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computer frustration

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m really not particularly technologically-minded. Yes, I can use Word, Excel and PowerPoint up to a point – I’m sure there’s an awful lot I don’t know – and yes, I know my way around the internet and my iPhone, plus I’m usually pretty competent with Trados Studio, but when it comes to changing computer, it’s just one of those tasks I dread. I read on one of the techy translation forums the other day that we should ideally be thinking of replacing our computers every three years or so – just three?! I try and make mine last at least five and even then, I’d be happier if I could make them last longer. Surely, in these days of environmental sustainability and trying to reduce waste, that’s not unreasonable?

Last time I changed computer back in 2014, I ended up changing both my laptop and my desktop at the same time, which really wasn’t ideal, to say nothing of extremely expensive! So when my laptop started developing a sticky keyboard at the start of the year, I was relieved that I only had to replace it, and not my whole set-up again. It coincided with my younger son being home from his travels and before he jetted off to pastures new over the pond, so he set it up for me and I just added programs like Trados as I needed them. Windows 365 makes life much easier, as you just have to log into your Windows account and at least all the Microsoft programs can be restored quite easily. Moving browsers is easy too, thanks to the wonderful sync feature on Firefox, which means all your bookmarks and settings sync smoothly across computers. The laptop is only a reserve computer, so I didn’t need to add many of the more esoteric (for which read old) programs I have on the desktop. So far, so good.

As the year progressed, however, it was apparent that my desktop computer was also showing signs of ageing – that magic 5-year mark had been and gone and it was clearly protesting about overstaying its welcome. It started running very slowly at random times and was also using Windows 8, which made adding new programs that were designed for Windows 10 somewhat tricky. Son No. 1 duly recommended and ordered an appropriate new model, with SSD drive, and kindly came and did the basic set-up for me. Fortunately, this coincided with a week off, when my younger son and his wife were over from the US, so I hadn’t any deadlines to contend with. Just as well, as downloading the backed-up files from Carbonite took over 3 days, during which time I couldn’t really do anything else on the PC. I suspect that wasn’t helped by my internet connection speed – supposed to be much higher than it actually is, but even so, there were a lot of files to download, and for future reference, I think I’d be tempted to follow Emma Goldsmith’s suggestion and back up to an external hard drive rather than relying solely on an online back-up. Had I been trying to work at the same time, it would have been an absolute nightmare! Emma has written an excellent blog post about similar transfer issues, which I also consulted in this tortuous process; she may have covered other points that I haven’t.

Then there were Outlook problems: my son had set up Outlook, but one of my Gmail accounts refused to play ball and didn’t set up properly. We both tried tweaking it, but to no avail, and in the end we had to reinstall the latest version of Outlook and doctor the Google security settings before it would allow me to install two Gmail accounts. Sigh – again, good thing I wasn’t trying to work and at least I could see any emails from that account on my phone and laptop, but (frequent refrain) what a palaver! Remember to transfer your Outlook signatures too – another aspect I forgot until I came to write an e-mail and had to recreate them from an old message.

Sticky Notes didn’t seem to transfer smoothly either – I use these for my outstanding jobs and a more general To Do list, but for some reason, they didn’t come over immediately via the back-up. In retrospect, I should have taken not only a photo of my main desktop screen showing all the programs I have (so I knew what I needed to reload), but also of my sticky notes so I could redraft them if necessary.

Other productivity slowdowns come from having to adapt Word to my previous settings: customising the ribbon to include shortcut keys for spell check, word count, subscript and superscript, symbol, footnote and headers and footers. I also have keyboard shortcuts for certain symbols I use a lot such as °, α, or β; these need to be re-added too, although admittedly you can do those as you find you need them. Then there are adding your personal templates: I had kept a copy of these in Dropbox (thank goodness for cloud servers like Dropbox and One Drive by the way – at least you can use these straightaway!), but even so, when I came to use them, despite transferring them to the Templates section under Users/My name/App data/Roaming/Microsoft/Templates, I still had to upgrade them to the latest document template files. All time-consuming stuff.

I was able to transfer Trados Studio quite easily. Although I have the Freelance Plus licence which allows me to have the program on two computers, I hadn’t got around to downloading the latest version (2019) onto my desktop, but that was very easy to do from the SDL licensing page and it clearly showed as having one licence available to use. I had saved a copy of my Trados profile in Dropbox, so loading that when I installed the program meant that all my custom settings were saved. It’s always a good idea to set up new project templates when you change computer, because otherwise all your TM and termbase links may not work properly, so that can take a while when you get going again. I don’t transfer projects themselves, because my projects relate to new jobs, not large ongoing projects spanning long periods, but there is a Studio Migration Utility you could try if you need to move projects and resources. All my translations and resources are saved in specific folders, so I prefer to start afresh. Another thing I forgot to do was download a list of the plug-ins I had installed, but actually it was a good opportunity to review what I really needed and investigate new ones – perfect timing as I attended the SDL Roadshow the following week and learnt about lots of new plug-ins which I duly downloaded – see my last post for details of my favourite new ones. Old favourites like the Community Advanced Display Filter, Glossary Converter and Target Word Count were at the top of my list, of course.

The main time-wasters for me, however, came with transferring programs that I’ve had for quite a while. I don’t see the point in upgrading programs just for the sake of it: if they work perfectly well, why change? This is all very well, but when you’ve had to change computer and move to a whole new operating system, this approach can spell trouble.

Despite saving licence keys and passwords in my magic book, I always seem to have problems with certain programs: Abbyy Fine Reader, Solid pdf to Word, Microsoft Money and Translation Office 3000 to name the main offenders. For future reference, I’ve created a Program Downloads folder on one of my cloud drives, with details of the exe files, so next time I’ll have this information at my fingertips. This time around, because I didn’t have access to the older versions of the programs, I had to contact the makers. Abbyy were very responsive, replying within a few hours with a link to my version, which I was then able to download and log on using my saved information. Solid took slightly longer, but still the same day, and despite them saying my version (8) might not be supported by Windows 10, it has been fine so far. Last time I changed computer back in 2014, I had to upgrade to the latest version of Solid, but the upgrade was half the price of the new version and it is still an excellent and reasonably-priced pdf converter, which I wouldn’t like to be without.

On to Translation Office 3000, a product I mainly for use for keeping records and client statistics over the years. I have mixed feelings about this product as I’ve never found it particularly intuitive and couldn’t to grips with invoicing using the data, preferring to use my own Excel-based system instead. That said, having built up the data over the past 10 years or so, I was loath to lose it, so tried my best to restore the program. I managed to download my old version from the AIT site, but, despite contacting AIT, it appears that this version isn’t compatible with Windows 10.  Although I can open the program, I can’t enter new information, which rather defeats the object. This is a work in progress, as I now have two options: I can either download the latest version of TO3000 (3D) as a free trial and load my existing database. The upgrade price would be €49, so not too steep, but do I want to invest further in a product I’ve never found intuitive? The other option, which also came up at the SDL Roadshow, would be to experiment with Studio Business Manager Lite, which looks at first glance as though it should offer the same record-keeping and invoicing functionality, but within Studio, although it is more expensive at €99. Unfortunately, my initial experiments have come to a halt as I haven’t been able to make it work for me. It seems to be geared to using Trados discounts, which I rarely use, and I can’t find the option to apply no discounts, or only repetitions and 100% matches. I’m going to try the free trial of TO3000 3D next and see how I get on – when I’ve a bit more time! Watch this space…


Microsoft Money was next – this is a program I’ve had for years and really like – it’s extremely intuitive and I’ve been using it for my own personal accounts since I separated from my ex-husband in 2004 and my solicitor suggested I keep records of my spending. Reader, I divorced him, but the record-keeping became a habit. Sadly, Microsoft discontinued the program some years back and I’ve had problems reinstalling it the last couple of times. This time around, after trying in vain to download the Sunset edition, which my IT guru said should work, my son came up trumps with a link to a blog where we could download the 2005 version – yay! What’s more, it worked! I was able to import my backed-up data and it’s all as good as new. I also discovered that I can export my MS Money data to a format that can be used in QuickBooks – another option I really should investigate before I change computer next time. This may well tie in with tax going digital in future, when I’ll probably have to invest in accounting software like QuickBooks in any event. Fortunately, this won’t be happening next April, as the government had announced – it has apparently been postponed for the time being – another sigh of relief!

Last of all was the tiny (but useful) program I use when working on an hourly basis: Time Stamp. I think this was recommended to me on a translators’ forum in the first place, but I like the way it generates a chart that you can move to your second monitor and keep an eye on while working on your main screen. Other timing software didn’t quite work for me in the same way. When I came to download it again, I couldn’t track it down online. Fortunately, I asked for alternative recommendations on Standing Up, another translators’ forum, and a colleague kindly passed on the link to download Time Stamp again – phew! Problem solved. Link duly saved for future reference – and if anyone else wants to try it, it’s here: http://www.syntap.com/downloads.htm.

New monitors

Getting a new second monitor and keyboard was an added hassle I could probably have done without, especially when the orders I’d placed online didn’t turn up when they said, along with the special cables I needed to connect to the tower unit. That meant I had to set up the second screen on my own, without my son’s help, but it was pretty straightforward in the end – once I’d worked out how to set the screen displays in the right order. At least now I have two monitors more or less the same size, equally bright and readable, and can read the keys on my keyboard without guessing!

All in all, a very frustrating few weeks. I can’t believe it took quite so long to get all the loose ends sorted and the new computer up to speed. Then there’s the added cost of all the extra upgraded soft and hardware you end buying to ensure compatibility with your new system. No wonder we put off upgrading for as long as possible. To anyone contemplating the prospect of an upgrade, I wish you all the luck in the world – and bon courage! Oh and Merry Christmas to you all – wishing you a wonderful festive break and a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Zoe and Ollie Christmas card 2019