If the title and image I have used for this article reminds you a little of something you might see from Stan Lee in an episode from Marvel Comics, then you have discovered my guilty secret… beneath a “slightly” more serious exterior I have a hidden desire to be able to extend my capabilities and demonstrate super human powers! Unfortunately I don’t think this is going to happen for me any time soon, so my dream lives on in the mind of my son and probably every imaginative child on the planet!
So I may never become a mutant superhero… but I might be able to redirect some of these latent powers in another direction. By now, if you know me, you may have guessed it or you may simply be thinking “what is he talking about?”… so with that slightly improbable introduction I’ll elaborate!
Translation tools, like Trados, Wordfast, DVX and memoQ are all flexible and useful applications in their own right. They can all do pretty much what’s expected of them for the majority of their users within the boundaries of their intended purpose. But what happens if your needs go a little outside of these capabilities… what happens if the “standard” you have used for years changes and you have a client who wishes to use it immediately because it brings long awaited capability?… what happens if your best client decides to use a translation management system you don’t have, and you don’t want to use either?… what happens if you want to improve your business processes by integrating all your disparate workflows into one?… what happens if you simply prefer to use a different tool for part of the process that “could” be handled in your chosen CAT?… what happens if you have a client who wants you to adopt a relatively obscure Machine Translation capability because it’s designed purely for the work they do?
I imagine what happens in most cases is you either adopt additional tools and processes, or you create imaginative workarounds! The reason you have to do this, ignoring the fact you could simply turn away the work, is because the tools you have are either not giving you the “X” factor (brings a whole new line of thought ;-)) or you don’t know how to take advantage of the hidden capability they have. At the moment, I believe if you are using SDL Trados Studio then your luck is in because it will be the latter. SDL Trados Studio 2014 is the X-CAT I’ve been waiting for!
The SDL OpenExchange
I am of course talking about the SDL OpenExchange. Users of SDL Trados Studio may not be aware of the huge capability that is built into the platform of the product they own; but lurking under the hood is another product all of it’s own that provides unsurpassed capability to integrate and adapt this tool to suit your needs. I have written about this before… in fact the very first post I wrote on this blog in 2012 was on this very subject. But SDL Trados Studio 2014 has taken this already powerful capability onto a new level. It’s now possible for a developer to build new features into the product, to adapt the way it currently works, to change the look and feel of it… in effect it’s possible to adapt this product in ways no other commercial CAT today comes close. Strong words perhaps… but I really believe them, and I think the development team at SDL have done a phenomenal job of creating this X-CAT.
The release of CU2 at the end of last year provided some key capability in the SDK (software development kit) that allows developers to get this deeper integration and already we are seeing some real examples of this being made available to all users, rather than just inhouse improvements that allow a company to gain some competitive edge. Getting access is simple, you just need a license for SDL Trados Studio and you follow the process outlined here : SDL OpenExchange Developer Program
But what I’m interested in here is sharing a little of the sort of thing you can do today without having to ask SDL to do any of this for you at all… the power of X-CAT is in your own hands!
Changing the interface
Let’s start by looking at what you can do with the interface.
The screenshot above is taken from the Projects View of my Studio interface. If you’re familiar with Studio, and you’ve got good eyes for this small image, then you may be able to note the following. First of all the ribbon… in here there are three custom buttons created by three different developers and all as add ons available for any user if they want them:
These buttons are available on different ribbons too, as right-click options and also keyboard shortcuts. So the capability is very thorough.
- Post-Edit Compare : this button takes a snapshot of the selected Project and saves it for comparison against another version of the same Project. This allows you to run a post-edit analysis and review detailed reporting of the changes made at each stage of your Project.
- ApSIC Xbench : this button (in Beta at the time of writing) allows you to call up Xbench and run your QA checks in this excellent product from ApSIC. You can then return to specific segments that need addressing directly from Xbench as it uses the new API (application programming interface) to control this process between Studio and Xbench automatically.
- Bookmarks plugin : this button tracks where you are when you are working and records the position so you can automatically be returned to the last place you worked in any particular Project… it also allows you to create custom bookmarks wherever you like.
Excellent ideas, very functional, and they all show off how you can extend the feature set of Studio with anything you like. There’s a lot more in the pipeline as developers are taking up the ability to provide many things the users they come into contact with would like to see, so I am sure you can expect a lot more.
But that was just the ribbon… if you look closely at the left hand menu for the Views you’ll see this on the left.
Studio provides for a developer to add their own views into Studio to do whatever they like. So in this example here I have three custom views. I’ll talk through them in reverse order…
Content Connector is actually an example in the SDK of what’s possible. It’s even useful in its own right because it allows you to drop a folder full of files into a set location and then have your Projects created automatically based on the Project Template you specify… very neat and I think it would be a no brainer for any company to adapt this so it worked from an FP site, or a CMS system… or simply a shared drive on your network. probably a huge time saver for busy Project Managers.
Client Services… well this is just a little plugin we’re playing with to see how we can provide more information to make it easier for our users to find help and use the product. More on that later!
Post-Edit Versions is the view you would use to select the versions of any Project you saved for comparison using the ribbon icon above. This is actually an excellent example of what’s possible and the developer, Patrick Hartnett, has done a great job in a very short time over Christmas learning how to use this:
You can see that the entire view is different to anything you see in Studio out of the box. It has its own ribbon with functionality related to this application; it has its own navigation menu on the middle left and it uses two panes in the main window to display the versions of the Project so you can select the pair you want to compare, and provides a properties pane at the bottom detailing useful information about the active version.
I think this is a particularly good example of what’s possible in such a short period of time and this excellent quote from the developer on a Facebook post says it all:
"SDL have made it very easy for programmers to develop more complex solutions in a constantly evolving & competitive market, allowing for full integration through their Software Development Kit. By allowing developers to communicate with Studio through the SDL APIs, programmers have seemingly limitless possibilities for meeting ever demanding development specifications, whether it be projects proving interoperability, automation, plugins, stand-alone etc… in an acceptable time-frame. My compliments to SDL for making available this outstanding SDK!"
Now, whilst there is much more I’d love to share with you (I do get a little over excited with all of these possibilities) I’m going to limit it to one more thing you can see in the original screenshot of my version of Studio. This is the ability to add to the summary views in the Projects View:
You can actually do this anywhere, but this is a good example of the sort of thing that would be useful, and this one is actually an example from the SDK. So here you can get a quick summary of how much a Project is actually worth based on the rates you wish to use for each language and the analysis bands in Studio. You could do this any way you like to suit the way you wish to be paid for the work you are doing. Another good example of this is the Bookmarks plugin that can be activated at any time to allow you to quickly jump to whatever bookmark you like:
Is this all?
But this isn’t everything… in addition to this plugin framework in Studio 2014 the work that the SDL development team have done to make it possible for Studio to become the X-CAT is very wide ranging and covers things like:
- file-type support – you can create a file-type for anything (monolingual or bilingual);
- verification support – you can create custom verifiers to check the projects, translations, or final files for anything you like;
- Project automation – you can automate common project management tasks such as file analysis, pre-translation, generation of final translated files… you could actually build a complete workflow system around this tool if you wanted to;
- Translation automation – this gives you access to all the translation memory functionality for file-based and server based translation memories, and also provides you with the capability to create your own providers so you could look up Translation Memories from other Translation Tools without having to go through TMX, or add your own Machine Translation providers;
- … and of course there’s MultiTerm and GroupShare where the API extends to these parts of the Studio product platform as well
But even this is tip of the iceberg with regard to what’s possible when you start to consider how the APIs available for the full suite of SDL products, and the mobile environment we live in today, can help to deliver incredible solutions for your business. I limited this article to some of the things that are possible with SDL Trados Studio 2014… and I hope that after reading this if you ever wondered why someone uses these tools when another one has a really cool feature that your translators like then you’ll perhaps have a little more insight. The SDL OpenExchange is only a fraction of what developers do with these tools, but it does provide an excellent mechanism for everyone to benefit from and for many of the disparate workflows that people go through today to be improved.
I may never be a real X-Man but I do get a lot of satisfaction through seeing what we can do with an X-CAT!