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Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews

presents:

Comparative Reviews


Software Localization Tools


Introduction:
In the age of globalization the markets for all goods become more and more internationalized enforcing the need to provide information in a variety of languages. This is especially true for the software market, where the product itself consists nearly exclusively of localizable information. Translation and customization of software involves a variety of specialists, such as programmers, translators, localization engineers, quality assurance (QA) specialists and project managers. Software localization therefore does not only involve a smooth procedure of each task but also the coordination of a localization team which may include employees as well as freelance specialists. Without specialized tools, localization of complex software is very difficult and time consuming and quite often involves the same task to be uselessly repeated over and over again. Fortunately, there is quite a variety of specialized tools available today. While some are custom made for the software localization process, others are more general translation and customization tools. This comparative review examines 3 specialized software localization applications and 2 more general translation packages which also cover the localization process of software.

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In general, localization tools are highly specialized applications for the LocalizatioN (L10N) of software. The main source and target formats: resource files (RC) or binary files such as EXE or DLL usually do not contain long translatable text strings surrounded by non-translatable code. Localization tools have to extract these short strings properly, provide a convenient graphical user interface (GUI) for the translation of the strings and save the translations correctly back into the surrounding code. In this process, special attention has to be paid to controls embedded in the translatable text like ampersands (&) and shortcuts (e.g. Alt+D), which have to be translated both unique and easy memorable. Another specialty of software localization is that translated strings should be about the same size as the original text. This is because the translated text needs to fit into the appropriate spaces of dialog windows. If a size-equivalent translation is not possible, resizing procedures for the dialog boxes have to be offered. Real complex translation memories are usually unnecessary for short text strings. A bi- or multilingual terminology base or glossary is usually sufficient.

In contrary, software documentation files (Windows Help format HLP, HTML Help format CHM, Web pages HTML or Adobe Acrobat PDF) contain much more translatable text in much longer text strings. These files are usually better handled by a translation memory (TM) software, which memorizes already used phrases, typically segmented by full-stops, and enable their recycling. TM software usually implements some fuzzy match algorithm to identify the degree of concordance between a new and an already translated segment and allows their insertion into and editing in the authoring environment.

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Reviewed Software:

  • Specialized Software Localization Tools:
    • Alchemy CATALYST: Alchemy CATALYST is an integrated translation environment with powerful project management features. Current version: 4.0.
    • PASSOLO: PASSOLO optimizes the complete software localization process. It ensures easy compilation, exchange and processing of translation data. Current version: 3.5
    • RC-WinTrans: Full featured translation environment to localize the Graphic User Interface (GUI) of Microsoft Windows software. Current version: 6.0.1.
  • Translation Memory or Computer Aided Translation (CAT) Applications:
    • TRADOS: Since 1984, TRADOS has been developing open platforms for multilingual content management and is well positioned as the Global Market Leader in Translation Technology. Current version: 5.5.
    • STAR Transit & TermStar: A Comprehensive Infrastructure for the Globalization of Product Information. Current version: XV.

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Dr. Thomas Waßmer, voice/fax: +49 (6131) 211819, e-mail: wassmer@mail.com, web: go.to/softreviews