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Useful tools

I’m back on the topic of PDF support!  I have written about this a few times in the past with “I thought Studio could handle a PDF?” and “Handling PDFs… is there a best way?“, and this could give people the impression I’m a fan of translating PDF files.  But I’m not!  If I was asked to handle PDF files for translation I’d do everything I could to get hold of the original source file that was used to create the PDF because this is always going to be a better solution.  But the reality of life for many translators is that getting the original source file is not always an option.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the FIT Conference in Brisbane a few weeks ago and I was surprised at how many freelance translators and agencies I met dealt with large volumes of PDF files from all over the world, often coming from hospitals where the content was a mixture of typed and handwritten material, and almost always on a 24-hr turnaround.  The process of dealing with these files is really tricky and normally involves using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software such as Abbyy Finereader to get the content into Microsoft Word and then a tidy up exercise in Word.  All of this takes so long it’s sometimes easier to just recreate the files in Word and translate them as you go!  Translate in Word…sacrilege to my ears!  But this is reality and looking at some of the examples of files I was given there are times when I think I’d even recommend working that way!

But there were files I saw that looked as though they should be possible to handle in a proper translation environment.  We tested a few and the results were more often than not pretty poor.  So even though we could open them up it was still better to take the DOCX that Studio creates when you open a PDF and then tidy up the Word file for translation.  At least this is some progress… now we’re able to handle the content in a translation environment and not have to recreate the entire file.  But it would be even better if the OCR software could make a better job of it.  And this is where I want to get to… better OCR!

SDL Trados Studio 2017 continued to provide the same PDF filetype that uses technology from SolidDocuments in earlier versions of Studio, and this does a fairly good job of extracting the translatable text with OCR for many files.  But it could use improvement.  SDL Trados Studio 2017 SR1 has introduced another option for OCR using a software called ReadIris that is part of the Canon Group.

Out of the box, according to the documentation, Iris supports 134 languages for OCR which is pretty impressive.  They don’t quite match the languages supported by Studio however, but a rough count and compare suggests there are some 95 shared languages… and they even support Haitian Creole which Studio does not as we know 😉  Still impressive however and it easily beats the 14 languages supported by Solid Documents in Studio 2017 prior to the introduction of Iris.  Additionally this opens the possibilities for handling scanned PDF files in Asian languages, Arabic, Hebrew and many others that were previously difficult, if not impossible, to handle.

Using the new options

So let’s take a look at where you can find this new option and how you use it.  First of all you need to go to your options:

File -> Options -> File Types -> PDF

Then navigate down to “Converter“.  Down near the bottom you’ll see the “Recognize PDF text” group as shown below and the option to activate this new feature is at the end:

Check the box and you’ll be presented with this screen:

It’s an App!  You may be wondering why you need to do this and why it was not just integrated into Studio?  The reason is simple… not everyone will want this option and the underlying software requires a 150Mb download which would have increased the size of the Studio installer to over half a gigabyte.  So it was made optional.  If you want it you click on the “Visit AppStore” link in the message above, or the one I just wrote, and download and install the plugin just as you would any plugin from the appstore.  If you don’t do this then Studio won’t be using the software.  There are no warnings, and the option remains checked, but you won’t be using it.  So when I open the Chinese PDF I just created by copying some text as an image and saving it to a PDF all I’ll get is this:

None of the text is extracted for translation at all.  But if I install the plugin and try again I see this:

Now we’re cooking!  Would be useful to get rid of the tags though as these seem to be aesthetic only, just colours and font changes where the OCR picked up a few minor differences and then introduced tags to control them.  As these are formatting tags only I could just ignore then, or press Ctrl+Shift+H to hide them in the editor.  But if I want to remove them altogether I can do this with another app. called Cleanup Tasks that I have written about before.  These three options do the job for this file:

Now I have this and can translate without any tags at all:

Nice… and if all of that sounds complicated it wasn’t really.  I created a short…ish video below putting this all together so you have an idea of how it works.

Approx. length : 16.26 mins

After all of that I don’t want you to get the impression I’m a converted believer in the possibilities of PDF translation… I’m not.  We’re unlikely to see the back of PDFs for translation any time soon, so I am happy to see the technology to support this workflow improving all the time.  I also don’t want to give the impression this is going to help with every PDF you ever see.  It won’t!  The problems of PDF quality don’t go away because of the way they been created in the first place, so source is always best.  You’re also quite likely to find PDFs you can’t handle even with Iris, and you might even find that the more basic option without Iris does a better job of your PDF conversion.  So it’s horses for courses… you have the tools and can apply the most appropriate one for your job.

If you have any questions after reading this post or watching the video then I’d recommend you visit the SDL Community and ask in there… or just post into the comments below.

I’ve always had a secret desire to be able to program computers… the problem is it’s not something you can do just like that!  I can recall starting off with a Commodore PET 2001 some time in the late 70’s and I can remember how enjoyable it was to be able to create simple scripts that could react to whatever you pressed on the keyboard.  I should have realised back then it would have been smart to focus on technology, but instead I took a bit of a detour in my career and computers didn’t feature at all until around 1987 when I was introduced to the HP41c from Hewlett Packard.  This had very basic programming functions, a magnetic card reader and a thermal printer and I loved it!  In fact I loved the way HP calculators worked so much I had an 11c for years until I dropped it trying to align a laser while being dangled headfirst into a catchpit on a construction site!  And we think the Studio alignment process is tricky 😉

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SDL Trados Studio is up to Studio 2017 which is the fifth major version since Studio 2009 was first released some eight years ago now.  During these eight years I think it’s fair to say we have seen less and less requirement for the old Trados features, yet despite that we do see some interesting tools making an appearance in the SDL AppStore that mirror some of the old functionality.  In fact some of these apps are quite recent and seem to have been driven by requests from users who miss some of the things you could do in Trados but still cannot do in the out of the box Studio solution.  So I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of these apps and if you are one of those translators who remembers all the good things Trados could do… and can I say forgotten the things it could not… then perhaps you’ll find these apps useful!

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A nice picture of a cutie cat… although I’m really looking for a cutie linguist and didn’t think it would be appropriate to share my vision for that!  More seriously the truth isn’t as risqué… I’m really after Qt Linguist.  Now maybe you come across this more often than I do so the solutions for dealing with files from the Qt product, often shared as *.TS files, may simply role off your tongue.  I think the first time I saw them I just looked at the format with a text editor, saw they looked pretty simple and created a custom filetype to deal with them in Studio 2009.  Since that date I’ve only been asked a handful of times so I don’t think about this a lot… in fact the cutie cat would get more attention!  But in the last few weeks I’ve been asked four times by different people and I’ve seen a question on proZ so I thought it may be worth looking a little deeper.

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There’s been a few ups and downs getting SDL Analyse off the ground, but it’s finally there and it’s worth it!  If you have no idea what I’m referring to then perhaps review this article first for a little history.  This app was actually released as the 200th app on the SDL AppStore in February this year, but in addition to the applause it received for its functionality there has been less positive aspects for some users that needed to be addressed.

But first, what does it do?  Quite simply it allows you to get an analysis of your files without even having to start Studio, or without having to create a Project in Studio.  If you’re a regular reader of this blog you may recall I wrote an article in 2014, and in 2011 before that, on how to do an analysis in Studio by using a dummy project.  In all that time there has been only one app on the appstore that supports the analysis of files without having to use Studio and this is goAnalyze from Kaleidoscope.  In fact goAnalyze can do a lot more than SDL Analyse but there is one significant difference between these apps that makes this one pretty interesting… you don’t require the Professional version of Studio to use it.  But it’s also this difference that has been the cause of the ups and downs for some users since SDL Analyse was released.  In order to resolve the problem of needing to use the Project Automation API, which needs the Professional version of Studio, the app needed to use a windows service that was hooked into Studio.  For the technically minded we had a few things to resolve:

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… in with the new!

Although I’m not part of the core support team anymore the knowledgebase has always been something that held a particular interest for me.  When I joined SDL in 2006 we had two knowledgebase systems, each integrated into the support systems that were being used at the time.  These were Salesforce and RightNow Technologies.  The first big change I was involved in with regard to systems was moving the support teams onto one ticketing system and one knowledgebase.  We wanted Salesforce as the ticketing system as it gave good visibility into the tickets being raised to everyone at SDL because Salesforce was being used as the CRM tool of choice.  But in those days the knowledgebase component wasn’t great, so we adopted a new system.  The system we chose was Talisma.

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001aWhat a horrible name… lurkers!  It carries all kinds of negative connotations from science fiction monsters to the stuff of nightmares where we think of spying and being followed by something or someone we don’t like.  Of course I’m not using this term in these contexts so I better explain.  I’m talking about communities and user participation, or more specifically about users who read and observe but rarely contribute to the conversations at all.

Community managers often think about user participation based on a 90:9:1 rule where 90% of users are referred to as lurkers who read all the activity but don’t contribute themselves, 9% contribute from time to time and 1% are pretty active and probably account for most of the contributions.  I guess I can see why this negatively charged name is used, but in addition to being a horrible name it doesn’t really do justice to how important this group of community users are.

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