Open Language Tools

By Stacey
Nov 6, 2013 · 3 min

Sun’s Open Language Tools is a fantastic Translation Memory-based application that can run on any computer system.

Open Language Tools | One Hour Translation

Translation professionals spend a lot of their time sitting in front of a computer. It’s not the healthiest lifestyle, of course, but one thing you learn very quickly from it is that the right software can make your day and the wrong software can break it.

For a very, very long time in the translation world there was no ‘right’ software at all. The early applications designed for Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) were, in a word, horrible. But we’ve come a long way since those dark days, and not only are translation pros everywhere now happily using CAT in their daily lives instead of opining darkly about how machines were going to take all of our jobs away, but we’re working in a sort-of paradise for software tools in translation work. Case in point: The Open Language Tools from Sun Microsystems.

Translation Memory and More

Released in 2006, Open Language Tools is fundamentally a small Translation Memory (TM) database that takes coded files and presents the user with a split screen: On one side the original, on the other the target language. Colour-coding marks off segments of language that have been automatically translated and indicates whether the translation is a 100% match or a bit fuzzier (fuzzy matching is an incredible step forward in TM technology, if you ask me).

The Open Language Tools suite has several advantages. It is platform agnostic, because it’s written in Sun’s Java language, which is designed to run on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems (and others). Second, it’s based on an XML format standard called XLIFF. Open standards are great, and no one appreciates them more than translation pros, believe me. Finally, Sun made the tool Open Source, which means anyone with programming knowledge can download the source code, make changes, and upload the results – or create whole new tools from the code, as long as they release their code back into the community. This means it’s incredibly easy to augment the software in any number of ways. Sun’s thinking when it released the tool was that they aren’t in the translation software business, they built the tool to share – and, of course, to create one more reason for people to use Java.

The Downside

Of course, no tool is perfect, and Open Language Tools does have some downside. For one, the XLIFF file format is complex and not easy to use. It takes a lot of work to get up to speed on it, which means your first few weeks or months with the software won’t be very productive. Second, Java itself has a lot of problems, including recent security concerns that have left people’s private data exposed to the Internet – in fact, some larger software projects like the Mozilla Foundation (makers of Firefox) have totally deprecated Java and turned it off by default. Still, Open Language Tools remains a must-install for any translator.

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