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Top 5 trophyOur top 5 localization tools aren’t just for language services professionals (LSPs)! In fact, while we are an LSP, we bring more of a project management than a translation perspective to organization and efficiencies. Whether you’re just beginning to work with translations for your company, or have been fighting cumbersome processes around your localization needs, we hope that you find our top 5 localization tools as helpful as we do.

1. CAT ToolsLogos of various CAT tools, including SDL, Smartcat, MemoQ, and Déjà Vu

First off, we can’t stress enough the benefits of using a CAT tool. CAT stands for computer-assisted translation, and it is different from machine translation. Machine translation, or MT, is just what it sounds like: a computer does the translating rather than a human brain. MT has come a long way since the early days of Google Translate, but we believe that nothing is quite like the human touch. This is where computer-assisted translation comes in. A person is always in charge, but the software’s capabilities allow the translator to work more efficiently.

View of a translation memory, source text on the left and translations on the rightTranslation Memory (TM)

One of the most significant advantages of a CAT tool is translation memory and terminology storage, which are useful for project managers and translators alike. Translation memory (TM, for short) means that the software can save the source copy and translation in a sort of database Here’s an example: we translate “Call the toll-free number on your prescription label if you have questions” into Language X and save the translation into the TM. If that sentence appears in a future project, or even a fragment of that sentence, such as “if you have questions,” the CAT tool will recognize it and suggest the previous translation be used. Besides saving the translator from having to translate the same copy over and over again, this also ensures consistency while still allowing for flexibility. Consistency helps avoid confusion over terminology, especially in the field of healthcare translations. It can be an important part of brand management, too.

On the other hand, if the context of a sentence has changed since the last time it was translated, the translator can choose not to use the previous translation or simply edit it accordingly. Many CAT tools will even tell you whether the copy appears in the same context as it did the last time it was translated, saving translators additional time.

Export for External Review

Another reason CAT tools are one of our top 5 localization tools is their “export for external review” function. Sometimes an in-country reviewer will need to sign off on translations before they are published, but the reviewer does not have access to a CAT tool. Because CAT tools convert source files (e.g., Word documents, InDesign documents, Excel spreadsheets) into a specialized file type (XLIFF), they cannot usually be opened or viewed by someone without a CAT tool. However, if you export the file for external review, you get a Word document table displaying the source text in one column and the translations in another. These documents can then be locked for tracked changes so that any edits or suggestions made by the in-country reviewer are easily visible to the project team. This allows the translation team to take advantage of a CAT tool, while also allowing for open dialogue about the translations and for changes to be made in a controlled way.

Manipulating Challenging File Types

I work with SDL Trados StudioWorking with design files (Adobe InDesign or Illustrator documents, or example) or web-based files (HTML, SRT) for translation can be challenging. The traditional digital output for desktop publishing documents are PDFs or image files (JPEG, PNG). Without a CAT tool, a translator must work into a separate document, and a typesetter then has to copy and paste the translations into the design document. This may be workable for small pieces, but for larger ones it can turn into a formatting nightmare. Web-based files are full of coding that is not only distracting but can also throw the entire file out of whack if it is accidentally altered. We use the SDL Trados Studio 2019 CAT tool, which, when converting the source file into an XLIFF, streamlines the layout for translation. Then, once the translations are done, Studio can convert the XLIFF back into the original file type. This saves steps and ensures that nothing gets lost in the cutting and pasting process.

We always have a professional typesetter work with exported design documents to ensure that they look as polished as the original. Translated text is often a different length than the source text, so whether all the text fits in the same space and reads well on the page is not a given. Some formatting may also be lost in the conversion process, which a professional typesetter can fix.

Community Advanced Display FilterView of the Community Advanced Display Filter application in SDL Trados Studio

For those already using SDL Trados Studio 2017 or 2019, we highly recommend the Community Advanced Display Filter application. Studio comes with basic search functions, as well as an Advanced Display Filter, but the Community Advanced Display filter has many more options. Some of our favorites are searching by text color, range of fuzzy match percentage (e.g., 95 – 99%), and multiple filter attributes at once (e.g., unconfirmed AND locked). Some of the functions didn’t seem useful at first, but the more projects you work with the more you may find that they are a huge time saver!

2. Export/Import Tooltips

Tooltip text that says "Click here and something wil happen!" when hovering over a Click here! buttonIf the deliverable for a project is a translated PDF with fillable form fields, that PDF may also have tooltips. Tooltips are the text that appears when you hover over a fillable form field to explain what information should be entered there. Tooltips can be tricky when localizing a PDF for a few reasons. One is that they often get overlooked. Consider this your friendly reminder to always check for tooltips when localizing a PDF! Another reason is that pulling the tooltips out for translation and putting the translations back into the PDF can be a labor intensive and time-consuming manual process.

That’s why an app that will do the work for you (exclusive of the translation itself) in a few easy steps is one of our top 5 localization tools. Installing the app creates an Add-on tool in Adobe Acrobat. With one click you can export all the tooltip text from a PDF. After Saving As a couple of different ways, translation, and a few more iterations of Save As, you can upload the translated tooltips back into the PDF with one additional click. This saves time and ensures that no tooltip gets overlooked or unintentionally edited during the extraction or input processes.

3. ABBYY PDF Transformer

While a PDF isn’t technically a source file, it’s inevitable that at one point or another the source file from which a PDF was created just isn’t anywhere to be found. In these instances, the next of our top 5 localization tools comes into play: the ABBYY PDF Transformer. Adobe Acrobat’s Export to Word function often works great, but sometimes spits out a big mess. ABBYY gives you options, such as extracting only certain blocks of text that you choose. It also allows you to select whether you want to maintain or eliminate the formatting of the original PDF in the exported Word document.

4. Compare Function

View of the compare pane in Microsoft Word, one of our top 5 localization toolsAnother of our top 5 localization tools is the compare function in Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word. For as many new assets that need to be translated, there are just about as many updated assets that need their translations updated. As we mentioned before, if you use a CAT tool and are good about maintaining a translation memory, it will show you which sentences have already been translated and which ones are new or have been changed. However, the compare function in Word can allow for greater efficiency in some situations. For example, if a document is hundreds of pages long and only a few edits have been made, comparing the previous and updated versions will let you to pick out the edited content and work only on that copy.

Comparing PDFs can come to the rescue when your source file is in InDesign or Photoshop. In “Tools,” find “Compare” and then select the old and new versions of the PDF. A compare report will be generated with any changes highlighted. A word of caution: depending on how the source file was manipulated, some items may be highlighted that do not reflect a change to the copy. It’s always a good idea to click through the changes and double check whether copy has been changed or not.

5. Total Commander

Multifolder view of Total Commander, another one of our top 5 localization toolsThe last of our top 5 localization tools is not exclusive to localization but has been a real game-changer in our day-to-day. It’s called Total Commander, and it’s a file manager for Windows (sorry Apple folks!). While the Windows File Explorer only allows users to open one folder at a time, Total Commander offers a side-by-side view of multiple folders, and multiple tabs can also be open at the same time. This makes navigating between various projects quick and easy. You can even have multiple tabs open in different drives. Files can be transferred or copied to other folders (within the same drive or across drives) using keyboard shortcuts. Opening and closing multiple folders may not sound like a major inconvenience, but when you are working on multiple projects at one time, each with multiple processes involved, the layout and capabilities of Total Commander not only save time but also help with staying more organized. Plus, it relieves the tedium of all that clicking! Total Commander also has a 2-click zip option for compressing large files or file packages and allows for simple and intuitive unzipping as well.

We research new applications and tools on a regular basis and are always looking for ways to improve our processes, gain efficiencies, and work smarter. Do you have a favorite tool that we didn’t mention? Is there a particular process that you wish could be improved? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter (@langsolinc)! If you’re looking for a partner in localization, we’d love to bring our expertise to your next project or chat with you about how you can use our top 5 localization tools in your work.