The versatile regex based text filter in Trados Studio…

After attending the xl8cluj conference in Romania a few weeks ago, which was an excellent, and very technical conference for translators, I thought it was about time I wrote an article around the things you can do with the Regular Expression Delimited Text filter since it is so useful for solving all kinds of tasks related to text based files that don’t fit any of the out of the box formats available in the product.  Files such as software string files and csv files are common examples of where understanding how to work with this customisable file type can yield many benefits.  So this article is food for thought and a few things that might be helpful to you in the future.  It’s also pretty long (I’m not kidding!), so maybe grab a cup of coffee before you start to go through it!


But Studio can handle a CSV file out of the box!  Well that’s true, but only if you have one column containing the source and one containing the target.  If you have a monolingual file containing text for translation that just happens to be separated by commas then the out of the box file type isn’t helpful.  I actually discussed this at length with a few users in Cluj as there are obviously some good workarounds for this and I imagine this is what most people do already when handling a file like this:

  • convert to Excel
  • import to Excel

Both of these are good workarounds, but the first one is a very tedious process if you have hundreds or even thousands of these files to contend with, and the second one would fail if the CSV files were formatted differently because you couldn’t easily get the target CSV files back out later.

Now having said this you only have to do a simple search for “batch convert csv to excel” in google and you’ll get loads of free options to make this easy for you.  But if I do that I can’t show you some really useful features of the Regular Expression Delimited Text filter which could be useful for other tasks… so instead let’s pretend I didn’t say that!

Step 1: Create the filetype

To begin with I go to File -> Options -> File Types and click on New… then select the Regular Expression Delimited Text.

This opens up the File Type Information pane and I complete these four fields (not all mandatory but they are useful):

  1. File type name: this provides a unique name to the file type.
  2. File type identifier: (not mandatory) this allows me to be sure I have used the correct file type when preparing projects as it shows up in the Files View after preparing my project and also in the orange tab at the top of each open file in Studio when I use TagID mode.
  3. File dialog wildcard expression: you need to make sure this says *.csv if you want it to be used to open a CSV file.
  4. Description: (not mandatory) this is just useful, especially if you create a lot of custom file types, especially if you share with others, as you can make a note of what the file type does.

Then you click on Finish and you should have your new file type ready to go… now that was easy!!

Step 2: Previewing your genius

I wanted to add this in because this feature in Studio is a fantastic time saver when you are working on your ingenious creation.  You just select one of your CSV files and click on Preview after each change to the settings in your file type:

  1. this is your new file type that should now be visible in your list.
  2. this is the Preview feature.  Just Browse… for your test file and then click on Preview.

When I do this I can see that I have opened up all the content of my file for translation, but it’s not segmented as I’d like on the comma:

So the next step has to be to create the rules ‘ll need to segment the file.

Step 3: Segmenting the text

Normally, when you need to segment your text you’d think about creating a custom segmentation rule in your TM since this is what drives your segmentation.  You could do this of course, but file types also assist in the segmentation of your file and this case I think it’s easier to manage in this way.  If nothing else it means you don’t have to use a different TM whenever you’re handling CSV files.

So, how do we go about this?  Well, the way I’m going to tackle it is by making the comma a non-translatable tag and set it as external.  This is pretty simple and I just do this:

  1. Open the new file type you created and click on Inline tags.
  2. Add a new rule.
  3. Specify that the Rule Type is a Placeholder, and use a comma as the Opening rule.
  4. Click on Advanced…
  5. Then set the rule to Exclude

That was pretty simple too… now we can preview the test file again by clicking on Preview (see how fast this test is!):

In general that seems pretty good… until we scroll down a little and now I see that segments 54 to 57 should actually be in one segment, and segments 59 and 60 should also be in one segment.  To understand why, and to illustrate the problem we have to solve, we need to look at the source file:

006,William-Adolphe Bouguereau,French,(1825-1905),"A Girl in Peasant Costume, Seated, Arms Folded, Holding a Ball of Wool and Knitting Needles in her Right Hand",1875,"1,305 €"

On inspecting the CSV file we can see that there are some lines, enclosed by double quotes, and this is because the use of the quotes tells a parser that can read CSV files not to separate on commas when they are within these quotes.  So simply using a comma as the rule to segment on is not enough for my files.  I need to be a little smarter.  To do this I need to create a regular expression that will only find commas where I need to segment.  So, this is what I did:

[^”] Match anything apart from a quote
* Keep matching anything apart from a quote
until you get to a quote
\B but only where the quote isn’t on a word boundary (commas and end of line are not recognised chars for a word boundary – not in \w)

This gives me this:


Now, I want to find a comma that doesn’t fall within this search pattern.  So to do this I need to enclose this within what’s referred to as a negative lookahead:


A negative lookahead is just an assertion, it doesn’t actually match anything.  But if I add my comma because this is what I want to find, then I can now find commas but only when they’re not followed by what’s in the lookahead:


Apologies if that was a little hard to follow… it’s a good example of why it’s important to learn a little about regular expressions.  If this is all new to you I’d recommend you start now as there are so many applications in a translation tool for using them and you can get a lot of benefits from this.  But I digress… back to our file type.  I can now replace the comma I used previously with my new expression like this:

And this time when I preview the file I see something like this:

That’s much better… only spoiled by the double quotes that have been included as translatable text.  But that’s easily solved by adding one more rule with a single double quote as a non-translatable placeable, and setting this as external so it’s removed from view:

And that’s it… for the sample files I used this does the job nicely and I can handle as many as I like without having to do any conversions at all.  If you want to work through this example, here’s a test file you can copy/paste to create a CSV like this one:

SKU,Name,Nationality,Lived,Artwork,Year,Est. Value
001,Leon Bakst,Russian,(1866-1924),Portrait of Virginia Zucchi,1917,"12,250 €"
002,Sir Max Beerbohm,British,(1872-1956),The Encaenia of 1908,1908,"17,100 €"
003,Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin,Russian,(1876-1942),Design for the Costume of Babarikha (the Matchmaker) in Rimsky-Korsakov's Opera 'Tsar Sultan,1928,"12,000 €"
004,Richard Parkes Bonington,British,(1802-1828),Shipping Off the Kent Coast,1825,"7,500 €"
005,François Bonvin,French,(1817-1887),"A Seated Woman, Sewing by a Table",1848,"10,250 €"
006,William-Adolphe Bouguereau,French,(1825-1905),"A Girl in Peasant Costume, Seated, Arms Folded, Holding a Ball of Wool and Knitting Needles in her Right Hand",1875,"1,305 €"
007,Ford Madox Brown,British,(1821-1893),Study for a Greyhound,1850,"25,950 €"
008,Alexander Pavlovich Bryulov,Russian,(1798-1877),"Portrait of Marie-Amélie, Queen of the French",1860,"8,400 €"
009,Paul Cézanne,French,(1839-1906),"Studies of a Child's Head, a Woman's Head, a Spoon, and a Longcase Clock",1872,"32,350 €"
010,Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot,French,(1796-1875),Civita Castellana: A Woodland Stream in a Rocky Gully,1826,"12,750 €"

Now we can take a look at some software string files that are also not handled out of the box.


These are file types I see coming up all the time in the forums in some form or another.  Unfortunately they are often the most inconsistent files in terms of the syntax being used, but we can work around this easily enough using our rules.  So, what do these file types look like?  Most of the time they are key-value pair files, so I’ll use these as an example and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to adapt the rules to suit any variants to this on your own… but if you can’t you can always ask for help in the SDL Community where you’ll find plenty of help from the many smart users in there:

Apple define their strings files like this:

/* Question in confirmation panel for quitting. */
"Confirm Quit" = "Are you sure you want to quit?";

/* Message when user tries to close unsaved document */
"Close or Save" = "Save changes before closing?";

These have three components to them:

  1. a comment enclosed with the /* and */ syntax.
  2. a key enclosed in double quotes preceding the equals sign
  3. a value enclosed in double quote after the equals sign

The ideal way to handle these files is to use SDL Passolo where the file preparation is a breeze and you can export to SDLXLIFF to translate in Studio afterwards if you prefer.  Using the DSI Viewer from the SDL AppStore means you can see the comment and the key for each value being translated as you work… very neat and simple:

But… if you’re a Studio user without access to Passolo, and you’ve been asked to handle a file like this, which we see happening all the time, then here’s a solution using the Regular Expression Delimited Text file type.

Step 1: Create the filetype

This is exactly same as we did before, except this time you probably have to use *.strings as the File dialog wildcard expression.

Step 2: Previewing your genius

We can see here in our preview pane that the entire contents of the file are being extracted and segmented on the basis of Studio default rules:

So if we want to be able to see all of this information then we need to try and do a couple of things:

  1. extract the comment and lock it so we can still see it, but ignore it during translation
  2. segment the key-value pair so they are on separate lines
  3. lock the key so it can be seen but ignored during translation

Step 3: Extract the comment

This pretty straightforward, we just create an Inline tag rule using a Tag pair like this:

I removed some of the steps this time on the basis you would have no problem doing this after following the more detailed steps for the CSV file type above. Hopefully this also helps to see how simple this can be for all kinds of text based filetypes.

I could set this rule  as Include under the Advanced… options so this now gets me this when I preview:

You can see that the comments are visible, in their own segment even if there is a period at the end of the comment, and also protected so you won’t translate them.

Important note:

However, in practice I had a small error repeating this for the other rules when I tried to lock the key in the same way I tackled the first rule above.  So instead I took a different approach and set all the rules as translatable instead (which will remove the locked status in the image above) and used the formatting feature to colour the text red… I’ll explain why I did this shortly.

Step 4: Segment the key-value pairs

To tackle this I created two new rules, this simple tag pair rule to extract the key string and also colour it red as I eventually did for the comment:

^” Opening: Match a double quote at the start of the line
“\s Closing: Match a double quote followed by a space

That should allow me to extract the key string in the highlighted text below:

/* Question in confirmation panel for quitting. */
"Confirm Quit" = "Are you sure you want to quit?";

/* Message when user tries to close unsaved document */
"Close or Save" = "Save changes before closing?";

Then I created another tag pair rule to extract the value string which is actually the one I want to translate, but didn’t colour the text:

=\s” Match an equals sign followed by a space and a double quote
“;$ Match a double quote followed by a semi-colon at the end of the line

That should allow me to extract the key string in the highlighted text below:

/* Question in confirmation panel for quitting. */
"Confirm Quit" = "Are you sure you want to quit?";

/* Message when user tries to close unsaved document */
"Close or Save" = "Save changes before closing?";

This nicely previews like this:

You can see that the text I need to translate is black, and the comment and the key string are in red, but visible to me while translating.

Step 5: Filter out and lock the non-translatable segments

Now, why did I colour them red apart from the obvious reason which is to be able to distinguish them from the translatable text?  Well, if I open one of these apple strings files in the Studio Editor I can now use the Community Advanced Display Filter to filter on the red coloured text, like this:

So now I’m only displaying the segments I don’t want to translate.  Next I just copy source to target, change the status to translated and lock them.  I can now clear the filter to see this:

Perfect… I now get these benefits:

  1. my analysis will only include the translatable text
  2. when I confirm a segment I will only ever move to the next segment for translation
  3. I can always read the comments
  4. I can always see the key string

… and I get one little annoyance!  The segment with text between tags (the comment) retains the red colour when I lock the segment whilst the other segment does not.  If I did this again I’d use grey as the colour as opposed to red because I find it distracting… but I’m leaving this here because you may also come across a similar problem as me.


Well, the apple strings file was just one typical example, so here’s a few more (just the settings and what you should get) so you have some idea of how to use the rules for these sort of files that we do see quite often in the community forums.

Another way to handle our apple strings example

If you’re only interested in the translatable text and don’t want to see the comments or key strings at all then you can also handle this using the Document Structure node in the file type settings by telling it exactly what you want to extract in the first place :

“.+=\s” Match a double quote, keep matching any character until it’s possible to match an equals sign followed by a space and a double quote
“;$ Match a double quote followed by a semi-colon at the end of the line

That should allow me to extract the value string in the highlighted text below:

/* Question in confirmation panel for quitting. */
"Confirm Quit" = "Are you sure you want to quit?";

/* Message when user tries to close unsaved document */
"Close or Save" = "Save changes before closing?";

This nicely previews like this:

LNG (Language Resource Files) and PHP (Array Files)

These types of files are used by various software applications and I have seen them (rightly or wrongly) with different file type endings, so it’s important to note the ending when you create your file type as you’ll need to use this in the File dialog wildcard expression which you’ll recall from step 1 in the CSV example.  Typical examples I’ve come across are things like *.lng, *.ini, *.php, *.txt.  The main thing is that the format of the text in the file could be something like this where you’re interested in getting at the highlighted text only:

lng file example

TR_FormCaption="Find Text..."
TR_SaveFilePositions="&Remember editing positions"

or something like this:

PHP array file

/* en.php - english language file */
$messages['hello'] = 'Hello';
$messages['signup'] = 'Sign up for free';

All of these sort of files follow the same basic principle (as far as we’re concerned for the file type creation) and can be handled easily using the Document Structure node in the file type settings as we did earlier for the simplified apple strings file type.  For the language resource file, lng, I could use something like this:

.+=” Keep matching any character until it’s possible to match an equals sign followed by a double quote
“$ Match a double quote at the end of the line

Which should get me:

Not bad… but I could improve on this and also protect the accelerator keys you can see in the text (& symbol) which will also help me with QA to avoid these important missing tags.  To do this I just add a simple placeholder rule in the Inline tags and make sure the Inline tag behaviour is set to Include:

Now I have this:

So that was simple enough… and what about the PHP array file.  A very similar task, and I could solve it with these opening and closing patterns in the Document structure node:

.+\s’ Keep matching any character until it’s possible to match a space followed by a single quote
‘;$ Match a single quote followed by a semi-colon at the end of the line

Which should get me:

So very similar and very straightforward.

Final Words

If you have a text based file type like these and after reading this post are still having problems then feel free to share a snippet and if I can do it I’ll add your example to the list.  This sort of thing comes up so often I think the more we have as examples the better.

I also had some thoughts around what’s lacking with the current features for handling these file types in Studio and if we don’t see them in the product in the future we might take a look at handling them through the SDL AppStore:

  • ability to define a pattern you can assign as a comment
  • ability to define a pattern you can assign as Document Structure Information
  • ability to define source and target patterns in case the file you have is multilingual/bilingual

If you have any other thoughts of your own feel free to add them and we can consider these as well.  In the meantime I’ve added these to the SDL Ideas site… so go and vote today!

Data Protection…

There’s always been the occasional question appearing on the forums about data protection, particularly in relation to the use of machine translation, but as of the 25th May 2018 this topic has a more serious implication for anyone dealing with data in Europe.  I’ve no intention of making this post about the GDPR regulations which come into force in May 2016 and now apply, you’ll have plenty of informed resources for this and probably plenty of opinion in less informed places too, but just in case you don’t know where to find reliable information on this here’s a few places to get you started:

With the exception of working under specific requirements from your client, Europe has (as far as I’m aware) set out the only legal requirements for dealing with personal data.  They are comprehensive however and deciphering what this means for you as a translator, project manager or client in the translation supply chain is going to lead to many discussions around what you do, and don’t have to do, in order to ensure compliance.  I do have faith in an excellent publication from SDL on this subject since I’m aware of the work that gone into it, so you can do worse than to look at this for a good understanding of what the new regulations mean for you.

Continue reading “Data Protection…”

… and the winner is?

Every now and then I see an application and I think… this one is going to be a game changer for Studio users.  There have been a few, but the top two for me have been the “SDLXLIFF to Legacy Converter” which really helped users working with mixed workflows between the old Trados tools and the new Studio 2009, and the “Glossary Converter” which has totally changed the way translators view working with terminology and in my opinion has also been responsible for some of the improvements we see in the Studio/MultiTerm products today.  There are many more, and AnyTM is a contender, but if I were to only pick my top three where I instantly thought WOW!, then the first two would feature.  So what about the third?  You could say I have the benefit of hindsight with the first two although I’m not joking about my reaction when I first saw them, but the third is brand new and I’m already predicting success!

Continue reading “… and the winner is?”

Revisiting the toolkit…

001It’s been a while since I wrote anything about the SDLXLIFF Toolkit.. in fact I haven’t done since it was first released with the 2014 version of Studio.  Now that we have added a few new things such as SDLPLUGINS so that apps are better integrated and can be more easily distributed with Studio we have launched a new version of the toolkit for Studio 2017.  What’s new?  To be honest not a lot, but there are a couple of things that I think warrant this visit.

First of all, the app is now a plugin and this means it loads faster, is always available and there are a few tricks to being able to get the most from this.  Secondly, there are a few fixes to the search & replace features that make it possible to complete tasks that Studio will fail with and to do this the API team completely rebuilt the regex engine.  So whilst you won’t see too many changes, there are a few under the hood.

The best way to illustrate this is to show you so I have created a short video below where I have tried to explain how best to use the toolkit now it’s a plugin and not a standalone application, and I used the problems described below to demonstrate how it works.  If you want to know what else it can do I have reproduced part of the original guide below the video as that seems to have been lost over the years.  This might be helpful for a few of the more obscure features you may not have realised were possible.

Continue reading “Revisiting the toolkit…”

correcting autocorrect!

001Wow… how time flies!  Over three years ago I wrote an article called AutoCorrect… for everything! which explained how to use AutoHotkey so you had a similar functionality to Microsoft Word for autocorrect, except it worked in all your windows applications.  This was, and still is, pretty cool I think and I still use autohotkey today for many things, and not just autocorrect.  Since writing that article we released Studio 2015, and in fact Studio 2017 is just around the corner, so it was a while back and some things have moved on.  For example, Studio 2015 introduced an autocorrect feature into Studio which meant things should be easier for all Studio users, especially if they had not come across autohotkey before.

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A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;

01Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

I’m quoting Alexander Pope in 1709, rightly or wrongly, for hitting the nail on the head when it comes to the truly intoxicating mix of language and technology.  A little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing and it’s something I know I’ve been guilty of all my life… I learn a little something new and now I’m an expert.  That is of course until I learn a bit more, and then a little more after that, and before I know it I realise I know nothing at all!  Translation technology is great for dropping us all into this trap… Trados user since Trados 5, translator for over 20-years… can handle any type of file.  Falling into this trap is pretty easy in fact, especially when the tools available for translation today take a lot of the effort out of the tasks at hand.  But not everything is what it seems and sometimes it takes a mistake or three to sober us up again!  There’s a reason why well organised and successful translation companies, dealing in all kinds of content, have Project Managers, Translators and Localization Engineers within their midst.

Continue reading “A little Learning is a dang’rous Thing;”

ATA56 – SDL Trados Studio Advanced

01I ran a beginners and an advanced workshop at the ATA56 pre-conference day in Miami this year.  A really fun day for me as we start the day with no specific agenda or pre-defined course and then try to shape the session to suit the needs of the attendees.  The beginner tends to be a little more prescribed, to start off with at least, and the intention is to try and cover the basics of how Studio and MultiTerm work.

The advanced is a lot different… after all, what is advanced?

Continue reading “ATA56 – SDL Trados Studio Advanced”