User-friendly cloud-based translation tool useful for project managers and translators
Not quite two years old, MemSource Cloud is already developing into a complete and user-friendly online translation environment. The developers were originally attached to a Charles University research project that resulted in a server and code editor plug-ins destined to solve the problem of inconsistency when translating text strings. Based in Prague, MemSource is proving to be a useful resource for project managers and linguists alike.
MemSource is essentially a cloud-based translation environment in which one is able to handle projects from start to finish. In MemSource Cloud you have the tools to create and manage projects, translation memories (TMs) and term bases, as well as to analyze documents for leverage, assign tasks to linguists and monitor progress. The recently added in-browser editor now allows translation to take place directly in the cloud as well, meaning that MemSource Cloud now truly offers a complete and self-contained workflow. Though this has been done before, for example by XTM, it has not been done with such dedication to user-friendliness and, as I will discuss further in this review, to the machine translation (MT) post-editing experiment.
Your MemSource Cloud account is a private server on which you can create projects, TMs and term bases, all in a self-contained system complete with its own free editor. Project managers can use the system to organize their projects as well as maintain a library of TMs and term bases. Translators can use it to download bilingual files meant for the MemSource Desktop Editor and then to upload their completed translations to the server. It is all rather elegant, if a tad overly simplistic on certain fronts. When you sign in to your MemSource account, what you see is very straightforward (Figure 1): three tabs reading “Projects,” “Translation Memories” and “Term Bases.” You can create a new project, TM or term base by clicking on the corresponding tab and then clicking “New,” or you can use the handy drop-down menu in the sidebar that reads “Create New.” Projects on MemSource (Figure 2) enjoy a variety of options including MT, multiple TM and term base assignments, reference files and analyses. A recently added button to the individual Project page is “Clone,” which does just that, creating a new project using the same parameters. As you can see, each project’s page contains useful information such as the percentage of confirmed segments, the status of the project, the target language, the linguist and the due date. You can also manage your TMs and term bases right there in the project.
Most common file types are supported as source documents, though InDesign files must be exported as IDMLs in order to be uploaded to the cloud, a bit of a cumbersome extra step. The analysis, which can be downloaded as a LOG file (but not as, say, a .text or a Word document, which I do find a bit inconvenient as well), has already proven extremely useful to me as a project manager, most particularly when calculating leverage. An option is available in “Setup” to create one’s own discount scheme which, when applied, produces a word count including the desired TM leverage. The TMs are searchable and editable (Figure 3), though one minor setback is the fact that they must be in TMX format in order to be imported (which is simple enough to achieve, though occasionally adding an extra step, depending on your software tool of choice).
When using MemSource as a project manager, you can create up to ten linguist accounts per license under the Team Start Edition, and they will have the ability to sign in to your server in order to download the source file. These linguists are able to access the TMs and term bases relevant to the projects to which they are assigned, thus safeguarding the security of your clients’ information while allowing your contractors free reign of the information they will need to complete their translation. The Team Edition enjoys unlimited users of different types (guest, linguist, reviser, terminologist), along with a more complex workflow system and an interesting linguist recommendation feature in which linguists are suggested for new projects based on their past work in MemSource. Once you have uploaded the source file to be translated, you can send out an e-mail to the relevant user (the translator or proofreader, for instance) from the project page, letting them know that there is new work to be done. The status of the project can then be changed accordingly — for example from “New” to “Assigned.”
The desktop editor is just as simple to use as the browser environment. In order for it to be fully operational, you must remember to log in and establish a connection with your server, thus also creating a link between the TMs and term bases assigned to the project being translated. This way, unlike working in an entirely browser-based environment, translation can continue despite an unsure connection to the internet. This, coupled with the fact that this editor can be downloaded for free, makes MemSource ideal for working with linguists in regions where internet may be spotty. It is a bit of a shame that in an industry putting increasing focus on interoperability the editor cannot process nor produce bilingual files in any format other than MXLIFF (MemSource’s own internal bilingual format), though you can download a bilingual .docx that conveniently marks repetitions for you.
Early this year MemSource will release its new browser-based editor (Figure 4). It is a kind of pared-down version of the already rather simple desktop editor (Figure 5), perfect for the straightforward translation project that does not require the multitude of bells and whistles that many other, stand-alone computer-assisted translation tools offer. There are very few buttons cluttering the screen; one can find standard options such as “Split and Join,” “Copy Source to Target” and “Insert Tag.” There is also a nice filtering option that essentially serves as a search that leaves only relevant segments visible. I do question the utility of the taskbar at the top that seems mostly to contain options available in the very visually self-explanatory buttons, especially since in the MemSource system less is often more. It is rather nice, however, that this same taskbar contains a link (under “Help”) to the User Manual, MemSource’s extensive yet eminently approachable Wiki. Both editors, browser and desktop, offer minimal quality assurance (QA) tools, perhaps due to the double-edged sword of the pared-down, user-friendly interface. At any rate, these days one can find a good amount of external QA software, some for free.
MemSource’s dedication to the Globalization and Localization Association’s (GALA’s) MT Post-editing Experiment has been admirable; by way of a series of webinars and a page on their Wiki, they have conducted an open conversation about the ways in which MT can boost productivity if post-editing is properly managed. It is delightfully simple to run your MT engine through MemSource; you activate a link between your MT service and the cloud using MT settings unique to each project, which then establishes a link to the editor in concert with any TMs and term bases. This interface makes it simple for your post-editing team to control the process from start to finish, enhancing productivity even further. Whether you are a proponent of MT or not, MemSource Cloud’s approach to MT and post-editing certainly takes some of the anxiety out of the process, giving linguists more control by allowing them access to the tool directly as opposed to simply sending them a block of machine-translated text to edit, a task which can appear herculean. It is simply like having an enhanced TM. For this review I have mostly been using our own Team Start edition of MemSource Cloud, but it should be said that companies that wish to move their entire translation workflow to MemSource would best be served by either the Team or the Ultimate editions. Not only are you allowed unlimited users, but you can specify the role of each user in your system. The Ultimate edition allows you to interface MemSource with third-party applications, which could be a boon to those who wish to augment their project and/or content management software, or to create their own using MemSource as a base. I find that for our needs, the Team Start edition provides an elegant and simple solution to problems previously encountered in translation workflow, such as monitoring a project’s evolution, TM and term base storage and management, and rapid analysis for leverage. I particularly enjoy the self-explanatory nature of nearly every aspect of the system. I almost feel that it could be used as a training tool for project managers new to the field, or perhaps simply new to computer-assisted translation. One other problem with any system like MemSource is that veteran translators may not be easily convinced to put their preferred CAT tools aside in favor of a new one, even (or perhaps especially) just for one project, but once people familiar with more complex software encounter MemSource Editor’s user interface, I believe they will be pleasantly surprised. In particular, users of more complicated tools like MemoQ or Trados would not only find it simple and rapid to learn, but perhaps they might find it refreshing to work with so pared down a program. Or perhaps they might find it irritating and miss many of the features offered by those other products.
For a relatively brand-new product, I must admit that I personally find MemSource Cloud to be an impressive, carefully-considered system on both the linguist and project management sides of the translation equation. As you may have already noticed from this review, “user-friendly” is certainly the term on the tip of the tongue of almost everyone who has already used it. Admittedly, I would not recommend you replace your preferred CAT tool with their desktop editor, however it has proven particularly useful where MT was concerned. If you already pay for Google API’s professional engine you can opt to link it to your translation project and pipe it directly into editor as if it were part of your TM. I have also found MemSource Cloud makes a very good TM repository, wherein a project manager can easily and effectively curate their company’s library. I know that some language service companies may worry about the security of their information in the cloud, which is certainly a genuine concern. All I can say to this is that cloud servers are the future — not to mention the present — of data storage and so we must learn to live with them. I would also argue that, in terms of the physical safety of your data inasmuch as it depends on your hardware’s functioning, duplicating data into a cloud could prove an intelligent long-term choice. In terms of pricing, MemSource proves to be relatively reasonable when considering other similar systems, as well as the potential cost of software licenses for freelancers who could not otherwise afford them. In fact, there is a free version of MemSource Cloud for the occasional translator. For professional translators the monthly rate can be as low as $25 per month, and for the project manager there are options varying between $130 to $230 per month.