SDL Trados Studio 2011SDL’s best translation suite to date

In 2009, SDL Trados Studio integrated the formerly independent translation memory (TM) products SDLX and Trados into one consistent graphical user interface. The only remnants of the two merged products are different user profiles that use keyboard shortcuts and pre-translation and translation settings similar to Trados or SDLX, respectively. In addition to these concessions to old Trados and SDLX users, the default user profile utilizes the full strength of the new product SDL Trados Studio and is recommended for new users unfamiliar to the old and now obsolete technologies.

Upon program launch, a clean, functional interface (Home view) offers several view options, selection of major tasks (open document, new project, open package, open server project, terminology management, align translated documents and software localization), popular help topics and news about the product (Figure 1). Home view is customizable according to your role in the translation process — freelance translator, employee of a language service provider (LSP) or linguist at a corporation. Projects are easily and quickly managed in the Project view, conveniently providing a breakdown of the state of processing the project in terms of word count and visualizing deadlines. The File view shows the translation and review state of all files in the project and provides fast access to all file operations including batch processing. You translate files in the Editor view, featuring a highly flexible dockable and detachable design of windows providing everything needed for smooth and safe translations. Centerpiece is a three-column table-like editor showing format and tags of source and target strings as well as details about leveraged segments and the status of the segment (Figure 2). You can, in addition, open, close, attach/detach and autohide many helper windows to facilitate your work, such as matching segments with an unlimited number of TMs or several machine translation (MT) servers.

The translator workbench (TWB), the old Trados TM format, is now only one of several supported file formats, which are all converted into SDLTM. Other supported file formats are SDLX TMs (MDB), aligned bilingual files in WinAlign TXT format, and TMX 1.4 compatible exports of third-party TM tools. Termbases, dictionaries and glossaries are exclusively handled in MultiTerm format. You will need to use the helper application MultiTerm 2011 Convert to import other terminology databases. The tool is an integral part of MultiTerm 2011, which is packaged with Trados Studio 2011.

Other associated standalone tools or components are SDL Passolo 2011 Essential for software localization (free for Studio Freelance and Studio Professional) and SDL Trados WinAlign for the leverage of bilingual file pairs.

Besides the blending of the best of the formerly individual SDLX and Trados components into a single tool, the most exciting novelties of Studio 2009 still available in Studio 2011 were the integration of several automated or MT engines — SDL’s own automated translation software (ATS), Google Translate and Language Weaver — AutoSuggest for leveraging below segment level, QuickPlace for the easy placement of formatting and tags, Context Matching that extends over 100% matches by checking previous segments and their translations, task automation and sequencing, real-time file preview and real-time quality assurance (QA) features, and the support of new file types such as PDF.

After providing significant improvements in the translation functions in Studio 2009, Studio 2011 is focusing on requests from users through and other channels. Major improvements include PerfectMatch 2.0.

In addition to conventional leverage of source documents with TMs, resulting in the matching of segments, Studio 2009 introduced AutoSuggest, adding subsegment leveraging between TM matches and terminology matches. While Context Matching above segment level was also implemented in Studio 2011, matching of entire paragraphs or documents was lacking. This is where PerfectMatch 2.0 comes into play, leveraging your approved bilingual files and locking perfect matches in the editor to prevent you from wasting your time by reviewing the same segments twice (Figure 3). While this is a neat feature for everybody, it is especially beneficial if you are translating or reviewing a large amount of files and receive an update after you already spend substantial time working on the previous version of the documents. With PerfectMatch, you can simply apply the work you have already done to the new set of documents. In the same fashion, you can leverage a project that you currently work on with previously translated materials that became available after you started work. A second scenario for maximum benefits using PerfectMatch is during the setup of new projects. With PerfectMatch you can now base new projects on existing pro-jects that had been reviewed and approved. PerfectMatch can leverage bilingual documents in the new SDLXLIFF format (XLIFF 1.2 compatible) as well as in the formats created by both old tools TTX and bilingual Word files from Trados, and ITD from SDLX. PerfectMatch will be a feature of the Professional but not the Freelance edition.

Additionally, File Editing can be tracked in a Microsoft Word-like fashion. While this functionality is not all that useful during translation and is therefore by default deactivated, it becomes a valuable tool for QA during review and sign-off. Insertions and deletions to the file are marked in a Word-like manner together with the initials of the reviewer and the time. In addition, comments can be added (Figure 4). This alone is already a nice new feature, but it gets even better: A Word add-in developed by Patrik Mazanek for SDL OpenExchange allows opening a SDLXLIFF file in Microsoft Word (Fig 5). This allows external subject matter experts to work in Word without the need to have Studio 2011 installed. Word .docx documents containing editing and comments submitted by external reviewers can be re-imported into Studio 2011 and can be used to finalize the translation.

For even faster and easier review tasks, the new Display Filter Toolbar provides you with a hierarchical drop-down list for fast and specific selection of displayed segment types. This way, a translator can display only segments that are fuzzy or no matches, while a reviewer can exclude approved and signed-off strings, or only display segments with tracked changes. The new toolbar also provides a search field to search through source or target segments by entering full text or regular expressions.

Several smaller but nevertheless significant improvements added to Studio 2011 include QA Checker 3.0, which allows users to adjust validation procedures for any scenario in a rich dialog and save them into a reusable profile (Figure 6). SDL’s licensing procedure became more streamlined and user-friendly, and is now less vulnerable to changes in user systems that traditionally required manual setbacks of licenses by an SDL employee, which could have taken several days during which translators were unable to use the software. Installation now uses a single installation process, including full 2007 compatibility, which had to be separately installed in Studio 2009.

Project handling in Studio 2011 became more lightweight as compared to both Studio 2009 and Trados 2007, resulting in fewer and smaller project files. New supported file formats include OpenOffice text (ODT), spreadsheet (ODS) and presentation (ODP), and improved filters for Adobe InDesign (INX), FrameMaker (MIF) and Java. The new QA function Pseudo-Translation produces simulated “dummy” translations of files in a project in a batch task to quickly check for problems that may be caused by different text encoding in the target language, check for text truncation, and get an idea of how much desktop publishing work is necessary due to differences in segment sizes.


Improvements of Studio

2009 features

The new user interface and the degree of feature integration in Studio 2009 and 2011 amazed me. This is real synergy — functionality exceeds the sum of the individual components. Well done, SDL! It’s worth noting that in a previous review of Studio 2009 in the September 2009 issue of MultiLingual magazine, Richard Sikes and Angelika Zerfaß criticized the navigation and search features of Studio 2009’s help system. I found most of their concerns taken care of in Studio 2011. The navigation now features clearly-visible forward and back buttons at the top navigation bar as well as arrows in the base toolbar. The search field got more intelligent and allows searches for any or all entered words, and also features wildcards. There is still, however, no search for an exact phrase and more importantly, no fuzzy search that would be more forgiving to typos. Concordance search in Studio 2011 returns partial matches, helping freelance translators not equipped with giant TMs to leverage partial matches at the subsegment level.

In addition, Zerfaß criticized the heavy use of mouse actions in Studio 2009 and wanted to see more user-friendly keyboard shortcuts. Again, SDL was responsive and established a good set of shortcuts for the Editor view as well as other program windows, and documented them well in the help menu. Another shortcoming of Studio 2009 was the inability to save QA profiles after customizing them using the vast options that even got more extensive in QA Checker 3.0 in Studio 2011. It would have been a major contradiction to not include it in a new version that was meant to revolutionize the translation review process and was consequently implemented. Other issues were abbreviation lists and unit conversion. SDL improved the handling of abbreviation lists that can now be edited, but despite a small note in the help file, I was unable to locate a way to import my own list and export lists created or amended in Studio 2011. There is still no implementation of simple unit conversion between source and targets — not even in straightforward examples such as kilometers/miles, feet/meters or Fahrenheit/Celsius.

Last but not least, Zerfaß mentioned several file-type related inconveniences with Studio 2009. Imported bilingual TagEditor files (TTX) could not be exported back as TTX, Studio 2009’s TM export format was using the TMX standard level 1, and there were no file filters for QuarkExpress, QuickSilver and SGML. SDL fixed most of these issues: In Studio 2011, you can now export TTX after processing them in the editor, the TM export format is now TMX 1.4 compatible (and can therefore preserve some formatting information), and 2011 returns the missing file filters for QuarkExpress and QuickSilver but leaves it up to translators or agencies to establish a specialized XML filter for SGML.


Studio 2011’s new features

Studio 2011’s most prevalent feature is PerfectMatch 2.0, improving PerfectMatch introduced in Trados 2007. I initially had disappointing results because I would first pre-translate files (using the attached TMs) and then apply PerfectMatch using a bunch of bilingual files from previous jobs. I realized that segmentation rules in TMs can easily break up segments differently and “mask” them from PerfectMatch, resulting in fewer segments being perfectly matched up. After I applied PerfectMatch first, I received much better results. Besides the new bilingual file format of Studio 2009/2011 (SDL-XLIFF), PerfectMatch 2.0 supports bilingual TagEditor (TTX) and SDLX Edit files (ITD) but currently not bilingual WorkBench .doc files. These can, however, be imported and converted into SDLXLIFF and then used for leveraging as well.

Even when tested with a small set of files it is obvious how much leverage this tool introduces into every translator’s workflow. Being a translation optimizer and not a review and QA tool in the first place, it is therefore not understandable why the 2.0 version of this tool is again excluded from the Freelance Edition of Studio 2011.

The other major feature of Studio 2011 is full Track Changes functionality in Microsoft Word. As this feature is not yet well described in the help file, I was depending on an SDL blog article ( and an SDL PDF brief by Paul Filkin, SDL’s client services director, both of which I found on the internet. It was easy to get the Track Changes toolbar activated in the Editor view. In the default editor setting of showing all segments, those with tracked changes are not that obvious. After some trying, I could also just display segments with tracked changes using the likewise new Display Filter toolbar (Figure 4). This left me with the riddle of how to export tracked changes from SDLXLIFF files to Word files. With the help of the aforementioned resources, I figured out that the Studio 2011 installer actually installed Patrik Mazanek’s OpenExchange SDLXLIFF Converter plug-in in a subfolder of the installation directory called OpenExchange Apps. Here I also found some other free plug-ins from SDL OpenExchange that seemed to have vanished after I downloaded them at and installed them. Now it was easy to prepare and customize a Word layout for the Studio file containing the tracked changes (Figure 5). This is a truly revolutionary feature — especially for translation reviews and QA procedures — and thus maybe not as important for most freelance translators. My only suggestion for improvement at this point is to include the initials of the reviewer and maybe the timestamp of the editing into the tracked changes. At the moment only comments have a personal ID. Daniel Brockmann of SDL told me that a future extension of the Track Changes feature would be the option to compare two documents and create a track record of differences between them.

The implementation of the Microsoft Office spellchecker is most welcome. To get this working you will need the Microsoft Proofing Tools in every language you intend to use the spellchecker for. It is far superior to the Hunspell spellchecker included in Studio 2011. I asked Brockmann why SDL did not also include Microsoft’s grammar checker — a feature that was integrated in SDLX. Brockmann replied that the Microsoft API only allows the integration of the spellchecker.


Other comments

Both installers (Studio 2011 and MultiTerm 2011) installed their suites flawlessly and almost without user feedback. I had no problem installing them side by side with an already-installed SDL Trados 2007 Freelance installation, and I was assured that the same would be the case if installing side by side to Studio 2009. After many bad experiences with the 2007 product line, I was happy not to encounter any problems running Studio and MultiTerm 2011 on my Windows 7 64bit system. After just a few days, I had to uninstall both installations and replace them with newer Beta versions. Both uninstalls worked as flawlessly as the previous installations but left entries for several subroutines in the registry. This was not a big deal, as clicking on these icons would bring up a dialog telling me that the features were already uninstalled, and the icons vanished. The new Studio 2011 installation was automatically licensed, which makes me hope that the new licensing scheme is more robust than in the past and licensing problems due to system crashes may not occur anymore.

Using Studio 2011 working on my test projects and test files, I came upon several issues in functionalities that were introduced in Studio 2011 and 2009, or earlier versions of Trados/SDLX. For starters, I like uncluttered interfaces and would like to be able to choose to display just the icons of toolbars without clumsy labels. Information about what the icons stand for could be easily displayed as mouse rollovers. When it comes to setting up projects, I cannot get used to some rigid limitations of my freedom as a user to do whatever makes my work easier. Why can I not include files, TMs and termbases that utilize the opposite direction into the same project (EN>DE and DE>EN) or not include files for a different sublocale (EN-GB>DE-DE and EN-US>DE-DE)? Both scenarios can help leverage additional strings.

Using the batch task function in Studio 2011 to prepare files for translation, I came upon errors due to a single file that interrupted the entire batch from that file on. It would be more convenient if the delinquent file would be skipped and the batch would finish with an error message at the end.

I had some problems in the translation of PDF files. Segments were displayed, but the no-matches were retrieved from the attached TMs. When I included the source Word file in .docx format into the same project, all segment matches were found. As much as I like the support of bilingual .doc files originating from translating in Word with the help of the old Trados Workbench, I would like to see the option of saving them back in .doc format after processing them in Studio 2011, as can be done for TTXs and ITDs.

Studio 2011 will be a standalone suite and will not be packaged with Trados 2007. Therefore, I wondered what would happen with WinAlign and several T-Windows applications that are actual Trados 2007 apps. I was assured that WinAlign will be part of Studio 2011, even without the optional Trados 2007 installation. The free SDL OpenExchange add-in T-Window for Clipboard is included in the Studio 2011 installation, and both Studio 2011 Freelance and Professional will include Passolo 2011 Essential.

I collected many observations using the Editor view to translate and review files. Studio 2011’s editor follows Trados’ tradition of being very strict in its segmentation rules, meaning the tool outsmarts the translator in not allowing him or her to flexibly merge segments. In order to merge two inappropriately split segments, it is often necessary to adjust segmentation rules, delete the prepared file and hope that a new file preparation job merges the delinquent segments. This is way too conservative, clumsy and time consuming. Another issue I had is converting some of my older TMs in TWB format into Studio’s new SDLTM format. Some TWBs could not be unlocked, and caused a timeout and an error message. This time the wonderful feature of being able to save an error log to submit a bug report did not work and actually froze Studio 2011 in several cases. Only a restart of Studio got me back.

I personally like being given the option to implement MT into my translations. At the moment Studio 2011 allows access to three engines: SDL’s own ATS engine, Google Translate and SDL LanguageWeaver. SDL ATS yields quite inferior results, which is most probably due to only being able to access unstructured dictionaries with general vocabulary. Google Translate will only be accessible until December 1, 2011, as Google is withdrawing free use due to overuse and misuse of the service by many developers. Finally, LanguageWeaver produces quite good results — comparable to Google Translate. I hope that SDL will keep basic access of SDL ATS and SDL LanguageWeaver open for free. I am certain that translators who can afford more quality will jump onto paid upgrade options for more sophisticated and better-trained dictionaries.

I want to conclude with some comments on Termbase Support  and MultiTerm 2011. In contrast to Studio’s high flexibility to include all legacy TM formats of SDL (TWB, MDB and WinAlign TXT) as well as the TM eXchange format TMX, only MultiTerm terminology bases of Trados 2007 or newer are accepted (besides Studio’s new format SDLTB) — not even legacy SDLX databases are accepted for direct conversion. This would be OK if MultiTerm would offer easy, fast and painless conversion procedures itself. MultiTerm 2011 was advertised as being more robust, allowing side by side installation with MultiTerm 2009 and 2007, and I was also hoping for more flexibility. Unfortunately, MultiTerm Convert, the same clumsy conversion procedure as in older versions of Trados, is utilized.

All in all, however, SDL Trados Studio 2011 is SDL’s best translation suite ever and offers exciting and productivity-boosting features, especially to LSPs, translation agencies and corporate linguists. In addition, full-time freelance translators who are doing a lot of reviewing and QA and are willing and able to upgrade to Studio Professional will also profit from the new features. If PerfectMatch 2.0 would become available in the Studio 2011 Freelance Edition at no extra cost, I would full-heartedly recommend this release for freelancers also. As it stands right now with the plan to exclude PerfectMatch from the Freelance Edition, I am not sure whether Studio 2011 is worth the upgrade price tag for freelance translators already using Studio 2009.