We have long left behind the time when all a translator had at his disposal was a pen, paper and several dictionaries where to do his/her research. Ever since we entered the age of the Internet and IT our profession has undergone several stages of evolution. We now depend almost entirely on PCs and online dictionaries and databases for our research and work. Not to mention all the TM software as well as in some cases machine translation programs.
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However with all this massive information around us it is easy to sometimes neglect another side of this new stage of computer related evolution we currently experience.
Despite the fact that many translators still do not use any type of TM software in their translations, this article will not focus on them, even though the truth is that these are still many times excluded from any consideration exactly for this lack of knowledge and expertise.
We will not focus on the different operating systems, with Windows or Mac computers, or on the different TM software available such as SDLX, Transit or Trados, but to name a few. We will not focus on any of these, in the same way as we will not focus on the more and more required Adobe products, that we all know and love (or not). We will however focus on all the other things that slip by us until some client suddenly comes up with a project that precisely requires that we use this or that specific procedure or software.
This article will focus, as a main topic, on the main areas that while not directly related to the language service providing activity play an increasingly important role in all the tasks we must perform before actually starting our jobs.
How many of us have never used any of the rest of the family of Trados software such as TagEditor or Winalign not to mention the perhaps even more obscure programs T-Window for Excel or T-Window for Powerpoint only to mention a few of the T-Window group. Nevertheless, despite the fact that these are right there most often they fall into oblivion because they are not used until that fateful day when they are needed.
While not trying to lecture anyone, reality has it that this is the truth and so I’ll make a bold suggestion, and say that when you have a little time, and some patience, why should you not use them just to see what these program do, and how they work, so that next time you’re not caught with your guard down.
While the previous paragraph deals with some more known issues that deal directly with or work as translators the following paragraphs do not, and those are the ones this article will focus on. As such let us move onwards, let us get to the true core of the business at hand, all those other software programs that are not directly related to our activity but that become quite often necessary to accomplish intermediate tasks. While it may seem that our clients sometimes all gather together to come up with new and even more complicated ways of confusing us, specially all those less than expert computer users, who do not use their computers other than to translate a document and then shut them down again, the truth is that we are often either not interested or simply exhausted and do not try out new things. Well, this comes as no surprise to all of you, but you need to invest some more time on some other areas that will eventually become of use to you, as such here are a few areas that should receive some attention in the future.
For starters, FTP clients, your Internet Explorer or Mozilla browser, or any other browser you use, will not always allow you to simply connect to an FTP server to download a large file to translate or simply for reference. You will have to use software such as CuteFTP or CoffeeCup FTP, only to mention a few of the hundreds of good options available out there in the vast Internet space. This is not as difficult as some may think, but as most things it requires practice in order to master.
Next we have programs such as Winzip or Winrar that allow us to decrease the size (compact) large files or even split them up in several files in order not to burden e-mail accounts with incredibly large files that take forever to send/receive (provided that they do not bounce back in the first place). Also another something that may be of help with large files over the Internet are what commonly named “download managers” such as Flashget or Netpumper (even though I would recommend the first in regard to the latter because of possible adware/spyware possibility) that allow to ensure that the files are completely downloaded and not interrupted by a bad connection or that allow you to resume the download if for some reason you must interrupt a current download.
Continuing with the required knowledge a translator should have we come to the several good OCR software programs that exist, don’t just settle for the OCR software you received with your scanner, “shop around” for something better. This is specially true for those that bought a scanner a while back and that have not updated the software yet, you would be amazed at the improvements made in this area over the last few years. It will be a lot of help with those medium/large documents you have to convert to electronic format in order to translate them (with or without a TM).
Let’s not forget the image editors/viewers such as ACDSee, for viewing and/or printing pictures that we may receive in any other format than BMP (for that we have Paintbrush in Windows as you all know by now). How often do clients send us pictures ands expect us to open them and translate them into a text file (there is where the last two tips of OCR and image viewers are mostly handy). We will not get into the image editing area because that would be opening another can of worms; suffice to say that the choice for good software is present.
I’m sure most of you have already heard this at one time or another, or that you may even use one or all of these programs in your everyday life, nevertheless, the idea presented here is that someone directly involved in the language service providing business (specially translation) can no longer remain outside the bubble. We can not allow ourselves to stop learning new things and sharpening our skills and knowledge since these topics, even if they seem accessory, can quite often make our jobs easier and stress free, by avoiding conflict areas that occasionally arise as a result of problems involving related questions.
True, we just touched the tip of the iceberg here, but it should already be clear enough to see how much more there is out there that would allow us to do our jobs in a better and faster, not to mention simpler way, all it takes is a little time and a good dose of patience.
David Alexandre (Project Manager/Translator)