3-minute review of Swordfish II CAT tool
Over the past 6 months or so I’ve experimented with the Swordfish II Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) program; this post is a brief walkthrough of its main features.
Flexibility: The main attraction of Swordfish for me was that it’s cross-platform, so I can use it on a Windows PC and on a Mac (or on the Linux operating system). This degree of flexibility is hard to come by on the CAT tools market, and in my opinion is Swordfish’s main selling point. The only slight snag is that, although you can use the same licence across more than one computer, you have to disable and enable it each time (unlike with open source cross-platform programs such as OmegaT, for example). This is fine in principle, but you need to be good at remembering to disable the licence on your desktop PC before venturing out to work within Swordfish on your laptop!
File formats: Swordfish can handle an impressive range of different file formats very competently, including Trados .ttx files. It works by converting these file formats to ‘XLIFF’ format (an open standard) before opening the file within the Swordfish editing environment. The documents are converted back to their original format once you’ve completed the translation and are ready to proofread the final version. This also means I can convert a PowerPoint file, for example, to XLIFF in Swordfish, start working on it in Swordfish and come back to it later within another program that supports the XLIFF format (e.g. MemoQ). This adds an additional layer of flexibility and interoperability.
Layout: The interface is clean and extremely easy to find your way around, even if you don’t have time to read the (short) user manual back-to-back before starting to use it. Like in other programs, the Translation Memory database and terminology database results are displayed in a right-hand column as you type. A click on a term (or keyboard shortcut) will simply add it to your translation. You also have the option to have several TM and terminology databases open at the same time.
Terminology search integration: One of the features I like most about Swordfish, and which I haven’t seen offered to the same extent by any other CAT tool, is its integration of search tools such as Linguee, IATE and Termium Plus, which you can search while translating (provided you’re connected to the internet) without having to open a separate browser. This feature is fully customisable for the language combinations you work with, and is so useful that I tend to have Swordfish open just for this even if I’m using another CAT tool for a particular job. Like some other programs, Google Translate is also integrated, should you want to search its corpora during your first draft.
Downsides: Swordfish can be slow in moving between segments compared with other programs of its capabilities. The QA function is up there with the best programs of its kind but again tends to run slower than I’d like. The ‘concordance’ function can take far too long to load if your Translation Memory databases are sizeable. Also, the ‘create database’ function doesn’t differentiate between a Translation Memory database and a terminology database, so you need to ensure you give meaningful names to your databases (e.g. _TM/Term) in order to find them again.
Verdict: The PC version of Swordfish could certainly run a lot faster than it does, but the program does offer a very great deal for its relatively small price tag, and I think it has the edge on cross-platform interoperability. Its integration of the main online terminology search tools makes it feel like a ‘translator’s translation tool’. The support offered is also extremely responsive, in my experience.