Alchemy CATALYST 6.0

The most important upgrade in the product’s history

Alchemy CATALYST consists of several editors, tools and experts as well as optional plug-ins or components. The Alchemy CATALYST Project Editor is the main interface that translators, engineers and project managers use to localize, test and engineer software applications and digital content files. It is made up of five windows.

The Project Navigator displays the content of CATALYST project files (TTKs: Translation Tool Kits) in an organized, hierarchical list.

The Project WorkSpace displays Visual Editors for each item selected from the Project Navigator. Every editor can be used in four modes, each optimizing certain tasks: strings only, visual (WYSIWYG), split-horizontal and split-vertical (both combining string and visual views). The Visual Dialog Editor is used to localize dialog panels, place and arrange controls, and validate the user’s translated products. It supports Microsoft Win16/Win32s and Win64x dialog boxes and platforms, Microsoft .NET 1.x and .NET 2.0 winforms and platforms, Visual Basic .NET (all versions), Visual Basic 6.0 and Visual XLIFF 1.0. The visual mode is optimized for testing or arranging of the layout of dialog panels. A dialog toolbar assists in the localization and layout of any dialog object within a TTK project file. The new Visual HTML Editor helps the user to localize HTML documents and all derivative formats such as ASP, PHP, ASP+ and JSP. HTML is used predominantly on the internet and Microsoft .NET-based software applications.

Visual HTML Localization.

The screen shot “Visual HTML Localization” shows the new graphical user interface of CATALYST 6.0 using the visual editing mode to localize HTML files (center window). You are able to translate directly within a visual editor providing real-time WYSIWYG while you type. The Translator Toolbar below intelligently handles HTML formatting tags to secure the integrity of the HTML file. At the very bottom of the GUI, a translation memory (TM)/terminology window suggests full and fuzzy matches within the associated TMs and glossaries.

Again, the option is available to edit tagged hypertext in a WYSIWYG mode, a string mode which displays only source and target text strings and a split mode combining both. The user can define a Web Server to view dynamic web pages in CATALYST. This is useful in localizing server-based scripts embedded in HTML documents such as JSP, ASP and PHP. Finally, the Menu Editor is used to localize menus and test the finished menu for various localization errors. For Microsoft Desktop applications, the Menu Editor recognizes the relationship between long and short prompt strings. These are displayed alongside each other to provide a higher degree of context. Again, three working modes are available.

The Translator Toolbar is designed to centralize all the functions that a translator needs to work efficiently and quickly. It shows source and target language strings, displays all glossary matches (though no fuzzy matches) and the properties of each item selected, such as its coordinates, width and height. Shortcut buttons at the top of the toolbar provide access to other translation units (TUs), undo and redo, font size modifications as well as flags to assign the translation status of the unit. Suggested translations are continuously displayed in the glossary window. An icon adjacent to each suggested translation indicates where a suggestion originates. The toolbar will display translation suggestions from other TTK, TRADOS Workbenches and Servers
and TMX.

Finally, the Project Result Bar is used to display the results of operations performed on the active TTK project file such as search results (find and replace), display of to-do lists, file comparisons and bookmarked items. It also records all general TTK file operations such as the insertion of files or exports of sections.

Several additional toolbars provide fast, icon-based access to important and frequently used functions. The new PowerTranslate Toolbar is used to automate the lookup and translation of TUs in an active Project TTK file. It is keystroke compatible with TRADOS Translator’s Workbench and offers similar features and functionality. The PowerTranslate Toolbar operates on TUs and helps
the translator locate and translate matching terms in active translation memories (TMs). The Project Toolbar allows the user to open or edit a TTK, insert a file, import/export sections of TTKs and define the source and target languages. Finally, the Experts Toolbar provides quick access to launching CATALYST Experts.

All windows and toolbars can be freely arranged, docked or undocked, and slid in or out to save space for the translator toolbar.

The CATALYST Experts — four to seven of them, depending on license type &#151 are designed to automate repetitive tasks frequently found within the localization workflow. All paid editions include the Validate, Pseudo Translate, Comparison and Report Experts. The Localizer Edition adds the Leverage, Update and Runtime Validation Experts; the Developer/Pro Edition also includes the Quickship Expert.

The Validation Expert is used to automate the detection of common localization errors normally introduced during the translation process such as mismatched empty string, inconsistent hotkey count, incorrect spelling, invalid ampersand (&) position, clipped text, inconsistent hotkey character, duplicate hotkeys, inconsistent format specifiers, overlapping controls, inconsistent lead/trail spaces, duplicate accelerators, glossary consistency check and untranslated text. Some of these tests also check for valid XML localization. The Runtime Validation Expert allows validation of Win32 applications as they run on the Windows desktop.

The Pseudo Translate Expert is used to simulate the effects of translation on application files. It does this by substituting vowel characters in the source files with diacritical or accented characters.

The Comparison Expert is used to compare two application files. It detects missing, added and modified resources and records these changes in the Results Toolbar and in an optional XML report file. This Expert is useful in determining the scope of change between revisions of software.

The Report Expert is used to analyze the contents of Project TTKs and to create reports for project managers. These reports are XLIFF based and can be viewed and printed using any internet browser.

Leverage Expert can be run in an automatic or interactive way. It supports exact, fuzzy and heuristic matching techniques, ensuring that the maximum amount of translation is leveraged. Project statistic reports are automatically generated to identify and track all changes to revisions, and these can be used by project managers to track the translation savings due to the leverage process. CATALYST’s own TM technology, ezMatch, allows reuse of translations leveraged from multiple file formats — other CATALYST TTKs, TRADOS TM Server and all versions of TRADOS Workbenches (including version 7), as well as XLIFF, TMX and bilingual text.

The Leverage Expert is enhanced by the addition of the Update Expert, which is used to replace an application file with a new revision while also performing translation leverage. This is useful for replacing a small number of application files within an already created TTK project file with newer revisions of these files.

Finally, the QuickShip Expert provides a convenient mechanism to distribute TTK project files to translators. It does this by creating a self-expanding executable (QuickShip Bundle) that can contain several project TTK files, glossary files and other project information. Within these transfer files, the QuickShip Expert also performs a few tricks that make life much easier for the translator. It extracts all the constituent files and displays any instructions attached, attaches any glossary files to the translator’s version of CATALYST Translator/Lite and launches CATALYST Translator/Lite — or, if Translator/Lite is not present on the user’s system, it will attempt to launch a browser pointing to the Alchemy website, where it can be downloaded.

The Developer/Pro edition also includes the software development kit (SDK) allowing developers to extend the capabilities of CATALYST by writing custom editors for nonstandard custom resources. Nonstandard resources within 32-bit executables are normally only visible in binary format. As CATALYST is an open system, it allows developers to create editors that allow any information to be edited in a default string editor or a custom built WYSIWYG editor. Users may connect their custom editor to the Leverage Expert, enabling the same use of TMs associated with standard resource types. CATALYST SDK comes with its own Code Wizard, which prompts the developer through all stages of developing custom editors. The developer can then register these editors within CATALYST, allowing full editing, translating and updating of custom controls.

Alchemy Software Development Limited was founded in Dublin, Ireland, by Enda McDonnell and Tony O’Dowd, the original developers and designers of its predecessor Corel CATALYST in November 2000. The new company acquired the software originally owned by Corel Corporation Limited. In return, Corel acquired a 25% stake in the company. After being available only in English, a fully localized Japanese version of Alchemy CATALYST 5.0 was released in April 2004 by Alchemy and its partner XLsoft Corporation. Other partnerships include Microsoft — which bundled an evaluation version of Microsoft Visual Studio.NET 2003 in France with CATALYST — and an original equipment manufacturer agreement with GlobalSight Corporation on the integration of CATALYST’s visual localization tools to enterprise level workflow solutions. The company has opened offices in the United States (Salem, Oregon, and Silicon Valley, California), Japan and Germany and will soon open one in China.

CATALYST 6.0 provides more than 120 enhancements over Alchemy CATALYST 5.0 and provides a truly visual environment for the localization and engineering of digital content and Microsoft desktop, internet and mobile applications.

  1. Project files are now automatically filtered based on the status of TUs. This provides fast access to new or partially translated text.
  2. Four view modes (strings only, WYSIWYG, split-horizontal and split-vertical) are now available for all supported file types.
  3. Now all strings within a project TTK can be displayed together in an ordered list on the screen. This provides a powerful mechanism for reviewers and editors to check translation consistency and context.
  4. All experts are now available through an easy to use Quick Launch Experts toolbar.
  5. Power-Translate is a collection of enhancements for professional translators. Using Auto-Translate, software applications can be fuzzy translated using many popular TM and glossary formats including CATALYST TTKs, TRADOS TM Server, TRADOS Translator’s Work-bench and TMX. A built-in consistency checker ensures that a translator’s work is in accordance with the glossaries currently active. It also provides an interface to all linguistic tools via toolbars and keyboard maps that are identical to TRADOS Translator’s Workbench. Finally, a concordance search feature allows a translator to research terms and phases from a wide diversity of TM sources. All linguistic tools can be centralized into a single toolbar which is also keystroke compatible with TRADOS Translator’s Workbench.
  6. A Duplicates View lists all repeating occurrences of a word or phrase throughout an entire project TTK. It also comes with a powerful feature that automatically replicates translations as the user works. Another visual preview presents each string in its correct context for the translator.
  7. CATALYST now works with any language that is supported by Microsoft Windows. This includes bidirectional languages such as Arabic and Hebrew as well as Asian and Eastern European languages.
  8. Display of many terminology/glossary formats in real time within the Translator’s glossary window ensures the highest possible translation consistency and accuracy.
  9. A fully visual solution (true WYSIWYG) is included for the translation, engineering and testing of HTML documents (and all derivatives). You can also work on ASP pages that support both client and server side code modules.
  10. All Microsoft .NET platform technologies are now supported, including Microsoft Framework 1.x/2.0 and ASP derivative content files. The new dialog panel editor supports full visualization of fonts, graphical images and third-party controls.
  11. Users can now work seamlessly with all past and present versions of TRADOS desktop and enterprise technologies such as TM Server, Translator’s Workbench (3.x, 5.x, 6.x and 7.x) and MultiTerm iX Server.
  12. Concordance Manager provides a powerful and easy-to-use mechanism for researching a term or phrase. It works with both Alchemy CATALYST TTKs and all versions of TRADOS Translator’s Workbench and SDL TM Server products.
  13. XML files are displayed in a more logical and visual way that makes large XML files easier to manage and translate. Additionally, creating XML rules using ezParse has been enhanced with a new visual environment that allows seeing the effect of ezParse XML rules simultaneously as they are created. Users can create ezParse rules from DTDs and also from both XML schemas and standalone XML files. XML documents are intelligently displayed in a hierarchical list of elements and attributes for a more orderly display of complex documents.
  14. The Layout Manager is a new product and is not part of Alchemy CATALYST. A productivity application for localization engineers, it creates localized layouts of translated applications using a patented and advanced mathematical analysis of the original application user interface. Sold as an add-on to CATALYST, it handles the automatic layout and orientation of dialog panels by using heuristics and artificial intelligence constructs to minimize layout engineering. In internal trials conducted by the Alchemy development department, it took approximately 400 seconds to lay out 1,000 dialog boxes. Only in 3% of the panels was a warning generated, which was added to the report panel and linked to the corresponding dialog for manual inspection.

Use and evaluation

CATALYST 6.0 features many major and minor novelties and enhancements. I especially like the new, clearly arranged, good-looking and highly effective graphical user interface. All windows can be hidden, rolled out or closed and brought back by a click of the mouse. The actual editing window can easily be enlarged to allow an effective translation process, especially if tagged elements are displayed, but can also be shrunk in order to show all associated data and larger context. CATALYST’s main claim to “enhance visual localization” is consequently extended into the field of visual HTML translation featuring real-time WYSIWYG editing. In addition, CATALYST also re-formats the HTML pages to accommodate the user’s translations. This approach, however, naturally has its limits if pages are designed using tables in absolute dimensions because the dynamic resizing to the localized content will not work. Besides this limitation, supporting visual HTML translation is a clever extension of CATALYST’s features as these formats not only play a major role in the online documentation of software products but are increasingly used as highly customizable dialogs in software design itself, especially within .NET applications.

In my review of CATALYST 5.0 (MultiLingual Computing & Technology #65, July/August 2004), I recommended a more visual way to configure XML processing and localization. I am pleased with the now-implemented handling of this important file type, which uses an additive visual way to add required tag elements to the list of localizable resources by simply clicking on them and specifying whether they should be hidden or locked to avoid accidental alterations. The user can now immediately see the results of a configuration by clicking on the preview button.

The illustration “Visual configuration of XML processing in CATALYST 6.0” shows how creating XML rules using ezParse has been significantly enhanced with a new visual environment that allows the user to see the effect of ezParse XML rules simultaneously as he or she is creating them.

Visual configuration of XML processing in CATALYST 6.0.

I have only two minor suggestions to further enhance this already great file handling. It would be even better if one could (further) configure one’s file handling rules by modifying rules from within the editor instead of the ezParse dialog and second, to synchronize the raw and parsed views of the XML file within ezParse (or the string/visual views of the editor). Furthermore, the ezParse window should be easier (and faster) to access than to go through Tools > Options > ezParse, and the appropriate file type could be preselected if the user originates from a certain file opened in the editor. The only drawback was that I was not shown how the use of a local DTD (or Schema) can help to streamline the manual configuration process. In addition, remotely located DTDs (and Schemas?) linked within the doctype declaration of XML files are not supported.

CATALYST 6.0 also shows a highly improved handling of all .NET formats using framework 1.0 and 1.1 and already offers nonvisual support for framework 2.0 if it is installed on your machine. Full visual support was planned but not available at the time of this review. As in other areas, CATALYST 6.0 features a complete visual approach to .NET by producing the original dialogs within CATALYST rather than imitating them. This allows visualization of any .NET dialog in all of its complexity, including all types of visual inheritance, but needs, on the downside, the inclusion or full caching of all resources into the TTK. While the visualization worked exceptionally well in any of the tested examples (besides a framework 2.0 dialog in beta state), I found a few occasions where CATALYST failed to extract the containing strings (such as ListView and TreeView controls), did not report missing fonts or was not able to readjust LinkAreas.

Due to the open and complex nature of .NET resources, the correct handling of all possibilities is, however, not only a problem of CATALYST but of all other software localization tools, the majority of which do not offer the degree of visualness provided by CATALYST. Aside from these minor shortcomings, Alchemy CATALYST is clearly one of the best, if not currently the best tool, to handle .NET.

The figure “Visual .NET localization” shows how CATALYST 6.0 supports all modes of visual inheritance by tracking all inherited objects. This ensures that you only translate an object once and that the objects are automatically replicated throughout your .NET application. In this example, only the marked string in the lower right corner of the dialog needs to be localized. All other resources are inherited from other dialogs.

Visual .NET localization.

The integration of TRADOS was also redesigned and enhanced and allows use of the same familiar key strokes as in TRADOS itself. In addition, the new PowerTranslate bar provides point-and-click access to all functions of the associated local or remote TRADOS resources (all versions including version 7). SDLX is not yet directly supported as there are currently no APIs available
to do the trick. Both products are, however, fully complying to the TMX standard, and CATALYST integrates TMX as tightly as TRADOS, so SDLX TMs can be used in CATALYST.

Besides TM, a variety of terminology databases can be associated with CATALYST TTKs. Again, the TRADOS integration is fabulous and includes MultiTerm 6 and 7 but lacks direct support of version 5 and below because of licensing problems and the lack of APIs. For the same reason, there is no direct support of SDLX’s Termbases but as this format will become obsolete soon and will be replaced by MultiTerm or a descendant of it, this is not really a huge drawback. Other TM and dictionary/terminology/glossary formats are supported via TXT export files.

The Translator Pro edition

With the new, relatively low-priced Translator Pro edition, CATALYST 6.0 becomes more affordable for freelance translators. This edition offers much of CATALYST’s power, but it unfortunately still lacks the important Leverage Expert, which is designed to enable the reuse of previously translated material and earlier versions of localized software.

This low-price edition, however, now features CATALYST’s full TM memory interface with all versions of TRADOS and SDL (by means of TMX), and translators can reuse translations and resources from previously translated TTK files. Productivity is further enhanced by the inclusion of the Power-Translate technology, which features concordance search and glossary consistency checks.

A small but nifty final detail is a memory of previously opened file extensions and their belonging to a certain file type which automatically applies previously configured file handling processes.

Layout Manager is a great add-on for software engineers, designed to save more than 90% of the time normally needed to resize dialogs.

Editions & Prices:
Translator/Pro Edition for professional freelance translators. €999.
Localizer Edition for large software development companies. €3999.
Developer/Pro Edition for larger localization providers or large localization departments. €6499.
Translator/Lite Edition. Allows translators to accept projects created by the Developer/Pro Edition without first buying software. No dongle or hardware key, but cannot be used to establish independent localization projects. Available for download at

System Requirements:
Pentium 300 MHz, at least 32 MB of RAM, 55 MB hard disk space for the application and related files, Microsoft Windows Me, XP, 200x, Win64x, or NT 4.0 (with Service Pack 3 or later).

On the minus side

CATALYST 6.0 does not have many shortcomings, and most of them present only minor weak points.

First, there are a few too many dialogs popping up when starting and closing a TTK or launching and shutting down CATALYST. It asked me again every time, which source and target languages I wanted to use in an associated TMX and notified me that the TTK file’s internal status information was updated when opening a file and asked me whether I want to save the changes to my TTK before closing it, even without having done anything with that file.

Second, there are issues of the CATALYST component licensing when you use a software-based personal firewall, even after allowing all CATALYST applications full network access. I always got several components deactivated if I did not start CATALYST with a disabled firewall. This should not be an issue, however, on company networks being protected by a hardware firewall, and consequently, the Alchemy support team had not come upon such problems before.

Third, you should not move TRADOS components, especially MultiTerm dictionaries, to other folders because this will provoke almost constant string indexing error dialogs, even if you move the resources back to their original location. This is not an error caused by CATALYST but by an inconvenient design detail of MultiTerm storing the original location of dictionary files as absolute file paths and not referencing any moving of those resources.

Due to CATALYST’s visual approach, its project files (TTKs) tend to get rather large, especially if many resources are included. But TTKs can be easily archived to only 10% of their size using various compression tools such as ZIP or RAR. QuickShip archives sent to external translators are zipped archives. Large XML files (greater than 5 MB) are loaded and parsed very slowly. But this is a problem of many visual tools which try to render and parse XML files. For example, I took about eight minutes to load an 8 MB file into CATALYST and about the same time to parse it. When I tried to load the same file into Visual Studio, it failed after about 10 minutes. Word 2003 took 12 minutes and did not allow any editing as it was too slow and cumbersome. On the other side, Altova’s XMLSpy needed considerably less time because it first reads XML files as simple text.

I highly recommend using the modularity of XML to break content down into small manageable chunks which are later combined using a publishing system. This way one can use the flexibility of XML and is able to handle the information.

In conclusion, version 6.0 really deserves to be called “the most important upgrade in the history of Alchemy CATALYST.” It clearly underlines the tool’s position and importance in the first line of software localization tools and makes it also for the first time more attractive to freelance translators. M

Thomas Waßmer is a biologist, consultant, translator and mutimedia/web developer, currently at school again to become a science teacher. He also works as a science and software consultant, translator and information specialist. Questions or comments? E-mail