MadCap Lingo 9

The computer-aided translation (CAT) tool landscape is pretty full, so how much room is there for new competitors and new improvements? Plenty, if you ask the Lingo development team at MadCap Software. They have been busy on their latest version, MadCap Lingo 9, which moves Lingo toward the front of an increasingly crowded pack.

For those not familiar with Lingo, here’s a bit of background: Lingo was created by MadCap, a software company based in La Jolla, California. MadCap is best known for its single-source authoring tool Flare. Flare is typically used by technical writers who need to create and maintain large sets of documents, such as user manuals and software help systems. Flare not only allows writers to create complex documents, but it also enables single-source authoring, which means that writers can create content once and easily repurpose it across multiple formats — Word documents, PDFs and so on. With its Flare product, MadCap competes directly against much larger software makers such as Adobe. As a bit of background, MadCap’s founders were the original developers of RoboHelp prior to RoboHelp being acquired by Macromedia and ultimately Adobe. All this is to underscore the vision and capability of the makers of Lingo.

The average translator is likely not aware of Flare, but should be, since increasing amounts of content to be translated will have been authored in Flare. With MadCap’s entry into the CAT tool market with Lingo 1 over seven years ago, the software company began to pursue a vision of providing tools for the whole content creation ecosystem that includes both authoring and translation. Flare itself is well-suited for multilingual publishing. In combination with Lingo, technical communicators gain a much greater level of control over the whole content creation process. Lingo is a CAT tool with features similar to competitor products such as SDL Trados, MemoQ and WordFast. However, it also has the added benefit of working seamlessly with Flare projects, even sharing a similar interface as well as general look and feel.

A technical publications department equipped with Flare and Lingo can easily create translation packages to send to language service providers (LSPs) or individual translators. All the content is bundled in XLIFF format and can easily be imported into any CAT tool that supports XLIFF. This hypothetical tech publication department could also maintain their own translation memories using Lingo and pretranslate content prior to sending Lingo translation bundles. In addition, they can also create and maintain their own termbases, which they can export and share (along with TMX files for their translation memories) with translation providers. Much of this could be accomplished with most other CAT tools, with the important exception of content written in Flare. For a company that has invested the time and effort to adopt and optimize the use of Flare for authoring content, having a translation tool that seamlessly integrates with Flare is no small feature. To date, none of the major CAT tools have an off-the-shelf file filter for Flare content files. The other challenge is that Flare has file types specific to its authoring environment and extracting all content necessary to successfully translate a Flare project requires in-depth knowledge of how Flare works. Therefore, Lingo simplifies the content collection and preparation steps for content authors as well as providing packages that translators can easily work with.

Lingo 9 features such as segmentation rule editing and customized import filters put it on par with or above many of its competitors. Lingo 9 now supports over 20 new features; the most notable for translators include:

Machine translation (MT) plug-ins

Live preview

Quality assurance (QA) reports

Termbase importing

Exportable word count analysis logs

Multilingual project support

MT is being increasingly used as a productivity enhancer for translators. Lingo 9 gives users access to three publicly available MT sources: Google, Bing and MyMemory. These are public versions, so users must be aware that their content is being streamed over the internet, and thus security may be an issue. But for rapid translation and post-editing (review of the machine-translated content by a human translator), many users and companies will find Lingo a good option for kick-starting translation work. One added feature of the built-in MT functionality is the ability to do concordance searches on MT results. This is a nice feature to have to quickly check the accuracy of translations across contexts in your content.

File Preview has been supported since Lingo 5, and is an important quality assurance feature. One of the biggest complaints about modern translation CAT tools is that the content is no longer in the visual context of the published document. For translation, context is key, therefore the ability to preview translation in layout is a critical feature for translators. Lingo 9 now supports Live Preview for Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint files. Upon using this feature, I was immediately reminded of the Flare authoring interface and its XML Editor. In the Figure 1 screenshot, a Microsoft Word document offers an example of the Live Preview.

The Project QA feature is easily accessed under the File menu. It refreshingly consists of one simple dialog with some interesting features (see Figure 2).

The Project QA carries out many of the commonly automated QA features found in other tools, such as mismatching numbers; inconsistencies in the translation across repeated source or target segments; mismatching punctuation; and tag errors. Another nice inclusion is to check for excessive expansion or contraction in the target segment. This is helpful when doing translation of user interface (UI) strings in a resource file, for example. The project QA will generate a QA report. Like many such reports generated by other CAT tools, there is the need to view the results with the expectation that there may be some false positives. The most common examples were in the size difference. This feature should be turned off if there is no issue having string length fall within specific ranges, otherwise your QA report will be bloated with inconsequential items.

The previous version of Lingo only supported TBX-lite import and export. Lingo 9’s termbase now supports importing of TBX, XLS, XLSX or CSV files, putting it on par with virtually any of the termbase tools on the market. As a matter of fact, Lingo now manages resources in a more standardized fashion by having incorporated a Resources ribbon for managing translation memories, termbases and machine translation providers. Also of note is the addition of a link to MadTranslations under the Resources ribbon, which leads to a translation services page on MadCap’s website. Yes, MadCap has joined the service side of the business. With the services division, MadSkills, technical writers have access to consultants who assist with setting up authoring projects in Flare. Now, for translation, the same individuals have a partner who understands the authoring environment and what it takes to support multilingual publishing.

In keeping with its goal of becoming an all-inclusive tool used throughout the translation process, MadCap has improved support for one of the more mundane steps in modern translation: counting words. Lingo always had the ability to count words, but now Lingo 9 makes that information more accessible by generating a log that can be exported to HTML or the XML format for use in third party systems. These systems can use that data for writing quotes (see Figure 3). This can be very cleanly imported in Microsoft Excel as a table.

Looking through the tool, it’s pretty clear that MadCap has rethought workflows. Right from the start, the New Project Wizard has been completely redesigned, and it now includes important metadata for organizing and tracking projects. You can now enter the domain of the content being translated and the client. You can also create multilingual projects. This is an important change, which now makes Lingo an option for LSPs that support multiple languages.

It is apparent that MadCap is paying close attention to the translation industry. The firm may not be well-known within the translation industry quite yet, but it has a leading position and reputation among content authors. Other translation technology firms should take note — to date, the majority of CAT tool makers originated from the language services side. In contrast, MadCap is first and foremost a software company that is poised to take a meaningful position within the language space on both the software and services sides. Do not let the steady and deliberate evolution of Lingo and MadTranslations fool you.