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How We Turned OmegaT Weaknesses into Strengths

One of the great things about the translation program OmegaT is that it fully supports other CAT (computer-aided translation) tool formats, including SDLXLIFF (SDL Trados Studio) and TXML (Wordfast Pro). This gives you the flexibility to rely on those CAT tools when OmegaT lacks a particular functionality. One example explained in this post is benefiting from better file filters.

Translating hidden text in Microsoft Word files

Whenever parts of a text do not require translation, it makes sense to “hide” them. Examples include:

  1. A client asks you not to translate certain items, because they are instructions for the DTP specialist.
  2. A client instructs you to provide a bilingual file with the translation next to, or under, the original.

However, there is no way to hide text within OmegaT natively. Take the second example. You normally want to prepare the original file in such a way that will provide the required layout automatically. For instance, if a client tells you to translate three paragraphs by putting the respective translation under each paragraph, you can prepare the original file by duplicating each paragraph, thus creating a file with three duplicate paragraphs.

File prepared for producing bilingual translation

You then translate the second paragraph of each pair only, leaving the first one untranslated. When you create translated documents, you automatically get the translation in a bilingual layout.

File with bilingual translation

Now, the problem with OmegaT is that you see all six paragraphs in the editor instead of just those three that require translation, which is distracting and requires creating alternative translations so that the original text remains untranslated. You can hide this text in Microsoft Word, but OmegaT will still display it, because its Microsoft Open XML filter does not yet have the option to not display hidden text.

This is where other CAT tools come into play. SDL Trados Studio does provide this feature, and you can use it as an intermediate format between Microsoft Word and OmegaT. Here is how you go about it:

  1. Prepare a pseudo-bilingual DOCX file as described above.
  2. Convert the file into SDLXLIFF with Studio.
  3. Check to make sure the text is hidden in the SDLXLIFF file as expected.
  4. Copy source into target: this is the format supported by OmegaT’s native XLIFF filter.
  5. Translate the file with OmegaT.
  6. Open the translated file in Studio and save the target DOCX file.

One might argue that this entire procedure is too complicated, since it is easier to translate the file first and then insert the translations into the original file to create bilingual text. However, I do not recommend this, because you will lose the important ability to make changes to the translation in OmegaT and then re-create the target file. Without this ability, you will likely face wasteful rework when changes to the translation are required. Read more about this principle of keeping translated files “connected” to OmegaT.

Translating Adobe Indesign files

OmegaT’s INDD filter (provided by the Okapi plugin) is not as good as in other CAT tools yet. Some time ago, we worked on a set of INDD files that OmegaT failed to segment properly: it kept breaking sentences into smaller pieces. We tried several other tools and found that Wordfast Pro did a better job, making it an ideal intermediate format to translate these files. We then followed this procedure:

  1. Convert the file into TXML with Wordfast Pro.
  2. Copy source into target: this is the format supported by OmegaT’s native TXML filter.
  3. Translate the file with OmegaT.
  4. Open the translated file in Wordfast Pro and save the target file.

In conclusion

Although I provided very specific examples, the broader point of this post is to show how you can leverage other CAT tools to complement OmegaT’s functionality. Whenever you run into issues such as those described, remember to test whether other CAT tools can serve as an intermediate format.

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One comment

  • Mulyadi Subali says:

    Hmm… if you have other CAT tool that can handle the file better, why bother using OmegaT? This is unless you’re an agency assigning the job to OmegaT-using translator. Unfortunately, most agencies rarely endorse, or even ask, their translators to use OmegaT.

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About the Author

Roman Mironov
Roman Mironov
CEO & Founder

As the founder of Velior, Roman has had the privilege of being able to turn his passion for languages into a business. He has over 15 years of experience in the translation industry. Roman has helped dozens of clients increase sales by making their products appealing for speakers of other languages.