The Story of “Studio” Colours…

Once upon a time, of course, the translation environment was just black and white with gray in between.  Black and white and gray?  The AppStore gods were understandably bored and angry, so they went looking for other colours to brighten the world for their users.  The resulting colours emerged from the Microsoft Word palette resulting in fifteen colours to choose from.  The AppStore gods were so happy with these colours they decided to paint the translation environment from the AppStore.  They opened Visual Studio and flung the colours around, resulting in a brand new app. they called “Wordlight” and a new colourful feature for the “Community Advanced Display Filter”.

Of course I’ve stolen this introduction from a wonderful Mayan legend, “The Story of Colors”, as told by the indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico.  But I’ve had so much enjoyment playing with these colourful features for Studio as they were developed that I was reminded of the joy colour brings to us in this legend… these old stories are not just for kids!

But back to business, and if you haven’t seen these features yet I hope you’ll be rushing off to try them by the time you finish this article.


If you want to highlight a word, a phrase, or a segment, in Studio you have to use the Quick Insert feature here:

This has a few issues that make it a fairly unattractive feature:

  1. You need to “select text -> click -> scroll -> click -> click” every time you want to use it
  2. It only has a single colour
  3. It’s not available for every filetype
  4. You can’t use it to highlight multiple rows in one action in a filtered display (it will highlight the hidden rows as well!)
  5. You can’t select non-contiguous segments and highlight them
  6. Removing the formatting afterwards before you create a finished target file is painful… one segment at a time

There has always been workarounds for some of these things… such as using Ctrl+Shift+N+period+Enter to add a comment, and then you could filter on them too… as a good workaround it is a bit of a stretch.  There is aso an app on the SDL AppStore called WordBird that can also support highlighting in Studio.  It’s a lot better than the Quick Insert approach out of the box, but still carries some limitations.

Now we have Wordlight which you can download from the SDL AppStore.  This is a plugin which gives you all the features you’d find in Microsoft Word… and more!  You can find good details on how the plugin works in the SDL Wiki for the plugin, but to give you a quick overview… the plugin adds a new ribbon group to your Home menu in the Studio Editor View that looks like this:

It offers  you the ability to highlight selected text in any of these colours with a single click, a right-click option, or a keyboard shortcut.  The shortcuts are all empty by default so you need to set the ones you wish to use:

I have set one shortcut to highlight the selection based on whichever colour is active… and you’ll know which one is active because the icon in the ribbon is dynamically changing as it would in Microsoft Word (for example…):

Some nice features with this plugin are the following.

Text Selection

You can select text with the mouse, even crossing segments and highlight them all in one action:

You can select multiple blocks of segments manually, or using the display filter, and apply highlighting to all the selected segments in one action:

Removal of Highlighting

You can clear all the highlighting in one click from selected text, selected segments, or from all the segments displayed in the editor.  This latter option is great when using the Community Advanced Display Filter because you can easily filter on a particular colour by searching in the tags and this allows you to remove highlighting of a single colour when you have marked up the file with multiple colours:

So here I searched for the word “green” as it’s part of the tag <cf highlight=green> after checking the box to Use Tag Content and also Tag content only.  Now it’s easy to review the stuff I want based on the colour I highlighted with, and it’s also easy to remove the highlighting from here in one click using the Filtered Segments option:

Effect on the Target File

The out of the box highlighting through the Quick Insert feature will only be available for certain filetypes, and these are the filetypes that Studio can be sure support highlighting in the target file.  With the Wordlight plugin we took a different approach because we believe you can benefit from highlighting any file for review and because we know you’re all smart enough to know that if you use this you should remove the highlighting before creating your finished files.  After all… it’s a computer program and it should be there to help you, not to dictate what you can and can’t do!

There are exceptions to this rule of course… DOCX and PDF translation.  The formatting , if left in the target file, will for these formats be recognised and show up as Word formatting which you can use, add to, remove, leave it there as you see fit.  For all other formats make sure you understand the implications.  For example, if you apply formatting to an HTML file and leave it in the target you’ll get something like this:

In row #7 you can see the highlighting tags like this:

<cf highlight=yellow>

Clearly not valid html tags and will probably just be ignored.  But the same will happen for all filetypes, and some might not be so forgiving when you put these “foreign” tags in there.  So apply some care and don’t save target files with highlighting in them unless you undersand the implications and do it on purpose.

In this example it would be possible to write valid html tags in here, but we decided against this until we see/hear some good usecases for why this would be helpful.  Then we’ll make the effort!  The same applies for any other filetype, although we can’t guarantee it’ll be possible for them all.

All in all, this is an excellent plugin and fills a gap I have seen users asking for since Studio 2009… I have also seen many 3rd party developers attempting to do this and it’s not simple.  It took the AppStore Gods to tackle this one and make an excellent job of it!

Community Advanced Display Filter

This isn’t a new plugin of course, and I have written about it before.  In fact this plugin is well overdue another article as the features in it have grown significantly since then and almost every month we add something to it!  I added it to this article because it was a requirement from SDL Language Services that actually sparked off this colour frenzy and we initially fulfilled the requirement in this display filter.  So thank you SDL Language Services (Tammy et al.) for such a good usecase that prompted the effort for both plugins!

The usecase was to be able to filter on post-edited and confirmed segments in a file and apply highlighting to them that is carried over to the target file.  This way a reviewer who knows that machine translation has been used will be able to focus on reviewing the important segments that were post-edited in context.  Prior to this feature being added to the display filter the process could only be completed one segment at a time (because the Quick Insert approach doesn’t work on filtered segments) and it involved “select text -> click -> scroll -> click -> click” each time.

So the AppStore Gods created this:

The benefit of course being two-fold:

  1. You can use this tool to filter on confirmed post-edited segments when the work is complete
  2. You can highlight using any colour you wish from the selection in just 2-clicks

In this usecase there was no need to clear the highlighting, but we added this into the plugin since it allows other others with a different usecase to use this feature for any file where you might not want to have the highlighting left in there.  Exactly for the reasons explained in the Wordlight plugin.

Just a note on the clear highlighting feature… you can’t add highlighting with the display filter feature and clear it with the Wordlight plugin.  You also can’t add highlighting with the Wordlight plugin and clear it with the display filter feature.  This was deliberate because the plugins know what they created and what they need to remove and we wanted to avoid any mistakes that could arise inadvertently, especially if you were using full segment highlighting along with individual word highlighting for example:

In the screenshot above I could remove the individual word highlighting (on the left) from the file using the Wordlight plugin without affecting the full segment highlighting I added using the Display Filter.  Similarly I can remove the full segment highlighting (on the right) using the Display Filter feature without affecting the individual word highlighting I added using the Wordlight plugin.  Pretty smart I think as the combined use of both plugins gives you very good control over the use of the highlighting if you want to work this way.

What’s next?

You, like me, may just like playing around with the highlighting as it’s so fast and simple.  Software behaving this way is always a joy to use!

You may also be heading over to the appstore to look for these plugins right now… so here’s a quick reminder of where they are:


Community Advanced Display Filter

Enjoy the colourful world of the AppStore Gods!

A translator’s paradise?

Every year I’m lucky enough to attend a few industry conferences which always provide an excellent environment for gathering feedback, spending time on a one to one basis with people working in the industry and generally getting a reality check on the things I do on a day to day basis.  It’s true that I spend a lot of time working in the SDL Community where I do get exposed to the sort of problems people are trying to solve, but it’s really not the same as the exposure you get at a conference, especially if you attend with an open mind and a willingness to learn.  So I always look forward to attending the few events each year that I do.

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How do you eat an elephant?

How do you eat an elephant?  Well, of course we don’t really want to eat an elephant, we love elephants!  But if we did want to eat something that large we’d do it in bite sized chunks!  This is something that is particularly relevant when working with large resources such as translation memories or terminology that is freely available from a number of places on the internet.  I’ve addressed this before in various articles… these two are particularly relevant to the topic I’m addressing today:

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Who’s up for a little bit of Passolo?

I can remember being asked in early 2007 to organise a report on the benefits of Passolo compared to other tools that also supported visual software localization.  In the same year, shortly after that, SDL purchased Pass Engineering and SDL Passolo was born.  At the time I didn’t know a lot about Trados Workbench or SDLX either as I had a very different role, and I only started getting interested in the technology we (and our competitors) use in 2008 just prior to the release of SDL Trados Studio 2009 the following year.  In all that time since then, until a few months ago, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never taken more than a cursory look at it.  It’s taken a course I’m doing at the moment at the University of Strasbourg to really bring home the value.  One of the modules on this course is “Localization of Graphical User Interfaces” and under some expert tutorage I’m plugging many of the gaps I have in my knowledge of this industry.  I’m even putting it to good use in my daily work!

Continue reading “Who’s up for a little bit of Passolo?”

Audio Visual Translation in Studio

When I started to look at the subtitling industry little did I know just how fragmented it would be!  For years we have talked about SRT and yet when I look at the filetypes that tools like Subtitle Edit claim to support I find over 200!  Normally I’m not a big fan of standards but that’s probably because I live in a world where there is little variation and supporting different bilingual files is trivial in comparison.  But if there was ever a good argument for one it would be here!  Asking people what format they see most often does help to narrow it down, but as we often find when developing software, the interest usually comes after the event and not before!  So what formats can a translation tool support today?

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Apply a TM Template

Ever since the release of Studio 2009 we have had the concept of Language Resource Templates, and ever since the release of Studio 2009 I’d risk a bet that most users don’t know what they’re for or how to use them.  To be fair this is hardly a surprise since their use is actually quite limited out of the box and access to the goodies inside is pretty hard to get at.  It’s been something I used to see users complain about a long time ago but for some years now I rarely see them mentioned anymore.  This article, I hope, might change that.

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Wot! No target!!

The origin of Chad (if you’re British) or Kilroy (if you’re American) seems largely supposition.  The most likely story I could find, or rather the one I like the most, is that it was created by the late cartoonist George Edward Chatterton ‘Chat’ in 1937 to advertise dance events at a local RAF (Royal Air Force) base.  After that Chad is remembered for bringing attention to any shortages, or shortcomings, in wartime Britain with messages like Wot! No eggs!!, and Wot! No fags!!.  It’s not used a lot these days, but for those of us aware of the symbolism it’s probably a fitting exclamation when you can’t save your target file after completing a translation in Trados Studio!  At least that would be the polite exclamation since this is one of the most frustrating scenarios you may come across!

At the start of this article I fully intended this to be a simple description of the problems around saving the target file, but like so many things I write it hasn’t turned out that way!  But I found it a useful exercise so I hope you will too.  So, let’s start simple despite that introduction because the reasons for this problem usually boil down to one or more of these three things:

  1. Not preparing the project so it’s suitable for sharing
  2. Corruption of a project file
  3. A problem with the source file or the Studio filetype

Continue reading “Wot! No target!!”