Monday, March 31, 2008

Microsoft's Language Excellence: new life for the MS Glossaries

Microsoft Language Excellence's team (formerly MILS) launched today the Language Portal, a new terminology Web site.

The new site makes available more of Microsoft's linguistic resources than ever before.

Using the Language Portal interface, one can search Microsoft terminology and UI strings from most released products: Language Excellence has thus made available the MS Glossaries, once hidden under MSDN.

The portal offers a page for sending terminology feedback back to Microsoft, a link for downloading Microsoft's Style Guides, a "Language Portal Blog", articles, links to events and to other linguistic resources.

In the search interface one can look up a word or string and search its translation in any of the dozens of languages in which Microsoft products are translated (of course, the coverage for some of the languages will be more extensive than for others).
The search may be run on all the products available, or restricted to a specific piece of software.

The results page is divided between a Terminology pane, which provides Source, Target, Definition and Product, and a "Software strings" pane, with Source, Target and Product.

Searching through this interface will probably not be as quick as searching on the Microsoft's glossaries stored locally on your computer hard disk; on the other hand, the results obtained should be more up to date, and searching for translations in several different languages will no longer require downloading several gigabytes of zipped files on the off-chance that they may come handy one day.

grepWin: a great help for complex search and replace operations

grepWin is a simple, yet powerful, freeware tool for difficult search and replace operations on text files (for example, xml or html files).

For complex search and replace operations, nothing really beats RegEx (regular expressions) searches, but regular expressions may be very difficult to create.

grepWin includes a "Test regex" utility: by using the utility on a sample of the text, you can debug the search and replace strings until the desired result is obtained, and only then execute your search on the file(s) you are working on.

For added security, the tool offers the option to create a backup copy of the work files.

The tool is still very bare-bones; for example, there is no help system (you need to know regular expression syntax to use it effectively), but I find that its search capabilities are more powerful than those in other popular search tools such as Funduc's Search and Replace, or the search and replace functionality included in most text editors.

If you need an introduction to regular expressions, an excellent little book is "Teach Yourself Regular Expressions in 10 minutes", by Ben Forta (Sams Publishing).

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Answer to SDL

My previous post received a detailed comment from SDL, "so you can retain a balanced view".

Here are my further comments, in rebuttal of SDL's comment:

  • It is not practical for SDL to maintain products doing back more than 3 years.

    Possibly so, but this has nothing to do with the subject of my post, which did not ask for ongoing support for users of 6.5, but for retaining the ability to upgrade older products at a discount. There are plenty of companies with more generous upgrade policies.

    For example the current requirements for an upgrade price to MS Office 2007 Professional are:

    Your PC needs to already have one of the following software products installed in order to use this upgrade.
    Microsoft Works 6.0-10
    Microsoft Works suite 2000-2006 or later
    Any 2000-2007 Microsoft Office program or suite
    Any Microsoft Office XP suite except Office XP Student and Teacher.

  • The software is not buggy

    Many of the same bugs persist, from year to year. I've documented examples of Trados erratic behaviour in some previous posts (for instance this one, or this).

    For an egregious bug try this: have the text to translate in one big MS Word table, in which several columns are formatted as tw4winExternal to protect their contents, and only one is translatable text, with each segment on a separate row in the table (this is a common format in which interface strings are often sent out for translation).

    Open the first segment, translate it. Click "Set/CLose Next Open/Get", or "Translate to Fuzzy". The program skips several rows, and opens a segment much further down.

    This bug has been known from at least version 6.5 (it was not present in 5.5, as far as I know), but has not been corrected. The only solution is to manually open each segment.

    Technical support response has been "use Tag Editor" - which begs two questions: 1) the customer asks for a bilingual MSWord file, not a ttx file, and 2) TagEditor works, but has its own series of problems (for starter, the lack of any advanced search capabilities: using MS Word I can use at least a pared-down version of regular expressions, Tag Editor does not have even that)

  • To get a PSMA and hence have ongoing free upgrades it is a minimal fee

    The fee is not minimal, especially for people not wishing to upgrade as often as SDL would wish.

  • SDL provide support through a knowledge base and also free support for installation of the product even for non supported people
    This has nothing to do with the issue I raise in the post. I note, though, that boasting that "SDL provide free support for installation of the product even for non supported people" is disingenuous: what would you have otherwise "Sorry that Trados doesn't install on your machine. For an additional few hundred bucks, however, we can help you"?


I've added the current requirements for update pricing of MS Office.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Trados 6.5 and SDLX 2004 (or older) no longer eligible for upgrade after April 1st, 2008

With a remarkably misleading title ("Our upgrading guidelines are changing"), SDL announces that, from April 1st, 2008, Trados v6.5 (or older) and SDLX 2004 (or older) will no longer be eligible for upgrade price, and that people wishing to upgrade their old software after that date will have to buy a new (i.e., full price) license.

The first page of the announcement only indicates that

our upgrade guidelines will be changing from Tuesday 1st April, 2008

Only if you click on "Visit our Frequently Asked Questions section", you'll find that

If you are on versions Trados v6.5 or previous or SDLX 2004 and previous, we recommend you upgrade to SDL Trados 2007 now in order to retain discounted upgrade pricing for the software. From the 1st of April 2008 onwards, there will no longer be upgrade eligibility from these versions.

Stopping eligibility entirely is, indeed, a change, but the way it is presented is misleading and borders on the outright dishonest.

So, many translators who were working happily with Trados 6.5, and had no intention to upgrade right now (but thought they might upgrade later, when they purchased a new computer with Windows Vista and Word 2007), will either have to upgrade immediately, or be compelled to pay full price later.

Of course, they might also decide to stay with the current version, and look for a competitive upgrade to some other tool later.

Way to go, SDL: instead of improving your buggy software to build up customer loyalty, compel the customer to upgrade RIGHT NOW, or lose that benefit forever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Word chains

You know the kind: a "fee" becomes a "processing fee" - clear enough, that's a fee for processing something, and very different from "fee processing", which is something you do to fees.

But then words start to accrue, like barnacles on a fouled hull. "Fee", "processing fee", "double processing fee", and so on. And on.

For the translator, the problem compounds: is a "double processing fee" a "double fee" for "processing", or a "fee" for "double processing"?. Depending of what we are talking about, either reading could be correct, but usually not both at the same time. The translator, in most languages, needs to make a choice.

Asking the customer helps less than one would think: the technical writer or programmer who was the author of such a gem as "special ad-hoc double processing fee handling program safety time log" may no longer be around. Even if he is, he has no idea what it means, or which word modifies which other.

When I worked for a software company we had a competition in the translation department for spotting the longest such word chain. The eventual winner was a whopping thirteen words long, without article or preposition.

English is such a concise language you can often omit articles, prepositions and other functional words, but by doing so "maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding".


(No: "special ad-hoc [etc.]" is not a string from some actual translation. I made it up for this post - but I have seen even worse)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The best tool for translation

This week, in the online course on translation I'm teaching for the University College of Denver University, I had this questions for my students:

What tools do we have available (software or not, narrowly aimed at producing translations, or with a broader usefulness)?

There are many way this can be answered. If I change my question to "What is the best tool for translators"?, I would answer that many of us who started translating when computers were not widespread would say the computer itself, and word processing software, are our most useful tools.

But what has changed life for translators even more has been the Internet. Formerly, one was limited to the dictionaries one had bought, hard copies of glossaries of variable quality, or some reference books. Perhaps an encyclopedia or two. If one lived in a big city with a good public library, there was more: still, even with a university library available, searches would be painstaking.

Now we have unlimited information on our screen: instant access to hundreds or thousands of source and target documents similar to those we are translating.

Now that there is so much information, what makes the difference is the ability to make good use of it and to separate the reliable and useful from the unreliable and useless.

Localizable resources

Dr.Dobbs has a fairly interesting article on the use of page resources for the localization of web sites.

Page resources are literals stored in an application-specific assembly and bound to a culture identifier.

Fairly technical, but of interest for those of us who translate, localize or build multilingual web sites.