Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to win back discontented Trados users

Today I received a phone call from an SDL representative: he had seen that I had accessed the SDL site (to download an updated copy of WorldServer Desktop Workbench), and tried to sell me some new service or product.

Unfortunately for my caller, I had just loaded a new termbase in MultiTerm, so some of the glaring shortcomings of SDL technologies were fresh in my mind. The phone call, far from a successful sales pitch, soon became a diatribe against some of Trados' long-standing problems.

I then received a follow-up e-mail:
"...[I] am sorry you feel discontent with our products. I would like to win back your commitment to our technology, just let me know in what direction we can possibly do that."

My answer summarized some of the more pressing (and annoying) problems with Trados and MultiTerm:

  1. MS Word interface: fix the formatting problems - it is unacceptable that Trados consistently messes up the formatting of even simple MS Word documents. Other TM products that also use MS Word as an interface (for example, Wordfast) experience far fewer formatting problems with MS Word (or none at all).
    Please note:
    • advising translators to use TagEditor instead is a cop out, and, at best, only a partial solution,
    • saying that the MS Word document should be formatted some other way, that styles should be applied in some other more controlled manner, or similar advice is useless for translators: we translate the document we get, not the document we wish we would get.

  2. Concordance search: a translator should be able to search not only on the source language, but also on the target.
  3. TagEditor: recommending the use of TagEditor for the translation of MS Word documents would be more acceptable if TagEditor were a richer text editor. For starters, it should offer more powerful search functions (at least the equivalent of MS Word wildcard searches; better still, full regular expressions).
  4. MultiTerm: a more user-friendly and less counterintuitive interface and process would help.
  5. Artificial limitations to the freelance edition of Trados. Two translators who acquire two different freelance licenses should be able to run them on the same home network, without the need to purchase a more expensive version of the program.
What are the things that bug you most as regard Trados, MultiTerm and the other SDL products? What would you add to my list (or remove from it)?


  1. Very well summarized. The awkwardness of MultiTerm is probably the most annoying of them all. Although: I have lost data twice, once losing an entire, large TM through no fault of my own. Even Trados Support could not revive it. The database Trados depends on is not reliable. This to me is the most serious of all SDL Trados shortcomings. If you do have to use this program, make sure you backup daily.

  2. With regards to the concordance search, it is possible to search for (very short) target language strings via the "file/maintenence/filter" function, then click on the language e.g. German/English, then between 2 asterisks enter your string e.g. *hello*, THEN click "ok", THEN click "begin search", and even then you have to eyeball the segments and locate the words for yourself.

    This is obviously somewhat awkard and doesn't always work, resulting in you having to close the "Translation Memory Maintenance" window and repeat the process.

    Hardly a thumbs up, but it is possible (if you've got 20mins to spare).

  3. A better way to do the reverse concordance search is to export the memory, and then use a tool such as XBench to search the exported memory.

    Much better and faster than using the file/maintenance/filter function.

  4. Price!

    All SDL products are overpriced for what they do, particularly for use by freelancers. It's pretty outrageous to spend several hundred dollars on a Trados product when another product with the same functionality (or even better functionality) is actually less expensive.

    The future is opensource, anyway, so SDL's days are numbered...

  5. As the developer of a CAT tool myself, your post gave me a lot of food for thought. Seeing the pain points of TM users is a great way to see where I should focus my own improvement efforts.

    I blogged about how my CAT tool scores on your issues, and conclude that although it scores fairly well, there's room for improvement.

    I agree that the SDL price is also painful for freelance translators/small agencies. You can imagine that I'm quite interested to see how much steam open source alternatives can gather. :)

  6. When I pretranslate a file, some segments are not translated or incorrectly translated though the translation exists in the TM. It has about 10000 segments.

    Customer wants me to fix this...

  7. The fact that the WorkBench AND the Concordance window always stay on top of other windows.
    A bug in the Concordance window which makes it slide up each time you make a new search. After a while, the Close button cannot be reached, and this useless window insists to stay on top.
    These two are very basic things that experienced UI developers would fix quickly.

  8. I have never used Trados for Word, since initial experience was that it crashes too often and even Ctrl Alt U does not fix it.
    So only TagEditor.
    That really put me off is their attitude in case of total crashes when you need to activate your new installation (according to Moody's my image of the total XP had been corrupted) eventually they granted me another activation, however, refused to provide me with another one for my virtual machine (in Linux) although it is on the same desk top. They want me to return my emergency licence installed on my lap top, which actually is my emergency system in case the desktop implodes. This made me look for alternatives and I found one in MetaTexis which does not crash and is fully compatible with Trados (TMs interchangeable through import-export routines). Since I've tested it & bought the full licence after the first test at a much lower price than a Trados update, I have only been using MetaTexis. I will not update to 2009, unless they provide me with an activation for my virtual installation and not before SP1 is out.
    What I like about MetaTexis licencing is that it is a personal licence that may be used on any of your machines/PCs as long you use it yourself.

  9. I bought it in 2009 and it never worked properly for me. Their attitude is that if it doesn't work it's your fault not theirs so I stay away from jobs requiring Trados. A lot of money wasted in my view.


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