OmegaT: an open-source alternative to translation memory programs

OmegaT: an open-source alternative to translation memory programs

IR4 – the era of technological marvel! Never has it been a better age than this for language practitioners to do what they do best. Not only do we have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips; we have the technology to help us work faster than we’ve ever been able to before. The old typewriter and proofreading symbol were tossed for the computer and word processors, which offered comprehensive, powerful, fast and convenient document handling and processing capabilities. Given the pace at which AI, computational neural networks, and machine learning are developing, some consider these potential threats to translators’ job security. However, these tools are a long way from replacing human translators entirely, as any experienced translator who understands the many complexities that affect rendering a high-quality translation will agree. On the contrary, the global populations’ insatiable demand for information and progress has resulted in copious volumes of content being produced every minute, which has created a need for translations in several new avenues for translation.

Translators have benefitted well from the emerging human-machine integrated environment, which harnesses the power of computational processing, the internet, and the finesse of the human translator to help them produce translations faster than they would with conventional means, without compromising on quality. In the last thirty years or so, translation memory has become an indispensable tool for translators. Powerful programs bring together terminology management systems, machine translation, TM, and the translators’ input in one computer-assisted translation interface. Besides that, these programs offer translation project management capabilities, which are beneficial for companies and individuals involved in large multilingual translation projects and teams of translators.

Translators may be most familiar with Trados and Wordfast, which have been popular contenders in the computer-assisted translation industry, in part because they have been around the longest (Trados est. late 1980s and Wordfast est. 1999) and in part because they are two of the CAT tools with the most advanced operability, interoperability and integration features. However, those who know these tools also know that they are not inexpensive and thus not necessarily sustainable for a business running a “one-(wo)man show”. For those on a tight budget but still looking to reap the benefits of machine translation, there is OmegaT. In the following paragraphs, I draw a brief comparison between these three programs.

SDL Trados has big user community, plenty of resources and support. It supports a wide range of file formats, including Microsoft Office, Adobe InDesign, and XML, and has a robust TM function that stores and retrieves translations from a central database. Trados offers advanced project management features, including project tracking and reporting, and integrates with machine translation engines such as SDL Language Cloud and Google Translate. However, SDL Trados can be an expensive option to individual translators or small agencies, and it has a steeper learning curve that may require significant investment in training and licensing.

Wordfast is a user-friendly and affordable CAT tool that is accessible to individual translators or small agencies. It supports multiple file formats, including Microsoft Office, Adobe InDesign, and HTML, and has a translation memory function that can store and retrieve translations from a central database. Wordfast integrates with machine translation engines, such as Google Translate and Microsoft Translator, and offers a range of project management features, including real-time collaboration and project tracking. However, Wordfast may not have as many advanced features as other CAT tools, and its user community may not be as widespread.

One significant advantage of OmegaT is that it is free and open-source software. This makes it an excellent option for individual translators or small agencies on a tight budget who cannot afford the high cost of Trados or perhaps even Wordfast. Additionally, OmegaT supports a wide range of file formats, making it a versatile option for handling different types of translation projects. Another advantage of OmegaT is its collaborative environment, which allows multiple translators to work on the same project simultaneously. This can be especially useful for larger projects with tight deadlines, as it can help distribute the workload and reduce the time it takes to complete the project. While Trados has a larger user community and more resources available, OmegaT’s community is still active and supportive. The software has been around since 2004, and its user community has contributed to the development of various plugins and scripts that enhance its functionality and make it more user-friendly.

In summary, while OmegaT may not have all the advanced features and benefits of Trados, it can be a compelling option for users who value affordability, versatility, and collaboration.

Written by Simone Barroso

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