Nov 30, 2013

The state of the upgrade: memoQ 2013 R2

The memoQ 2013 release started off on the wrong foot with me in many ways. I was deeply disappointed by the features that were previewed in Budapest at the last memoQfest, and I was even less happy after I saw what a hash had been made of one of the features I use most: comments. In fact, I wrote a rather annoyed blog post about that not long after the release. There was a lot of talk about "game-changing innovation", but frankly I really could not see it. My translating colleagues asked me if it was worth it to upgrade, and aside from my usual warnings about the need to wait for at least 2 or 3 months after any release for it to mature and stabilize, I just could not find any compelling arguments for a freelance translator to move from the stable, excellent 6.2 version to the rather dodgy 6.5 version, or "memoQ 2013" as it was rechristened.

Almost on the usual schedule, however, two months later the bugs were largely sorted out, the initial mistakes in the comment feature redesign were well fixed, and I no longer saw the memoQ 2013 release in the same dim light, but could actually see some benefits for my freelance colleagues to upgrade to that version and no actual harm in doing so. And as I got to know the fuzzy term matching feature better and saw how it helped me deal with typo-laden source documents or the usual spelling chaos of German technical writers, I began to see some very compelling value in memoQ 2013 for translators.

Most of the "game changers" talked about in May actually arrived a month ago with Release 2 of memoQ 2013. I did my best to lower expectations for this release, not because I think it is crap, but because I think this is one of the best CAT tool version upgrades I have seen in 13 years, and I knew it would need the usual time to mature. I think by the end of the year this version will have so much to offer that I would rather not have people stressing over the small stuff that I am confident will be fixed well.

However, I decided to live dangerously, and I switched over all my production work to use this version even before the official release. The first few weeks were not fun with all the little quirks I discovered and duly reported, but I encountered nothing data-destroying or really shocking, mostly just housekeeping details like somebody forgetting to vacuum the rug after gutting the whole house and giving it a nice remodel.

One month after the official release, memoQ 2013 R2 is far more reliable than I remember any memoQ version being one month after release. There has been steady refinement in its features, and I continue to discover hidden gems that I sometimes suspect most of the Kilgray team aren't even aware of yet because so much was added and changed, but not in a way that disrupted older work processes. I have a long shopping list of refinements that I think should be made to new features like the TM search tool (which has only actually worked on my system since the release of the 6.8.5 build about a week ago) or that ground-breaking monolingual review feature which (will probably be the next big CAT feature to copy), but even the new features I consider rather immature are already looking pretty damned good. I can't guarantee that this release can be trusted for all your work right now (though it actually seems pretty good to me right now), but since it can be safely installed in parallel with older versions, I definitely recommend taking a look and joining the conversation on refinements still needed. I think Kilgray has been very responsive to user feedback in this round, and I can't say I am anything but encouraged by what I have seen in the last month.

One very exciting change for me in the current build (6.8.6) is that the rather risky non-optional export of target text comments with DOCX files has been sorted out very nicely. The solution seems a little strange to me right now, but it's a great step forward with some excellent possibilities.

When I saw those "severity levels" added to the commenting features in memoQ 2013 (6.5), I had very little good to say about them. I still don't think much about how they are named and wish I could choose my own labels, but now I can only applaud their usefulness. Why? Because the addition of the five checkboxes above has given me the control I want over comments to be included in an exported translation of a DOCX file. I can cleanly separate the comments which are notes to myself from those for my project partners and comments for my customers. This is very helpful.

I do think it is odd that this control was placed at Tools > Options > Miscellaneous > Translation when the comment exports (as far as I know) only affect DOCX files, but if there are plans to extend this feature to other exported formats, then this makes sense. I would like to see similar filtering controls for the ordinary view filters (on that last tab where comment and tag filtering criteria can be specified) and for comment inclusion in a bilingual RTF export. Either of these would be an enormous help to my frequent work processes, because I use a lot of comments intended for different people, and sorting these out cleanly can be laborious.

In recent weeks I have been working on the new edition of my memoQ tips book and taking a very close look at "corners" of the software that I suspect very few have time or inclination to look in. And I've had days when it really felt like Christmas has come early. One discovery after another of nice little refinements, lots of incremental improvements, which added together give a total with what I feel is a lot of value. I'm writing way too many private thank-yous to some of the people at Kilgray for what I see as excellent new directions even if I am inclined to argue over some of the details.

Since the release of memoQ 6.2 and its follow-ups with the bilingual text/Excel filter, there has been such a steady flow of useful improvements to help individual translators work better that those who claim that all the effort of development has been spent catering to the corporate sausage-making interests of the low-paying cattle call crowd simply haven't been paying attention. Or they have been confused by Kilgray's occasionally appalling failure to organize their messages properly for different interest groups. If you're talking to a big group of freelance translators and start discussing "great server features to monitor your translators' productivity", don't expect blown kisses and showers of rose petals. Sometimes it's obvious that the makers of the tool don't always understand the importance of what they have created for our work. Well, why should they? We're the ones doing it. But I tell you, right now there is a lot more gold for individual translators in the memoQ mine than anyone realizes. That goes for me too. I am surprised by fat new nuggets I find almost every week.

Do I care that so much effort is spent on developing cutting edge project management features for memoQ translation servers, even ones that I think can be abused in some pretty awful ways by some companies whose business practices I detest? Well yes I do... I think it's great. Besides, I can actually come up with nice uses of those awful features. You can do a lot of things with a cutting-edge: chop up a tasty salad... or the local nursery school. Blame the fool, not the tool.

Kilgray has avoided the disastrous errors committed by Atril in the last decade as their market mis-focus and disastrous failure to get the maintenance revenue needed to fix and develop features steadily eroded the ability of its loyal users to cope with a changing market. There was nearly a complete failure to compete for the business of translation agencies and corporate and government translation departments. And the solutions that prevailed in those quarters were mostly rather awful. I watched whole departments of Siemens traumatized by the disastrous Trados Teamworks, which made a number of those in the translation team of the medical products division look forward to retirement.

Kilgray has steadily built its business in the markets ignored by Atril a decade ago and in doing so has secured its future far better and ensured the funding of a truly remarkable series of improvements in the four and a half years I have been using memoQ. And now... when I look at the features of the recent SDL Trados 2014 release I see good things that I have known from other tools for a long time for the most part, nice to have really, but as I stifle a yawn I wonder if it all really has to be so complex since I'm not depending on consulting or training for SDL to pay my bills. And then I get back to memoQ and keep getting rocked by the "wow factor" as I find useful new things while trying to concentrate and get a job done. memoQ 2013 R2 is one of the worst offenders I've seen in a long time for its very real threats to make my work a lot easier and more fun!

Nov 24, 2013

Help!!! online for memoQ

Many are unaware of the fact that the Help files for various memoQ editions are available online in their most current versions. There it is also possible to give feedback on the quality of information, indicating errors found or other shortcomings or letting the team at Kilgray know that a particular explanation was very helpful.

On the whole, Kilgray has excellent documentation, and the Help files are very good compared to what I have seen with other software (in any field), but with the rapid pace of development, it is an enormous challenge to keep the information updated and relevant to the major interest groups using memoQ. So please, if you find problems when accessing the most current help files online, use the link at the top right of the page to call attention to the difficulty. The Support team is very responsive, and this will ensure that the quality of information remains at a level which serves everyone well.

The URL for the latest full help file for memoQ 2013 R2 (including the Project Manager edition) is in English and in German.

Currently no help is available in other languages, just the QuickStart (aka "thick start") guide and whatever you find in third-party blogs and other pages in Portuguese, Spanish, French, Russian and other languages.

Nov 22, 2013

memoQuickie: keyboard shortcuts for migrants (updated)

(PM - Pro - 2013R2 - 2013 - 6.2 - 6.0 - 5.0)

You can adapt memoQ keyboard shortcuts to your personal preferences or to be ergonomically compatible with other translation environments tools you use frequently for better productivity and reduced risk of errors.

Although keyboard shortcuts can be managed in the Resource Console, it is more useful to do so under Tools > Options… > Keyboard shortcuts, because that is the only place where a given set of keyboard shortcuts can be selected for use. Marking the checkbox for a list in the dialog shown above will make it the active one.

Look carefully at the keyboard shortcuts available in memoQ. Not all of these commands are found in menus (for example, the shortcut for quick search with selected text in a translation grid, Ctrl+Shift+F by default). To examine a set of keyboard shortcuts, select it and click Edit to show the list.

To change a keyboard shortcut, select the value in the Shortcut key column of the editing dialog and press the new key combination.

Nov 20, 2013

memoQuickie: fixing segmentation with goofy product and company names

The insistence by some companies to brand themselves and their products with names whose capitalization violate the usual rules of a language can cause segmentation difficulties for translators working with translation environment tools.

To correct this difficulty in memoQ, find the segmentation rules for the language in question and edit them.

On the Custom lists tab of the segmentation rule set, select the #cap# list and add the troublesome name (such as iPhone, iPad or memoQ). By adding the names to this list, you are essentially defining them as "capital letters"; if "memoQ" is in the list, then segmentation will also work for "memoQuickies". Then reimport the file using that rule set:

Nov 18, 2013

memoQuickie: filtering shortcut for translations

When I'm working on a text and want to see how a certain term or phrase in the source or target text is used throughout the translation - "Teilaufgabe" for instance:

I can select the text and use the keyboard shortcut

to automatically copy that text in quotes to the search box and filter:

If no text is selected and I use the keyboard shortcut, the cursor will move to the search box for the source or target text, depending on where it was. Click the red X filter icon to the right of the search boxes to show all segments again.

Nov 5, 2013

Proofreading LiveDocs bilinguals, recycling versions in memoQ

(These tests were performed with memoQ 2013 R2 but should, in principle, work the same in any version of memoQ 6.0 or later.)

I really like memoQ's versioning features, and I use the X-Translate function fairly often when a document I'm translating has been updated or a new version comes sometime later. However, I don't keep documents in my projects forever. I use "container projects" for particular clients or subject domains so that I don't have to keep reattaching the same translation memories, terminologies and LiveDocs corpora and various light resources (non-translatables, autocorrect lists, segmentation rules, etc.) all the time. These can get rather full, so I send my old translations off to a LiveDocs corpus after a while. And then if a new version of a document shows up, well... I'm sort of out of luck if I want to use the X-Translate function with the previous version.

Or so I thought. And then a friend rang me and asked how she can export a LiveDocs alignment she did to an RTF bilingual file to make it more convenient to proofread in Microsoft Word and pass on to one of her partners with tracked changes. With that the answer to both problems was clear.

Select the corpus and the file in it to export:

Click Export and choose a location in which to save the MQXLZ file:

In the Translations window of any memoQ project with the correct source and target language settings, select Import and choose your MQXLZ file:

After the file exported from LiveDocs has been imported as a translation file, it can serve as "version 1" for a new file version to be translated using the Reimport document and X-translate features. It does not matter that the file types are different. A bilingual RTF file can also be exported for external correction and commentary.

Here is an example of an exported bilingual RTF file with changes tracked. The changes do not have to be accepted before the bilingual file is re-imported to update the translation using the Import command.

Here is the updated translation:

Changed are marked with blue arrows. Only text changes were implemented in this case, no format changes such as italic text, because the XLIFF file does not support WYSIWYG text formatting. (MQXLZ is a Kilgray-renamed ZIP-package with XLIFF and a chocolate surprise inside.)

Now I've got a new version of my text to translate in a DOCX file. I use the Reimport document function, answer No to the dialog so I can select the new version at a different location:

I'm curious what the differences from the original text are, so I use the History/reports command in the Translations window to find that out:

Then using Operations > X-Translate in the working window, followed by pretranslation to get the changed "exact matches" (like "Aussehen und Gewicht" above) and the fuzzy matches, I end up with this:

If you make it a point to store your important versions in a LiveDocs corpus, this procedure will allow you to recover your archived texts and re-use them for more controlled, reference-based translation. It would be nice, of course, if some day Kilgray would enable specific LiveDocs files to be used as the basis of a reference translation, perhaps even scanning a corpus or a set of corpora to identify the best-matching document or documents. It would also be nice if bilinguals stored in LiveDocs could be exported to other formats and perhaps even be updated with something like an exported bilingual RTF. However, those bilinguals can simply be imported directly to a LiveDocs corpus as new documents, and any corrections made to a document in the Translations list can be sent back to LiveDocs using the relevant command in the Translations window.

Nov 3, 2013

Kilgray training resources: is this what you need?

Some years ago I was relaxing at an informal occasion with one of Kilgray's directors, who expressed concern that the growing number of features might lead to confusion among users and obscure the basic simplicity of memoQ, which at the time was the company's only product. I think version 3.5 or 4.0 was the current release at the time of our chat. I disagreed with him at the time, because compared to other tools at the time, memoQ was easier to understand, more ergonomic than any of the leading tools. It still is.

But as most users of the software know, things have gotten a lot more complicated since then. As memoQ has taken a forward position in the market for translation environment tools, many features have been added (by necessity one could argue) to accommodate various interest groups. Some of these features I find very good and useful, others inspire a response that cannot be expressed in polite company, because they support server workflows which I personally find exploitative and offensive in the hands of some companies. But any tool can be used for good or bad purposes, and one of my favorite tools for planning my time accurately - the homogeneity analysis - is sometimes abused by Linguistic Sausage Producers to put further economic pressure on individual translators, yet I would not wish it to go away.

Many, many features to master for a wide range of work challenges. Even the so-called "experts" often don't have a clear overview. This problem is, of course, common to almost any popular software application: the situation with SDL Trados Studio is similar, and look at Microsoft Word, my God. An "expert" might understand 10% of Word's features.

Kilgray, it must be said, does try to go the extra mile and provide information to users in many ways so that they can work effectively and avoid frustration when navigating the sometimes tricky paths one must follow in a complex project. Each month the company offers free webinars, and recordings of these are available for later reference in most cases. There is also a knowledgebase (which is quite a challenge to keep up to date given the software's rapid pace of development). The company has also produced a number of shorter instruction videos. The Kilgray YouTube channel has a wide mix of material, including some recordings of past conferences, which are not always easy to understand but which contain a lot of interesting and useful material for some groups. There is also an extensive collection of user guides and white papers on the Kilgray site.

More recently Kilgray as taken its first steps with integrated e-learning, adopting the Moodle platform popular with many educational institutions. I think this is a very interesting new direction; since late spring I have been researching and testing such platforms myself, and I expect very good things to come of this in the future.

The first Kilgray e-learning course was a memoQ basics course, consisting of ten recorded PowerPoint lectures, each about 10 to 15 minutes long. There is a short review quiz at the end to give learners some feedback on what they have retained, and a certificate is offered for those who get a certain number of questions right. Although this course structure uses only a small part of the potential of the Moodle platform, it is easier to navigate and find particular information than it might be in a webinar, for example. The basics course is free to any memoQ user with a current support contract and is worth a look. Others can take the course for a fee of €90 (which is close enough to the cost of annual support that you might as well update your contract and enjoy the updates it includes). Feedback and suggestions should be sent to to help in the planning of further courses to help users.

More recently, another Moodle course was published for project managers working with the memoQ server. I know from my own experiences as a consultant and someone who occasionally has to deal with the frustrations of misconfigured server projects set up by my clients that there is a real need for better training for those who work with the memoQ Server. Many of my clients who have adopted this solution have had very little prior experience with CAT tools at all, and given the many pressures of a production environment, they may find visual media a more effective form of support than "RTFM".

The structure of the PM training course is similar to that of the memoQ basics course: ten recorded PowerPoint lectures in English. There is also a quiz at the end. The course is available free to all licensed memoQ server users, who should contact their Kilgray support representative to arrange access.

As the screenshot above indicates, Kilgray has moved its e-learning resources to Language Terminal, and along with all the other plans for that platform, there are many under consideration to expand the scope and quality of learning resources available, not only for Kilgray's products, but perhaps for other knowledge which can contribute to their successful use in the complex world of real projects.

What is your experience so far with Kilgray's training resources? What has worked for you? What has not? What kind of resources do you think would help you and those with whom you work to master the challenges of your daily routine?

Nov 2, 2013

Games freelancers translate

ames are no longer a big part of my world despite years spent collecting, playing and developing them ages ago. In the world of translation, I am an interested observer, fascinated a little by the technical peculiarities I hear of in that domain as well as what appears to be a diversity of opinion and working methods even greater than one finds in my familiar areas of work.

I always enjoy a close look at the working processes of colleagues and clients; often I learn new things from the observation, and I like to ask myself as I see each stage what approach I might take or whether there are changes in the available tools which might make a process more efficient.

An Italian freelance team (leader?) put together a series of seven YouTube videos showing how jobs are prepared and distributed, as well as some particulars of their translation process and QA. The main working tool is Kilgray's memoQ - one of the 6-series versions it seems - as well as the Italian version of Dragon Naturally Speaking and Apsic Xbench, which also make a brief appearance. Altogether 22 minutes of show and tell, which I find mostly interesting and recommend as a nice little process overview.

I've made a YouTube playlist compilation here so it is easier to view the clips in sequence, since I had a little trouble navigating them myself in the somewhat random YouTube suggestion menus. I'm not embedding them here, because the interface for navigating a playlist is much easier to cope with on YouTube itself.

I wish there were more overviews like this available for common translation workflows in other areas as well, such as patent translation, financial report translation in the midst of the "silly season", web site translation or just about anything else. It's doubtful that any of these would betray great trade secrets, but they might offer clients and prospects a little more realistic view of what some might think involves little more than "retyping in another language".

Some content notes on the individual videos of the playlist:

#1 Discusses background research and style guides in the team's approach

#2 Covers the import of the source files (Excel) and the selection of ranges

#3 Term extraction

#4 Statistics, handoff packages and sending out the jobs with the project management system

#5 Creating views of multiple files, voice recognition in Italian, concordances and term lookups

#6 Receiving translated project packages; text to speech reviewing!

#7 QA in memoQ, export to XLIFF for final QA in Apsic Xbench