Can’t see the wood for the trees…

Back in 2015 I wrote an article called “Good bugs… bad bugs!” which was all about the unintended positive side effect as a result of computer software not working as intended.  I’d actually forgotten about this article until this weekend as I was pondering my own behaviour in responding to a post in the RWS Community.  In fact it was my wife that got me thinking as I allowed the community thread to frustrate me because I couldn’t understand why some users can’t see reason… my reason!  I had comfortably created two buckets in my mind.. either they are just incapable of understanding and I’m talking to a brick wall or they just won’t understand because they don’t want to listen since it doesn’t suit their own agenda.  It didn’t help that none of my suggestions were even acknowledged, but nonetheless it took my wife to remind me that perhaps I wasn’t listening to them properly!

Of course my wife, as usual, was right!  They were using the software in a way they found it useful without ever knowing that the feature they were looking at wasn’t working correctly.  So this was really a “good bug” for them, but a “bad bug” for many others.  Of course nobody ever reports “good bugs”, in fact they most likely didn’t even know it had a bug!  So now it’s fixed they’re unsurprisingly unhappy and are not interested in my solutions unless they involve putting the bug back!  I don’t have any sway over that decision, but if I did I don’t think I’d put it back.  I hope it becomes clear why as you read on.

So let’s look at why the other suggestions are not reasonable?  I think, apart from the fact I managed to rile them, they just can’t see the wood for the trees.  I doubt they are the only ones either so I thought I’d use this article to look at a few ways you can see the progress of your translation projects while you’re working… starting with the very problem being discussed in the community post.

Files View

I’ve minimised some of the views to fit this into a sensibly sized screenshot but we are essentially talking about this view:

Since we’re talking about progress I have the “Confirmation Statistics” tab activated at the bottom.  This will remain active for me me now until I change it.

  1. “Progress” column : this small coloured bar with 50% in it represents the progress I’m making in this file. It’s based on a segment count, not a word count, because it needs to take into consideration segments that may be empty or only contain tags.  Pretty handy when you have hundreds of files in a project and you need to be able to get a quick check on the progress towards completion.  It’s not intended to be a scientifically accurate representation of the work as one figure is never going to be able to tell you the effort involved in dealing with each segment.  But it is going to ensure you know whether the file is complete or not.
  2. “Confirmation Statistics” : this is somewhat more explanatory and is also visible at a glance in the same view.  Here I can see I’m actually 62.96% through the translation of the words themselves.  This seems odd compared to the “Progress” column percentage but I can get some clarity on this by switching from percentage to count.  When I do this it becomes clear:

    There are four segments and only three of them contain words.  Two are translated, one is in draft, so the 50% completion of the file in segments makes sense.

Incidentally, this “Confirmation Statistics” tab is also available in the Projects View.  But there you can also separate by language which is useful in a multilingual project.

Good so far, but what work is left given there is a segment here with no words to translate at all?  I can determine this by digging a bit deeper.

Batch Task Reporting

There are many batch tasks that will create a report, but when it comes to tracking your progress the ones you want are probably these:

  • Analyze Files Report
  • Translation Count Report
  • Work in Progress Report (WIP Report)

To run these reports just select the one you want from the Batch Task menu after selecting the file(s) you want to analyze.  You can do this from the Projects View as well:

What do each of them tell you…

Analyze File(s)

This report is going to go into detail of how much leverage you’ve had from your Translation Memory, what fuzzy band the content falls into, how much is new content, how many tags you will have to handle etc.

You could use this for a progress update, but it’s not really a true reflection of what work you have left to do in a translation project following all the stages of an approved workflow.  There are also better reports to get your progress measured… but I do think this may have some value, particularly if you’re dealing with a very difficult technical translation full of tags as this one does tell you how many tags you have to deal with.

Translation Count Report

This one is a more simplified report, very similar to the Confirmation Statistics available in the Files View:

The difference being this one gives you the number of placeables and tags in addition to Segments, Words and Characters.  So for a user only focusing on the translation and nothing else, but just trying to get a handle on their progress this one might be a quick way to see how much more time they might need to complete the project as they have a little more detail to help them.  It might also be a relief on a taggy file to see that you had very few of these pesky tags left to deal with… or not!

Work in Progress Report (WIP Report)

This is probably the best report for tracking your progress.  It’s sole focus is to identify how many Segments, Words, Characters, Placeables, Tags have been handled at each stage of a project by breaking it down into the type of work being carried out:

It’s also thinking ahead and identifying how much work is required after each stage.  So not just how many words were completed for translation, but also what work is left.  So for example, the 17 words translated still need to be reviewed so this is noted.

Interestingly you can also see that this report also sees that the file actually has five segments and not four as shown in the other reports.  This is because I merged two segments over a paragraph break and the way this works is to remove the content of the second one, add it to the first and then lock and hide the second.  So this report really does get under the hood and help a project manager have a better idea of what might have occurred in this file.  Especially useful if troubleshooting!  In case you didn’t know this behaviour is controlled in two places… first of all you can allow this type of merge in your project settings:

And you can control how it gets managed under File -> Options -> Editor -> Automation:

This is useful for many filetypes where the impact of merging over a paragraph boundary without understanding what this means could in some cases cause a failure for the end client when they get their target files back.  Leaving them exposed in the editor will make them easier to find, although you also have a very useful option in the Advanced Display Filter under the Segment tab to find them even if you can’t see them:

So in my file which I’ll finally show you:

The filter will get me this:

So even though I cannot see that this had been merged, if I use the option to “unhide” it I can see this:

Clearly five segments all along!


My article is obviously based on a very simplified example, and in many ways I write these articles as part of my own self-help routine.  But I hope it’s helpful for others as well.  I think that in a large and complex project the management of the workload isn’t trivial and anything the tools can provide to make this an easier task for a project manager, lead translator or even a freelance translator is welcome.

My takeaway from all this would be… first and foremost always stop and think why a user might be bothered by the way the software is working.  Don’t resent the fact that they don’t care about the suggested alternatives I’m making if I have not addressed their actual complaint.

Secondly, I think Trados Studio offers some great features that can provide what all users want from their progress tracking.  In this particular situation, I think the usecase for a project manager dealing with hundreds or thousands of files they have not translated themselves it’s far more important to be able to use the small progress bar as it now works, showing whether or not the file is complete and not just based on words translated.  They can filter the column and instantly see whether all the files in their projects are ready to be sent onto the next stage in their workflow.  Most translators probably won’t be working on this many files in one go, and they are probably only translating/reviewing the files.  So being able to simply click on the file and see the full confirmation statistics seems a perfectly suitable solution.

Thirdly, the old favourite, we’ll never be able to please all our users all of the time!!  But that’s ok… just be fair about it and keep things in context!

Character counts…

The most viewed article I have ever written by far was “So how many words do you think it was?” which I wrote in 2012 almost ten years ago.  I revised it once in 2015 and whilst I could revise it again based on the current versions of Trados Studio I don’t really see the point.  The real value of that article was understanding how the content can influence a word-count and why there could be differences between different applications, or versions of the same application, when analysing a text.  But I do think it’s worth revisiting in the context of MT (machine translation) which is often measured in characters as opposed to words… and oh yes, another long article warning!

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SDL Analyse…

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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Target Wordcounts…

001CAT tools typically calculate wordcounts based on the source material.  The reason of course is because this way you can give your clients an idea of the cost before you start the work… which of course seems a sensible approach as you need to base your estimate on something.  You can estimate the target wordcount by applying an expansion factor to the source words, and this is a principle we see with pseudotranslate in Studio where you can set the expansion per language to give you some idea of the costs for DTP requirements in the finished document before you even start translating.  But what you can’t do, at least what you have never been able to do in all the Trados versions right up to the current SDL Trados Studio, is generate a target wordcount for those customers who pay you for work after the translation is complete and are happy to base this on the words you have actually translated. Continue reading

Being smart about a Studio Package…

01Everyone knows, I think, that an SDL Trados Studio package (*.sdlppx) is just a zip file containing all the files that are needed to allow you to create your Studio project with all the settings your customer intended.  At least it’ll work this way if you use Studio to open the package… quite a few other translation tools these days can open a package and extract the files inside to use but not a single one can help you work with the project in the way it was originally set up.  One or two tools do a pretty good job of retaining the integrity of the bilingual files most of the time so they can normally be returned safely, others (like SmartCAT for example… based on a few tests that verified this quite easily) do a very poor job and should be used with caution.

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Two heads are better than one…

001… and hundreds or thousands of heads are better than two!!

I wrote an article a little while back called “Vote now… or have no say!” which was a follow up to the SDL AppStore competition SDL ran for a few months.  I wanted to remind everyone to go and vote if they wanted to have an opportunity to see an app developed that would be useful for them.  Well the competition is over now and we have a winner, so now we can move onto the task of creating it.

The winning idea from Marta, a Spanish freelance translator, was the “Quick Wordcount” idea and we have encouraged all users to contribute to this so it’s as useful as as we can make it for as many users as possible whilst ensuring we deliver the intent of the original idea.

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Cutting through the Studio Analysis…



Studio provides a variety of reports ranging from content to help you analyse how much work you have to do, through data designed to help you prepare quotes and invoices to reports that record the amount of corrections you had to go through when reviewing the work you did, or that of others.  In fact it’s quite interesting to look at the many different reports available:

  • Wordcount : Counts the number of words occurring in the files
  • Translation count : Counts the number of words translated in the files
  • Analysis report : Analyses files against the translation memory, producing statistics on the leverage to be expected during translation
  • Update TM report : Provides statistics on what was updated to the Translation Memory with the contents of translated bilingual files
  • Verification report : Verify the contents of translatable files. Reports errors based on your verification settings
  • Translation Quality Assessment : Presents the translations quality assessments occurring in the files (Studio 2015 onwards)

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Qualitivity… measuring quality and productivity

01In the last year or so I’ve had the pleasure of watching Patrick Hartnett use the SDL Openexchange APIs and SDK to develop SDLXLIFF Compare, then Post-Edit Compare, the Studio Timetracker and a productivity tool that combined all of the first three into one and introduced a host of productivity metrics and a mechanism for scoring the quality of a translation using the Multidimensional Quality metrics (MQM) framework.  This last application was never released, not because it wasn’t good, but because it keeps on growing!

Then last month I got to attend the TAUS QE Summit in Dublin where we had an idea to present some of the work Patrick had done with his productivity plugin, get involved in the workshop style discussions, and also learn a little about the sort of things users wanted metrics for so we could improve the reporting available out of the box.  At the same time TAUS were working on an implementation around their Dynamic Quality Framework (DQF) and were going to share a little during the event about their new DQF dashboard that would also have an API for developers to connect.

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All I want is a simple analysis!

01If this title sounds familiar to you it’s probably because I wrote an article three years ago on the SDL blog with the very same title.  It’s such a good title (in my opinion ;-)) I decided to keep it and write the same article again, but refreshed and enhanced a little for SDL Trados Studio 2014.

Something I only occasionally hear these days is “When I used Workbench or SDLX it was simple to create a quick analysis of my files. Now I have to create a Project in Studio and it takes so long to do the same thing.”  I do think this is something you’re more likely to hear from experienced users of the older products because they initially find that getting a quick report out of Studio is a far more onerus process than it used to be.  What they might not think of is how you can use the Projects concept to make this easy for you once you become just as experienced with the new tools.

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Solving the Post Edit puzzle

#03It would be very arrogant of me to suggest that I have the solution for measuring the effort that goes into post-editing translations, wherever they originated from, but in particular machine translation.  So let’s table that right away because there are many ways to measure, and pay for, post-editing work and I’m not going to suggest a single answer to suit everyone.

But I think I can safely say that finding a way to measure, and pay for post-editing translations in a consistent way that provided good visibility into how many changes had been made, and allowed you to build a cost model you could be happy with, is something many companies and translators are still investigating.

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