Feb 25, 2009

Proofreading Trados jobs with the free version of MemoQ

The other day I was asked by a friend at an agency to review a few points of linguistic dispute with an end client's proofreader. It wasn't one of my translations at issue, thank God, because although it wasn't horrible, it did have a few things in it to make one cringe. But as I talked to my friend about the project, I realized that the problems went far beyond quality, and some of the problems lay with a lack of technical preparation on the part of the reviewer to deal with the translated files efficiently, so there was a great deal of manual work involved in incorporating legitimate changes.

This friend and I have been arguing about CAT tools for years. He's probably the best expert I know for Trados, but there are a number of technical challenges we've faced from time to time where DVX would have done the job better, usually avoiding a nasty problem. The inability of the proofreader to modify the TTX file from the project under discussion was another such case. If the agency had a copy of DVX, the translated TTX could be read into a DVX project, then exported as an RTF table for a proofreader working with nothing more than a word processor. Or a satellite project could be created for use with the free DVX Editor version. That is in fact what may happen next time, though whether the agency will get a DV license or whether I will process the project for a small fee is still up in the air.

After a rather long phone chat, however, another possibility occured to me. MemoQ can also read pre-segmented TTX files. Or bilingual Word/RTF files for that matter. So theoretically a reviewer could use the free (or the licensed) version of MemoQ to correct uncleaned Trados files. I'm not one to let a theory remain untested for long, so I tried it and it works.

There are a few caveats. With the current state of MemoQ, I think the DVX approach is better, primarily because the RTF tables and satellite projects allow comments to be shared efficiently. I keep bugging Kilgray about this point, and I'm told it's "in the works", but I'm the kind of guy who needs to stick my fingers in the wounds before I'll believe. Given the progress of MemoQ over the past year, however, there is good reason to hope. The current free version is actually not a bad tool. It is limited to one file in a project, and has other limitations, like no importing of TM material for a self-created project, but in general, one can use a lot of the MemoQ features and get a pretty good idea of what it's like to work with the program. I'm running the free version, because despite Kilgray's generosity in extending my multi-month test license several times, I haven't finished evaluating the program to my satisfaction. (I am also waiting for exportable comments. Make me believe, guys!) When the ever-patient Istvan offered to extend the temporary license yet again, I decided to do penance instead and see how far I could go without a license. In fact one can do a lot for no money, almost enough to make me want to shell out for a license (which costs less than DVX). But not without exportable comments! And preferable an editable RTF external view feature like DVX too.

In any case, I have a lot of translated TTX files, so I started importing some of these into MemoQ Free v 3.2.10. Each file as a separate project (that's the limitation for cheapskates). In a few cases, I experienced crashes in the set-up dialogs; TTX files from some "top secret" Open Source experiments were indigestible (but OK with Trados), and clicks in the "wrong" place probably precipitated other crashes when trying to import other TTX files that I know are 100% OK. However, most of the time I was able to import the translated TTX file, proofread it, make changes and export the modified versions. Without being able to export the comments I made in the MemoQ project. Nag, nag. Still, this is the only option I am aware of at the current time which enables someone to edit a TTX file in a tag-protected environment, do basic QA, filter to compare similar strings, etc. etc. and export an edited TTX file all for free. Not bad, really. This could open up the possibility of a few extra emergency editing jobs to put cash in the pockets of starving, technology-poor reviewers and help agencies out of a bind if the only editor that can be found isn't a Trados user.

While I was on a roll, I thought I would take a look at uncleaned (bilingual) Word/RTF files. That works with MemoQ too (free version). Just like the procedure I've published for editing these files in DVX, one must search and replace the string '<}0{>' for No Matches and change the zero to '01' or some other fuzzy score. Otherwise the target content will not be shown.

So MemoQ, even the current free version, is an effective tool for editing uncleaned Trados files, just like DVX. Kudos to Kilgray for creating this viable, if limited, option and making it available to the translation community at no cost. If some of the stability issues in the import routines can be sorted out and the exportable comments implemented, I think MemoQ will become a killer app. On the subject of exportable comments, here's a suggestion for Kilgray, or Atril too for that matter: when exporting comments associated with a TTX file or files, there should be an option to generate TagEditor comment files for the individual TTX files. I doubt this is hard to implement, and it would make the workflow between agencies which use Trados only and translators who use MemoQ or DVX for Trados projects even better.

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