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Nov 20, 2008

eBook: The Translator's Toolbox by Jost Zetzsche

Reviewed: Version 7.0 (November 2008)
Price USD 50
Format: PDF, CHM
Info link: http://www.internationalwriters.com/toolbox/

The 361 pages of this eBook are offer a wide-ranging overview of computer technology relevant to translators and its possibilities. It is delivered in two formats: PDF for better reading and Windows Help (CHM) for more efficient searching of topics. As the author describes it, "This book is not a tutorial on what to do or not to do with your computer. Instead, it is a list of suggestions based on what has worked well (or not so well) for me." As such, it is an excellent overview of value to translators at all levels of experience and technosavvy. The book focuses on tools and techniques for Windows users, so Mac and Linux fans will find a lot, but not all, of the material irrelevant.

Some of the sections I found interesting and useful covered:
  • Windows OS & techniques for optimizing it
  • Advanced browsing tips for Google (searching in page titles, excluding file types, text embedded in URLs, etc.)
  • Reducing risk from phishing, viruses, trojans and various other modes of attack
  • All sorts of utilities including collaboration tools, OCR, etc.
  • Office suites, DTP programs and graphics applications
  • CAT review / overview, including QA tools and TM quality maintenance
  • Terminology extraction and management tools
  • Localization tools
  • Management tools for your business
  • A quick reference for handling complex file formats
  • Voice recognition apps
The book was updated in November 2008, so the information is absolutely up to date as I write this. That's important in a field where the technology changes so rapidly and companies are busy swallowing each other and changing formerly independent tools into vassals of the Evil Empire and others.

The author, Mr. Zetzsche, has a great perspective and understanding of the technology scene. His discussion of CAT tools, for example, puts them in exactly the right perspective. As he noted, "We’re at a point in the development of translation environment tools when it’s generally understood that translation memory tools are not primarily time-saving applications; first and foremost they are programs that allow translators to increase the quality and consistency of their work." That is a very important point to remember when many translators, agencies and end clients think of them primarily as ways to speed up jobs and cut costs. My own experience, particularly when dealing with complex, heavily tagged formats, is that working with CAT tools can occasionally require much more effort (and should be charged accordingly), but that it is still worthwhile to do so because of the access to reference material in the environments. The higher quality that results produces downstream savings for customers, but there is no justification for applying discount scales to such projects.

The book is written in clear, competent English that is accessible to anyone who uses English as a working language. The range of topics is broad enough that almost anyone - from beginning translators and those without a clue regarding technology to those with a good understanding of the craft and its tools - will find something of value. The book is well worth the price.

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