Friday, February 12, 2010

Wordfast Professional Training

Last week I attended a training for Wordfast Pro, the newest version of the Wordfast translation support software. The training was arranged by the New York Circle of Translators (the New York branch of the American Translators Association) and held by Wordfast, whose Director of Sales & Marketing, Kristyna Marrero, also attended. The trainer was John Di Rico of Apex Traduction. Wordfast Pro is basically the Wordfast version of the new Trados Studio, whereas Wordfast Classic is the Wordfast version of the old Trados.

For those of you new to translation, translation support software automatically stores the translated sentences in memory as you work and shows you previously translated sentences or sentence fragments if they are similar to the current sentence/fragment. In addition, such software lets you create and re-use custom glossaries and shows the translator if a word in the source text is fund in such a custom glossary. Depending on the specific software and version used, other features -- such as project management options, text analysis in terms of word count and repetitions, online dictionary searches, etc. -- may be available.

Wordfast Pro works very differently from the previous version of the software, Wordfast Classic. Classic was an add-in to MS Word, while Pro has its own separate interface. The obvious advantage is that Pro can be used with many more file formats, such as Excel spreadsheets, HTML files, Powerpoint presentations, InDesign files, etc. On the other hand, the learning curve is steeper since the translator must get used to an entirely new interface.

This is the initial, rather new, version of WF Pro. While I normally avoid getting version 1.0 of any software, I did so here because: a. I can run both the old and new versions concurrently on my computer, b. the new version is free if you have a license for the old version (which I do), and c. it does PowerPoint and Excel, both formats I had to translate without the aid of a translation memory in the past. Excel files for IT projects often contain the text strings displayed on screen when a software is run. As you might imagine, many of these strings are fairly repetitive, so being able to use translation-support software on these files can be quite a time-saver.

One of the main disadvantages of WF Pro for me is the fact that after I have completed a translation I cannot turn off the source text and only see the target text. I used to do this routinely to make sure the translated version flowed smoothly. In WF Pro's interface, the two languages are shown either side-by-side (in table view) or -- similar to WF Classic -- one below the other (in text view). Unlike WF Classic, however, the source text cannot be hidden, so it distracts when trying to edit only the translated text. Ms. Marrero said that this capability of hiding source text would be added in future version of the software.

Another annoyance is the fact that "placeables" need to be copied manually from the source to the target text unless you copy the entire source text segment to the target text area and then overwrite it with the translation. Placeables are codes Wordfast adds to hold formatting information, so that the software can then format the translated text as similar to the original as possible. Compared to the old version, there seem to be rather a lot of these codes even in fairly straightforward text. While that means WF Pro can, for example, make part of a segment bold and leave the rest regular (which didn't work in WF Classic), it does make for a lot more copying of these codes. Out of the box, the software warns you every time you go to a new segment, if any of these placeables weren't copied. I'll need to experiment with turning that warning off and adding the codes in later during a second pass. But what I'd really like to see is a feature where WF Pro could be set to only copy the codes as I move to a segment, so that I can then fill in the translated text between them.

Still, there are a number of additional features here that WF Classic didn't provide, such as the ability to use multiple translation memories (and even write to all of them, if you so choose) and to save the set of translation memories and glossaries used for each project, rather than having to re-create that setup each time you switch projects. At this point, I am still running both versions and, depending on what version of Wordfast or Trados the client has, use one or the other. A new release of WF Pro is supposed to be issued soon, so we'll see what improvements that brings ...

Until next time,