Top Ten Translation Management Systems & Do You Even Need One?
Translation management systems (TMSs), also known as Globalization management systems (GMSs), and computer assisted translation (CAT) software are increasingly popular options for anyone looking to localize their content by translating it from one unique language and culture to another for wider reach. However, there is no one definitive, end-all be-all, best option when it comes to pick the right software tools for your business or personal translation project. Each has its pros and cons so its best to look around a bit to find the best option for your needs. To make the process easier, we have compiled an intensive list of the top translation management and computer assisted translation tools out there on the market today with a comprehensive yet concise overview of each featuring their pros, cons, and best uses.
But first, what is a TMS?
A translation management system (TMS) or globalization management system (GMS) is a software program which you can install to better manage the complex process of translating content from one language to another in order to provide a localized experience for your customers in other regions. These tools include translation workflow management programs which allow translators to assign various tasks to different people and track their progress. This software will automate many parts of the translation process so that you or your translator will be able to focus all their efforts on actual creative, human work of properly translating new words and sentences rather than spending time organizing workflow. To accomplish this increase in productivity, the main thing the translation management system will do is monitor the incoming source-language files and updates which need to be translated and route the content to whichever translator is working on that section. Once that translator completes the work, the target-language file will then be automatically delivered to any reviewers or editing staff before being uploaded to its destination or delivered to the client so they can publish the completed project wherever it needs to be. Translation management systems are very useful for people or companies that do business or work with translators around the globe because files can be shared easily via an internet connection and everyone will be kept up to date automatically in a timely manner regardless of timezones.
And what exactly is a CAT tool?
Computer assisted translation (CAT) tools are very similar to translation management systems and often overlap in the features they offer. The below list will focus on the software products which offer both computer-assisted translations and translation management features. Computer assisted translation tools are programs which take the power of a machine and apply its abilities to make translation projects easier for human translators. Some computers are able to compile a database of text segments in a source language along with their translation in a target language so that should the same sentence or paragraph appear multiple times in a text or in any project for that matter, the translator at work does not need to translate the same words over and over again and can instead just copy and paste the previous translation with some minor editing as needed to fit the new context. Other CAT tools often include advanced spelling and grammar checkers to improve clarity, customizable terminology banks which allow translators to have their translations of frequently used words or phrases on hand, and digital bilingual dictionaries which prevent translators from having to constantly search for new words online or using a paperback dictionary. Some of the more advanced CAT software options are able to generate full text translations themselves. This feature is referred to as machine translation and, while it has come a long way, is still far from what human translators are able to achieve and require a lot of editing.
Our Top Ten (in no particular order)
Loco is a system which helps you manage and integrate translations directly into your digital products. Whether you are translating computer software, your mobile app, or the user interface of a website, Loco makes it easy to manage the entire project and ensure you upload the right completed files in the right place.
Best for: Managers of large-scale translation projects for technology-focused companies
- Free plans available
- You can start working right away
- Super easy user interface
- Works with WordPress
- Can’t replace a content management system for translating new posts, articles, etc.
- Does not have any computer-assisted translation features
2. SDL Trados
This CAT tool frequently ranks as one of the most trusted in the industry for its reliability and commitment to incorporating new technologies. SDL Trados is jam packed with all the features you may need and includes guides and tutorial videos for all of them so you can learn to make the most of this software without leaving the site.
Best for: Experienced translators with complex projects and experience using Microsoft Word
- Frequently updated
- Fast-learning artificial assistant, “Tell Me”, which can provide real time help
- Software will automatically identify matches and provide suggestions based on your personal database
- Great for managing unique terminology and keeping brand consistent
- Awesome TMS suite of features
- Machine translation capabilities
- Clunky interface
- Expensive and limiting plan options
- Database items must be manually entered, this can become tedious
WordFast is incredibly easy to use and has a number of large corporate clients backing it from McDonald’s to Exxon. In addition to a number of translation tools, WordFast offers a suite of workflow and translation management software. WordFast can help you keep the tone and vocabulary of your translations similar across texts for brand consistency that’s fast and affordable.
Best for: Corporate or university translators managing a team
- Designed for corporate use
- Great workflow management tools
- Free licenses for educational use
- Not all services come with a trial period
- Software hasn’t been updated recently
4. Déjà Vu
Déjà Vu offers incredibly easy to use software and an intuitive user interface for translation help and includes an advanced memory system to help translators keep track of all their previous translations for a word. Software updates can become expensive though Déjà Vu language and dictionary updates are frequent and free so you always have the latest information at your fingertips. The community aspect of Déjà Vu makes this even better since you can always reach out to a fellow translator for help right within the application. Learning this application is simple and self-paced and it even offers a very good spell checker.
Best for: Translators working with various texts within the same field
- Easy to learn
- Supportive community
- Easy to convert files for clients
- Great for individual translators
- DeepMiner and AutoWrite capabilities
- Translation teams can share translation memories and terminology databases over a local, private network
- Lots of integrations
- Awesome TMS suite of features
- Upgrades aren’t free
- Software options and additions can become confusing
- System sometimes slow to respond
OmegaT is unique because its a very open-source platform. This means OmegaT can support dynamic user glossaries, Google Translate integrations, and the use of over thirty different file types. Open source platforms are also great because they offer the most customizability in crafting your user experience. However, in order to make the most of this tool, you need to be at least somewhat tech savvy to navigate their user interface and build the features you need.
Best for: Professional, tech-savvy translators with a tight budget and unique parameters
- Free yet comprehensive options
- Very customizable
- User-generated glossaries work with different conjugations
- Great support for right-to-left languages and non-Latin characters
- Does not offer machine translation
- Requires a longer set up time when compared to other options
- Very limited in features beyond translation memory
6. SDL Passolo
SDL Passolo makes it super easy to localize your content. This CAT tool is specifically designed for the technology space and is able to help you translate programming code right in the application without compromising performance while you work. With an intuitive design, SDL Passolo also makes it easy to translate web content like user interfaces in a way which keeps the integrity of your website. You can localize your software with SDL Passolo’s recommendations on best practices and even see your code in action in your target language all in one place.
Best for: People looking to translate the user interface of their website or mobile app
- 30-day free trial and free informational eBook
- Full machine translation
- Software tests in target language
- Good, very visual, user interface
- Sophisticated project management suite
- Has very little use outside of the digital field
A web-enabled CAT tool, Zanata is great for content creators to manage localization projects. Zanata offers many helpful features and community powered, fast-learning full machine translation. It offers project collaboration and the ability for everyone involved in a project to communicate and comment on the project in one place to keep communication constant and clear among users. Zanata also proactively suggests the best interpretation of content based on context clues matched against its vast database of examples.
Best for: Translation teams or content creators who want to work directly with their translator
- Collaboration tools
- Proactive and accurate interpretation suggestions
- Great for translating software
- Tap into a community of translators to get your project done
- Accuracy of CAT tools very low when working with unique texts
This one is a lot more than just your average CAT tool, for better or for worse. The Across Translator is equally useful for both language experts and new, freelance translators alike but, with all of its additional features, freelance translators that are looking for more work stand to benefit the most by using this platform. The Across Translator includes, of course, a suite of translation tools which is quite comprehensive and easy to use and also features a professional networking service where translators and clients can come together and network amongst each other.
Best for: Freelance translators and the people looking for them.
- Find translators
- Get help from one of the pros
- Great customer support for new translators
- High security
- The additional, social networking aspect may be cumbersome or distracting for professional and established translators who already have a lot of clients and just want to work
This tool offers great translation capabilities but also some very useful tools to those who are new to CAT software, or the translation game in general, or are just having a hard time managing clients. MetaTexis is very easy and offers a lot of additional business solutions for translators to help them translate texts, manage projects, help clients, and handle requests or inquiries all in one place. Still nervous? MetaTexis has an amazing email support staff which is ready to help you with any problems you may have in a timely manner. With comprehensive translation memories and terminology databases and the added benefit of user management capabilities, this CAT software has plenty of useful features for any needs.
Best for: Translators with many clients who are new to CAT software
- Great management tools
- Generous free trial
- Easy to install and use, great for someone who wants to get started quickly
- Great customer service
- Only works on Windows
- Aging interface
- Manual data entry required with limited automated support
This service is built on an entirely cloud based network which means you can access your working documents and all of Lingotek’s features anywhere you have internet whether its at home, in the air, or in the hotel lobby. Another benefit of Lingotek’s cloud-based translation software is the fact that it is constantly updating and you get access to an extensive linguistic suite even with minimal storage space and internet speeds. This software also provides translation management software for those with various translation projects in progress simultaneously. The list of services doesn’t stop there though, other services include tools specifically designed for people translating product documentation (descriptions, proper usage statements, legal copy, etc.) and for people looking to translate entire websites or web pieces with a lot of slang or region-specific words.
Best for: Online translators working with product descriptions or web content
- Projects save to the cloud
- The cloud offers an unparalleled suite of information and helpful tools, none of which require that much computer storage space
- Limiting functionality when working offline
11. (Bonus) Linguee
Linguee is definitely one of the more interesting CAT tools on the market today and a crowd favorite for a reason due to its unique set of features and possibilities. In addition to offering dictionary capabilities, Linguee offers a web crawler which is able to scan search engine results to provide more information about words in context and enable translators to search for bilingual words or expressions to get their general and contextual meanings. In an incredibly lucrative partnership, Linguee works together with Google Images to make its service and Google Translate stronger in a mutually beneficial way.
Best for: Translators working with a rich and unique vocabulary
- Search engine crawling to provide accurate results
- Google partnership
- Extensive dictionary available as a mobile app
- Dictionary includes curated technical terms
- Great dictionary but no TMS
- Limited language pairs
- Doesn’t offer much beyond a dictionary
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My Personal Pick
After personally reviewing all of the options and spending some time testing out their demo options, in my opinion, I believe that SDL Trados is the best option out there. SDL Trados is trusted by many translators for a reason and that reason is its incredible capabilities. SDL Trados has all the features anyone could possibly need and includes guides and tutorial videos for all of them so you can learn to make the most of this software without having to frantically search third-party forums for information. SDL Trados is jam packed with everything you will need, but this, admittedly, comes at a steep price: ease. SDL Trados is definitely for the professional or for someone who has the time and patience to learn this system. The user interface can sometimes feel old, clunky, and crowded due to all the features right there on screen or a few clicks away at any time but all the tools are regularly updated and offer very modern functionality. With full machine translation capabilities, SDL Trados is a complete CAT tool with a complete and comprehensive TMS suite of features as well. However, this may not work for everyone and, for those with a different set of needs, another option will likely be better. Hopefully the overviews above helped you to pick out the right option for your needs or at least narrow your search. However, in the end, even with all the help you can get, it is up to you to make the final decision to decide which software is best for your personal needs.
But, do you even need one?
After reviewing all of these CAT and TMS options and their pros, cons, and best uses, you may now be wondering if you even need one. To be frank, the short answer is no. Or, rather, probably not. These tools are really good with helping certain translators work with large amounts of content but they aren’t for everyone. Unless you are a trained translator, or an aspiring translator just starting out, with a high level of comfort using computers, using this software isn’t necessary. To be honest, this software is an amazing and helpful tool within the world of translation but only if you plan to translate as a career and work better editing translations and trusting computers rather than creating and managing them solely by hand.
If you are not a career translator, it’s best to just go to the experts at a notable translation firm. If you are translating from English to French or vice versa, for example, Sunderland Translations is your best bet. The translators at UK-based Sunderland Translations know their stuff and are experts in balancing the best of man and machine. Sunderland Translations produces 100% human translations with the unparalleled accuracy only the touch of an experienced translator can bring. They produce results which are hand-crafted and perfectly localized for your business or personal needs, even when you’re on a tight deadline. And, while Sunderland Translations always give you perfect, human translations, they are familiar with translation management systems so they can become a convenient addition to the software you are already using, or want to use, to manage your complex project!
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Check out: How To Hire The Right Translator