Apr 23, 2012

Five favorite things about the CAT

When I listen to colleagues talk about the tools they use, I find it interesting how diverse the points are that they emphasize when describing the advantages of their environments. I'm not surprised, really, because the needs of individuals vary a lot as do the projects they may encounter in different phases of their careers. And the limits of a tool itself influence the "advantages", of course.

So I sent off a few e-mails to some friends, asking what they felt the "top five" features of their choice of CAT tools are for their purposes. I'm still waiting for a few responses, but I'd like to share what I've heard so far. I'll add more as and when I get more feedback. Others are welcome to add their Top 5s in the comments.

The respondent here uses this tool exclusively and does a fine job of correcting me every time I put my foot in my mouth with a misstatement about the capabilities of the software. He wrote with his typical humility:
I don't think I'm the right person to do this. Mainly because OmegaT is the only tool I've used for the last nine years.

Favourite features:
  • It runs on Linux.
  • It does what it says on the box.
  • It *always* works. It doesn't hang or crash. I can't remember when it last did, if it ever did. Bugs are rare and when they do happen tend to concern secondary features that are still at the beta stage.
  • It's fast; almost everything is near-instantaneous. (An exception is the "Search files" function, though I don't use that much and I doubt many others do, either.)
  • "Upgrading" means downloading and unpacking, that's it.
Not very sexy, sorry. Like my '99 Mazda 626 wagon, it just gets the job done
Just gets the job done? Well, what more could one want? There are plenty of tools that often don't manage that. I've seen huge improvements in this environment in recent years, and there are certainly worse tools to start with. It is Open Source but worth taking seriously for professional work.

SDL Trados Studio
The respondent here is still using Studio 2009, so surely more notable features will be discovered after an upgrade to Studio 2011. But for his team of top-notch translators, the three he indicated are pretty persuasive:
  • AutoSuggest (which is apparently so good that Kilgray will implement it in the next memoQ version, a rare exception to emulation that more often runs the other way)
  • File format filters. (I have often used SDL filters to prepare content to translate in other environments)
  • Project package sharing. (This is useful in any environment which offers it, but there is a need for all vendors to get off their butts and support interoperable package standards.)
Déjà Vu
See Victor Dewsbery's comment below. DVX used to be my favorite tool, one whose innovations have still to be matched in some respects by any of the competition. Its visionary software architect is arguably one the greatest contributors ever to the development of user friendly CAT tools.I am not personally familiar with the current version of the software at the present time nor with the server solution which was finally released.

I spend far too much time on my blog talking about my fave features of this tool, so I asked a few others to have their say. One said that the things she found most helpful were
  • PDF alignment (although it doesn't always work)
  • The infinitely customizable interface - fonts, colors, sizes of windows, placement of windows, horizontal/vertical split, etc.
  • Extensive [bilingual] export options (memoq bilingual, xliff, trados, two-column rtf)
  • Lean software - version 5.0.62 is under 26 MB download, even smaller than version 3.0.37 which was nearly 35. Compare this to the bloat of SDL - currently 338 MB if my research is correct.
  • "Duh" comments: very responsive support, frequent new releases and features, inexpensive


Do you use one of these tools or another and want to share the features which help you most to be productive or which just put a big smile on your face? Have your say in the comments.



  1. Actually, my almost favorite element of Trados is T-Window for Clipboard, which allows you to reap benefits of Trados in a completely non-CAT-able environment. :)

  2. Do I detect a little backhanded reference to me in there? Oh well, I'll try to put a couple of things about DVX2 together over the next day or two. Although I'm not exactly a fan of the "Five things ..." format, in fact I have often dreamed of writing an article "Ten reasons why a list of ten reasons is no good". I realise that I have used a similar format once on my own blog, but I like to think that was the exception that proves the rule.

  3. Indeed, Victor. I've valued your insights on Déjà Vu since before the first version of DVX was released, and you are one of the people from whom I learned the most via the Yahoogroups forum when I started using CAT tools a dozen years ago.

    I understand your reservations about numbered lists in a blog title - I have avoided that for nearly four years simply because it's one of those things one is supposed to do as part of SEO to draw more traffic. (This one sort of slipped out when I was tired and not paying attention.) I try to study what the web biz gurus say to do, then do the exact opposite, like published posts on an irregular schedule at unoptimized times, etc. I find an overoptimized world duller than infertile dirt.

  4. OK, here are a few things about DVX2 to get started.
    - I like the configurable screen layout and the variety of possible ways of working.
    - I like having almost all of my work for the last 12 years in one TM and one termbase (the "Big Mama" approach). I realise that some people prefer to have separate databases for separate subjects or clients, but for most projects I prefer to have it all together.
    - I like having a separate project lexicon for each project (in addition to the TM and termbase).
    - I like the free choice of working processes. Usually, I "Pretranslate" before I start a job, but occasionally I leave the target segments blank and "Autoassemble" them as I go along. And very occasionally I also process individual segments with Google Translate. In each process, the result then needs final editing, of course.
    - AutoWrite is extremely valuable - it usually suggests whole words, and sometimes whole phrases, after I have just typed the first couple of letters, so this saves lots of typing or dragging/dropping. AutoWrite (like the related function "DeepMiner") even finds stuff that is not in the termbase and that could otherwise only be extracted from the TM by concordance searching.
    Hey, that's my lot - five items, the man said, and I haven't even mentioned terminology entry on the fly, import and export filter options and more. One or two bits and pieces are outlined on my blog, other things will have to be said at a later date.


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