A wide variety of technology solutions supports the many and different needs of localization projects. There are tools that focus on large-scale translation management, while others offer more specific services, like terminology or quality assurance (QA) management. However, among this diversity of software solutions, four applications are ubiquitous in the industry, and their names ring a bell with anybody involved in localization workflows. Trados Studio, memoQ, Memsource, and Wordfast are four of the most popular Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools in the business, preferred by Language Service Providers (LSPs) to manage their projects and by linguists to carry out their daily work.
These tools offer the core functions, such as translation memories (TMs), compatibility with usual formats, term bases (TB), and web-based editors. Yet, they do have their differences. Here we’ll break down some strengths and weaknesses of these four translation allies.
SDL Trados Studio
There is a general consensus that Trados Studio is the most comprehensive CAT tool in the industry, supporting a wide range of formats and workflows. SDL offers a series of products and solutions for different needs with the additional option for users to buy and download plugins or add-ons. However, its comprehensiveness comes with a complex user interface (UI) that’s not as intuitive as others, sometimes resulting in a rough user experience.
Furthermore, another strength is its relative universality in the industry, and its versatility to integrate all kinds of formats (e. g., subtitles, HTML, InDesign, etc.). As a downside, in order to manage terminology, users need another application not included in the main product, called Trados Multiterm.
This application also presents a comprehensive desktop version and a limited web-based editor. It allows LSPs and freelancers to manage documents, TBs, TMs, alignment pairs, and references, among many other features. memoQ also incorporates a QA solution in the same product, without the need of purchasing add-ons or extensions. Its UI is more friendly and intuitive for linguists and project managers, and it’s a ready-to-go solution for various needs. As a con, workflows, features, and layout are not as customizable as in other tools, but overall it’s a flexible and complete product for starters and veterans.
Lighter and more affordable than the other two tools, Wordfast has the advantage of being compatible (and having official support) not only with Windows, but with Mac and Linux, so users can dispense with virtual machines or emulators. Its UI looks simpler and cleaner, but Wordfast Pro isn’t compatible with as many formats as the other tools. On another note, Wordfast Pro can integrate with Wordfast Server, an application for secure online translation memories and glossaries that allow real-time collaborative work among linguists. Despite being practical and useful, this feature can hinder integration between other CAT or QA tools, since users can’t have access to the TMs and TBs as editable files.
While the three tools above are more focused on desktop-based solutions, Memsource is one of the most popular translation management systems based on the cloud. It has a lightweight editor and portal, offering TMs, TBs, quality management, and a preview mode. It has mobile integration through mobile apps for PMs and linguists, and a user-friendly interface that makes the software intuitive for both vendors and managers. One of its cons is that Memsource exports MXLIFF files, their native file, which is not easily supported by all the other localization tools.
Deciding which tool best suits your needs can be a tough call sometimes, since the choice depends on the client’s needs, usual workflows, resources used, etc. It’s always better to ask for advice from your localization partner before starting working on a certain tool. This way, everybody prevents potential setbacks and comes up collectively with the best solution.