A must for many translators, CAT (Computer Aided Translation) software is numerous and varied in functionality. And for good reason: “the perfect CAT tool” simply does not exist! Each translator has his/her own needs and work habits. Therefore, I will explain several CAT tools in this small list, which will get you started.
But, Why Should I Use a CAT Tool?
CAT tools have a great appeal to both clients and translators. They make work more efficient with the help of translation memories and term bases used in the work process.
CAT tools are particularly useful when translators are faced with a project where repetitive identical or fuzzy sentences appear. Instead of copying and pasting all repetitions, the CAT tool will do that for you. It will even show you similar sentence structures that are stored in the translation memory, thus helping you achieve consistency in both terminology and expression.
Getting adapted to a CAT tool takes some time. But, once you master one, you will get used to other CAT tools very quickly because they follow a similar principle of UI and execution. A CAT tool can help you become more productive, which means cashing more relaxed from potential projects.
What CAT Tool Should I Use?
First of all, note that despite their strengths, CAT tools will not be as useful to all translators. Indeed, certain types of translations, such as literary translations in particular, imply an important part of the translator’s creativity. It emerges that the memories produced by the CAT tools will be a little less useful to the translator contrary to the work of a technical translator, where the typology of documents to be translated can bring out many more relevant occurrences.
Moreover, rest assured: the software is only a tool and will not taint your creativity, since you will always remain a complete master of the final production.
Are you determined to choose and learn to use a CAT tool? The golden rule is to try the software that interests you. Most of them offer a free trial period (up to a month in general), with sometimes limited functionality. Testing for several weeks (and ideally for the entire duration of the publication) is a good way to measure the efficiency gains and therefore the time in your days.
Once your tool is chosen, the question of the price for the license can prove to be problematic (especially for the most expensive software like Trados). Fortunately, some interesting solutions exist such as bundled licensing such as via ProZ.
Paid CAT Tools
Investing in the purchase of a paid license can completely change the way you work, as these solutions are rich in useful features that are handy in everyday life (and which quickly become indispensable). Some of these tools are designed for use with other companion programs of the same publisher, with more advanced features. Here is our small selection of reliable programs found on the market:
SDL Trados Studio/SDLX
SDL Trados is the world leader in CAT software. SDLX and SDL Trados Studio have merged into a single software suite (SDLX being the name of a module for older suites). Trados Studio is an extremely complete and particularly well-designed software suite (used by many translators and agencies without surprise).
Compatible with many programs (Office, Indesign, FrameMaker, RESX, and others), it is a complete software environment designed for both freelance translators and larger companies. You can manage your translation memories, and there are several project management features.
Wordfast (Classic & Pro)
As the publisher’s website explains, the software Wordfast Classic and Wordfast Professional are quite distinct. The professional version is more complete, more expensive, and more complex to handle than the classic version.
Wordfast Classic remains one of the cheapest paid software on the market, and is particularly easy to take charge of. It handles very well all the files of the Microsoft Office suite, and also works on Mac.
It includes a memory and glossary editor, and its compatibility with Trados can be particularly useful. This publisher applies the “try-before-you-buy” policy which will require you to go through the trial version (with few limitations) before a purchase.
Another very comprehensive solution, including an advanced project management approach. The Déjà Vu tool, of course, integrates memory management, with a well-defined dose of “machine learning” to increase the productivity of the translator.
Yes, we are talking here about a CAT tool! A tool with a unique interface, which will please or displease, but is well worth a try. It includes the management of translation memories, glossaries, and a synchronization of terminological research on the Internet. Translation without sources is also possible thanks to a function of autocomplete. Originally designed for freelance professional translators, it is not without its advantages for agencies, especially its memory server functionality.
Free Cat Tools
Students or young translators, we thought of you too! Here are some free solutions, focusing more on solid features than on ease of use. Let’s not forget that when we talk about open source, there is often a community of active users that can be very useful to you to start.
Open source software produced by the Lionbridge company, a little aged, but remains a decent free solution; it includes a translation environment for managing the memories, terminology, and a contextual visualization of the translation. Not to mention the ability to add native support for new file formats, and project management functionality.
Undoubtedly the most popular open source CAT software, which runs on both Windows and Mac. It manages many formats, including Openoffice, StarOffice, and Unicode (which allows it to be adapted to non-Latin alphabets). Among other functions are the simultaneous use of several translation memories, glossaries, and especially a large community of users to help you.
Free for students and freelance translators, it is a tool for translating Word documents by connecting to a Similis server. This connected system manages projects, memories and glossaries, alignment, and pre-translations of documents.
An internet connection is therefore essential, since the server stores all this data. Finally, Similis recognizes and processes the vast majority of existing memory formats.
This online Wordfast solution can be an interesting alternative for your work. It includes a private translation memory without limitation, and the management of terminology – in total confidentiality. There are also optional features: automatic translation, and public memory.
And here we are at the end of this little guide for CAT tools! I hope that it will be useful to you, and that it will allow you to choose and begin to use the software that suits you. Once again, we emphasize the importance of taking the time to try out the tools, as they can change the way you translate.