Tuesday, 5 June 2012

An Evaluative Comparison of SDL Trados Studio 2009 and MemoQ 5.0

 This report presents a comparative analysis of two prominent Computer-Aided Translation Tools; SDL’s Trados Studio 2009, and Kilgray’s memoQ 5.0 with a view to evaluating the affordances of each tool and advising whether or not memoQ should be introduced to a CAT-tools teaching programme.

I have chosen to compare memoQ to Trados since the latter is the market-leader in CAT tools, and is therefore memoQ’s major rival.  I have identified the major areas of CAT tool functionalities to present a comprehensive comparison whilst bearing conceptual considerations and authentic professional applications in mind.

File Analysis & Invoicing

An integral part of undertaking a translation job is the ability to assess source files to deduce a project’s scope and the savings to be made from a tool’s application (Austermühl , 2001: 142). Further, the ability to derive an accurate invoice from such information is also important (Esselink, c2000: 364).

Both memoQ and Trados Studio provide detailed and customizable file analyses at the global and active document level detailing the standard references of word counts, segment counts and fuzzy matches. However, two features unique to memoQ are homogeneity and the ability to quantify formatting tags in the word count. Homogeneity estimates potential gains from internal leverage, i.e. a kind of internal fuzzy matching, and the translator thereby gains a greater understanding of time-cost savings and may pass this on to a client.

Although both Trados and memoQ can count tags, the latter is unique in its ability to quantify the additional time factor inherent in dealing with heavily-tagged documents such as HTML files; - something many translators feel should be reflected in invoices. Thus a tag-to-word proportion can be entered (i.e. how many words the translator thinks are equivalent to the average tag) which increases the overall word count.

Both tools offer comprehensive file analysis statistics although memoQ is more readily tuned towards the task of invoicing and quantifying workloads. What is more, statistical reports can be generated in memoQ and exported at any time, -perhaps to a project manager during a long, multi-document project, whilst Trados can only export an initial statistical report.

Support for complex language scripts

A feature common to both memoQ and Trados 2009 is the use of an asterisk or pipe (*, |) to act as a de facto fuzzy match feature for when terms are entered into a TB. Unfortunately, this feature does not work with Arabic in memoQ but is successful in Trados, and the problem is compounded because memoQ has no terminology fuzzy match; it fails to recognize Arabic words with the definite article prefix attached even if they were originally saved as indefinite or vice versa, and this is a major translation issue for Arabic.

The ‘workaround’ solution in MemoQ is to perform a look up or wildcard concordance search though this has to be performed manually in a separate dialogue box.
Trados overwhelming excels in this aspect of automatic fuzzy term recognition as it accepts the asterisk and pipe signifiers and it can also perform wildcard termbase searches within the immediate translation environment.

Aside from term retrieval issues, complex language scripts such as Arabic also affect the display and interface. Trados is unable to display Arabic, Russian and the CKJ languages in its preview mode for HTML files, and letters/characters are displayed as question marks.

For its part memoQ offers superb real time previews and is able to display all complex language scripts. Overall, whilst memoQ offers far better display and preview of complex languages, Trados is superior in its handling of them concerning fuzzy/wildcard terminology recognition.

Translation memory (TM); features and management       
Translation memories enable the reuse of previously translated segments, known as ‘leveraging’ (Bowker, c2002: 92). The flexibility and efficacy of TM usage in memoQ and Trados 2009 can be compared by testing whether TMs can be easily transferred from one project to another where language data differs slightly (i.e. with sublanguages), and indeed, whether or not TMs can be reversed to function in the inverse language pair.

When a document composed of TUs made in the opposite language pair is opened, we see that memoQ immediately recognizes this and all TMs (and TBs) in the project are able to function without the need to manually change the language pair or create new TMs. Furthermore, memoQ TMs function even when the sublanguages differ (i.e. Ar Lebanon instead of Ar Jordan).

The same experiment in Trados reveals that TMs and TBs are not bidirectional and can neither function across sublanguages;

This problem can only be solved by exporting the original TM in TMX format, and creating a new empty TM in the inverse language pair direction and importing the data. Nevertheless this is more work for the translator especially in a project setting where they may be sent a TM or TB by a client and find they are unable to utilize it without creating new resources.

Transaltors wish to leverage as many TUs as possible from previous tranlations submitted to TMs. MemoQ however goes further in offering automated fragment assembly. This intelligently recognizes source segments which have previously been translated as part of larger TUs by intuitively searching at the subsegment level.

The second feature, TM-driven segmentation, allows MemoQ to intuitively join and split segments to find a match. Trados Studio does not have features approaching this kind of functionality although segmentation settings can be customized.

Terminology management

Terminology management involves the creation and maintenance of term bases so that terms do not have to be retranslated every time they appear, as well as to provide consistency (Savourel, c2001: 281). As previously noted, memoQ term bases can operate bidirectionally and across sublanguages. This flexibility is significant as it offers full compatibility of translation resources so that TBs received from clients or project managers in other sublanguages can be leveraged. MemoQ projects allow any number of TBs (and TMs) to be utilized at the same time while Trados 2009 allows just one (with others for reference).

-Term extraction

An excellent productivity and term management tool in memoQ called term extraction allows translators to intuitively create term bases by an automated search process at the file or project level that identifies suitable TB candidates. Statistical analyses generate frequently occurring terms words ignoring common ‘stop words’ (this is also customizable). If the resultant candidate terms are already in existing TMs/TBs, they are automatically translated, whilst the remaining terms are displayed in context so that they can be translated accurately.

The extraction tool is an effective way for translators to quickly and efficiently create terminology resources for a new translation job, and finding out how many terms can be leveraged from exisitng translation resources. Trados for its part does not come with an extraction tool, and if it did it would still require exisiting TBs/TMs to be in the correct langauge direction to benefit from exisitng resources, and as we have seen, inverting langauge directions require further efforts in Trados.

Terminology management in Trados is perfomed through its Multiterm package which can be integrated into a translation environment. However, it requires that the user carefully manage and integrate TB files alongside the task of translation, and the benefits of this are severally compromised when it is considered that only one TB can be searched at a time, and seperate TB files are useful only for the ability to exchange them. MemoQ’s fully incorporated terminology management console offers more features and the security of fully integrated TBs into projects.

-Automated term leveraging processes

Another terminological feature that makes MemoQ far more efficient and productive with regard to terminology management  is automated concordancing. This tool has been described as “playing a video game with cheat mode constantly on” [1] as it leverages multi-term expressions from the concordance so that the translator does not have to remember what has been translated before. Users of Trado Studio 2009 only have a regular manual concordance search tool which does not offer automated concordance searches, meaning the user has to keep a mental record on whether he suspects that a term or TU has been previously translated. Trados’ earlier 2007 edition did in fact have a ‘start concordance search if no matches found’ feature, and professional translators have decried its removal in the 2009 edition[2].

Although the absence of a fuzzy term match in MemoQ is a startling omission, it nonetheless contains extremely powerful terminological features such as term extraction and automatic concordance that Trados Studio cannot rival.

-Importing Term bases

Although memoQ works with the standard XML termbase format, adding to or merging TBs must be done in CSV format. It is common for clients to have terminology lists or glossaries in Excel format which they may send to translators to use. Trados users must use SDLs Multiterm Convert tool in conjunction with the CSV (XLS) file. This process creates 4 files of which the XDT and XML files must be correctly delineated with field names in another conversion process in the separate Multliterm Desktop tool. The process is extremely convoluted, relies on two tools, and is time-consuming compared to memoQ’s import command available in its term bases tab.

Complex file formats and file management

-Formatting tags
Translating a HTML webpage in Trados is made easier by the way it can effectively place ‘wrap-around’ tags into the target segment. With one mouse click the user can insert the tags around the target words in the correct places, and this an important feature for Arabic as the change in language direction easily confuses the user and the placing of tags requires some consideration.

What is more, Trados alerts the user of incomplete tag pairs byprevent the file being verified and displayng grey ghost tags where the translator must restore them correctly.

MemoQ is far less efficient in inserting tag pairs around large stretches of text and can only insert individual tags with the F9 short cut. Although memoQ provides an error message for incomplete tags, it does not have a comparable restore feature like Trados’ ghost tags. Both tools allow toggling of tag information display, but most crucially memoQ has a tag edit feature allowing the user to edit faulty tags and most importantly,  to localize hyperlinks.

Being able to edit tags is a  major benefit for MemoQ users. SDL has taken the opposite appraoch and insisted on their users not be allowed to access to any kind of source text editing and this is despite the segment lock feature being available. MemoQ users can edit source text segments using F2, and this is vital as source text ‘typos’ will affect subsequent TM matches. Trados users cannot edit source segments but may edit TUs inide the TM.

-Exporting a ppt file

Powerpoint files are  complex file format. Exporting them from Trados results in formatting changes regarding text alignment, and tabled information becomes completely illegible.

However, the same export process from memoQ results in some more minor formatting problems, but it is nonetheless recoverable.


Interoperability is an essential aspect of modern CAT tools, and is reflected in universality of some basic file formats such as TMX that are designed to operate in all tools (Savourel, c2001: 397). In real translation settings, interoperability is vital for transferring TMs/TBs from one CAT tool to another; creating a translation resource in one particular tool and subsequently sharing it with colleagues who operate other tools; and receiving a job made in one tool but completing it in another.

Because memoQ was a rather late comer in translation tools, interoperability is one its central ideals and even necessities. Indeed, one localization expert has called MemoQ a “the Swiss Army knife of translation environment tools when it comes to compatibility” [3].

MemoQ <> Trados TM exchange.

Exporting a TM from Trados is very simple, and can be done with one right click in the translation memories pane. The exported TM is in the standard TMX format, and can be imported into MemoQ with the ‘import from TMX/CVS’ or ‘create/ use new’ command.
MemoQ has a ‘Process Trados TMX for best results in MemoQ’ command in the import TMX function. This incorporates the TMX in such a way as to best suit the segmentation in files originating in Trados. What is more, memoQ still performs the import if the sublangauges do not completely match.

MemoQ <-> Multiterm exchange

MemoQ has been developed with Trados file formats in mind, and can export any TB in a Multiterm-compatible XML file although it cannot import term base data in the same format. The Multiterm TB has to be exported in text delineated format for import into MemoQ, while memoQ’s export as XML command creates an XDT definition file that provides field name definitions alongside the XML file. However, it is extremely difficult to import into an existing Multiterm termbase because matching the field names is difficult if not confusing.

Project management & work flow

Project management is an essential aspect of managing the delivery and execution of translation jobs efficiently and on schedule, and as such relates to effective work flow procedures between translators, the project manager and the client. Although the tools under evaluation here are freelancer editions, they provide some work flow-related features that facilitate document and resource management, and interaction with project managers.
One vital aspect of document management is ensuring that file and folder locations work effectively and some CAT tools have features to guarantee this.  MemoQ’s reimport feature can be used to efficiently update and synchronize project documents, guaranteeing that the translator is working on the most up-to-date version of a particular document. This automated mechanism reflects a common workflow procedure for translators; they receive an initial document to translate but later receive a changed/updated version from the project manager. Or, translator colleagues exchange files for reviewing and must ensure synchronicity. Confusion is avoided in otherwise having to add and remove documents and keep track of which is the latest.

MemoQ also assigns a unique ‘tracking’ number to each document version that enables changes made by the translators or reviewer visible. What is more, the X-translate feature enables any previous tracked version of a document to be reinstated with segment statuses preserved.

In the same way, changes and comments are automatically updated from exported bilingual RTF documents reimported following review. Trados Studio 2009 cannot produce bilingual RTFs and users must revert to SDL’s TagEditor, and this effectively renders the bilingual review exchange process impossible between Trados 2009 users and non-CAT tool users who work from a word editor.  The reimport and track changes features are not available in Trados 2009.

-Project Packages

Packages are a major project management tool intended to facilitate large file and resource exchanges in a compressed format along with metadata and project information that provide a ready-made work environment. Although memoQ generally offers outstanding interoperability for Trados-made files, it cannot import Trados project packages (it does however import Transit packages). Trados packages conveniently display progress, word counts and assigned tasks.

MemoQ has its own ‘handoff and delivery package’ system that utilizes intuitive file extensions (.mqout) (.mqback). The freelance edition is unable to create handoffs, though it can receive and return them and this reflects an authentic routine work flow although being able to compress files and resources (TMs and TBs) in one file would be highly beneficial for memoQ freelancer users.

Quality Assurance and reviewing

Both memoQ and Trados Studio have real-time quality assurance checks such as spelling, tag placement and placeables review. The purpose of QA is to maintain quality by detecting errors and speed up the translation purpose. Not all automated error warnings will match human quality evaluation and so it is vital that a) the translator can customize QA settings and b) be able to quickly resolve them.

A QA check in memoQ displays all warning messages from either an active document or an entire project in a separate tab where they can be globally managed and a report exported. The user can see the error in context with source and target segments present, and impressively, the user can choose to ignore all warnings of one kind in single click if they are not actual errors. This is useful in a scenario such as the one presented in this screenshot where number mismatches are flagged because of mixed Arabic (known as ‘Hindi’) and western numerals though they are in fact correct.

Trados also produces a global list of error messages along with an exportable report, but intractability is stymied and far less flexible than in memoQ in that errors cannot be simultaneously seen in situ and the user is not taken to the error location by clicking error messages. This inevitably adds some blindness to the task of resolving errors. There is also far more rigidity in solving errors; the Trados user can only delete messages he decides are not real errors, and this automatically confirms a segment’s status. Error messages in memoQ on the other hand are ‘ignored’ rather than deleted, and this allows for the file to be confirmed as translated while still signifying to later reviewers or project managers that a potential error had previously been flagged, and the error message can be re-reviewed if need be.

Trados also lacks a way of grouping error messages by kind, and offering a batch ignore/delete command, entailing that the error review process in Trados is considerably more time-consuming than in memoQ.

A related feature that memoQ has but which is absent in Trados Studio is its extremely powerful global find and replace command (ctrl+h). The user can find and view all occurrences of a word or phrase in both source and target segments and see them listed in a separate tab, then replace, correct or remove them n any or all documents in any format in a single project at once. This is also a major quality assurance mechanism in that it ensures complete consistency as the user is not simply replacing or editing things blindly since the occurrences are shown within context.

Tradios Studio does not have this feature although it can be downloaded from Trados app store OpenExchange at no cost, and operates as a batch processing feature. However, freelancers cannot be expected to pay large amounts for a CAT tool only then to have to download functionalities as add-ons.

Trados Studio instead has a basic find and replace function for the target text that can operate only on one document and the user cannot be shown where the changes are made so as to ensure that they are correct in context.

As is true in many other areas, memoQ users enjoy greater reach with its quality assurance functionalities because of the time-saving batch processes available in resolving errors as well as their visibility in context. Trados lacks these and this ultimately mean it is less able to guarantee quality.


This report has set out to analytically compare the CAT tools SDL Trados Studio 2009 and Kilgray’s Memoq 5.0 (released in 2011).

Following in-depth comparative analysis of the major functional areas of CAT tools, namely file analysis and invoicing, support for complex language scripts and file formats, translation memory and terminology management, project management and work flows, interoperability and QA, I must conclude that memoQ overwhelmingly offers superior features overall, and greater efficiencies and productivity for translators in a range of professional scenarios. It is of course the application of CAT tool features to real professional routines that ultimately justify their usage (Austermühl , 2001: 107).

 Although Trados excels in some areas such as tag placements, it is less amenable to the contemporary need for interoperability and flexibility demanded by exchanges in commercial translation than its rival memoQ. The rigidity of Trados’ unidirectional TMs and TBs are a major drawback for effective resource exchange whilst the lack of HTML text preview for complex language scripts is startling for a leading modern CAT tool. Ultimately, Kilgray is a relative newcomer to the industry and memoQ has evidently been designed with two specifics in mind; - to function compatibly with other CAT tools and especially the market leader Trados and to offer solutions and improvements on it while providing a more intuitive work environment and ease of mgration fortranslators used to other tools.  It is my opinion that memoQ has successfully achieved those aims and more.

The powerful functionalities, capabilities and professional-orientated features of memoQ certainly justify it as a major rival to Trados (2009) and I would highly recommend it to be taught to students enrolled on an MA Translation course as I believe it offers the best features among CAT tools I am aware of, in addition to being highly intuitive and easy to learn.

Bibliography (Harvard)

Austermühl, F., (2001): Electronic Tools for Translators, Manchester: St. Jerome.

Bowker, L., (c2002): Computer-Aided Translation Technology: A Practical Introduction, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

Esselink, B., (c2000): A Practical Guide to Localization, Amsterdam, Philadelphia : John Benjamins Pub. Co.

Losser, K., (2012): ‘Translation Tribulations: Compatibility workflows with the memoQ Translator Pro edition (Part 1)’. [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.translationtribulations.com/2011/10/compatibility-workflows-with-memoq.html> [Accessed 01 June 2012].

Savourel, Y., (c2001): XML Internationalization and Localization, Indianapolis, Ind: Sams.

Automatic concordance lookup in Trados Studio 2009 FL (SDL Trados support). [ONLINE] Available at: <http://www.proz.com/forum/sdl_trados_support/161098-automatic_concordance_lookup_in_trados_studio_2009_fl.html> [Accessed 29 May 2012].

Improve leverage from existing translation memories. Kilgray Translation Technologies. [ONLINE] Available at: <http://kilgray.com/faq/business-problem/22-improve-leverage-existing-translation-memories> [Accessed 29 May 2012].

Other consulted materials
Quah, C.K, (2006): Translation and technology, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Comparing memoQ™ to SDL Trados Studio™; Benefits of memoQ™ version 3.5 translator pro over SDL Trados Studio 2009™. Kilgray Translation Technologies. [ONLINE PDF] Available at: http://kilgray.com/memoq/memoQvsTrados09.pdf [Accessed 29 May 2012].

[1] Quoted from Roberto Savelli, a translator and memoQ user. Improve Leveraging from Existing Translation Memories [online] Available as: http://kilgray.com/faq/business-problem/22-improve-leverage-existing-translation-memories [Accessed 29 May 2012]
[2] See for example this user online forum http://www.proz.com/forum/sdl_trados_support/161098-automatic_concordance_lookup_in_trados_studio_2009_fl.html [Accessed 29 May 2012]
[3] Compatibility workflows with the memoQ Translator Pro Edition part 1, 2011. Translation Tribulations. [online] Available at <http://www.translationtribulations.com/2011/10/compatibility-workflows-with-memoq.html> [Accessed 29 May 2012].

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