Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shopping for a CAT

A Computer Assisted Translation tool, that is.

I installed the new Wordfast Pro on my recently purchased laptop (which uses Windows7) and, although I used to drink the Wordfast Kool-Aid and recommended it to everyone, I must unfortunately report that I am very disappointed with the new non-Word interface of the Pro version. The first problem was that the program failed to convert a regular Word 2007 document to the format used by WF Pro. After posting on and the user list on Yahoo! Groups, someone from Wordfast customer service very graciously tried to help me, but to no avail. A mystery. Then I tried using the program again last week and, lo and behold!, the Word file loaded without a hitch.

However, after using the program for two medium-sized projects, I must sadly report that the experience of using Wordfast Pro is pure misery. One major drawback was that for several 100% matches that occurred often in the texts (which I know for certain are in my TMs), the program was unable to provide a match after spitting out a message saying it was "unable to leverage TM." Net result: the productivity benefits of CAT were partially negated. I could find no particular cause for this problem, except that the segments in question had format coding, which allegedly should not be a problem for any CAT tool.

Another detail which may seem minor is the modification of some keyboard shortcuts. I am accustomed to using CTRL+left or right arrow to race from one word to another along the sentence I'm editing at top speed (instead of using right arrow to go from character to character at a lower speed). But these shortcuts have been taken up on WF Pro by the same function for skipping words in the source segment (!). Why the creators of the program have tinkered with the normal Word shortcuts is beyond me. I now have to invest time to figure out either how to change the shortcuts or guess what the new shortcuts are (the program's documentation is next to non-existent). Which, frankly, makes it necessary for me to learn more about the nuts and bolts of the programs I use than I really care to (programmers, do your jobs!). Another problem was frequent crashes or at least freeze-ups which consumed a lot of precious time and made you feel like you were back in the Stone Age of translation memory, when laptops were the size of small pianos and you could stun a large dog with a cell phone. In summary, a complete mess for the early adopter.

First port of call: Trados

Therefore, I have decided to boldly shop for a new CAT tool and wait for WF to work out the bugs with its legion of fanatics. My first port of call is Trados: I have an SDL 2006 Trados WorkBench license which I use sporadically when an agency requests it. I began to read about the SDL Trados 2009 Studio and my attention was piqued by the AutoSuggest function when I watched the instructional video for using the software on Jost Zetsche's TranslatorsTraining website. Interesting. As far as I could tell from reading snippets on the Web, the feature analyzes TMs larger than 20,000 units for units of meaning larger than single words and suggests translations extracted from your previous work. A bit more research, however, revealed that this was not available for the Freelance edition but only for the $2,000-plus Professional edition or as an added plug-in worth between $125 and $200, depending on the website.

And suddenly it hit me: I remembered why I switched to from Trados to Wordfast some years ago. I hate Trados. I loathe Trados. I detest Trados with a vengeance. Their non-existent customer support. Their antediluvian software that is "upgraded" every year with helpful features such as "support for Urdu and Tahitian dialects."

If I upgeade my old 2006 license, it is only out of laziness and because they have simply bought out several competitors and drowned them in their own cesspool of mediocrity.

So far, my curiosity has been drawn towards Déjà Vu X Pro, which apparently has a feature similar to AutoSuggest (not as a separate plug-in). At 660 euros, down from 990 euros, it is certainly more expensive that the 442 U.S. dollars for the Trados upgrade plus $200 for AutoSuggest, but not by that much more. I haven't downloaded the trial version yet, but I may do so next week, if time allows.