Here is my short review of SDL Trados 2014. It is aimed at translators who already have a good understanding of what CAT tools are and how they work. Going over each and every feature of SDL Trados Studio 2014 would take ages. I will try to go straight to the points of interest for freelance translators, in a hope that it will make your purchasing decision easier.
Notable changes over Studio 2011
-Faster: SDL Trados 2014 introduces performance improvements over its predecessor. File opening/saving is much faster, project creation takes a little less time, and since SP2, Multiterm doesn’t use Java anymore, which makes it more reactive.
-Ribbon, slightly more user friendly: The ribbon was the most noticeable change between Trados 2011 and 2014, and sparked lots of discussions online. It’s not a fundamental change, though, it simply gives access to some of the frequently used functions of Trados in a more visual way. If you are new to SDL software, it will probably make the learning curve a little smoother.
-Possibility to merge several files in a single working pane: Pretty cool feature for projects with a great number of small files. No need to open 200 tabs anymore. It saves time and makes things like Search & Replace much less tedious.
– Complete: Trados Studio 2014 is still the most complete CAT tool when it comes to compatibility with file formats. It also offers an impressive number of customizable options to make it work ideally for you. In theory, you should be able to translate the vast majority of the files you’ll ever need to.
– OpenExchange Apps: I have to admit it’s the one thing that makes me stick to Trados for most projects not requiring any specific CAT tool. On the OpenExchange website, you will find tons of really useful plugins, often available for free. They make a lot of tasks easier, especially when it comes to TM management. Some of the dictionary/glossary tools can also give you a good productivity boost.
– Buggy crashy laggy: Despite updates being made on a regular basis, SDL Trados Studio 2014 is still awfully buggy. It will crash rather often, most of the time without a clear/reproducible reason. There are also regularly problems with opening/saving files that Trados should be able to handle (and that other CAT tools handle very well). Saving issues are particularly annoying when you realize, after finishing a project, that you can’t output your translation in the original format…
For large files, Trados still seems to be overall slower than its competitors. For files over 10,000 words, switching between segments takes me so much time that I prefer to split the source file to save time.
– Complex, unintuitive: Trados Studio offers lots of options, which is great, but they are rather poorly organized. Some very simple actions will require browsing through several layers of sub-menus. Option labels are often confusing and you have to try them out to really understand what they do. Another problem is that a ridiculous number of shortcuts is set by default – mistype something and you will trigger functions that you didn’t even know about.
In general, every process seems to have more steps than it should. Even creating a simple project with a source file and TM takes you through a long series of screens
– Unresponsive and condescending support: Responsiveness of the support team seems pretty random. If you want a quick response, the fastest way seems to be shouting it out on social networks and/or translation forums. But then still, you are likely to get only partial help: either you get workarounds that take a ridiculous amount of time to execute (aren’t CAT tools supposed to save time?) or they put the blame on you/your client/some third party. To sum it up, I will quote the SDL support itself, which responded to a feature request this way: “Yes there is always hope, but this is pretty unlikely to be something coming from SDL.”
If you are new to CAT tools, I would recommend starting with a more simple tool, like Wordfast, which doesn’t have all of Trados features but is much more user-friendly and stable. Once you are experienced and that you start looking for advanced productivity tips, Trados Studio 2014 and Open Exchange Apps may provide a real boost. Even if you purchase Trados, I would recommend translators to keep a “lighter” and more reliable tool for when Trados decides it just doesn’t want to translate your file. Remember that you can always import/export your TMs and bilingual files between software.
Trados can save you big time once you understand how to use it and that it doesn’t crash or decide it doesn’t want to handle your files. With a better interface and less bugs, it would clearly be the best tool of the market. As such, it should be approached with care and patience for projects that seem suited to it.
By the way, it’s pretty expensive. The good news is that, most of time, group buys (Proz) and seasonal promotional offers are available (generally 20-30% off discounts). Even if none is available at the time you check promotions out, one will probably pop out soon enough, so make sure you wait to get it at a more reasonable price.