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Mar 23, 2017

First month with SDL Trados 2017


A month ago, when I announced the Great Leap Forward from my rather neglected SDL Trados 2014 license to the latest, presumably greatest version, SDL Trados 2017, after seeing how wet the largely untested release of memoQ 8 (aka Adriatic) has proved to be, there was some surprise, as well as smiles and frowns from various quarters. It's been a busy month, and I am still testing options for effective workflow migration and exchange (useful in any case given how often memoQ users work together with those who prefer SDL tools) as well as discussing the good and bad experiences of friends, colleagues and clients who use SDL Trados Studio 2017.

As can be expected, this product has more than a bit of a bleeding edge character, though on the whole it does seem to be a little more stable and less buggy than memoQ Adriatic so far, with fewer what the Hell were they smoking moments. However....

I was a little concerned at the report from a colleague in Lisbon that the integration of the plug-in for SDL Trados Studio access to Kilgray Language Terminal amd memoQ Server translation memories doesn't work with SDL Trados 2017 after functioning so well in SDL Trados 2014 and 2015. Despite the stupid inter-company politics between SDL and Kilgray, which hindered the approval of the plug-in so that a warning dialog appeared each time it was loaded in SDL Trados Studio (bad form by the boys in Maidenhead), it was a great tool for users of SDL Trados Studio and memoQ to share TMs in small team projects. I was very happy with how it worked with SDL Trados Studio 2014, and I am very disappointed to see that API changes in the latest version have bunged things up so that Kilgray will have more work to re-enable this useful means of collaboration. I hope that SDL will see fit to be less petty and more cooperative with the upcoming "fixed" plug-in! It is in their interest to do so, as this makes it easier for SDL Trados users to stick to their favorite tool while working on jobs for or with those who prefer memoQ as their resource. Better work ergonomics for everyone and no BS with CAT wars.

I was pleased to see that SDL Trados Studio has added AutoCorrect facilities recently. And they seem to work reasonably well in English and mostly in German, though there was a strange quirk which hamstrung the "correct as you type" feature. That setting took a while to "stick" somehow when I tested it first with German. It was fine for Portuguese too. However, Ukrainian and Arab colleagues can't get it to work for some reason. I did not believe this at first until a colleague in Egypt showed me live via shared screens in Skype how the autocorrection simply failed to activate. Perhaps this is an issue with languages that don't use the Roman alphabet, so I suppose colleagues in Russia, Serbia, Japan and elsewhere may be tearing some hair out over this one. It doesn't affect me directly, but it looks like a pretty serious bug that ought to be addressed ASAP.

SDL generally kicks some butt with regex facilities in SDL Trados Studio; customer service guru Paul Filkin has written a lot about these features on his Multifarious blog, and most advanced users of the platform make heavy use of regular expressions in filters and QA rules. For a long time, memoQ users could only look on in envy at all the excellent possibilities before Kilgray belatedly added more regex options to its work environment. However, there are a few raw rubs remaining.

My Arabic translator friend pinged me recently to ask if I was aware of the "regex trouble" in the latest Studio version. He made heavy use of these features for Arabic and English work in some rather amazing, creative and inspiring ways (I had not imagined) in earlier versions of SDL Trados Studio, and some of these features are rather broken at present in SDL Trados 2017. He gave me a very useful tutorial (which I had planned to beg him for anyway soon) in the use of regex in SDL Trados Studio for basic filtering, advanced filtering and QA checks. Overall I was very impressed with the possibilities, but the failure of some regular expressions which worked well in the advanced filters to work at all in the basic filter or in QA rulesets was very disturbing. We argued a little about what the basis of the problem could be in the software programming, but it is a major problem which limits the functionality of SDL's latest software severely and should cause advanced users and LSPs to wait and watch for the fix before upgrading to the latest version. The persistence of such a major flaw in such an important area as quality assurance some 6 months after release is frankly shocking. I hope this will be addressed very soon so that I can migrate and upgrade some of me favorite QA routines from memoQ.

Last but not least is an irritating bug in an auxiliary feature for what has always been one of my favorite terminology tools, MultiTerm. It was the first Trados product many years ago, and despite many quirks over the decades, it remains one of the best. Face it: the memoQ terminology model is OK for most practical uses, but for maintaining high quality corporate terminologies tracking many important attributes it is hopeless garbage. Most other CAT tool terminology databases and glossaries are far worse. MultiTerm sets the standard today still for affordable, flexible, powerful terminology management. For 17 years I have used this excellent platform for my best terminologies for my best clients and delighted in its output management options (even when they can be a pain in the butt to configure properly).

When I want to access my high value MultiTerm resources while translating in memoQ or working in web pages or MS Word, I use the convenient MultiTerm widget to access the data. However, I am very disappointed to find that recent versions do not display the attributes for terms when the widget is used for lookup. Damn. That makes the results just as annoying as the lobotomized MultiTerm/TBX imports into memoQ. I really hope that SDL fixes this flaw ASAP and remains on top of the terminology game with MultiTerm and its lookup tools as a valuable resource even for translators who hate Trados Studio and won't use it.

Overall I am seeing a lot of nice things in SDL Trados Studio 2017, and I would say it is probably more mature and stable than memoQ 8 at this point. But it really is just a late-stage beta release, and more fixes are needed before I can trust it for routine production work. We are all better off for now to stick with the prior versions of both SDL Trados Studio and memoQ.

Mar 8, 2017

Countdown to IAPTI 2017 in Buenos Aires, April 22-23


This year shot itself out of a cannon in early January, and the trajectory promises to be a long one, allowing little time for frivolity and the usual conferences, as much as I might like to drop in on some. But there are two I would rather not miss. This one and METM2017 in late October.

Given some recent, loud public controversy regarding the organizational status of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, some might wonder that I am attending or even continuing my association with the group. But living in the somewhat magical Latin reality of Portugal myself, I had an instinct that the complications of final registration of the organization by the Argentine authorities might in fact be just another version of the oddities I sometimes experience in my own world, and the recent completion of that process showed that I was right.

In an age where too many of the "professional" translators' associations have turned themselves into amateur whores for corporate interests and the machine pseudo-translation lobby, it is refreshing to see the few groups like IAPTI, the German BDUE and MET who focus on and promote the professionalism of individual practitioners from a strong ethical foundation. Not always with perfect pitch, but it seems the ATA and ITI barely know the music and words to that tune any more, alas.

This year's program in Buenos Aires offers three parallel tracks, dense with professionally valid, valuable presentations for individual translators and interpreters at the top of their game or aspiring to be. This is not your ProZ wannabe event; it is serious business for serious professionals who are serious about the services they provide and who aspire to ever better practice in an often tumultuous international environment. And you can be sure that the corporate shills won't get past the door.

I'll be doing two talks myself at the event, one on terminology, another on collaboration with memoQ as a central resource. But given the promising talks scheduled, I am tempted to skip my own and sit in on the other sessions. Check out the event's professional rogues' gallery and you'll see why.

As for those rumors that the real reason I am going to IAPTI2017 is to play hookey and hit the bookstores, well... uh... no comment. I have a few days on the tail end for that, as I hear there are a lot of them.

The early bird rates for registration run until March 10th, but now or later, the event is an investment worth consideration. See you there?

Mar 4, 2017

Documenting auto-translation rule development for memoQ

In an recent article, I described my simple method of recording examples of structured information like dates, financial expressions or legal references to help developers plan auto-translation rules (or other features using regular expressions, such as Regex Tagger rules) in memoQ and other applications. These are a sort of simplified performance specification - a table of examples showing how the rules should "perform", what they should do: what patterned source language expressions are to be transformed into particular structured expressions in the target language.

The need for proper documentation of such efforts does not end there, however. It is very important, especially for more complex sets of rules, that there be clear documentation of the purpose and logic of the rules developed, and that this documentation be present
  • in the rules themselves (as comments) and
  • in external documents to be used as references for troubleshooting, maintenance and further development.
Auto-translation rules and other resources using regular expressions should not be scripted and maintained for the long run in memoQ itself or in any other environment which does not allow thorough commenting of the regular expressions used. Without comments, it is simply too easy to destroy functioning rules by forgetting why they were written a certain way once-upon-a-time, and an environment able to use comments also allows old rules to be "commented out" (disabled, but still available for reference or later re-use) while new versions are tested. That is basically impossible with memoQ's internal resource editors at the present time. And to make matters worse, if auto-translation rules are edited inside memoQ, their order changes, sometimes with dire consequences if functionality depends on the rule order. Try sorting out problems like that in a set of 70 or so rules.

Excerpt from a large set of currency format rules with extensive comments. These comments are stripped when
the rules are imported into memoQ, so all maintenance should be done externally in a tool like
Notepad++.
As I began to revise and improve old rules that I created years ago for dates and currency expressions, I found that it was helpful to create a record of what changes I had made - and why I made them - and keep this information in a tabular form for easy reference and re-use.
Click to access a PDF sample of my rule development record (2 pages)
The graphic above is one example of how I maintain my personal records of some work developing regular expressions. I usually include
  • descriptions of all information recorded
  • a specific example on which I will base the general rule
  • a simple ("fragile") version of the rule part (source input and target output) with only the most essential elements; this is not error-tolerant, but it is the easiest to understand and the first place to look if something isn't working as I would like it to
  • more robust variations which take into account differences in spacing, punctuation, etc. or include things like non-breaking spaces that might be desired in the output (this can get cluttered and hard to read)
  • color-marking for easier identification of some elements
  • comments about why things are written as they are or about possible improvements or problems
This record is a template of sorts from which rules can be assembled very quickly or rules can be re-purposed for other languages or formats in a way that is easy to follow and catch mistakes. Such records are also helpful if the rules are to be shared with other developers or maintained by someone else.

My example is certainly not the final word in project documentation for such efforts; it is simply part of a set of personal tools to help me work more efficiently with the limited time I have. Professional development and consulting organizations often have far more extensive and detailed systems of project documentation; when I was part of one such shop nearly 20 years ago, my (downloadable) 2-page example might easily have filled twenty pages of very important-looking professional technobabble. Life's too short for shit like that anymore.

But if you value your time as a developer or your investment as one who hires others to develop such useful rules, it pays big dividends in most cases to demand some sort of clear, systematic and accurate record of how your special rules, filters, etc. were developed so that they can be maintained and improved in the future.