Over the last 30 days, I have been trying out SDL Trados Studio 2017, the latest version of SDL's flagship CAT tool for translators. My first impressions have been mixed: some good, some bad.
The very first thing you should be aware of when you request a free trial version of Studio 2017 online is that you will not be getting a full-feature version of the package to try out, but one with some major restrictions. This was my first surprise as the other CAT tools I have tried out so far like memoQ translator pro, Déjà Vu X3, OmegaT, Swordfish and memsource have always been fully functional versions. Although the interface of the trial version of Studio 2017 includes icons for MultiTerm, the termbase program, and for software localisation using a powerful tool from SDL called Passolo, clicking on the icons will trigger a message saying that these programs are not installed. In other words, you can't try them out. Trying to use a CAT tool that has a translation-memory ('TM') module but not one for terminology is frustrating as it means you can translate proper files with it, but you can't import terms from other programs, which would help you with the translation.
Funnily enough, some features of MultiTerm are actually included in the trial version, meaning you can save new terms if you want, but you can't export the termbase you create to send it to someone else or import into another CAT tool; it's stuck inside Studio 2017. I hope SDL decides to include full MultiTerm support in the next version of Studio, if not before, as being able to draw on terminology you have already collected is important for a translator.
What did I like about Studio 2017?
- The interface, which is quite easy to work with (i.e. it's designed in a logical way) and uses a colour scheme I now find easy on the eye (I didn't like the gaudiness of earlier colour schemes). The interface also contains a number of very useful icons such as links to tutorials and to SDL AppStore (an external, web-based resource from SDL where you can get extra add-ons to enhance Studio's out-of-the-box functionality; it used to be called OpenExchange).
- The amount of customisation possible for the interface - you can add specific functions you need a lot to a Quick Access bar, for example.
- The vertical translation grid, which - like memoQ's - is clear and easy to use; the source language is displayed in segments on the left, the target in segments on the right (at least in my LTR language pair, German and English; I presume this order is reversed for languages written in RTL scripts like Hebrew and Arabic).
- You can filter segments using a wide range of practical criteria.
- The two or three software updates that Studio installed during the trial period went quickly and smoothly.
- The Release Notes that come with the package tell you exactly what's new in Studio 2017. They also say what issues there are with it (optical character recognition, or OCR, in PDF files that Studio can read is limited to 14 languages at the moment).
What didn't I like about Studio 2017?
- It's not very easy to export a TM to TMX format (which is a common file format for exchanging TM data between different programs). You can get around this limitation by installing a special add-on for exactly this purpose or by checking a settings box that allows you to export the TM in 'a Trados 2007-compatible format' (i.e. TMX!).
- Some features that are a standard part of memoQ translator pro are not included in Studio 2017; if you want them, you need to install an add-on from SDL AppStore first. MemoQ lets you import terms from a CSV file, for example, and you can look up tricky terms on the web straight from the translation grid. Not so with Studio (yet, at least):
- The trial version includes a small number of pre-installed apps, but you can't install any extra ones of your own choice (like the Glossary Converter), meaning you can't see what they do or how well they work. (That was disappointing since there were a number of apps from SDL AppStore that I wanted to try out, too.)
- The Studio 2017 software package is considerably bigger than memoQ translator pro's in terms of hard-disk space and takes longer to launch as well.
- Studio 2017 won't run on Windows 8.0, Windows Vista or Windows XP; it will only run on the latest versions of Windows 7, 8.1 and 10. So some versions of Windows are fine, others aren't. Woe you've got the wrong one on your PC!
- Studio 2017 also has issues with certain web browsers and versions of Microsoft Office.
Please read the Release Notes carefully to see if your PC meets Studio's requirements before you install it.
In sum, I enjoyed using the trial version of the program, which in my opinion is the best one I've worked with so far. However, my experience as a user would have been even better if all of Studio's functionality had been available. Since trial versions of programs are intended to persuade potential new users to buy the package, it doesn't make sense to offer them a restricted-feature version that will hamper their productivity rather than boost it. Apart from that, having worked with CAT tools for a good few years now, I found Studio 2017 relatively straightforward to use – many of them now work in a similar way. What I wasn't able to see instantly, however, was what clear advantages the tool has over other sophisticated packages like memoQ.
If you are interested in getting a licence for SDL Trados Studio 2017, I recommend you to take a look at the group buys that frequently take place on Proz.com as you can save a lot of money that way. SDL also runs several promotions a year itself. If you are a member of a translators' association, that may have made a special arrangement with SDL to allow its members to buy the software at a reduced rate. So there are various options you can benefit from.
Related articles elsewhere on the internet
- Product review by Andrea Luciano Damico
- FAQs about Studio 2017 on SDL's own website
- Emma Goldsmith's blog post on fragment recall in Studio 2017, a new feature in Studio to improve automatic assembly of target sentences
- Order a free trial of Studio 2017 from SDL