SDL Studio 2014 SP2 Review; or Farewell Java, it has been a roller coaster ride

Studio 2014 SP2 was officially released on November 18, 2014. The official version includes some additional bug fixes compared to the Beta version I reviewed, but not new features were added or removed.

During the typical life-cycle of any major Studio version there are two types of updates:

  1. Cumulative update: A scheduled release of hotfixes to address customer impacting bugs, as well as critical performance and/or security issues.
  2. Service Pack (SP): A collection of updates and fixes that improves the overall stability of the software, and usually introduces some new features, or enhance the functionality of existing features.

SDL was kind enough to give me access to the Beta version of the upcoming SDL Studio (and MultiTerm) 2014 Service Pack 2 (SP2), scheduled for release as a free upgrade for all current Studio 2014 users at the end of November 2014.
I have been testing the Beta version for about two weeks now, and decided to briefly go over the primary changes and give my general impression so far for the benefit of those who might be interested to know what is coming.

Enhanced Terminology Editing

The most noticeable change introduced by Studio 2014 SP2 is the long awaited departure from Java, and with the two new terminology editing commands: Quick Add New Term and Delete this Entry, this results in major overhaul to the terminology management workflow and performance.

The Removal of Java

Starting with Studio 2014 SP2, Studio and MultiTerm Desktop are no longer depend on Java. The dependency on Java was arguably the main pain point for many users, and its removal should significantly improve the overall user experience. The new Java-less Studio together with the Open eXchange Glossary Converter app simplify what was only recently a dreaded terminology management workflow almost beyond recognition.

The new Quick Add New Term option

In the traditional workflow users had to click the Add New Term button, edit the terms in the Termbase Viewer window as appropriate, and then click the Save Entry button. Even without the slowness and instability issues of Java, this multistep process is a bit cumbersome and prone to human errors (does forgetting to click the Save Entry button sound familiar to anyone?), especially when working with basic glossaries that contain only the Source and Target terms without any additional fields.
The introduction of the new Quick Add New Term option in Studio 2014 SP2 greatly simplifies this workflow and adding terms to the active Termbase on-the-fly was never easier.

Note: Users that use termbases with additional fields (such as definition or context) and want to edit these fields before saving the term in the termbase should continue using the traditional Add New Term workflow.

Deleting a Termbase entry from within the Editor window

The second enhancement to the terminology editing workflow is the addition of the Delete this Entry button to the Termbase Viewer window, for quickly deleting a Termbase entry without leaving Studio’s Editor window. A nice time saver.

Tag Verifier is now a global setting

Traditionally, the Tag Verification settings in Studio was tied to each supported filetype. Studio 2014 SP2 replaces the old filetype-specific settings with a new global tag verification settings (under File > Options > Verification > Tag Verifier).
Although it doesn’t seem like much in a first glance, I think that this is an important change that will minimize confusion and human errors.

Sorting Translation Memory (TM) Results by date

Judging by the number of times I was asked if this is possible, this new feature of Studio 2014 SP2 should be greatly appreciated by many users.

The new Show most recent translation first option sorts TM results by Match percentage > Last edited date > Last added date, thus giving the user a finer control over how the TM and concordance search results are displayed.
This is the new default setting (accurate to the time of this writing), but users that prefer the old behavior can easily switch back by going to Project Settings > Options > Language Pairs > [Relevant language pair] > Translation Memory and Automated Translation > Search and dis-selecting the first checkbox: Show most recent translation first.

Source segment editing for more supported filetypes

The source segment editing feature, first introduced in Studio 2011 SP2, could come real handy at times. It is a simple way to clean up that odd messy source segment, correct a typo, and so forth without leaving the Editor window. It also became a way to work around Studio 2014 segment merging limitations as a crude ad-hoc mechanism for making simple segment merging in poorly prepared documents.

However, source segment editing has some limitations:

  • Available only for Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint);
  • Disabled for locked segments;
  • Disabled for project packages, unless the package creator chose otherwise;
  • Disabled for documents with tracked Changes.

Starting in Studio 2014 SP2 source segment editing is available for most supported filetypes, but the other limitations in the above list remain unchanged.

Alphanumeric characters now added to the list of recognized tokens (placeholders)

This is quite significant. Studio 2014 SP2 now recognizes a combination of alphanumeric and the following characters as tokens (i.e. placeholders that are transferred directly to the target segments):

  • Uppercase letters (VGN-FW550F)
  • Numbers (M10X30)
  • Underscores (NAME_4001C)
  • Dashes (VGN-FW550F)
  • Full stops (BV0.mxm.072.531)

Activate this new option under File > Options > Language Pairs > Translation Memory and Automated Translation > Auto-substitutions, and then reindex all relevant existing TMs, otherwise the change will not apply to them and only to newly created TMs.

I tested this and it seems to work well (but don’t forget to reindex existing TMs).

Changes to the word count mechanism and search logic when handling words containing apostrophes, dashes and full stops

As SDL describes this change:

Studio 2014 SP2 uses an improved algorithm for processing words that contain dashes (-) or apostrophes (‘). This improvement translates into:
Lower word count. Studio no longer treats apostrophes and dashes as word separators, but as punctuation marks that link words together. This means that Studio counts elements like “it’s” or “splash-proof”, “NAME_4001C” as one single word.
Apostrophes that do not follow the new logic:

  • Apostrophes followed or preceded by space. For example, “the ‘90s” or “girls’ night” both contain two words.
  • Right single quotation mark (’)

Dashes that do not follow the new logic:

  • Figure dash (‒)
  • En dash (–)
  • Em dash (—)
  • Horizontal bar (―)
  • Small Em dash (﹘)
    Higher fuzzy matches. When searching for matches in the selected TMs, Studio considers apostrophes and dashes as separate tokens inside the words they link together. This means that when comparing words where the only difference is the type of dash or apostrophe used, Studio only penalizes the difference in punctuation and not the entire word.
    Important: Re-index your existing TMs before using them in Studio 2014 SP2. This synchronizes the TMs with the new logic for counting and matching words that contain apostrophes and dashes.
    These options are available on the Translation Memory view > Home tab > Import > General Import Options page.

Personally, I don’t understand the logic behind this change. A cynic might say that the lower word count and higher match percentages could benefit some more than others, but I will reserve my judgment until I’ll clarify this with SDL.

Some additional notable changes

  • A text replacement penalty is now applied to acronyms and alphanumeric placeholders. When activated, a replacement penalty could be assigned to acronyms and alphanumeric placeholders to indicate that they were transferred directly from the source segments (i.e. they match the token identification logic) and not from the active TM(s).
  • Support for the newer Adobe InDesign/InCopy CC file formats.
  • SDLXLIFF files are now always included in the return package.
  • Many more updates and bug fixes to existing features and core components that are transparent to the user but should improve stability.

Conclusion

The highlight of Studio 2014 SP2 is without a doubt the departure of Java, a major friction and frustration point throughout SDL Studio’s history. In my opinion, less dependency on external libraries is always better than being susceptible to changes made by a third-party, even if the trade-off is losing some (peripheral) functionality.

The new terminology module should significantly improve the user experience, and from my experience so far it does just that, indeed. With the addition of the Quick Add New Term option, adding new terms on-the-fly is faster, simpler and more reliable than ever before.

The other new features and improvements are generally a step forward, although their importance and impact differ depending on the workflow and use case. The only exception might be the change to the wordcount algorithm. I will attempt to get a clarification about this, but in the meantime just be aware of that.

So far Studio 2014 SP2 seems to be very stable. As can be expected from software still in Beta, there are also some bugs and quirks, but this is part of the Beta experience and I appreciate it. The most pressing bugs are likely to get fixed by the time Studio 2014 SP2 is officially released, but other bugs might be addressed only in future Cumulative Updates (CUs), which SDL tends to issue on quite a timely manner

I haven’t encountered any "showstopping" bugs or issues even in this Beta stage, so for those who tend to be early adopters I can recommend with a degree of confidence that it is generally safe to upgrade to Studio 2014 SP2 when it is released. That said, I also acknowledge that what seem to one as a minor bug could be significant another, and therefore would recommend those with a more conservative approach to upgrading to wait a few weeks — probably until the release of the first CU — before upgrading to Studio 2014 SP2.

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1 Comment

  1. Quick Add New Term – Java’s out, at last. A next step will be a key combo to insert a target term without any mouse move. Not to mention that, for now (is it all the time? is it my comp memory?) the icon to insert a term is grayed out… unless you right click the term to insert it… but it’s too late: you’re ready to choose the option in the menu.

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