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!

Localizing apps!

Achim Herrmann (who is the most knowledgeable person I know with this product) didn’t have to ask twice about using Passolo when we discussed localizing SDL BaccS Lite into the same languages as Studio.  He looked at the sdlplugin and idenfified two dll files that contained all the localizable strings.  The beauty of Passolo is that we can then create a localization project where we can not only see the strings that need to be translated but we can see the user interface of the software itself as we’re doing it which gives us the perfect context to avoid rework later on.  For example, you can see the UI of BaccS Lite in the top of the image below with the extracted strings for translation underneath it:

Not only can we see the context visually, the translation is written into the image so you can check it to ensure any special characters are displayed correctly, or the translation fits into the space available; and you can also resize the space for some components such as the tab label we see above.  To handle this in Studio on the basis of the dll files would be impossible.  We would need to extract the strings and put them into something Studio would be able to handle which is often excel, or a text file containing the keyID and the translatable strings themselves.  But then we lose the visual context and we also lose one of the biggest benefits of using Passolo in the first place which is the ID based matching.

When you translate a project using Passolo, and it’s set up correctly, the translation units are stored against the ID.  This means that when you get updated source strings you don’t need to run them against a Translation Memory where there is always the possibility that a 100% match is not the correct 100% match in this context.  Instead they are matched against the string ID and this ensures beyond all doubt that the previously translated strings are the correct ones.

So this idea of being able to open files that Studio can’t work with is interesting and it brings me onto a more common problem I see people dealing with just about every week.  Multilingual Excel files!

Multilingual Excel

It’s common practice, particularly in the gaming industry, for strings to be provided in Excel with multiple columns used for each language.  I saw one yesterday in the SDL Community with 28 target languages all inside one Excel worksheet.  You can handle these in Studio of course but only with the use of the monolingual or bilingual Excel filetypes.  This means a lot of seperate projects and a lot of copy/paste or VBA work afterwards to put the translations back into one spreadsheet for your client.

Passolo doesn’t have this problem as it has the ability to handle Multilingual Excel files using its Excel Parser which comes with the ODBC database add-in.  “But how does that help me as I want to be able to translate these files using Studio?” I hear you ask… well Passolo also has the ability to export files as SDLXLIFF.  And since there is no visual context with an Excel file we have the perfect scenario… strings prepared for translation in Passolo with ID based matching (as long as the IDs are also in the Excel file), and the translation carried out in the more productive translation environment of Trados Studio.  Let’s take this file as an example:

I can add this to Passolo and set up the project using these options for the source file:

In my simple example the sheetname is the default one in Excel, the translatable text starts at row #2, the ID values are in column A and the English source text is in column B.  Once this is complete I need to tell Passolo where the target languages need to be written.

I have to do this for each target language which is a bit of a nuisance if I have a lot of languages and receive files with slightly different formats each time.  But if I get files in the same format then it’s no problem as I can save the parser settings and reuse them again.

Once that’s done I can generate my string lists so it looks like this:… French as an example where you can see I have extracted the source and the ID so they are linked together:

Now I export to SDLXLIFF and I can send the files out for translation with Trados Studio:

Now comes the really cool part… several cool parts in fact!!  I now have five SDLXLIFF files which you’d think I would not be able to add to a single project in Studio since they are all different language pairs.  But you can… I simply drop them into a new project with the appropriate language pairs and this will create a single multilingual project with the correct number of files per language.  So here we can see a single file with the FR extension in the French language folder:

You can also see the other languages in the Files list.  Normally if you add five source files to a project in Studio you would see five source files in each language folder, but in this case Studio identifies the language codes from the SDLXLIFF and correctly sets up the project.

Two things to note in the Studio screenshot below:

  1. you will see a warning that the file was created without using a filetype definition.  This is because the SDLXLIFF was created by Passolo and not Studio.  So there is no way for Studio to get the SDLXLIFF back to the original Excel, you need Passolo to be able to do this.
  2. the ID is respresented in the Document Structure column, so it may provide some useful information for the translator if a little more context is required.  I think a preview capability here would be nice so you had the IDs displayed all the time, and perhaps any other contextual information that can be used when setting up the project in Passolo… but that would be an enhancement for the future perhaps, or maybe an app.

Once the files have been translated they can be imported back into Passolo using the “Import” feature like this:

Passolo will update all the strings accordingly for each language in your project:

Now you just need to generate the target file with “All strings” and the target file is a single Excel file with all the languages, fully translated, and correctly inserted into the columns:

So no copy/paste operations, everything is rebuilt in one go.  For these type of multilingual excel files Passolo certainly saves a lot of administrative time, reduces the potential errors in manually reconstructing the file and gives you the ability to use ID based matching.  A very nice tool and with a lot more features and functions I really like and would love to have in Trados Studio too!

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

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A business resolution for 2019…

There are three things that have stood out for me this year.  The first is how much support SDL have provided to their users to make sure they are able to work successfully with their investment.  The second is how little many users are aware of this, and the third is just how many users have used Trados for a decade or more and were not aware of what a support & maintenance contract can bring you.  This last one has been the biggest surprise to me as I’ve spoken to people who thought a support contract was more than the cost of the software; to people who thought it was support only and to people who didn’t know SDL provided any support at all!  So, one of my resolutions for 2019 will be to try and make sure that all our users are more aware of how to get help, even if they don’t want to purchase a support & maintenance contract.  So, I’ll cover these things:

  • Support & Maintenance Contract
  • SDL Community
  • The Customer Experience Team
  • The SDL AppStore Team
  • The SDL Marketing Team
  • Training
  • Customer Experience Program

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Slicing fruit!

If there’s one thing I firmly believe it’s that I think all translators should learn a little bit of regex, or regular expressions.  In fact it probably wouldn’t hurt anyone to know how to use them a little bit simply because they are so useful for manipulating text, especially when it comes to working in and out of spreadsheets.  When I started to think about this article today I was thinking about how to slice up text so that it’s better segmented for translation; and I was thinking about what data to use.  I settled on lists of data as this sort of question comes up quite often in the community and to create some sample files I used this wikipedia page.  It’s a good list, so I copied it as plain text straight into Excel which got me a column of fruit formatted exactly as I would like to see it if I was translating it, one fruit per segment.  But as I wanted to replcate the sort of lists we see translators getting from their customers I copied the list into a text editor and used regex to replace the hard returns (\r\n) with a comma and a space, then broke the file up alphabetically… took me around a minute to do.  I’m pretty sure that kind of simple manipulation would be useful for many people in all walks of life.  But I digress….

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Studio 2019… is it worth it?

Every time a new release of SDL Trados Studio is released there are usually a flurry of blogs and videos explaining what’s in them, some are really useful and full of details that will help a user decide whether the upgrade is for them or not, and others are written without any real understanding of what’s in the software or why the upgrade will help.  That’s really par for the course and always to be expected since everyone is looking for the things they would like to meet their own needs.  So for me, when I’m looking for independent reviews of anything, I find the more helpful reviews give me as much information as possible and I can make my own mind up based on the utility I’ll get from it, the fun in using it and the cost of upgrade.  I put a couple of what I would consider helpful reviews here as they both try to cover as many of the new features available as possible.  So if you are in the early stages of wondering at a high level what’s in it for you then you could do a lot worse than spending 10 or 20 minutes of your time to read/watch the contributions from Emma and Nora below.

Continue reading “Studio 2019… is it worth it?”