XTM Cloud

XTM by XTM International is a scalable, web-based translation solution for freelance translators, language service providers (LSPs) and enterprises. The tool supports the entire workflow from project creation to delivery of the translated documents.

XTM comes in two varieties: XTM Cloud and XTM Suite. XTM Cloud is XTM’s software as a service offering. After signing up for a free trial, you are up and running in minutes without having to install anything on your computer. XTM is accessed via your browser, which makes the solution truly operating system independent. In addition, you always have access to the latest software release without the need to download or install upgrades. Each customer’s data is securely stored in a separate database on the XTM servers. The environment is highly collaborative. Team members can work on the same document, and you can assign tasks to others without having to send e-mails back and forth. The only thing you need is a reliable internet connection.

XTM Suite is a traditionally licensed variant of XTM that enables larger companies and LSPs to host the tool on their own servers, thus retaining complete control of their data. Research has shown that in traditional translation projects about half the cost of translation is taken up by project management and manual data handling. The main advantage of web-based systems such as XTM, when compared to traditional desktop systems, is that all data is centralized. Because of this, project management and manual data handling steps can be automated, whereby users have access to common information. There is no need for project managers to send the work out to translators or inquire about the progress of the project via e-mail as progress can be followed internally.

The system requirements for a user to run XTM are quite moderate because all resource-intensive processing is done on the XTM Cloud server. You can use an average business computer and there is no need to upgrade your hardware in the future in order to support XTM. The system is based on open standards such as XLIFF, SRX, TMX and TBX and a complete implementation of the reference model as specified in open architecture for XML authoring and localization. The main advantage is that this ensures data interchange with other compliant systems. The main modules are the engine, the translator’s workbench, the quality assurance (QA) manager, the terminology manager, the translation memory (TM) manager, workflow and XTM Xchange. The application programming interface (API) web services are fully documented and allow deep integration with third party systems. Currently, XTM supports an extensive integration with XTRF, whereby nearly all project management features are handled in XTRF and then the settings are transferred to XTM via the API.

On the XTM website, you can create a 30-day free trial account. Signing up is simple, though it seems a bit cumbersome that you need to select both an account type (freelance, small group or LSP) and a number of users, instead of just the number of users. The difference between the three types of profile (Table 1) is not obvious and it is not explained on the sign-up page.


Data setup

After you have set up the account, you have the role as administrator. The most important functions of this superuser are configuring the XTM system and managing the project managers. You can define the language combinations that you support, including pricing details that are used to generate a price calculation for a project. XTM offers a wide range of parameters such as discounts for the different types of matching, subject matter and speed of delivery. It requires time to set up all these factors, but since this is probably your core business, it is worth making the effort to do it carefully. These factors can be applied on a system-wide level, or alternatively you can apply customer and project specific parameters. If you want to try XTM immediately, you can subsequently tweak the parameters.

This business data can be complex if you have numerous language pairs. XTM offers you the ability to import the language combinations via XML files and provides you with a sample zip file that contains XML files for each language combination. After you have imported data into XTM, you can edit it. You can override the price estimation data for a specific customer. If you decide to do so, and have many customers and many language pairs, then you most likely would appreciate having an overview. Unfortunately, XTM does not provide such an overview at this time, and has no export functionality for this information.

If you have an LSP account, you can add any number of users to your system. The number of users who can connect to the system at the same time is determined by your license. A user can be assigned one or more roles. XTM has a fixed set of eight user roles, each with its specific set of rights. For example, a project manager can create and edit other project manager profiles as well as those for linguists and customers and, of course, can manage projects.

For a translator, you can specify the translator’s language combinations, subject matter expertise and qualifications. You can grant a terminologist access rights regarding terminology. XTM either defines these rights for all terminology if the user is a global expert, or on a customer-specific basis in which you can select one customer from a drop-down list. It would be useful if you could assign a terminologist to a set of customers, but this is not currently supported.

The project manager can define detailed rate cards for translators, reviewers and correctors. This can be done for all language pairs, activities, domains and/or for specified combinations. These rate cards cannot be imported as part of the import functionality for users. On XTM Xchange, you can publish your rate cards in various currencies. The downside is that you need to enter exchange rates manually and then maintain them. Hopefully, a future version of XTM will provide the opportunity to specify a web service that uses current exchange rates when XTM creates a quote.  A powerful feature is subcontracting, in which XTM allows you to allocate tasks in the workflow to subcontractor LSPs rather than individuals. A benefit of this is that you retain the translation assets and data of the project. If you subcontract to an LSP, then you do not have access to the contact details of their translators by default, which safeguards confidentiality. Subcontractors can subcontract in turn to other LSPs through XTM. If a subcontractor uses a limited free license of XTM, then each translator will use the license of the subcontractor’s client.

Creating your first project

A project can be set up in a matter of minutes. If you have a project for a new customer, you first need to create a customer profile in the customer editor. This is a straightforward task. Once the customer has been added you may tweak the project cost estimation parameters for this particular customer if desired, but most likely you will use the default values as specified by the administrator.

Once you have selected the customer, you enter a project name, source language, target languages and required workflow. You then need to upload the files for translation. You can either add them one by one or upload them all together as a zip file. XTM will detect the file formats automatically. After analysis, XTM provides an overview of the cost estimations with the ability to zoom into the details.

You can define a workflow with tasks for translators, correctors and reviewers. A corrector can edit translations, while a reviewer can only add comments. A project manager can easily split a large project into bundles that are processed by different users. In the workflow, you can define in which order the tasks need to be executed and by whom, as well as whether tasks on the same document can be performed simultaneously. During the project, you can alter the workflow, assign other users and so on. How can a translator and corrector work on the same file at the same time without interfering with each other? Basically, when a translator is working, all the segments on the current page are locked for other users. The translator can determine how many segments to view on one page up to a maximum of 500. The corrector can start work as soon as the first page has been completed. This simultaneous work may be useful for time-critical projects. In other situations, you may want to let the translator finish the entire translation before the corrector starts a task. XTM supports all these situations, and you can adapt the workflow during a project without losing data. The project manager initiates the workflow by clicking a “start” button. The users who can begin a task are notified via an e-mail in which they find a link to that task.

Translator environment

XTM provides an inbox for the linguist that contains all of his or her tasks. Via the inbox, the user can download reference materials. The overview of tasks does not provide an indication of the amount of work required. With any luck, in a next version XTM will provide this information to help the linguist prioritize tasks. Double-clicking a task opens it in the XTM workbench.

The workbench is a state-of-the-art translation environment (Figure 1). The main component is the table with segments. For each segment you can enter the translations. On the left side there is a menu for operations on the page such as functions for QA, find and replace, metrics and preview generation. The menu on the right contains operations on the active segment. You can configure a keyboard shortcut for each menu item.

Segments may contain tags. These are presented as {1}, {2} and so on. The target segment must contain the same tags, which is sometimes a bit annoying. For example, if you write 5th in English, then there will be a tag around the superscripted th. However, in your target language you may not want superscripted text. It is also not possible to use the same tag multiple times or add tags that would be appropriate to the target language, which may be a bit limiting in some situations. When you enter a translation for a segment, it is immediately saved to the server and becomes available for use within the current or any other project. Each segment has a status and you can see at a glance the colored status indicator of the preceding and the next task for this segment. This is very useful, especially if multiple users work simultaneously on the same file. For example, if you are correcting the translator’s work, and the next task will be a reviewer commenting on your work, then you will see the status for both.

XTM does not provide a what-you-see-is-what-you-get translation environment. You can generate a preview of the target document, but that is done on the server and it takes a while, depending on the size of the translated document. It is not possible to select a segment in XTM and highlight it in the document, or vice versa. It would be a great feature if XTM could provide a faster live preview in the future and provide interaction between the preview and the translation environment.

The concordance search may need some enhancement as well. In the current version it is not possible to sort the results, and you see a maximum of 50 matches, which may be too few if you have a large TM. The workbench can also connect to a range of machine translation solutions, including Google, Microsoft and Asia Online.

You can flag a finished task as completed via your inbox. This functionality is hidden as a menu item under the first icon in the task list, and it would be better if it were more prominent. Also, you can complete a task even if some segments are still untranslated; however, there is an option to make XTM warn you about this.

For translation outside XTM, you can create an export package (XLIFF or TIPP, see https://code.google.com/p/interoperability?-now/) to be able to process the file in a third-party tool. This may be useful if you want to subcontract to a company that does not use XTM or if you have to finish a task but do not have a reliable internet connection, for example when traveling. If you do not want to use another tool or purchase another license, then XTM has a solution. Its latest version provides the ability to export an Excel file that has about the same look and feel as the online workbench. After you have translated the file, or a part of it, you can import it back into XTM. Personally, I think it is pretty amazing how XTM transformed Excel into a computer-aided translation tool (CAT) with a good user experience. An export to Excel enables you to work offline.



In the terminologist role, you can import an existing terminology database from a third-party product in, for example, the TBX or XLS format.

The terminology is concept-based, which allows multiple terms and multiple translations for the same concept. For example, the terms laptop and notebook can be related to the same concept, and you can enter multiple translations for these terms. When one of the terms is used in the source then all related translations will be available for selection. The terminologist has full editing rights, including editing the translations (Figure 2).

From within the workbench, you can add new terms quickly as long as you have terminology rights. This provides a well-integrated environment. In this approach, the terminology database acts more like an advanced dictionary and improves the consistency of your translation. You can choose how much detail to enter about the terms, but features like uploading a picture, while nice, are time consuming and therefore probably not useful. Pictures cannot be exported or imported via TBX files. For larger enterprises that have a well-defined terminology process for their specific domain, the terminology maintenance module in XTM is probably not advanced enough. XTM does not support an advanced workflow in which the terminologist can assign translation and review tasks for terms to subject matter experts. Subject matter experts often are the customer’s in-country specialists. Larger companies would want to define roles for terminology translators and reviewers, and assign tasks to them. Such XTM customers may prefer a dedicated third-party terminology system that integrates well with their content creation workflow.


XTM Xchange

XTM recently developed XTM Xchange, an online marketplace for translators, LSPs and companies. It is easy for a translator or LSP to register, and you can specify your rates and subject matter expertise. Project managers can publish jobs from within their XTM project management environment and receive quotes from registered translators and LSPs. When the project manager accepts a quote, he or she can immediately set up the quote provider as a contractor and then get started.

Once the translation has been delivered, the project manager can rate the supplier in terms of quality, speed of delivery and so on. These ratings are published on XTM Xchange for other users to view.

XTM Xchange is a free service if you have an XTM account. It allows you the potential of winning more business, and if XTM’s customer base keeps growing, this marketplace has huge potential. Larger marketplaces such as ProZ.com have many more registered users, but do not offer tight integration with XTM or other TMS products.


The verdict

Without a doubt, XTM is one of the best online CAT tools on the market. The open standards-based engine that lies beneath is powerful, and supports the most important file formats. Uploaded source files are automatically extracted, segmented and matched.

A big pro is that all information is centrally stored on the server and there is no need to send files via e-mail or FTP servers. Via the XTM portal, you can even provide your client with access rights to create projects and add source materials directly in XTM. XTM is easy to learn and use. The materials that you find on the XTM website are developed with care. Setting up a project is easy and it is surprisingly simple to subcontract work to an LSP or to freelancers on XTM Xchange.

The collaborative environment allows users with different roles to work on the same document at the same time. Changes to the TM are stored on the server and become immediately available for other users. The system is user-friendly, scalable and fast. The ability to simultaneously collaborate may facilitate significant time savings in a project. The business management part including areas such as quotation, invoicing and resource planning, are not the strongest points of XTM. Fortunately, it is possible to integrate with other tools that cover these aspects of translation project management. The same applies to terminology. In most companies, content creators are responsible for defining the terminology and in-country domain specialists are responsible for the translation of those terms. XTM does not support that workflow.

XTM uses open standards, which means you are not locked in. If, at some future date, you decide that you do not want to use the tool any more, you can export all your linguistic assets to formats that you can import in other tools.

The overall verdict is that XTM is a great CAT tool. It has excellent features, is well-designed, easy to learn, robust, stable, scalable and extensible.