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  • Jourik Ciesielski

Industry update: in-context preview

In-context preview is undoubtedly one of the most sought after functionalities in translation technology. Subject matter experts (SMEs) in particular prefer a visual editor over the bilingual column view in CAT tools. As a matter of fact, the effort to generate an in-context preview is not very big for certain file formats. Let’s take HTML as an example; HTML code describes the appearance of its data, which makes it relatively easy for translation management system (TMS) providers to generate an in-context counterpart for it. Other file formats are a harder nut to crack.

In this article we’ll discuss what the current translation technology market has to say about the in-context possibilities for a number of file formats that might entail quite some layout work and functional testing after translation. Furthermore, we’ll mirror the different formats to several tools including memoQ, Memsource, SDL Trados Studio and XTM Cloud.

1. Subtitle files

The popularity of video as a means of technical communication is growing at a very fast pace, especially in corporate learning programs. Many e-learning developers use subtitles to localize their video content because the effort to provide spoken text into multiple target languages is relatively big. As a result, subtitle formats like SRT and webVTT have become very common in the language industry. There are two tools that offer very good support for processing subtitles in-context: memoQ and SDL Trados Studio.

SDL released a set of useful applications for audiovisual localization with Trados Studio 2019. Besides file type configurations for several subtitle formats like SBV and SRT, there’s a plugin that allows to preview subtitles in their corresponding videos on the one hand, and to edit metadata such as time codes on the other:

memoQ built a separate application on their Preview SDK to enrich the translation process of subtitle files with a live preview. The application talks to memoQ when working in the editor and repeats by default the part of the video that starts 1 second before and ends 1 second after the caption that is being edited:

2. InDesign

Adobe InDesign is one of the top players in the DTP software market and it is undoubtedly one of the most processed file formats in the language industry. Since it is very often used to create marketing content, SMEs might be involved to take care of the revision step after translation. SMEs - marketing or sales persons in a lot of cases - don’t really care about the traditional column view in CAT tools and prefer a visual editor to review translated files. A couple of TMS providers including memoQ, Memsource and XTM developed interesting alternatives for the obsolete sticky PDF notes review.

XTM Cloud is strongly integrated with Adobe InDesign server and supports two preview types. The first preview type is the so-called interactive PDF. XTM Workbench and the PDF preview are interoperable, meaning that if you select text in the preview, the corresponding segment will activate in the Workbench. The second preview type is the visual mode for InDesign files:

Memsource in turn offers a beta in-context preview for InDesign files. Memsource reports a couple of restrictions (e.g. images in IDML can only be displayed if they are embedded), but beyond that, it offers everything one would expect from a live preview, including synchronized navigation between the preview and the editor.

In addition to their video preview tool, memoQ has another application that comes in handy for users who are in need of visual environments. The application generates previews from existing PDF files when dealing with source file formats for which memoQ doesn’t have a built-in preview, and works particularly well with InDesign files:

3. XML-based documents

Contrary to HTML, XML is a markup language that only structures its data. Other than that, it does nothing, nada, niente. There are a lot of advantages to this in terms of translation. XML is a very rich source file format as it beautifully organizes data in content blocks that are enriched with all kinds of metadata. It has become the most important building block for translation management in many content management systems (CMS) and it is the foundation of basically every standard in the localization industry (XLIFF, TMX, ITS, etc.). On the other hand, there are few visual options in XML. The most common way to generate an in-context preview is to convert XML files to HTML using an XSLT stylesheet, which is something that memoQ as well as Memsource, SDL and XTM have integrated in their technology. The truth of the matter is that it requires knowledge and time to write and test XSLT transformations, but the nice thing is that it allows to create very tailored previews.

Note that in the case of DITA XML, previews can also be generated using DITA Open Toolkit (DITA-OT) in e.g. SDL Trados Studio and XTM Cloud.

4. Conclusion

Live previews and visual translation editors are a huge asset in translation technology. In-context environments enable linguists, project managers and SMEs to anticipate any layout problems, reduce the amount of functional tests, and realize faster turnaround times.

Note that besides the file formats that have been discussed in this article, there are more formats that are noteworthy in terms of in-context preview. Microsoft Office is of course a classic, but especially in the field of software localization there are some interesting efforts to provide visual context. Lokalise, one of the top developer translation management systems, has a screenshot feature with automatic key tagging system. All you need to do is drag and drop screenshots into projects. The system will automatically recognize text on the screenshots and link them to the corresponding segments in the editor based on their keys. We can only encourage TMS providers to keep this kind of initiative coming.


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