SDL Trados Studio 2014 has some fancy new clothes, but whether or not it remains the emperor for much longer is open to speculation. Despite a hefty market share with over 100,000 sold licences of versions 2009 through 2014, competitive products have continued to gain grass roots popularity. So SDL’s product architects clearly had to get creative to defend the market leadership position. They have not disappointed, but they have not done it alone.
Upon first encounter, users familiar with prior versions of Trados will be immediately struck by the new look and feel of the user interface. SDL has adopted the ribbon paradigm that most users will be familiar with from Microsoft Office products. The ribbon is supported by an extensive set of keyboard shortcuts that eliminate the need for navigating with the mouse. This is a very good thing, because, in some views, the ribbon is full to overflowing with icons which, by necessity, are rather small. Nevertheless, the ribbon lends a modern feel to the interface that is attractive. It is so attractive, in fact, that it garnered the number one position as favorite enhancement in voting by the Studio 2014 beta community.
The translation tools trainer half of our review team, Angelika Zerfaß, is not completely sold on the new look: I have to confess that I personally do not like to work with the ribbon, as I like to have a clear structure to the menu items I can choose from and hate to do things by looking for the correct icon to click. I am more a keyboard kind of person and prefer to use shortcuts and access keys. But I know that a lot of the participants in my training classes use the mouse more extensively than I do, and for them the ribbon should be no great obstacle once they get used to it.
What I do find a little illogical is the placement of some of the functionalities. Why, for example, would I look for a formatting feature like setting a word to all caps in the Advanced ribbon instead of the Home ribbon (Figure 1) where all the other formatting features are? I can just assume that there was no more space on the ribbon to include that functionality there.
It will take a little while until the user has memorized where the features are now to be found, but I guess we all remember a similar phase from switching from Office 2003 to Office 2007/2010.
SDL confirmed that they had devoted a lot of thought to which icons should be on the Home ribbon and which could be placed elsewhere. A key criterion in this decision was perceived frequency of use. In the particular case of All Caps, many users might opt to copy All Caps formatting using the QuickPlace feature. This facilitated the decision to place the icon on the Advanced ribbon. SDL has also devoted thought to the idea of making the user interface (UI) configurable, so that a user could simplify it by removing icons that are not as frequently used. As of now, however, the prevailing notion is to wait to collect more user feedback before determining whether or not a configurability feature is of higher priority than other user wishes.
As with the Microsoft products, the ribbon may be scrolled horizontally with a twiddle on a mouse wheel. From the perspective of Richard Sikes now, and an early adopter of the ribbon paradigm in the Microsoft Office products: I practically never use the ribbon’s horizontal scrolling feature in the Office suite, so it doesn’t really bring much to the SDL Trados experience, but it doesn’t hurt, either. On the other hand, I would certainly begin reconfiguring the icon density if I were to become a steady Trados user.
Upon first launch, the user is greeted by a welcome screen containing links to the most important work areas within the software, either from the ribbon or from a navigation panel on the left-hand side. The top of the navigation panel contains an area that displays applications from OpenExchange. The prominent positioning of this display is a not-so-subtle hint at the importance SDL has placed upon OpenExchange as an extension of the core product functionality. Four applications are listed by default, followed by a link to the OpenExchange website.
Although OpenExchange has been available to licenced Trados Studio users since the 2009 version (Service Pack 3), providing users access to a variety of helpful utilities that could run alongside Trados, the 2014 release has made use of a new Integration application programming interface (API) that allows developers to embed their applications directly into the Trados user interface. OpenExchange applications thereby become part of the overall user experience, extending the core product functionality with a palette feature set that is essentially limited only by the time, resources and interest of third-party developers. As this is a major new product thrust, we will circle back to the subject in a subsequent review. For now, let it be said that some really useful third-party applications that make use of the Integration API are already available.
The largest space in the Welcome screen is dominated by large tabs (Figure 2) that invite the user to either immediately begin work or to explore numerous sources of information including online “Getting Started” videos, access to the Release Notes and the Online Help, the Knowledge Base, Migration Guide, Latest News and, once again, a link to OpenExchange. The invitation to users to inform themselves could not be more obvious, bringing true meaning to the concept of a Welcome screen.
The Help tab
Clicking on the Help tab (Figure 3) shifts the ribbon to a different view of helpful resources, this time divided into categories: Online Help, Videos, Web resources and Actions. This overview is self-explanatory and further underscores SDL’s new emphasis on providing users with numerous self-help options. Cynics might say that this is to make up for limitations in technical support, a reputation area in which SDL has historically struggled but, whatever the motivation, the Help tab is feature-rich, and its prominent placement is welcome. (Authors’ note: SDL does offer a comprehensive support and maintenance contract that includes both technical support and upgrades. The cost depends on the purchaser’s deployed solution.)
Accessing the offered help, however, was not without partial let-down. From Richard’s perspective as an infrequent Trados user: I was hoping to discover a rich archive of show-and-describe video guidance to help me become familiar with frequently performed tasks in the new version. Indeed, I found a series of twelve tutorial videos available from within the online help. These provide a very helpful “how to” overview of the most prevalent tasks a new user might need to master.
Unfortunately, however, at least at the time of this writing in mid-April 2014, the library of video content available on the YouTube channel to which the Tutorials button connects is extremely meager: 32 minutes primarily consisting of marketing blah-blah and no teaching content. Here, SDL has missed a golden opportunity. We can only hope that, perhaps, placement of the tutorials into the YouTube channel might have become “lost in translation” and will be found again sometime soon.
Installation speed and other positives
From Angelika’s perspective: starting with the installation of SDL Trados Studio and SDL MultiTerm, I was happy to see that the installation and file import into Studio are faster than with previous Studio versions. Also, it seems that the ability of Studio 2014 to export the translated file after translation has been improved. In Studio 2009 and 2011, there were some real issues with exporting InDesign or Word files back to their original format because of structural incompatibilities in the source files. We have historically been confronted with issues such as linked textboxes in InDesign that have a manual line break symbol somewhere between those linked textboxes, or missing paragraph marks in front of section or page breaks in Word files. These previously problematic files behave a lot better in Studio 2014 so that we sometimes use the 2014 version to export files for our support clients who are still using a previous version.
What I liked a lot is that a feature we have been sorely missing since Studio 2009 has come back again — the automatic concordance. As in Trados Workbench, you can now set the option for the concordance window to start a concordance search automatically if no match for the segment itself was found.
Something else I like is the ability to customize the analysis report so that there can be an extra category for locked segments (Figure 4). These had been counted as regular segments in previous versions thus making it difficult to exclude them in any way.
For the most part, working with Studio 2014 is not much different than working with Studio 2011, so switching the versions is mostly a matter of getting used to the new UI. Some new features make working a little faster, especially being able to drag-and-drop files into a project and not having to save files manually after each and every step. There is an auto-save feature now that will do this for you.
Alignment redux and project templates
Trados 2014 Service Pack 1 will contain a new alignment engine replacing the WinAlign module that shipped with previous versions. This new module was in beta at the time of this writing, and was therefore only demonstrated at the GALA Conference in Istanbul in late March 2014.
The alignment feature in the current version only allowed the user to load either two files, or a batch of matched files, that were then aligned in the background and exported to a translation memory directly. The beta version of the alignment tool shown in Istanbul did again contain an editor with which the user can check if the alignment went OK or if segments have to be disconnected and realigned manually. It was not fully functional at the time of the viewing, and we are looking forward to some hands-on work with it in the very near future.
Service Pack 1 is now available, and we encourage users to install it.
Project templates are used for situations in which certain general project attributes occur again and again. For example, these might be for a series of related projects for a specific customer, or perhaps for a number of projects related to a certain domain. Project templates contain the following information: language pairs, translation memories, termbases, AutoSuggest dictionaries, automated translation servers, plus settings for file types, translation memories and batch processing.
A template may be created and then saved by a user based on settings activated for a given project, then reapplied to new, similar projects as part of the creation process. They allow project managers to quickly replicate project settings, or to derive a new project that is similar to a preceding one by making a few edits to an existing template. Studio 2014 ships with a default template that is derived from generic attributes set in the Options dialog.
From Angelika’s perspective: although the project templates have been around since Studio 2009, I have the feeling that they are not being used to the full extent of what is possible. I encourage users to take a look at them.
SDL GroupShare 2014 is the product name of a project centralization application that provides server-based project sharing to support collaborative work. GroupShare consists of three components: the Project Server, the TM Server and the MultiTerm Server. Projects are published to GroupShare, where resources may access the files to perform various assigned tasks. Projects that may be published are those created using Studio’s New Project wizard, or a project that was automatically created through opening a Studio, WorldServer, TeamWorks or TMS package.
GroupShare makes logical use of the concept of Project Phases, of which there are four: Preparation, Translation, Review and Finalization. The first three are obvious, whereas Finalization is more of a generic phase to cover tasks such as post-translation, desktop publishing and so on. The Preparation phase is really for the project manager to get organized. Resources, who may be granted specific access permissions in an Administration area, are assigned to the three latter phases.
Of course, many translation projects do not follow an ideally linear progression through the phases. GroupShare provides project flexibility by allowing users with sufficient permissions to freely change the phase in which any document currently resides. A project manager could, for example, send a document back to the translator if it needs rework after the first review pass by simply changing its phase.
To understand GroupShare’s hierarchical design philosophy, one must begin with the concept of an Organization, which is essentially a container that holds other subsidiary Organizations with which individual attributes are associated. Rather analogous to the structure of an XML file, which has one root element, there is one root Organization. All other Organizations contained within the root Organization are “children” of it, linked in a descendent relationship. Attributes associated with higher-level Organizations are inherited by default by lower-level Organizations, although they can be individually modified. The organizational structure of GroupShare is depicted onscreen in a familiar tree format displayed in a navigation panel on the left-hand side of most of the UI screens.
Users who are defined within the GroupShare environment are assigned to Organizations and characterized through flexible use of roles and permissions. There are five standard roles, each of which has a default set of permissions that differ from role to role. These roles are Administrator, Project Manager, Translator, Power User and Guest. Customized roles may be added, changed or deleted. There are a total of 54 different permissions that may be added to or deleted from a role; however, some standard system roles have a fixed set of permissions that cannot be edited. Once created, roles are system-wide.
In this way, GroupShare users, for example translators who will normally be assigned certain specific task types, are associated with roles appropriate to those tasks. Multiple roles may be assigned to any user, so that a single user could have both the translator role and reviewer role, for example, with slightly different but potentially overlapping permission sets. Thus, a resource could be a translator on one project and a reviewer on another, or a project manager could carry out the Preparation and Finalization phases, and even be the Reviewer on one single project as well. It is also possible to create groups of resources, and then assign roles to groups.
In exploring the GroupShare demo version, we stumbled across one issue that really puzzled us. We found ourselves unable to assign one resource to more than one Organization, and we could not understand why. After all, a language service provider (LSP) might create subsidiary Organizations, for example, segregated by domain and/or customers, and expect to be able to assign certain frequently used translators to each subsidiary. We could not find any explanation of this in the Help, and it appeared to be a bug. SDL finally explained this to us: because the demo version is based on multitenant system architecture (in other words, all GroupShare Organizations are running on one instance of the software), only one unique user/password combination is allowed system wide. In practice, this would mean that if one Organization had an Angelika/123456, the next Organization would have to define her as AngelikaZ/123456, and so on, even if it were the same individual. Because the Administrators only see their own Organization, they couldn’t possibly know that Angelika was already defined by the Administrator of another Organization. Although this issue may not be such a problem for LSPs that purchase an on-premise installation of GroupShare, it could be problematic for competing LSPs that opt to use GroupShare in a less expensive hosted, multitenant environment, particularly if those LSPs happen to use the same subcontractors, single language vendors or other similar external resources.
As with human resources, linguistic assets may also be assigned to Organizations. For example, an LSP might have several customers in the automotive domain, each of which is defined as an individual Organization. The LSP might also have a generic automotive translation memory (TM) and termbase that could be assigned to all Organizations, as well as individual TMs and termbases assigned to specific customer Organizations. GroupShare also supports the use of “Libraries” for sharing of assets across different Organizations. The concept is very similar to the Libraries introduced in Microsoft Windows 7, in which files that are in some way related to one another, but that may reside in disparate directory structures, can be grouped together in one virtual, named directory called a Library.
The benefits of GroupShare are fairly obvious: centralized, shared linguistic assets that can optionally be updated in real-time, consistency through shared terminology bases, one common management system for providing project permissions to the user pool and so on. Furthermore, the integration between GroupShare and Studio 2014 appears to be well thought out, and it hides much of the aforementioned complexity with Organizations and Libraries from the rank and file user. Administrators, by contrast, will pull out some hair trying to wrap their minds around these concepts, and the online help is only moderately helpful, at best. We hope that SDL will devote more time and effort to developing training materials and more expansive help with sample scenarios, best practice guidelines, and more detailed explanations of how to harness the GroupShare’s power and potential.
Some Studio 2014 tips and tricks
When preparing a review of a software application, the reviewer usually looks a little more closely at the available options of a feature, something an everyday user might not do when “merely” running the tool to accomplish their daily tasks. Although these features were already available in Studio 2011, Angelika ran across some worthwhile tidbits that we expect some users may not have realized are available.
The Excel 2007-2013 filter offers a way to select the text color of text that should not be imported for translation.
The CSV filter as well as the Tab-delimited text filter let you choose which column contains the source text and which column should contain the translation.
For Excel files you can specify “embedded content,” making it possible to translate Excel files that contain HTML-coded text in a way that shows the HTML tags as tags and not as text. One caveat: users have to be familiar with regular expressions to be able to set up the embedded content option.
SDL MultiTerm 2014 now has the same ribbon layout as SDL Trados Studio 2014. Other than that, it seems that not much has changed in MultiTerm itself. And we still seem to have some issues depending on the Java version that is installed on the machine. We recently had several clients who had Java 7.51 installed, but got an empty screen in MultiTerm or Studio if they wanted to add a new entry. Unchecking the “next generation plugin” in Java did the trick, but we had hoped that these kinds of issues could have been overcome with the latest version of MultiTerm.
SDL’s software architects have created an attractive new look and feel to the Studio 2014 UI, and have delivered on Product Management’s promise of greater speed and increased access to help and tutorial content. Aside from these positive attributes that will definitely help users, no ground-breaking paradigm changes appear to have been made under the hood. Instead, SDL has capitalized on the creativity and energy of partner developers through giving the OpenExchange increased presence within what could be morphing from a stand-alone application into a type of feature-enriched platform. This could prove to be a smart strategy, moving in the direction of open-source development by opening the door to engaged users while simultaneously lessening for themselves the burden created by competitive pressure to provide ever-increasing inventiveness.
This review has only touched the surface of what is available in SDL Trados Studio 2014 and its surrounding ecosystem. We intend to return to this subject after the Service Pack 1 release is available. At that time, we will take a closer look at the final version of the new alignment capabilities that were shown in Istanbul and focus more deeply on the OpenExchange offering.