when a new client of mine insisted on me using memoQ. I fell in love with it instantly and have been an avid user ever since."

Orsolya Bugár-Buday, Hungary


5. XTM 235 (Premium Edition)

Can you believe that the license plate of my sad and broken Buick actually carries the name of a translation environment tool? If that's not fate, I don't know what is. Now if I could only figure out what the "235" intends to communicate to me . . .

It's nice to hear when additional features are introduced in any given tool to help existing users go to the next level by providing feature parity with competitors. But when it comes down to it, that doesn't really interest me as much as when I see new concepts being developed or existing concepts being broadened and developed.

I had a chat with the folks from XTM this past week, and I enjoyed it because there was a mix of both categories of features.

. . . you can find the rest of this and the next two articles in the Premium edition to which you can subscribe to at you purchase a subscription you'll also receive access to the archives of Premium Tool Box Journals going all the way back to 2007.


The Last Word on the Tool Box Journal

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