User testimonial: How I started using Swordfish on 99% of my translations


I started using one of the most well-known CAT tools in the market back in 2004. I had already been working as a translator for seven years, but never had a need to add such software as part of my work process. Then I started negotiating with a client that demanded that I used a CAT, so I remember calling my husband right away to let him know I'd be putting $1,000 USD on our credit card to buy a license―just so he wouldn't think it was an identity theft issue or anything.

Once I got the program installed, I worked hard on that steep learning curve. I had two weeks before the project started. The project went ahead and, during a two-year collaboration with that client alone, the investment had paid itself eight times over.

Everything was going fine until that CAT tool was acquired by another company and they came up with a new version of the program. A lot of stuff "broke down" because of compatibility issues... In other words, I was very frustrated that I needed to pay for the upgrade of a tool I already had and, on top of that, they had changed some parts of the software that didn't make it compatible with older versions. In a nutshell, the translation memories and glossaries I had been building for a few years were now almost useless. The company had decided to use a new standard and format that weren't aligned with their own previous release.

Needless to say, I started to pull my hair out, because I had a deadline around the corner and needed to work on a new project. I then tried their competitor, which had just released a stand-alone version, meaning a piece of software that works inside its own window and doesn't need another program (i.e. Microsoft Word) in order to run. The fact that it was a stand-alone version meant that I could finally use it to translate Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides, while using/updating our translation memories just the same. Before that, these older CATs only worked on Word documents.

Well, it turns out that the project I needed to work on included a PowerPoint presentation. I was pretty happy to open the slides on the new CAT, and everything seemed to be working just fine, until I couldn't convert the translation back into the original PPT format. I'm not sure whether you've seen a CAT in action, but you usually convert the original document into the CAT format, translate each sentence inside the CAT, then ask it to "spit it out" in the same format that the client expects. That didn't happen and, when I contacted the support team to wonder what was going on, they told me that it was still in the beta phase for PowerPoint, so you could translate slides, but couldn't convert them back to deliver your final translation. I didn't find that information ANYWHERE when I was leasing the product license―yeah, 'cause you don't buy a license to own it, you just lease it from them and have to renew it ever so often... Well, as long as you've made payment, who cares, right?

Anyway, I needed to return the translated file the next day and I was going crazy, 'cause I don't like asking for extensions or being late on any deliveries. I just went to bed, very frustrated once again, and was getting ready to copy everything I had just typed into the CAT to paste it all into in the correct slides using PowerPoint... I remember my husband (who is a computer geek) said that he would create a program himself if he didn't have a day job, since he was familiar with the needs of translators, which would be different from something put together at the convenience of programmers without keeping in mind what we translators really need the software to do for us.

The next day, my husband woke me up to some wonderful news. He had found out about Swordfish, which was completely open standard and compatible with many file formats. Being "open standard" means that they don't use proprietary file extensions, so you're not locked into their system and they won't change their mind about the file format later on. In other words, a new version/update of Swordfish would NOT make all my efforts go down the drain, because the translation memories and glossaries I had been working on would always be compatible with the program.

On top of that, Swordfish is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. We had already moved our machines from Windows to Linux to avoid all the problems we were having with Windows XP―but that's another story... So, while running a Linux computer, I actually had what we call a "virtual Windows machine" open inside a window on my computer so I could use a Windows-only CAT tool, while my emails, web browsing and everything else was done in Linux. If that virtual machine had any problems, another one could be installed from scratch without causing me to have my computer completely down, since I could still use everything available to me on Linux, as usual.

Long story short, with Swordfish I was able to reuse all those translation memories and glossaries that I had been compiling with the other tool, and I was able to open that PowerPoint presentation and have it "spit out" as beautiful slides in Portuguese. I was thrilled, the client received the translation on time, and everybody was happy!

I've been using Swordfish since 2008 and, whenever a client sends me files from other CAT tools, I can still work on them. If they send me an SLDXLIFF file created in SDL Trados, a TTX file created with old Trados TagEditor, a TXML file from Wordfast, or an XLF file from memoQ, all I have to do is put it into Swordfish, work on the translation, convert it back into the original format and deliver it to the client. I've never got a complain that the file wasn't alright or anything, and they mostly have no idea that I didn't use whatever tool they're familiar with. I can also export the contents of the translation file as a TMX, so clients can import the contents into their own translation memory.

While Swordfish is probably way simpler than what we see out there (i.e. there's no predictive typing option as of now), it also runs smoother, and it's way cheaper than other licenses you could lease/buy. Besides, whenever there's an update or upgrade, all you have to do is download and reinstall it, without paying anything extra for it!

That's why I am so passionate about Swordfish, and the very reason why I started teaching a 6-week class on it at UCSD Extension. I wanted to introduce students, most of whom are not familiar with the world of CATs, something that is simpler, practical and user-friendly, created by a small team that actually listens to your questions and concerns to implement new things in future FREE upgrades. And I can swear the main developer at MaxPrograms (the company behind Swordfish) never sleeps, because he always gets back to me pretty fast whenever I have a question and I can't solve an issue.

That's about it. If you're interested in learning more about Swordfish, check out my class or webinar to see if this is the right CAT tool for you.