Oct 22, 2011

Compatibility workflows with the memoQ Translator Pro edition (Part 1)

Yesterday I had the privilege to present the first of a series of workshops intended to convey my ideas for small-scale outsourcing management with the version of memoQ typically purchased by freelance translators. The participants were project managers at a translation agency that has begun to test the waters for using memoQ to overcome long-term compatibility issues between Trados versions in their accustomed workflows. I have been supporting them occasionally as a consultant over the past two years to deal with sticky issues of text encoding and translators who can't follow directions while working with a disturbing range of tools they often haven't mastered. It's been fun, and I've learned a lot from the infinite human capacity to instinctively ferret out the weaknesses of software and processes.

So I decided to put together a personal overview of the compatibility interfaces for the memoQ Translator Pro edition and my own thoughts on best practice and share it with my colleagues. I wanted to avoid burying everyone in technical detail but instead present the material in a way that most anyone can understand and apply. I don't believe in silly notions such as expecting the average intelligent user to learn and remember the use of regular expressions and other arcana that I, despite four decades of IT experience, continue to struggle with myself too often.

The presentation
  • referred to memoQ version 5 Translator Pro edition
  • focused on facilitating project workflows with different platforms rather than actual translation
  • was intended for anyone outsourcing on a small scale for a single target language in a project (multiple target languages require the memoQ Project Manager or server editions)
It was delivered in two parts in a three hour period, with a long break for coffee, chat, snacks and checking e-mail or testing ideas learned in the first part. Participants were provided with screenshots of the main application screens and did not sit in front of computers but engaged in the discussion. The actual project experience and understanding of the participants was polled at appropriate intervals to make sure that the delivery was relevant and the information was understood and able to be applied.

The goal was to achieve an understanding of memoQ as a central platform for
  • translation project input - files, translation memories, terminology and reference material
  • format conversion to facilitate work with different translation environment techniques and tools
  • translation
  • editing and quality assurance
  • creation of deliverable target files and other resources such as term lists, special review formats and commentaries
memoQ is "compatible" with
  • SDL Trados in all versions (though it is important to choose the right compatibility workflow!)
  • Star Transit
  • quite a number of other commercial and Open Source translation environment tools
  • various content management systems (CMS)
  • translators who decline to use any tool other than a word processor
  • and of course memoQ!
so except in the case of projects requiring live, direct work on a third-party translation server platform (such as one from SDL), some reasonable workflow can be found to collaborate with almost anyone using other tools.

memoQ is sort of like the Swiss Army knife of translation environment tools when it comes to compatibility. Only better. Some say it's more compatible with Trados than Trados. And in many cases they're right.

Output formats for translators
memoQ can prepare content for translation in
  • optimized formats for memoQ users
  • Trados-compatible bilingual DOC files
  • XLIFF, a standard used by many environments
  • RTF tables for those without special translation tools or for others to review, comment and answer questions using only a word processor
TM & terminology data
memoQ reads translation memory data in TMX and delimited text formats and outputs it to TMX. Term data is read in the same formats as TM data but output only to delimited text formats and a particular SDL Trados MultiTerm XML format.

memoQ can also integrate with external termbases, TM sources and machine translation engines.

I sometimes think of memoQ as the hub of a wheel with translators, reviewers and customers working with many different environments as the "spokes".

Basic project management steps with memoQ

These typically involve:

1. Reading in the data after it is properly prepared
  • files to translate in whatever source format
  • translation memory data or reference corpora
  • terminology data
  • special segmentation rules (SRX files and segmentation exceptions) or other configuration data for optimized workflows
In this step it is important to choose the best method´s of data import and the appropriate filter or combination of filters. In memoQ, filters can be cascaded to convert and protect sensitive data as tags. Thus HTML and placeholder tokens contained in cells of an Excel file might be protected by "chaining" an HTML filter and a custom filter using regular expressions after the usual filter for Microsoft's Excel format.

2. Analyzing the data

Many options are available here, including the weighting of tags to compensate the extra effort involved with complex formats and determining internal similarities in a text (aka "homogeneity" or "fuzzy repetitions") to facilitate better project planning.

3. Extracting terminology (particularly useful for large projects for one or more translators)

4. Preparing and exporting files for translators

Projects can also be sent to translators using memoQ as handoff packages or complete backups with all attached TMs, termbases and corpora.

5. Receiving and re-importing translated content

6. Review, QA and feedback workflows

7. Generating target files and other information for delivery, final statistics

Recommendations for best practices in choosing formats for translators, reviewers and others using a variety of tools will be covered in the second part of this summary. Those interested in a live presentation or relevant materials are welcome to contact me privately.


  1. Hi Kevin,

    Does memoQ handle ITD now? I wasn't aware of that one.

    Good blog article.



  2. Not directly, Paul, but you are aware of the workaround I think, since you read the Yahoogroups memoQ list. The "official" Kilgray list of supported formats is here.

    In the Yahoogroups memoQ forum there are a number of discussions of memoQ strategies for translating ITD files from SDLX. Here's one comment I found there from István Lengyel: "SDLX is there still, I know, but the main reason for ITD support has not been SDLX but SDL TMS, and they have dropped ITD in favour of SDLXLIFF as far as I know. I'm not saying it is an uninteresting format - I'm just saying that it is too much work for relatively little reward, probably, and we would even need to pay SDL for support. You can convert ITD to TTX and back in SDLX" [emphasis mine]

  3. I've found some information about translating strategies at too. One guy converts ITD files to TTX, for instance, then processes it by segmenting it with Workbench, translating with MemoQ, and then using it in SDLX again.

  4. @PT: Good for you, though utterly beside the point. I have friends who prefer OmegaT (a free, Open Source TEnT) to any of this commercial stuff from Kilgray, SDL, Atril & alia. It's not about preferences, it's about recognizing that the world is diverse and we must cope with many different people and platforms, so we might as well make our lives easier and do so effectively. If you, Paul, Jerzy or anyone else wants to use this approach or any other to teach people to use SDL tools more effectively for collaborative work with other platforms, then I'll simply applaud loudly and shout encouraging things. We need better teaching and more effective cooperation to give us more control of our lives. Anyone who contributes to this is an ally no matter what the label on his software.

  5. My previous comment is in response to the single line comment "I still prefer SDL.", which I realized later was pure backlink spam posted by a virtual seine net for low-end Polish translations. The trashy, SEO site behind the link is the sort of thing designed to suck the blood out of legitimate agencies and independent translators while offering no real value in return. There are plenty of vampiric scams and other bloodsuckers out there, and it's an unfortunate task of managing a blog these days that one must remain alert to the incessant attempts at infiltration by cockroaches like Rosetta Translations and others.

  6. Thank you for the article. Very interesting and I agree that mQ is one of the best instrument we (freelance translators) dispose of.
    I hope that all translation agencies will focus on the characteristics and advantages of this user-friendly CAT-tool.
    Thank you again for your support!


  7. I just wanted to say thank you for making so much detailed info about memoQ (and other tools) available to the public in language that's clear and easy to understand. You've given me a lot of good stuff to think about and made me far more interested in memoQ than I'd been previously (I'm a current OmegaT user, but I'm open to trying new tools).

  8. In case anyone is wondering why I haven't posted Part II yet, it's because new information from troubleshooting some very interesting agency projects has led me to revise that part completely, and some of the results of the research have appeared in other posts in recent months. Some of the latest information will be included in my presentation at memoQfest 2012 in May and in other sources TBA.

  9. Hi Kevin
    Unfortunately I have had to find out, that all this does not apply to the MQ version 6 - or at least I cannot find those options anymore in my Freelance Pro version. Should they indeed be missing, that would be a big step backwards by Kilgray, as even though I do not use MQ as my favorite tool, I would like to have it as bridge between Transit and Studio. With MQ5 I was easily able to receive Transit projects, process them in Studio and deliver in Transit. If this option is missing, the usability of MQ for me goes down to just one or two customer, who indeed use it - one of them as a server version with all the limitations in the process, making MemoQ only half as useful as it could be...

  10. What exactly do you think you are missing, Jerzy? Are you talking about XLIFF export? It's still there, just a bit confusing the way it was foolishly implemented in v6. Unmark the default for compression and you'll get a normal XLIFF file, albeit with a screwy extension (MQXLIFF, analogous to SDLXLIFF).


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