Interoperability is a topic I took a special interest in since starting to use Translation Environment Tools (TEnTs). Most TEnTs store the data in proprietary file formats and that makes it that much harder to share or migrate information. One unfortunate results of this difficulty is the enablement of some unethical practices, and even more importantly, the creation of the feeling among users that they are held “captive” by the propriety formats and forced to use a certain tool over another regardless of their workflow needs or preferences, unless they are willing to spend time and effort applying workarounds that are almost never guaranteed to work, or worse, invest money in tools just for using their filters in the pre-processing stage. This resonates hard with me because I’m strongly against what I believe is a harmful, damaging, misleading, delusional, and near-sighted infatuation with technology that puts the technology before the human professional. I believe that the human professional is the most important element in any professional activity and that the technology is just there to help the professional as a tool. Therefore, the professional must be able to choose his or her tools by merit, experience, and expertise with as little as possible artificial obstacles influencing the decision.
In recent years quite a few advancements have been made in terms of TEnTs interoperability. It was probably promoted by the increased range of available TEnTs in the market and the emphasize that some developers have put into better standards supports and interoperability from the get go. Nowadays most modern Translation Environment Tools can exchange information via standardized file formats – primarily XLIFF (for bilingual files) and TMX (for exchanging Translation Memory information) – and some of them even offer native or extendable (via add-ons) support for reading and writing proprietary formats of other TEnTs.
In that regard it is worth noting that contrary to common belief, irritating as they sometimes are, proprietary file formats are not used just to restrict users; they allow the developers to extended the functionality of the standard file formats and add features that users need, rely on, and come to expect.
It is not the ideal situation, and there is still a long way to go in terms of improved (dare I say complete?) interoperability, but we have come a long way since just even 5 years ago.
For example, MemoQ can natively handle Studio SDLXLIFF and SDLPPX (Studio Package file format), as well as WordFast Professional TXML files; OmegaT through the Okapi Filters Plug-in can be extended to support additional file types; SDL Studio file support can be extended by installing additional File Type Definitions from the Open Exchange platform; and other TEnTs such as Fluency and Déjà Vu also offer some degree of interoperability, but I don’t have enough experience with them to comment in detail. Since XML has become the de-facto format for storing and exchanging information, the modern TEnTs can create customized XML file definitions to parse virtually any XML-based file, even when no native or extendable interoperability exist. And to complement this improved interoperability and extendability, the information can also be exchanged via the standardized file formats.
The interoperability is not flawless, and exchanging information still not always as smooth as it should be, but we have come a long way, indeed.
A couple of days ago I helped a colleague setup a WordFast project in Studio 2014 and thought to share the experience as a short case study that highlights the process and the basic approach. This process can be used to add support for MemoQ MQXLIFF files, as well as any other file type available through the SDL Open Exchange platform.
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