May 18, 2014

memoQ 2014: a first look

I couldn't make it to memoQfest this year - the first one in Budapest that I have missed since the event began in 2009. But the first family visit since that same year took priority, so my exposure to the upcoming memoQ 2014 version was strictly second hand until today.

I wasn't too happy with thing I heard on the Yahoogroups user list. In fact, when I read one message describing how the new transcription feature for bitmap graphics in some files required the Product Manager version, I was quite annoyed. The reality - a whole month before the official release - is very good for both freelancers and corporate outsourcers, and I think by the time this version makes its official debut in June there will be many good reasons to smile. I'm frankly amazed at how much Kilgray seems to be getting its act together and balancing the needs of users at all levels.

This afternoon I downloaded the first test release (alpha??) of memoQ 2014, installed it and began to take a cautious tour. My first impression was that it looked the same. And then, bit by bit, subtle and excellent small differences began to emerge. I looked for and found major new features I had heard about and discovered many interesting things not mentioned along the way.

The grammar checking feature seems to be implemented in a sensible way, though it actually doesn't work at all right now for me. But I can see where it's headed, and it is going in a good direction.

I had a quick look at the new plug-ins, particularly TaaS, and made notes about testing the potential for teamwork. What I have seen of TaaS for its much-advertised terminology extraction is a huge disappointment, and those who have followed my comments on Twitter will know I have nothing good to say about this EU boondoggle, but I see potential for other possibilities that nobody has really talked about, and if my instinct is right, this could be really useful. But I will need to invest a lot of testing time for the approach I have in mind.

The Project home view has gotten even more impossibly cluttered with the addition of "People", a rather sensible reworking of role assignments that even in the Translator Pro version clearly acknowledges that most freelance translators are not, in fact, 'islands' in their work.

This will surely make the small screen (netbook) usage problems worse if Kilgray does not redesign the view a bit, but in every other respect I see this as a significant improvement of project workflow, emphasizing the relationships between project participants in a better way.

One little bit that I stumbled across was the new way of handling the export of unfinished translations. This is a nice way of recognizing the frequent pressure in some projects to export incomplete stages of work.

I have had ways of dealing with this need for years in memoQ, but this new approach will make things simpler and obvious for all users.

There is a nice little feature for tracking time too:

This will facilitate record keeping for some jobs involving time charges.

The feature I have looked at in some depth so far, which makes me very happy, is Kilgray's very sophisticated handling of embedded objects and graphics, which sets new standards in many ways. I think there is still a key feature missing to make it the equal of OmegaT for handling charts with data stored as XML in the MS Office file (though I have not had time to check this yet), but what I have seen so far goes way beyond similar features I have seen in STAR Transit and Déjà Vu X2.

Embedded objects and images are imported as separate files from within the media and embeddings folders of the Microsoft Office file. I see a few potential problems with the current way of displaying a file and its objects and media. I've had projects with multiple files having embedded Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides and other objects as well as any number of pictures needing to be localized. One recent project had 59 spreadsheets embedded in a DOCX file. Without an accordion or tree structure to collapse the subordinate structure view and show the embedded content again, the overview will be lost quickly. But this is a very good start. Note how the main file includes a count of the segments in the subordinate objects and graphics. (And take note of the new progress bar with different colors for different process stages like translation and proofreading.)

Bitmap texts can be recorded with a new transcription feature, which is also compatible with voice recognition. I dictated my German source texts with Dragon Naturally Speaking set to German, then switched to English for the translation. And of course the bitmap transcriptions are included in the word counts of the Statistics functions and the translations are written to the translation memory. I believe this is utterly unique in translation environment tools. Fluency has a transcription module too, of course, but its purpose and application are very different.

The exported translations with translated objects will look like they are not done at present, because the difficult refresh problem has not been solved by Kilgray. Each translated spreadsheet, slide, etc. will need to be opened in the document before the translation will become visible. This is much easier using the macro I published two years ago, and I am certain that by release time or soon thereafter Kilgray will find an elegant way of dealing with this difficulty. Atril handles the same problem by distributing macros as I recall.

In the recent Kilgray blog post on the six reasons to upgrade to memoQ 2014, the only overlap with the above points is the image localization. Peter Reynolds talks instead about other good stuff, such as the long-awaited project templates and Language Terminal. There are so many nice things ahead with this upgrade that we'll all just have to take it slowly, one bit at a time.

Of course the usual precautions for any new software version apply. The new version can be installed in parallel to your current version, and it can be tested while you continue to do the bulk of your work in the older, stable version. Typically it takes a few months for any new version to get the kinks out, but this allows plenty of time for planning the transition and preparing to take full advantage of the new features relevant to you. Migration is also not a trivial matter in many cases, but this time around there may be a little more help with that. More on that another time!

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