For some time now, I’ve been reviewing, and explaining the functionality of, OmegaT, the free translation memory program we use on a day-to-day basis, and encouraging both professional and hobby translators to give it a go. Forget it, I found a better option.
Just kidding 🙂 In fact, OmegaT has recently converted me into a raving fan! That’s because it now supports team projects, making it possible for several people to work on a translation simultaneously. I’m always excited about innovations that help increase translator productivity, but I can’t remember being as excited as I’m now. Although we’ve just started using the new function, it already makes a huge difference in terms of performance in collaborative translation projects. And yes, the program is still free! I remember salivating over SDL Trados Professional a few years ago, which also enables this kind of collaboration. But at the level of about €3,000 per one machine, I believe SDL pricing policy isn’t too friendly for a small operation like ours. Now, you and I can get the same capability for free thanks to the hard work and commitment of a group of very knowledgeable and talented people.
The idea behind this new function is very smart. Unlike other popular tools such as Trados or Wordfast, OmegaT doesn’t convert the source files into an intermediate format like TTX. You simply put a source file as it is in the source subfolder of your project, OmegaT reads it and presents you with all translatable text in the Editor pane. The translations are committed to a separate TMX file, project_save.tmx, which serves as the project’s translation memory. The developers came up with an idea to share this file between translators via SVN ( Subversion). SVN is a proven technology widely used to maintain current and historical versions of files and capable of merging different versions to provide a single file that includes all changes. This means that several translators can send their project_save.tmx files to an SVN server to have them merged into a single project_save.tmx, which will include all translations as a result. OmegaT’s role in this versioning process is to keep sending the updated project_save.tmx back and forth between a translator’s machine and an SVN repository. Using Git instead of SVN is also possible.
To enable team projects, you need an SVN server. You can sign up for a free online service such as Google or set up your own server. For confidentiality reasons, I opted for the latter.
I chose VisualSVN, which comes with Apache HTTP server, enabling access to your team projects from the Internet.
I installed it on a machine in our local network and created a repository folder and users.
Finally, I used an SVN client, TortoiseSVN, to create a repository and upload an OmegaT project. Any project you upload to a repository must have the standard OmegaT structure and also include a project_save.tmx file without any translation units. Just take any project_save.tmx and delete all translation units, but make sure to keep the header and the closing tags in the end of the file.
Steps within OmegaT
To connect to a translation project in a repository, you need to complete the following steps:
- Open OmegaT and select Open > Download Team Project.
- Select SVN or Git. Enter your repository URL and a local or network folder where you want to save the downloaded project.
- Enter your credentials.
OmegaT will download the team project to the selected folder. This project is an exact copy of the one stored in the repository.
Start translating, and OmegaT will keep pushing your project_save.tmx to the repository. The SVN server will be merging your translations with those of other translators working on this project together with you. OmegaT will also keep pulling the merged project_save.tmx from the repository, making all the latest translations instantly available to you.
How Other Team Members’ Translations Appear in Your OmegaT
If you want to update the Editor pane with the translations possibly made by other team members after you opened the project, you can simply reload the project by pressing F5.
Otherwise, segments will update only as you open them. This means that when you open a segment that appears untranslated in your Editor pane, but is actually already translated in your project_save.tmx (meaning that someone else translated it), OmegaT inserts the translation automatically.
And when you open any translated segment, which has been modified by your colleague, OmegaT inserts the modified translation, thus replacing the old version of translation in your Editor pane with the latest one.
The main application of the new feature is enabling a team of translators to work on a translation job simultaneously. For example, you can have just one file for translation and tell your translators the locations in the file where each of them should start and finish. As they translate, they will have virtually instantaneous access to each others’ translations. As a result, they won’t translate identical and similar segments in a different way and will be able to maintain consistency by looking up terms in the translation memory instead of coming up with their own translations.
Another possible application is enabling an editor to begin revising the translation before it’s completely finished. For instance, a translator may finish the first part of a file and move on to the second one. The editor can then start editing the first part right away, and the translator will see any changes or comments immediately. This kind of translation and editing in batches comes particularly handy in larger projects where waiting until a translator finishes the entire translation is not an option.
The new feature also allows to track translators’ progress. Normally, a translation agency doesn’t know whether a translator assigned to a project is actually working on it until he or she delivers the ready translation. If a translator experiences a critical delay or doesn’t get down to work at all, an agency is often kept in the dark. For instance, Dave Grunwald of GTS wrote in his popular blog about a freelancer who had accepted a large job from his company and promised to deliver within one month, but had failed to do so and, as it turned out, had never even bothered to start the translation. OmegaT now makes it possible to minimize or avoid such risks because you actually receive pieces of translation almost in real time as they are added to the project’s TM in your repository. If the deadline is around the corner while the translation is still incomplete, this is clearly a red flag.
Every time I’m starting to think that a feature recently introduced in OmegaT is the best thing since sliced bread, the great minds behind it bring out something new that’s even more exciting. The amount of improvements made to the program over the last couple of years is staggering. Combined with the other powerful functions available in OmegaT, the new team feature makes it a compelling choice not only for freelance translators, but also for translation agencies. Compared to our previous translation memory tool, I believe that the increase in performance with OmegaT is at least 20%. With the long-awaited collaboration capability now available, I wouldn’t be surprised if OmegaT’s adoption skyrockets. A huge thank you goes out to all OmegaT‘s developers whose commitment to providing an excellent, yet free translation program makes a huge difference in the lives of many translators around the world.
What do you think about the new feature? Please write a comment. And if you need help getting started with it or with any other OmegaT’s function, please also mention this in a comment.