May 29, 2012

memoQfest 2012: another great year and great things ahead

Some say translation technology has gone to the dogs, and
this was certainly the case in Budapest this year as Ajax
and Benny noted to their satisfaction.
Although I was first asked to consider memoQ by a client of mine in 2007 and actually began to look it a year later, I was very skeptical about the software when István Lengyel convinced me to take a break for the first memoQfest at the Benzcur Hotel in Budapest in 2009. I had seen interesting progress in the year I had tested the software, but it was simply too immature for my needs and lacked nearly all the features which were most important to me. About a week before the conference, Kilgray released a version that barely met my minimum requirements for a small portion of my clients. I was impressed and actually did my first bit of commercial work with memoQ - a press release - the night before the conference began. The event itself was a blast, and I was convinced that this team had the right stuff or at least the potential to make it.

The next two years confirmed the wisdom of this leap of faith as the company raced from strength to strength despite a few stubbed toes; the advance of memoQ clearly played a role in improving other leading tools like DVX and SDL Trados, the latter borrowing generously from Hungarian innovation or using it and the unmatched service ethos on the Danube as an inspiration to overhaul the catastrophic mess of legacy Trados and enter the modern age of CAT tools, even surpassing memoQ in a few points, though with the current Renaissance of creative development in what appeared just a few years ago to be a dead-end IT ghetto, it's not an easy guess as to who will stay ahead anywhere for long. These are indeed good times for users despite the renewed threats of lock-in posed by the current misguided server politics of most providers.

Nonetheless, Kilgray's rapid growth has not been without difficulties, and despite anticipating most of the challenges long before they arose, the team doesn't always put in the performance its demanding fans expect. This is often to be expected when a company experiences the exponental growth which can obscure long-turm interests in the confusing melee of daily business. And the product which seemed so fresh and clean just a few years ago is beginning to look like a car that has been taken on too many roatrips without a good cleaning, has hauled too many dogs and needs new tires. But last week I saw clear signs that there may be a new Maserati getting a tune-up in the development garage. The hints regarding memoQ 6 and the company's further roadmap led me to scratch of most of the items on my technical gripe list. The organizational wishlist has gotten longer, but it's clear that the "refactoring" process at Kilgray is not limited to the software, so I think I can trust them as I did four years ago when few could have anticipated the company's impressive track record.

I almost did not go to Budapest this year. When I read the published schedule, it sounded far too skewed toward corporate interests, a bit like a sell-out now that server sales revenue has far surpassed that from Translator Pro licenses. And bad calls like the confused differences in implementation of versioning features in memoQ 5, weariness from providing support for issues arising from a lack of professional service consulting in the sales process with some of my agency clients and my own stupidity of forgetting to vaccinate my puppy against rabies before the trip (which required me to leave him with someone else for the first time) had me considering a week of vacation at home.

That would have been a mistake. I only expected to draw value from one presentation - regular expressions by Polish guru Marek Pawelec - and even there I didn't expect to understand very much. Instead, every one of the rather random sessions I attended had a lot to offer, even for a freelancer. The agency presenters who talked about their approaches to challenges in complex translation projects shared a great deal of information that is directly relevant to my agency and direct client business and can help make it better. And the general talk on refactoring your business through innovation by Richard Brooks, which I expected to be the biggest hot air balloon of the week, was the absolute highlight for me. I might even have gotten something out of the Asia Online keynote on machine translation, though an idiotic quote I read from the speaker about how we need to get on the MT boat or drown suggests perhaps not. I do hold out some hope he might have been misquoted or taken out of context, however. It's the least I can do in a world where people still believe in the Tooth Fairy and US Republican politics.

When Kilgray releases the videos of the talks, do watch them. I do hope the sound and picture quality will be good, because too often I really did wish I could have been in two rooms at once.

The Twitstream shared a lot of the gritty details of the presentations; the hashtag #memoQfest or an archive established by a Ukrainian user will show these for a while at least. And I'll be drawing on the tweets, my other notes and the memories of conversations in the breaks to share insights, many quite trivial, all of which confirm that memoQ is the right choice for most of my translation IT needs. The only thing I'll say now is that in memoQ 6 the versioning features will be the same in all editions of memoQ. Big deal. For some of us.

Oh yes, and next year's memoQ fest might not be in Budapest. If I weren't visiting that city with some frequency now for dogs, I might be disappointed, because I love it and the rest of the country I have seen, but the change is unlikely to be a problem, because what makes Kilgray's memoQ truly great is not the venue and not the rather good technology, but the people: the ones who make it and the ones who use it.

May 22, 2012

The memoQ ménage à trois

A few years ago, I tagged along behind Kilgray COO István Lengyel as he gave guests remaining after memoQfest a tour of the lovely city of Budapest. It was a beautiful spring day - what better opportunity to talk about the pressing matters of software licensing and server availability for small teams? We talked about the difficult position of translating couples who spent far too much time trading data on the SneakerNet or e-mailing TM exports to a partner sitting five meters away. He proposed a "honeymoon edition" of the memoQ Server to serve the needs of these teams, a licensing scheme certain to evoke warm feelings on par with a romantic cruise on the Blue Danube. But, alas, the promised edition never saw an official release.

But if there is one thing I've learned in my four years as a migrant to memoQ, it's that the swinging software developers in Hungary have a knack for taking a good idea and adding just a little more spice. Thus it was again as István announced to the audience in the final session of memoQ 2012 that a new small team edition of the memoQ Server is now available from Kilgray, with three licenses. The cost mentioned was € 3000, very competitive when compared to other tools in editions above the basic standalone freelancer package. I expect that when the Kilgray team recovers from the great efforts of hosting this year's excellent event there will be a follow-up announcement of what I have dubbed the memoQ Ménage à Trois edition, and those teams looking for an affordable entry solution to the industry's current best option for translation resource and project management in small- and medium-sized companies will surely celebrate.

Contact Kilgray for more details on this server solution or other excellent translation technology.

May 19, 2012

Dissecting SDL Trados Studio project files (SDLPPX) for translation with other tools

When a translation request with an SDLPPX (SDL Trados Studio project file) shows up in my inbox, it's always a bit irritating. The current version 5 of memoQ can't do a thing with these project files, unlike those from Star Transit, where a nicely automated wizard sets up a memoQ project with everything I need except terminology. To translate the content (SDLXLIFF files) of an SDL project file, you have to take the thing apart.

Of course, if you own an SDL Trados Studio license, it's usually a simple matter to open the package with Trados and export the resources you need. But today that didn't work. An error message informed me that the PPT source file for one of the SDLXLIFF resources was missing. Indeed. It was sitting on an FTP server to which the PM had failed to give me the access data before the weekend. Looked like I was SOOL.

In the past, when I took these SDLPPX file apart manually to get at the components I wanted, my luck was mixed. These are just ZIP files, so if you take a project file named MyWonderfulSubcontractedJob.sdlppx and rename it you can unpack it with WinZip or other utilities. Inside the ZIP file, the structure will look something like this:
Inside an SDL Trados Studio project package with Source language German (DE) and target language English (UK)
Both the source and target language folders contain an SDLXLIFF file with the source content. But there's a catch. You must take the SDLXLIFF file from the target folder.

Here's an example of a translation segment from the SDLXLIFF in the source fiile:
<trans-unit id="4e4fc380-8fac-4570-942b-a4bf6c4a4c7f"><source>Die neue Maschinenrichtlinie</source><seg-source>Die neue Maschinenrichtlinie</seg-source></trans-unit>
Notice anything missing? There is no tag set for target content. This is essentially a monolingual file. When imported into memoQ it will show zero segments! A look at the same translation unit in the SDLXLIFF file out of the target language folders shows the difference (a bit more than just the target tags highlighted):
<trans-unit id="4e4fc380-8fac-4570-942b-a4bf6c4a4c7f"><source>Die neue Maschinenrichtlinie</source><seg-source><mrk mtype="seg" mid="560">Die neue Maschinenrichtlinie</mrk></seg-source><target><mrk mtype="seg" mid="560" /></target><sdl:seg-defs><sdl:seg id="560" /></sdl:seg-defs></trans-unit>
This second SDLXLIFF file will import fine into other tools like memoQ using the XLIFF filter and allow you to translate without difficulty. I had not noticed this before, because in the past, if the SDLXLIFF file I imported had no segments, I just opened it in SDL Trados Studio, copied source to target and resaved it, and the resultant file imported without trouble and showed all segments. It took a missing original file that Studio demanded to save changes for me to look at matters a bit more closely.

I really do hope that a future version of memoQ will include a project import routine for these SDL projects similar to that for Star Transit projects. I am encountering SDLPPX files with increasing frequency due to the general lack of understanding interoperable workflows by those living in the Trados ghetto, and this added functionality in my primary tool would be a great help.

What should an SDL Trados Studio user do to ensure a less troublesome collaboration with those who use other tools? Don't send a damned project file. Send SDLXLIFF files and export the relevant TMs to TMX. If you are part of the 1% of Trados users who have a clue what to do with terminology, export the MultiTerm data, if you have any, to a delimited format of some kind. Most tools can take it from there, and you'll get back your finished SDLXLIFF files to review.

May 10, 2012

memoQfest 2012: practical outsourcing with memoQ desktop editions

This week I'm in Budapest for Kilgray's memoQfest, the annual gathering of users and curious bystanders as well as CAT tool competitors who want to learn how to get the technology right.

This morning I gave a presentation on a topic which has become a regular part of my consulting with colleagues and clients... or better said, has been a part of my work with them from the beginning of my association with the language services industry. Every time I hear a translation agency or corporate translation consumer say that a qualified translator with the subject expertise needed cannot be used because he or she doesn't work with the "right" translation environment tool, I am saddened by the foolishness of that statement or the lack of understanding it reveals. In mature IT sectors interoperability and lossless data exchange have been common for decades, though sometimes one must be clever to get there. But the cottage industries for languages are, in many ways, stuck in the IT mentality of the early 1980s despite the fact that the actual technology today is more like Y2K. Gut Ding braucht Weil as the Germans say.

At a memoQ master class yesterday, Kilgray COO István Lengyel stated that "Interoperability is the art of compromise." True, but if you keep your wits about you and apply them, the compromises are usually not as awful as originally assumed.

memoQ is distinguished by the great ease with which it can manage data to be used in translation with nearly any other translation environment. SDL Trados Studio actually does a few things better, but overall, the utility and ease of use for memoQ is far greater in most cases. It's like a Swiss Army knife of translation integration, with one or more reasonable workflows for almost anything.

Today's talk was a 45 minute distillation of a workshop I usually deliver in half a day. It was a bit of a challenge to pare it down in the limited time available with last-minute translation projects having more content than planned and late nights talking to colleagues from around the world. For experienced users, most of what I had to say was "old hat"; some new memoQ users were surely overwhelmed by a flood of "new" information. I hope that each listener was able to leave the session with at least one useful idea to apply and improve their business. For those who fell asleep and couldn't take notes or anyone else who likes to play "guess the context" with lecture slides, here is a link to the slides from the talk. Questions are welcome on whatever appears mysterious; most of it is somewhere on this blog in great detail. Re-use is permitted for any morally acceptable purpose (with attribution please). When Kilgray puts the video of the talk online, I'll post it here so those slides make more sense.

May 5, 2012

memoQuickie: fixing source segmentation from abbreviations

Do you see segmentation like the above in your projects? Annoying, right? This is easy to fix in memoQ.

Go to Tools > Options... > Default resources > Segmentation rules (in the row of icons):

Select the language (including sublanguage if relevant) and select the editable rule set, then click Edit.

On the tab for custom lists, add the offending abbreviations to the #abbr_short# list.

Re-import the document(s) on the Translations > Documents list of the Project home tab. The number of segments in my document was reduced from 197 to 134, because it was so laden with academic titles. Since I use versioning, any previously translated segments can be recovered quickly by Operations > X-Translate...

Sometimes I think that abbreviations I added aren't fixing the segmentation. In those cases I have usually switched to a sublanguage for which they were not entered.

Tracked changes in memoQ 5 & what more we need

A recent round of e-mail with colleagues reminded me of how critical revision workflows are for many people and how too often we must resort to workarounds, because our translation environment tools don't quite do what we require of them. Tracking changes and comparing versions is necessary in many different situations, and no single method will cover all needs.

memoQ 5 offers the ability to track differences between minor versions in the translation window. What is a minor version? A major version is created when a version of a source text is imported. The first version of the source text imported will be version 1.0, the second will be 2.0 and so on. When various things occur with the translation of a source text version, such as an export, an update by importing a bilingual file, a change in the person working on the document or the creation of a status "snapshot", a minor version is created with sequential numbering after the decimal point: version 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc. memoQ allows you to compare the current translated text to any previous minor version of the same source text version. Of course, in order to use versioning and tracked changes, versioning must be enabled for a project on the first page of the project setup wizard. It is currently not possible to enable versioning later, nor, unfortunately, is it possible to make versioning active as the default for new projects. I hope that memoQ will allow both of these options in the future.

There are three ways to activate the tracked changes view in memoQ. Two of these are equivalent: the menu option Translation > Toggle Track Changes > (options) and the corresponding icon in the memoQ toolbar with the same options:

Selecting the Custom option opens the following dialog:

The third way to activate tracked changes is undocumented as far as I know. It was shared with me just recently by a new user who has a brilliant knack for finding new ways of pushing memoQ to its limits. Pressing Ctrl+F5 with the cursor in a target segment begins tracking changes to that segment. Confirming the segment removes the tracking. Change tracking can be turned on for various individual segments this way, and the toggling of the feature is independent for each target segment. This can be useful if you are changing several segments but don't want to lose track of the original text until you are sure of the edited text. Here is an example of a minor version comparison with additional editing in Segment 2 using this undocumented mode for tracked changes:

Combining or splitting segments appear to erase the row histories for the segments affected.

The process of comparing minor versions will work well to review changes made by editors working externally to memoQ on bilingual files with other tools, for example. What is missing is an effective way to revert changes made to individual segments other than by retyping. Nor is it possible to revert entirely to a previous minor version (except by the workaround of saving a corresponding bilingual file as a backup and re-importing it).

There are also issues if changes between versions are to be exported for review in other tools, such as a word processor (Microsoft Word and others). While one could use the document comparison function in these or other tools to create a mark-up of changes, it would be nice if this were possible directly from memoQ (in the RTF table bilingual format as well).

Another idea shared by the same translator who discovered the use of the Ctrl+F5 key combination for toggling tracked changes is making changes stand out through the use of color in an export format that would support this. The color could be applied to the text which has changed or to the text which remains the same. (The latter case might be more appropriate if the changed text has significant formatting to be reviewed and the color would cause confusion.) Background highlight colors might also be used. In a similar vein, she suggested that this coloring of the target text might be used to indicate other things, such as 100% or context matches. Not only would this make it easier to focus on changes scattered throughout a large text, it would also be of great help in cases where one is not supposed to look at 100% matches and make changes to them. Proofreading is otherwise difficult. This is why clients often using color marking of some sort for text changes, but applying this to matches or version changes of a translation for the same source text would make this concept far more useful.

A few possible workarounds do come to mind for memoQ, but these only apply to a few situations. In the bilingual RTF table exports, one could sort by the status column, then change the background color of rows that are 100% or context matches, then re-sort the table by segment number. Or write a macro to do that. The bilingual DOC format could also have 100% matches marked in color using a macro with an appropriate regular expression to identify those segments. Such coloring options are available in Trados Workbench and are important to the revision workflows of some financial translators I know and probably many others. Similar ideas were shared with Kilgray about a year ago, and I do hope that the upcoming version 6 will offer us something of this sort as well as many other advancements in the management of translation versions.

May 4, 2012

Preparing MS Word text with a specific highlight color

If the Catholic Church decides its needs an official backup for Jerome as the patron saint of translators (and in these times of tribulation, one cannot have enough divine help I suppose), Dave Turner of ASAP Traduction gets my vote. His CodeZapper macros for Microsoft Word have saved us so many thousands of hours of grief dealing with rogue tags in RTF and MS Word files, which screw up TM and termbase matches and make work very difficult, and other more recent contributions also offer useful support. He is the first one in my mind when I see a problem and think "There ought to be a macro for that!"

Dave's latest contribution was part of an old discussion about preparing texts for translation in which the text to translate was marked by a highlight color. As I remember the original discussion, there were several highlight colors, and only one was to be chosen for work. Usually, if text of a certain color is to be hidden or shown in preparing a file for translation with a CAT tool which filters out hidden text, I use the search and replace function in Microsoft Word. That does not work for selecting a highlight of a specific color. You need to use a macro for that, and I no longer have the VBA skills to handle that myself. I can adapt a working macro, but no way I can manage a good one from scratch unless I spend a few days or more re-learning the skills of a decade ago.

So I was very happy when I saw his answer to the problem in the memoQ yahoogroups forum, which I have reproduced here with just a  minor change to reflect the usual highlighting I encounter:

Sub HideExceptYellow()
' Translation assistance macro
' by Dave Turner

Dim rDcm As Range
ActiveDocument.Range.Font.Hidden = True
Set rDcm = ActiveDocument.Range
With rDcm.Find
.Text = ""
.Highlight = True
.Forward = False
While .Execute
If rDcm.HighlightColorIndex = wdYellow Then
rDcm.HighlightColorIndex = wdNoHighlight
rDcm.Font.Hidden = False
rDcm.Collapse Direction:=wdCollapseStart
rDcm.Start = ActiveDocument.Range.Start
End If
End With
Set rDcm = ActiveDocument.Range
Options.DefaultHighlightColorIndex = wdYellow
With rDcm.Find
.Text = ""
.Font.Hidden = False
.Forward = False
.Replacement.Highlight = True
.Execute Replace:=wdReplaceAll
End With
End Sub
In MS Word 2003 and earlier versions, the macro can be created under Tools > Macros > View Macros. Name the macro, then click the Create button to paste in the code. The Run button will execute an existing macro if it is selected.

In MS Word 2007/2010 the same functionality is accessed on the View ribbon with the Macros icon or Alt+F8.

Here's a short video showing the procedure to copy the code into the Normal global template in Microsoft Word, where it is available to all open documents in Word:

To adapt this for another highlight color, just rename the macro and change the designation of the color (wdYellow). The macro can be adapted to deal with combinations of highlight colors as well, and similar methods can be used to deal with text colors, though these can be handled by the search and replace dialog.

May 1, 2012

Übersetzertreffen Berlin-Kreuzberg am 3. Mai

Liebe Leute,

hier die Einladung für das nächste Übersetzertreffen am:

                Donnerstag, 3. Mai 2012, ab 20.00 Uhr

Wir gehen noch einmal ins:

                Max und Moritz
                Oranienstraße 162
                10969 Berlin-Kreuzberg
                U-Bahn: Moritzplatz

Diesmal sind wir allerdings nicht im abgelegenen Studierstübchen oben, sondern ordentlich im Ballsaal hinten, wie (fast) alle anderen auch (einfach geradeaus durch die Kneipe). Die Küche aus deutschen Landen ist in Ordnung, wenn auch etwas träge.

Bis Donnerstag!
Andreas Linke

Walled gardens

Ashgrove walled garden, roadside view. Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland (from Roger Griffith)

In the beginning, online networks and platforms were largely separate, walled off from one another. In the California state university computing system that I remember from my youth in the 1970s, it was a big deal that the diverse campuses were linked and that certain operations were possible between the systems - truly useful stuff like directory searches for new versions of text-based Star Trek programs. When the first chat application was introduced and became popular, it was banned at the Los Angeles campus because it used too much bandwidth.

Later platforms like CompuServe, AOL and others I have long since forgotten - as well as many old corporate systems - had their own walled-off e-mail systems. Connections to the Internet eventually killed off most of these.

Today's business networking platforms such as LinkedIn and XING and social media such as Facebook also have private messaging systems that do not co-exist well with the wider world of Internet communication. Even with notifications set, forwarded messages are often difficult to recognize as important in the flood of spam these platforms typically generate. As a result, over the years a number of potentially interesting business prospects have slipped by because I didn't notice the private request for a quotation on XING. Or some colleague or other person feels insulted because months go by without a response to mail on the platform or to a "connection request" of some sort.

I don't worry about the lost business; my usual contact information is easy to find, and it is typically on those sites as well. Not everyone camps out on LinkedIn or Facebook 24/7; many have other commitments and ongoing business that make it impractical to "check in" with great frequency. I do see value in these platforms and use them to communicate with some friends and former coworkers, but I never do so expecting a quick response. If I want that I use real e-mail or pick up the phone.

The phone? Yes, indeed. Years ago I recall being attacked on a public portal by some troglodyte translator who was offended by my suggestion that the telephone system still has a role to play in business. But e-mail is not the reliable medium many believe it is, and after some of my old addresses (one in use for nearly 20 years) were used by impersonating spammers, my e-mail messages often landed in spam folders or disappeared into The Void. Despite its reach and apparent openness, the Internet is in many ways just another sort of walled garden, one rather neglected in parts and full of traps and hazards, and to get where we want or need to go, we must often engage with the wider world, the real world.