Last week I finally succumbed to curiosity and went up to London to attend the SDL Roadshow at the Sofitel Hotel off Pall Mall. I’ve received invitations in previous years and clients or colleagues have asked if I was attending, but I’d always tended to think it would be a marketing exercise and not the best use of a freelancer’s time. The fact that Studio 2015 is on its way and fortuitous timing between translation jobs persuaded me to give it a go this time – and I’m so glad I did!
Contrary to the hard-sell experience I’d expected, I thoroughly enjoyed my day up in the city with the SDL team and a whole host of colleagues: agency clients, direct clients, government organisations, freelancers, terminology experts… The room was packed! The first people I met on entering the very grand conference suite were project managers from an agency who’d been instrumental in me buying Trados in the first place, several years ago. I’d never met them before, but knew them extremely well via telephone and e-mail, so it was lovely to meet face-to-face for once – an unexpected bonus! I also met a number of colleagues and plenty of new faces too, so the networking advantages are well worth considering if you’re ever wondering whether to attend a similar function.
The main emphasis of the day was obviously to introduce Studio 2015 and whether you’re thinking of upgrading soon or not, it certainly does no harm to hear about the changes/benefits straight from the horse’s mouth. I have no intention of going into all the changes in minute detail, even if I were qualified to do so, but for me, changes that might make me consider upgrading included:
- The Retrofit feature: which enables you to input a revised monolingual target document back into Studio, showing changes in Trados via tracked changes, even if it hasn’t been amended using Track Changes in the first place. This could be extremely useful if an end client makes changes to the target file well down the line (as they are prone to do). I don’t think, unfortunately, that this would work with a pdf target file or something like In-Design, but I can see it being a useful feature.
- Improved Autocorrect: Trados will automatically correct spelling and grammar as you type (which I can see may be a mixed blessing in certain specialised fields and when working with two language variants, e.g. US/UK – but we’ll see how it works out!). It will also have the ability to automatically capitalise the first letter of segments if you so choose – a boon for Dragon users! Admittedly, you do quickly get used to saying “Cap” at the beginning of each segment, but if you’ve been accustomed to working with other tools, like Wordfast, which offer you the option to have this done automatically, it can be a bit of a pain at first. Plus all those extra dictated words add up over time…
- The ability to insert symbols directly in Studio: at the moment the usual symbol shortcuts don’t work in Studio, so I end up transferring them across from the source. However, it would be much better to have them accessible within the program.
- The Any TM app will be incorporated directly in Studio 2015 so that TMs no longer need to be language-variant-specific. This app has been a godsend for me, working across US/UK English TMs as I do, even for the same client. Having this incorporated directly in the program makes absolute sense.
- Built-in OCR functionality means that Trados 2015 will even be able to cope with scanned pdf files. I’ll reserve judgment on this one until I see how WELL it copes with scanned pdfs, but in principle, it’s a welcome step in the right direction.
- Time-tracker and productivity plug-ins will be available to show how much time you have spent on a project and even how much time you’ve saved from, say, using Autosuggest. This may appeal more to PMs than to freelancers, but I can see it might be of purely academic interest!
There are many other features, such as an improved and simpler user interface and the ability to personalise your screen display in terms of keyboard characters, layouts, ribbons, colours, etc. but ultimately, to me, these are fine-tuning. One very pertinent comment came from the audience at this point: it’s all very well having all these new features and functionalities, but what translators really need is a “Dummy’s Guide to Studio” to enable us to navigate through the myriad options available! Conveniently, Andy Walker from Roehampton University has written just such a guide (https://www.packtpub.com/hardware-and-creative/sdl-trados-studio-practical-guide ), available from the publishers as either a pdf or a paperback.
After such an intensive morning it was time for lunch – an excellent buffet spread with lots of variety – definitely no beige food on this occasion! Puddings were plentiful and delicious and just what we needed to fuel our brains for the afternoon’s sessions.
The afternoon started with an ever-so-wacky, yet entertaining presentation on the joys of terminology management by Gabrielle Sauberer, which basically boiled down to loving your job – and I suppose terminologists are no different from translators in that respect. If you love what you do, it tends to show in the results.
This was followed by an extremely helpful Tips & Tricks session with Lydia from SDL, plus questions from the audience. One of the biggest problems I had with Trados when starting out was that it was so different to Wordfast and not particularly intuitive, yet in-person training courses were few and far between, or very expensive (with the notable exception of the training day organised by the North-West Translators’ Network up in Manchester in early 2014). Events like the Roadshow give translators the opportunity to ask questions about the problems they have, or even to seek one-on-one advice from the developers/experts. That is worth its weight in gold as there’s no substitute for a hands-on explanation.
Some of the tips I picked up included:
- You can select more than one file to translate at the same time from the project files list to maximise duplication. These are all temporarily merged to from 1 large file, but revert to individual files afterwards.
- If you inadvertently change the screen display, e.g. the terminology screen disappears, it can be simply reset via View – Reset window layout. This has caught me (and doubtless many others!) out on a number of occasions, yet is so simple to resolve – when you know how! Lydia freely admitted that Studio is very “tabby” – you have to make sure you have the right “tab” open to see what you want to see: if you can’t see the TM pane, maybe you’re in the “Messages” pane instead – always worth a check….
- Files can be added to projects purely for reference, or if say, a translation into a different language other than yours is required. This is useful for PMs, of course, but may help translators for concordance searches.
- You can record macros to make Trados ignore highlighted text, or text of a certain colour, for example. I have to confess that the very word “macro” has me panicking from the off, but Lydia did explain the process very clearly at the time and it did sound feasible should you need to do it: all I can suggest is that you google a better “How to” guide than I am able to offer! Another option for only translating parts of texts, say Excel files, is to save certain columns as a specific colour, then save as a csv file. Under File Type settings you can then specify which colour text you want Trados to translate. Alternatively, under File Options you can manually specify coloured text that you wish Trados to skip. Again, I recommend looking this up for more detailed instructions – but selecting certain parts of a file so as not to clutter up your TM with incorrect languages or text that doesn’t need translating is definitely a possibility!
- Using the AnyTM app (to be included in Trados 2015), it is possible to add even different language TMs to your project if they are in the same subject area, so you can perform a target term search to check concordance. This came up in the Q&A session and was a feature that could be very handy.
- Much emphasis was placed on Trados as a community and the need for users to feed back any concerns or requests. The Open Exchange is a forum for finding apps that may well resolve your particular issue, e.g. translating Visio files in Studio. Many are free, but others, if they are quite isolated requirements, may not – either way, it’s always worth looking or putting out a request within the community as this is the only way that developers know what users want and need.
There were many more tips and tricks, not all of which were relevant to me, but I found the whole session incredibly useful, if only to demonstrate Trados’ willingness to help us, the customers. I know Trados has had a bad press in the past for not being the most helpful of the CAT tool companies, although I personally haven’t had any issues and have always been able to find the help I needed, either online, from Trados itself, or via Twitter or Facebook support groups. My clients too were extremely useful sources of assistance in the early days when it was all very new and different. However, for me, these roadshows demonstrate that Trados has realised it needs to help its customers to make the most of what this extremely powerful programme has to offer. And laying on a free day out in a luxurious hotel, giving us lots of insight into what’s new AND the opportunity to ask questions about what’s really bothering us, has definitely got to be a good thing.
The day concluded with a chocolate tasting session and quiz – definitely not Trados-related, but a fun (and delicious) way to end the roadshow. Would I go again? Yes, definitely, work constraints permitting. I suspect absolute beginners might find the whole thing rather overwhelming, although I gather there was a beginner’s introductory session first thing in the morning – I think you would be better to get a feel for the software first, however, as you risk being blinded by science if you haven’t used a CAT tool before and then are thrown in at the deep end! Other than that proviso, great opportunities for networking, getting out of the office and picking up useful information about a program I use 50% of the time – why wouldn’t you?!