Apr 26, 2009

SDL Trados Studio 2009: BOHICA

For those of you not familiar with the acronym in the title, click here for an explanation. But for anyone who has been abused for years by the costs of maintaining Trados licenses, that won't be necessary. The feeling is all too familiar. Now where's that tube of Preparation H®? Actually, I won't be needing it: this is the end of the line for me with SDL products.

At the MemoQ Fest 2009 conference I heard some contradictory things about the pricing of the upcoming Trados release. I've done a bit of testing with it, and overall I felt positive about its features and the fact that Trados has finally gone over to an interface similar to the one used by the real technology leaders (as opposed to market share leader) in the industry. Hey, SDL has even admitted that an interface like the one used by Atril's Déjà Vu and Kilgray's MemoQ (and to be fair, SDLX) is about 20% more efficient with regard to translation speed that the various Trados interfaces. Took them long enough to admit it - I measured my own productivity with columnar tools 7 or 8 years ago and figured out that I could work 20 to 30% faster. You don't have to be a genius to figure out what that means in terms of income or extra time for other stuff.

In any case, when I saw a little banner ad on ProZ that reminded me I'd been ignoring the pre-release spam from SDL, I clicked on it to see what's up. And I looked at the prices for a new Trados package and the upgrades. Holy shit. Sit down before you read this:

SDL Trados Studio 2009, the ground-breaking release from the market-leading translation software provider, launches in June 09. Pre-order SDL Trados Studio 2009 at 10% off: Get SDL Trados 2007 Suite now + receive the new version on launch!
Regularly €2,995, now €2,695 (node-locked)

SDL Trados 2007 Suite Professional to
SDL Trados Studio 2009 Professional

€795, now €715

SDL Trados 2007 Professional to
SDL Trados Studio 2009 Professional
Regularly €995, now €895
And that's for a technology that is less mature than Kilgray's MemoQ. For 1000 euros more than the list price for a single license of the new Trados, you can have a server version of MemoQ with five licenses. Or just get a regular MemoQ license and go on a great vacation with all the money you save. Or for a good bit less than the new Trados price you can have DVX Workgroup, which still can't be beat for many things.

Sorry, but I just don't think this is worth it. There are better ways and better places to invest your money. Check out the competition unless you are the type to light your cigars with 100 euro notes.


  1. I agree with the general sentiment, but I think that there was a way to spend less and still get the new version of Trados: Upgrade before April 15 to the latest 2007 version, and, at the same time, pay for a one-year maintenance contract. The maintanance contract includes the upgrade to the 2009 version of the program.
    Whether Trados 2009 is really worth the high price they charge, especially compared to new technolgies like MemoQ is, of course, another question entirely.

  2. Good point here Riccardo. Oddly enough I can't find the cost of the maintenance contract in a quick search of the Translation Zone site, though I don't suppose it's one of those cases of "if you have to ask you can't afford it". I'm probably just too tired or the people who organize the content are too disorganized. I did, however, find a quote on the "Special Offers" page from former Trados VP Mike Kidd, citing him as "executive vice-president of ProZ.com". He was for a short time, but he left ProZ for other watewr long ago, and if one looks at the page for the team, he won't be found there. So it looks like SDL marketing is out of date once again....

    In any case, your tip may save me some serious cash if I decide to upgrade after all to have a version I can make screenshots with when I write help guides involving interoperability with Trados. If I don't have to spend 700+ euros, I might just do that, but I'll continue to translate with other more sophisticated, compatible tools. I don't remember if the new Trados will have TM-driven segmentation like MemoQ, but at the MemoQ Fest I heard from several people how they often get much better matches on Trados jobs with the Trados TM content using this feature! I've ignored it so far, but you can bet I won't by the end of next week.

    But the key phrase is your comment is "was a way". WAS. Unless SDL runs another condescending "amnesty" program for criminals like me. However, the reality is that most most users never bought these contracts because of the perceived lack of value from SDL support. I had some issues with SDL support in the past that gave me no confidence in it, so I treated all the offers of support and maintenance as spam. And there is no reasonably priced option from SDL for users shopping for their first commercial CAT tool. I can argue ROI with the best of 'em, and that argument will certainly apply to the new Trados version: I'm sure I could make the investment pay of in just a few months. But I can do that with a DVX, MemoQ or other license much faster and have enough to enjoy a lot of good wine, a nice holiday, a new dog kennel and a new dog or whatever. The real value now lies with companies other than SDL as I see it. Oh, and while I was browsing for support contract info, I noticed that the price of MultiTerm extract went up again, which just pissed me off. I'm a registered user, but SDL screwed me by offering no upgrade and then insulted me when I asked for one. I'm expected to pay for another full version. Ha ha. Kilgray has something in the works that I'll wait for, and if it doesn't materialize, I'll use other solutions (as I already often due with the DVX Lexicon or AntConc). SDL can find another sucker.

  3. I'm not fully awake this morning. Obviously the past tense applies to my case too. I upgraded before April 15th but didn't get the maintenance contract at the same time. Doh. Given SDL's track record I wasn't about to do such a thing, and although I've missed out on an opportunity here, the real savings will probably come from investing that money in MemoQ instead, which I intend to do. I'll just work like Hell to get all the screen shots I want before the beta version expires in June and then ask for someone to make the occasional shot afterward for me if I can't find a workaround (like a demo version of limited functionality).

  4. Hi Kevin,

    I read your post and wanted to assure you that our SDL Trados Studio 2009 Freelance pricing is actually still the same for a new license as it was for SDL Trados 2007 Suite - €795. Currently we are offering 10% off this making the full price just €715. Whilst upgrade pricing for the new version starts at €175 with our special discount.

    As you are probably aware we advertise both Freelance and Professional license prices on Proz.com and am wondering if you clicked on a professional version ad?

    To see the full listing of the freelance pricing please visit www.translationzone.com

    Kind Regards

    Sharon Pinelli
    SDL Trados

  5. You are right, Sharon! Thank you for pointing this out. I should have noticed the confusion from the text I copied and posted in the article, where it clearly says "Professional". However, the screen before that said no such thing, and since I didn't notice that I had landed on the lspzone.com site when I clicked the ProZ ad, I was led astray. I'll post the relevant screenshots in another entry, because I think there are some important points regarding clarity of communication to be made. The upgrade to the new version of Trados isn't cheap, but it is indeed not on the order of a full license or several licenses for other alternatives I would consider seriously. That is a considerable relief to me, because regardless of whether I make much use of the new version, I intend to include it in documentation I write for working together with other tools, and the idea of dropping € 800 or so just to make screenshots did not make me happy. I'm not thrilled with € 175, but that won't kill me.

  6. Kevin,

    They invested $100 million to find out what you knew 7-8 years ago (speed increase with columnar interface)! :)

  7. > $100 million to find out
    > what you knew 7-8 years
    > ago (speed increase with
    > columnar interface)! :)

    It's not rocket science. Anyone with a pencil and paper can keep track of their work times with different tools and do the math, and because my hourly earnings have always interested me I tend to keep track of such things. I'm sure others noticed the difference. However, I also experienced some who were so used to the less efficient Trados interfaces that they claimed these were "better" because they could work faster without having taken the time to acquire any competence with the other tool or "warm up" to the different ergonomics of the other software. No mater which direction I switched in, it always took me a little while to get used to different keyboard commands. That's one of the other reasons I love MemoQ - I have it reconfigured to behave like Déjà Vu so I don't feel disturbed by different key combinations when I switch back and forth. In principle one could do the same with other tools.

  8. Kevin,

    The more experience I gain, the more I understand that the translator is the strongest and the weakest link in translation. We are the strongest link as no tool can substitute for us. We are the weak link as we bring the human factor - and to err is human :)

    I guess translators should think more about professional development, but as we see nowadays translators look for all possible ways to speed up their work. I use 4-5 fingers (of both hands) to type and I'm quite comfortable with the speed of my typing - I wish I needed less time to solve some translation puzzles :)

  9. Hi Kevin,

    You make a good point when it comes to Trados. Myself, after having worked as a Project Manager for a few years, I am amazed that Trados continues to dominate the market. There are MUCH better tools out there which respond faster as you have pointed out and which also have better import and export filters (specifically I would like to mention Star Transit here).

    I think the PDF filter that Trados seem to have developed looks interesting, but knowing how many headaches the PDF format can cause, notwithstanding the use of TM, (I am thinking of segmentation issues here), I suspect that the filter may prove to be of more use to agencies (translators will no longer be able to say that they can't work with PDFs and Trados). Who knows, I may be wrong, but we will just have to wait and see. I will also be interesting to see if the other big players also introduce a PDF filter in the near future...

    For now, it looks like SDL is heading in the right direction with Trados, but I have to say that I remain sceptical and will not be giving up using DejaVu any time soon. My only concern is whether Atril and Star, etc. can maintain compatibility with the new Trados file format.

  10. >I think the PDF filter that
    > Trados seem to have developed
    > looks interesting

    Not to me. It's marketing bullshit, and I predict that in practice its limitations will be so severe that it will cause enormous headaches if implemented as a classic "filter".

    Why do I say this? Because I do a lot of PDF work which often requires very sophisticated OCR techniques that cannot be automated. Simple, single column texts will probably be no-brainers, but translators really won't be any better off than they would be using free online conversion tools. The real trouble will start with complex product brochures with text boxes on the side, quote inserts, picture captions, graphics with text, etc. If anyone can come up with an automated "filter" that handles a bitmap PDF with all those elements and does not require significant cleanup to work efficiently, I'll eat a spoonful of peanut butter (one of the most disgusting culinary experiences I can imagine).

    There is no good alternative to skilled manual OCR conversion for complex documents.

    > My only concern is whether
    > Atril and Star, etc. can
    > maintain compatibility with
    > the new Trados file format.

    Piece of cake, I think. I know for a fact that Atril is actively developing a filter for the Trados Studio 2009 packages and I suspect others are as well. It's XML, so it's really not that hard to deal with.

  11. I just made the investment in Trados 2009, but I can't find a user guide/manual anywhere on the site? Is this SDL's way of making you buy their very expensive training? Does anyone know of a downloadable user manual?

    Beth R.

  12. The manuals are probably installed with the software on your hard drive somewhere or are available with the installation package most likely. A shortage of manuals isn't something one typically has to deal with for this software.

    You might want to check out the tutiorials o the translationzone.com web site, see if the free webinars are listed there and also join the free Yahoogroups forum for Trados (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/TW_users/). The forum is a excellent source of information on undocumented problems, and you'll get help there from experienced users and some competent SDL employees.

  13. Beth, you might want to have a look at the white papers at this link:


    Also, if you use Twitter, it's worthwhile to follow Paul Filkin. He publishes a lot of useful information & links about the product in that stream. In a number of forums, he's the most helpful SDL employee I've encountered yet (even judging by non-SDL standards ;-)


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