Nov 26, 2017

MS Word Macros to Speed up Translation-Related Terminology Research

Guest post by Tanya Harvey Ciampi, English translator (DE/FR/IT>EN)

Is your terminology research slowing you down?

When we translate Microsoft Word documents, we often find ourselves having to leave Word to look up terms online, for example in monolingual dictionaries for definitions, in bilingual dictionaries or translation memory databases for translations, on specific reputable websites (such as newspaper websites) to double-check usage or frequency of use, or on clients’ own multilingual websites to check how certain terms have been translated in the past to ensure consistent use of terminology.

This sort of research involves switching to a browser, copying and pasting or retyping our term into a search box, possibly adding specific search criteria, and finally launching a search: all that typing and clicking can be time-consuming and easily cause us to become lost among the many windows opened.

Macros to the rescue!
This is where macros come in. A macro is essentially a short sequence of commands that automates repetitive tasks. Macros cost nothing to create and can be tweaked to do exactly what you need them to do, based on your specific language combinations and favourite online terminology resources, providing these lend themselves to this sort of querying.

How do macros work?
A macros consists of code, which you simply need to copy and paste into the Macros section of Word. That done, you then need to assign an icon to the macro and add it to your toolbar to launch the macro with a single click every time you need it. If you wish, you may also assign a specific key combination to the macro (for example CTRL plus a key of your choice) so that you can launch the macro from your keyboard, too.

From now on, when translating a text in Word, all you need to do is place your cursor on a word that you wish to look up and click on the corresponding icon in your toolbar (or use the assigned key combination) to launch the search. That’s all there is to it!

A few examples of macros and what they can do for you:

SCENARIO: Imagine...SOLUTION... with a single click! need to look up a term in the bilingual dictionaries and but this requires opening your browser, browsing to both dictionaries separately and pasting in or retyping your search term on each website... quite time-consuming! A macro to search both dictionaries at once taking your word from MS Word and inserting it automatically in both dictionaries for you... with a single click from within Word.
(This macro can be adapted to all sorts and any number of websites)
What this macro does essentially is launch a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria, in this case:
“your search term” or wish to run a search in the online translation memory database (or,, etc.) to check how other translators have translated a certain term or expression. A macro to search Linguee taking your word from MS Word and inserting it directly in the Linguee search engine with a single click from within Word.
This macro produces a list of source- and target-language sentences containing your search term along with context. are translating a text and need to check how a particular expression is used. You decide to search reputable sources such as high-quality newspapers to check usage and/or frequency of use of a specific term or expression. Where do you look? A macro to search specific newspaper websites which you consider reputable sources from within Word.
(This macro can be adapted to all sorts and any number of websites.)
This macro essentially launches a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria to target a specific website, for example:
“your search term” are translating for a company that has a multilingual website and you need to check how a specific term has been translated in the past. A macro to search for the term on a specific multilingual website from within Word.
This macro can be extended to cover various related multilingual websites. In banking, for example, these might include the following:
This macro essentially launches a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria, for example:
“your search term” or or are translating a text and can't find an appropriate translation of an expression or technical term in any dictionary. A macro to search for your term on a large multilingual website such as that of the European Union from within Word. This macro targets the section of the EU website containing translations side by side (“parallel texts”) on the same page, saving you precious time.
This macro essentially launches a Google search from within Word, adding specific search criteria, for example:
“your search term”
Once you have opened a page on the EU website, all you need to do is specify your target language under “Multilingual display” to view source and target language side by side.

See a couple of these macros in action:

These and more macros are available for free at

The macros themselves are written by a translator with translators' needs in mind and can be adapted to your specific requirements.

Macros may also be created to automate the web-based terminology research techniques for translators found at
... reducing them, too, to a single click in Word!

The original search techniques on which these macros are based were featured in the book entitled “Google Hacks” (“Hack #19: Google Interface for Translators”) by Tara Calishain, Rael Dornfest


Tanya Harvey Ciampi, Dipl. DOZ (Zurich)
English translator (DE/FR/IT>EN)
6673 Maggia, Switzerland,

Tanya grew up in Buckinghamshire, England, and went on to study in Zurich, where she obtained her diploma in translation. She now lives in the Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, where she works as an English translator (from Italian, German and French) and proofreader.


  1. macros are a nice way to do this. note that AutoHotKey can be used to do the same, and it is also environment-independent, i.e. it can be used within any application, such as MS Office apps, any CAT tool etc. also, AHK has a portable version, while porting macros is not that easy.

  2. Thanks, Tania, this information is very useful. Instead of writing all these macros yourself, you could also use IntelliWebSearch (IWS), which, besides having some pre-set macros ready for each language, offers a macro Wizard that makes it much easier for you to set up macros for the exact sites and specifications you want to search. IWS also organizes all of these macros into sets you think are the most convenient. It will even let you launch a macro to search 5, 10, 20 sites simultaneously. It's all extremely easy and intuitive to use, much easier than learning how to write macros yourself for each of the sites you typically search. IWS was also created by a translator, Michael Farrell.


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