OmegaT: a free and very useful TenT

Translation environment tools (TenTs), also referred to as CAT tools or translation memory tools, are the subject of numerous passionate discussions among translators. Some people prefer a standalone tool, others a tool that works from within a program like Microsoft Office, some users are adamant that their tool has the best matching algorithm out there while others criticize the competition’s pricing, support, you get the picture.

Over the past few years I’ve primarily used two TenTs with which I’ve been very happy, Wordfast and Heartsome. Wordfast has the advantage of being quite similar in look and fee to, and quite compatible with the market leader SDL Trados, and Wordfast’s developer, Yves Champollion, is a very smart and helpful guy who provides excellent support for his product. Heartsome is a powerful tool at an attractive price, and it’s, in my experience, the best of the commercial TenTs if you don’t run Mac or Windows, or if you like to use file formats.

Lately I’ve been feeling like my quiver of TenTs needed an addition; I don’t have any complaints with Wordfast, but in order to run on my Linux computer system, it requires not only Microsoft Word, which I only use for Wordfast-related work, but also a program like CrossOver Linux that allows Windows software to run on Linux without a Windows license. So, this adds a few layers of upgrades for software that I really only use when I’m running Wordfast. Next, (and I’m not blaming this on Heartsome, it may be something to do with my computer) I have had major frustrations with Heartsome slowdowns, when it has taken 15-20 minutes to convert a 5,000 word document to XLIFF format (required in order to translate) and four to six seconds to add a segment to the TM and then progress to the next segment, which adds up over the course of a 500 segment job.

Enter OmegaT, which I’ve tested out before but never really delved into using for my day to day work. Portuguese translator Thelma Sabim gave an impressive presentation (including a live demo) on OmegaT at the 2006 ATA conference, and ever since then I’ve been thinking that I should give OmegaT more than a passing trial. This week I’ve been using it on some non-rush work, and I’m really, really enjoying it. OmegaT runs on any computer with a Java 2 Platform (i.e. Linux, Mac, Windows 98 or higher), and the OmegaT team (all volunteers) has helpfully provided a download of the software that includes a Java 2 Runtime Environment so that you don’t have to figure out if you have the correct Java version or not.

Once you’ve downloaded the software, you need your source document to be in a format that OmegaT supports, which include files (note that OO.o now includes a wizard that can batch process the conversion of MS Office files into OO.o files; go to File>Wizards>Document Converter), Open XML files, text files, HTML files, Open Document Format files, INI files, Java resource bundles, XLIFF files, .po files and DocBook files. Then, OmegaT’s quick start guide (which promises that you can “Start using OmegaT in 5 minutes!” and I would agree!) shepherds you through the easily mastered basics of translating in the software’s interface. I am finding many of OmegaT’s features to be just what I need in a TenT. For a long time, OmegaT may have been best known for its “love it or hate it” feature of segmenting at the paragraph level. Now, you can select paragraph or sentence-level segmentation. Also, under Options>Editing Behaviour, you can select what you want to see in an untranslated segment: the source text, nothing, or the best fuzzy match with a percentage that you define. An additional feature that I like is OmegaT’s use of folders that it creates within your project. For example, it creates a “target” folder into which it places your translated documents once they are created. So, you can give the target document the same name as the source without having to worry about overwriting anything or figuring out which document is which.

I also have to mention that this software is *fast,* and not just because I’ve recently had some speed issues with other tools. OmegaT’s processes (segmenting a source file, compiling target files, pulling up fuzzy matches) are so fast that you almost don’t realize they’re happening; in one case I actually clicked “Create Translated Documents” again because I didn’t realize that OmegaT had taken only a few seconds to compile the translations in the 15-file project I was working on. Other translators with different needs may have other opinions about OmegaT, since my use of TM is largely for my own productivity rather than because my clients request it, so issues such as exchanging TMs with other translators (which OmegaT can do) are not very important to me. If you’re looking for a new or additional TenT for your office, I highly recommend OmegaT; even if you just test it out, it’s free, it’s easy, and it’s fast!

20 Responses to “OmegaT: a free and very useful TenT”
  1. tony May 8, 2008
  2. Patrick July 1, 2008
  3. Prinony October 7, 2008
  4. Benny Lewis October 28, 2008
  5. Corinne McKay October 29, 2008
    • Héctor Sevilla August 18, 2017
  6. Ela Wisniowska January 26, 2009
  7. Bryant Huang February 3, 2009
  8. Nicholas Wishart February 22, 2009
  9. Almudena May 8, 2009
  10. Bowjest January 19, 2010
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  17. Chris September 3, 2010
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