OmegaT, a review
I have long been curious about OmegaT, mostly for 2
OmegaT is the last free
CAT on the market still being developped (that I know of)
- OmegaT is written in Java, and therefore relatively
“Platform independent”, yes, but to run it, you need
Java J2RE. In Windows that means you need to download it and install it,
which will take some time. It also needs OpenOffice.org to handle the
most usual files (word, xls,...) and that's a heck of a download, but
still, once installed, it will work on Linux, Mac and Windows, and any
other OS that runs Java's virtual machine.
Anyway, as I said, I got curious, so taking advantage
of the fast connection I was on, I downloaded the whole thing, and installed
Java, OOo and of course OmegaT. Then I proceeded right away with the manual,
and my first translation in OmegaT. I do not pretend to be an expert of
OmegaT, but I still had an opportunity to experience it first hand (about
10,000 words with it so far), and some knowledge of several other CATs
(Wordfast, Trados, Transit, Translator studio, ...) provides me with a
This review will be rather straightforward and organized
Assuming you already have Java J2RE and OpenOffice.org
installed, installing OmegaT itself is a breeze. You just unzip it
in a folder, and that's it. However, installing Java and OOo will
be a bit more demanding, and you have to download 'em too, probably
one of the reasons why few people currently use OmegaT.
On Linux, installation/running is a tad more difficult
-requires writing a small shell file- but, hey, what's new? (The
explanation on the manual is nearly good enough for a newbie to figure
it out with minimal tweaking!)
When you run OmegaT, it shows up in 2 separate windows,
one for the translation, the other one for matches and glossary. First,
you have to create a project, which is pretty easy. Click on “Files/Create
New project”, select the folders (the default folders will be best
Then, you have to copy your source files in the
source folder of the project using your file explorer. If you have
TMs (in TMX 1 format), copy them in the TM folder. Same procedure
for glossaries (in tab delimited format). Once this is done, you are
ready to start the translation: Go to File/Open, and select the project
file (which has been created for you in the root folder of the project).
Your file will appear in the main window. Press
Enter to start the translation. When you are done with the segment,
just press Enter. To return to the previous segment, press Ctrl+P.
You simply press Enter to move on. Real easy.
OmegaT handles text files, HTML files and any file
that can be opened in OpenOffice.org. That includes RTF, and most
importantly Word/Excel documents, thanks to a series of powerful filters.
However, filters are not the real thing and some intricate formatting
could be messed up. Still, it remains OK for the very large majority
of the jobs.
This is one of the most important differences between
OmegaT and other CATs. OmegaT will use paragraphs as segments
– instead of sentences. I will discuss the advantages and downsides
of this approach later.
Changing from one segment to the next is near instant,
at least on average files. (Haven't tried anything longer then a few
According to the manual however, OmegaT does get much slower when
several large files (containing many segments) are added to the “source
folder”. The work around is however not too difficult. See the ASAD
manual for more data if you come across this problem
I have experienced no noticeable slow down with 5000 words, which
is a fair size for an individual file.
This is very interesting for literary, marketing
and legal documents. Indeed, to produce a good translation on a marketing
document, it is often necessary to read a full paragraph and rephrase
it, rather then going sentence by sentence. Not all documents can
be translated sentence by sentence, and this approach may result in
a poor translation. Each sentence may have been translated correctly,
but the style is lost. It doesn't flow. On a marketing document, translation
often requires one to rephrase a whole paragraph and combine sentences*.
Can be gotten to run on any platform...BUT it requires
Java J2RE, which is seldom present on Windows machines, and to do
any real work, OOo is a must – free too, but 60 some Mb to download.
Simplicity of operation
Once you have learned to press Enter to change segment,
and Ctrl+P to go back to the previous one, that's it. There are nearly
no bells and whistle, and nothing to distract your attention, so you
simply focus on the translation.
A nice thing to note (especially for website localization) is that
OmegaT preserves the structure, including nested subdirectories and
all non translatable files, in the final output. This makes it a tool
of choice for website translation. (The OmegaT tags however need to
be learned to do a good job, because you can't see the actual tags)
The search function of OmegaT is quite nice, with support for a couple
wildcards, * and ?. You can search the TM as well, and you can also
use a keyword search (a bit like an internet search engine: search
for “game” and “bob”, and it will bring up all segments which contain
those 2 words).
Double-click on the segment you are interested in and you will be
brought to the segment itself.
Preview is not the right term, but that's close enough. You can compile
the files at any time during the translation, and it is reasonably
fast. This means you can always see were you stand in the final file,
a most accurate preview. This is very useful when working with HTML
files, as you can see what it looks like, and what goes where.
What's cheaper then free?
Open source means that you can access the source (Duh!) so if
you are able to program in Java, you can customize it as you like/need,
and integrate it with other java programs. While this is clearly not
for the average user, it could prove useful later. If you spend your
days on a computer, soon or later, you will dig a bit of programming,
and when you do, Open Source is a dream come true.
The glossary function is very clumsy. You have to
add terms by opening the glossary in a text editor. OmegaT needs to
be restarted if you want it to recognize new terms from the glossaries,
and when it recognizes them, you still have to type the translation
You have two windows standing side by side, and
they just don't integrate. The GUI looks poor and that's a bit of
a distraction. Font settings are skimpy.
It also means that there are much less matches than
with a regular CAT. For instance, the following paragraph:
“Go to the File menu, and select Save As. Enter a name for your
file. Select a format and click on Save. ...”.
With a typical CAT, these 3 sentences could be recognized and translated
automatically. With OmegaT, the whole paragraph has to match, and
it seldom does. As a result, TM brings much less matches then on regular
Another downside of paragraph segmentation is that
there is no real compatibility with other CAT products. You have TMX
1.1 TMs, but they bring no matches when used on other CATs. However,
the search function can ease the problem a bit, as you can query the
Search function issues
The segment number given is wrong (as per my trial).
The search window remains in focus after you double click on a result,
so you may not see the segment and it feels like nothing happened.
Once you got to the segment you searched, there is no easy way to
get back to the segment you were previously working on.
“Simple” features like spellchecking require major tweaking to install.
You can tweak and tweak and even reprogram the whole thing -it's GNU-
but obviously most users are not computer litterate enough to do so,
so the have to do without, for now.
You can see where the tags are and move them quite
easily, but you don't know what they are. That means you have
to keep a copy of the document open to check what the tags are. That
said, OmegaT can compile the files at any time, so you can easily
get a preview.
Because it handles the translation in a simple text
editor, OmegaT turns simple word/rtf files into tagged documents,
so you need to know how to handle tagged files, and you need to check
the tags integrity, even for simple *.rtf files. Further, if you want
to add formatting, you will have to do it outside (in OOo for instance),
because it can't be done in OmegaT.
Lack of support for other CAT formats
Apart from a serious amount of tweaking, you can
not use OmegaT for Wordfast/Trados files. Since OmegaT is in a minority
position on the market, compatibility is important. A translator doesn't
translate alone, but integrates within a team, (be it his own team
or that of his customer) and must therefore be able to exchange easily
his work files with others. That said, if you are ready for the tweaking,
it can be done, but not within OmegaT itself.
On OmegaT, the TM offers very few good matches and OmegaT
unfortunately lacks the tools to compensate for that. It can not be configured
to meet specific needs, and the glossary function is poor. To develop
into a mainstream tool, OmegaT will have to implement better glossary
functions, develop subsegment matching and create other functions to compensate
for the lack of matches. There is room for improvement in the appearance
of the program. OmegaT should also have a simple routine to work on Trados
segmented files and produce them if needed.
However, having OmegaT is
a nice complement to your range of translation tools, because thanks to
its pesky paragraph segmentation, it is possible to handle properly marketing
documents. Target and source language can widely differ in their ways
to express ideas, and some documents just can't be translated sentence
by sentence. When this is the case, other CATs are less effective, and
OmegaT is a good alternative. It's also quite fast and does not distract
you from your work. I just hope it will develop more of the features we
expect from professional CATs.
If you don't have a CAT yet,
you may as well start with this one, and if you have one, you may still
need occasionally an easy way to deal with long-winded, verbose-addicted
writers, OmegaT's main edge.
home page gives you links to the download site and documentation in
a no-nonsense fashion.
This Article is a courtesy of www.your-translations.com
the article “CAT, beware of the beast” in
the knowledge base.