Translation Software: The Complete Guide (2021)

by Shu Ni Lim 8 minutes to read

software translation guide

Translating business assets for diverse markets is a collection of tasks that take immense effort to execute perfectly.

If you consider all the problems commonly experienced by global businesses, you'll find that they're not always just about translating. It’s also about optimizing all possible resources and every aspect of a project so that you can move on to the next one even more effortlessly.

Now what can you do to overcome all these complexities of localization? You go at it with a Swiss Army knife... figuratively of course.

Here I’m talking about having a good translation software, which should be like a Swiss Army knife because it’s portable, functional, and multifaceted.

Since the term “translation software” has been used to describe a number of things, I’ve put together this little resource hub for you to clarify everything you want to know about these tools.

Overview

What is translation software?

Translation software generally refers to the tools and resources you can use to improve your multilingual workflow and produce high-quality translations with ease. The best translation software in 2021 are centralized platforms with project management and collaboration features, which enables dispersed teams to work more in sync.

They are often used by marketing firms and localization specialists in global companies that employ in-house teams or external agencies to translate their assets.

Before the rise of translation software tools, these companies were likely using spreadsheets to translate and store their work. It becomes problematic when they have multiple projects to oversee at once, as well as tasks to be done by multiple parties (e.g. translator → designer).

slow translation workflow

Who uses translation software?

Translation software tools are used in different kinds of professions, including:

  • Translators
  • Language Service Providers
  • International Companies
  • Marketing Agencies
  • Localization Teams

The use of translation programs is not restricted to people in the translation industry because there are many industries today that need to translate content regularly to reach their desired markets.

In this case, translation software is not just a simple translator tool but an ecosystem where global companies can carry out their daily operations related to localization.

Let's look at the key features supporting this ecosystem.

Core Features of Translation Software

Translation software programs have revolutionized the way localization teams work by providing these 5 core features:

  1. Project Management
  2. Consolidation of Linguistic Assets
  3. Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT)
  4. Machine Translation
  5. Task Automation

1. Project Management

Some translation software are known as translation management systems where you can oversee all your current and past projects in one place and perform administrative tasks. This includes:

  • Controlling access permissions to certain projects for your external collaborators;
  • Organizing your projects according to brand, month, language, status etc.

Overall, a translation management software simplifies and enhances the way important documents are shared among your team. Check out our full article on translation management systems here.

2. Consolidation of Linguistic Assets

Every time a translation is complete, you gain a new linguistic asset that can continue to provide value for your future projects.

Upon final confirmation, the translation software will automatically record completed translations in a database so that you can reuse them where applicable. These are known as translation memories.

Here’s a more in-depth article on how you can leverage translation memories to save time and money and maintain your branding.

3. Machine Translation Tool

Machine translations within translation software are often provided by a third-party service like Google Translate. They are a great resource to lean on when you’re translating parts of a copy that are simple and straightforward.

Even for more complicated sentences where the machine translation is not directly usable, they still provide the translator a blueprint to construct a better translation with.

You can use them in conjunction with your translation memories for a speedy translation. We’ve also listed the best machine translation tools for enterprise in this article.

4. Translation Interface

Most translation software come with a translation interface, also called a web editor if it’s a cloud-based software.

The interface combines all the tools you might need while translating, such as a spellchecker, machine translations, and your translation memories. You would be able to find these resources the moment you need them.

This is generally known as computer-assisted translation (CAT) and many translation software on the market today falls under this category.

5. Automation

The key to greater productivity is to automate tasks where possible. What are the most time-consuming aspects of localization? It could be:

  • Organizing the content into smaller units for translation in a spreadsheet;
  • Copy-pasting translations from another program or document; or
  • Cleaning up the formatting of a document after translation.

The right translation software can do all of the above, which can minimize or even eliminate the tedious, manual process we have to go through to do it ourselves.

Benefits of Using Translation Software

Localization is a complex process due to the diversity of tasks and skillset required to handle a project from start to finish. Translation software provides the mechanism to simplify the process as much as possible so you have more control over the various components involved.

Optimize Translation Costs

By reusing your past translations and capitalizing on machine translation services simultaneously, you can rely less on professional translators to start a project from scratch.

Using what is readily available, you can ensure you never have to pay to translate the same phrases or sentences twice. Hence, you have greater control over translation costs, whether that’s negotiating prices with an external vendor or keeping the work in-house at no additional cost.

Achieve Faster Time to Market

The faster you can produce a translated assets, the faster you can push those copies to market and capture your target audience.

You can get things done even faster with a translation software, which significantly reduces the amount of manual typing, copy-pasting, and archiving work you need to do.

  • Produce High-Quality Translations Consistently

You can improve your translation quality by utilizing a variety of linguistic resources, especially past translations and machine translations. Not only do they help establish a consistent brand voice, but they also give you more space to focus on perfecting translations rather than coming up with something on a blank canvas.

Types of Translation Software

1. Desktop Translation Software (Offline)

Desktop translation software tools are programs you have to download and install on your computer. They've been around for a long time compared to their web-based counterparts, which brings some advantages and disadvantages.

Pros

  • You can use the software even with poor connectivity or none at all.
  • You can usually still use the software regardless of server issues on the service provider's side (e.g. server downtime, slowdown).
  • You can reduce distractions from your browser or other programs while working.

Cons

  • The software takes up space on your computer.
  • Your computer's specifications and/or operating system may affect the performance of the software.
  • You need multiple licenses to download and use the software on different devices.
  • You might lose all your translation data if your computer is lost or damaged.
  • Some software may receive slower updates and bug fixes from developers, which must also be downloaded by the user.

Examples of Offline Translation Software

2. Cloud-Based Translation Software (Online)

Cloud-based translation software are programs you can access through a web browser. Many marketing agencies today prefer using these web-based translation tools because they offer more flexibility.

Pros

  • You can use the software on any computer via a browser without installing anything.
  • Your work is automatically backed up in a cloud database. Any damages to your computer won't affect your data.
  • Regular bug fixes and updates are released regularly, and you won't need to download them manually.
  • Upgrades usually come at no additional costs.
  • You can collaborate with others by inviting them to work on a project using the software while having full control over their access to certain data.

Cons

  • You need Internet access to use the software.
  • Your data could get erased or stolen but this risk is present in any online or offline programs you use on a computer. Just make sure to look into the data protection policies of your service provider.

Examples of Online Translation Software

There is plenty of fish in the sea, but which is the best catch for your business? Check out this article where we explain in more detail how you should choose, as well as the pros and cons of different translation programs.

How to translate a specific file using translation software?

While the translation process and user experience for each software are different, here’s how we do it on Redokun.

We’re a cloud-based translation software that strives to be as easy to use as possible so your team can get started immediately with a minimal onboarding period.

Take a look at our tutorials on how to translate different types of documents and learn how translation tools can help you avoid potential formatting issues:

- Translating InDesign files InDesign files are commonly used to create product catalogs, brochures, etc. They can be tricky to translate because of all the design and style elements involved but there are ways to optimize InDesign documents for translation.

- Translating Word documents Microsoft Word has a handy built-in translator but it doesn't always account for text styles, SmartArt, and layout. There are generally 4 ways you can translate a Word file, but some are more suitable for business use because they are better at preserving the formatting.

- Translating Excel spreadsheets Excel documents may contain formulas and functions that do not always convert easily to another language. You can either download a Microsoft add-in or try out any of these easier methods if you're not familiar with Excel functions.

- Translating PowerPoint presentations Translating PowerPoint files is not an easy task especially when you have a sizeable amount of slides that also contains various visual elements. Simple PPT presentations can be translated using services like Google Translate but complex ones may require the help of a translation program. Read the full tutorial here.

- Translating SRT subtitle files SRT files contain subtitles you can add to your video content to reach a wider audience. This tutorial covers all the tools for easy subtitle translation.

- Translating Extensible Markup Language (XML) XML files are a more advanced type of text file where your content is nested within a structure that doesn't require translating. Depending on how familiar you are with XML, you can try these online tools to translate markup language easily.

If you’re interested in translating any or all of the files above, you can start a free trial of Redokun by clicking here. No credit card needed.

Happy translating,

Shu Ni

Shu Ni Lim
Shu Ni Lim

Shu Ni has worked as a marketing executive for various global consumer electronics brands before shifting her focus to content writing.

Now at Redokun, Shu Ni hopes to create meaningful content for multilingual needs by utilizing her expertise in linguistics and graphic design.

19 Tips To Optimize Your InDesign File For Translation (Free eBook)

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