Market Radar: Popular Translation Management Systems
October 13, 2021 by Johannes
Do you sometimes wish your translation problems would just vanish into thin air? That all your translation files could be assigned magically with just a wave of your hand – instead of becoming a manual labor of Herculean proportions? Do you wake at night in a cold sweat, plagued by nightmares of isolated business systems that will keep your translation resources locked up for all eternity?
We’ve got the perfect therapy to alleviate your translational trauma: a translation management system.
Systemizing Your Translations: a Worthwhile Investment
Okay, so we might have been exaggerating a little in the intro. But at the heart of it all lies a kernel of truth – after all, there are plenty of business owners who wish they could implement a dedicated infrastructure to help them get a better handle on their translations.
Translation management systems (TMS) cover the whole translation lifecycle. They combine business management (project management, vendor management, financial management), process management (workflow automation, collaboration tools, third-party-system connectivity) and language management (management of translation memories and termbases, client reviews, etc.). And of course, they can also be used for translation thanks to their built-in CAT tools – even though providers don’t always highlight this feature in their marketing campaigns.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at 4 TMS solutions that are in high demand on today’s market. For the purposes of this piece, we have chosen to focus exclusively on vendor-neutral systems – ones that aren’t tied to a partnership with any particular language services provider.
1. XTM Cloud: Heavyweight for Global Corporations
XTM is well established as one of the market leaders in the field of cloud-based translation management systems. With almost 20 years of experience in the industry, it is one of the most mature solutions on the market when it comes to functionality, system stability and customer support.XTM covers the entire translation workflow on one central platform, including project, vendor and client management. It has clearly been designed to focus primarily on business management and the increasingly important issue of connectivity – the software boasts an extensive library of connectors for content management systems, source code management systems, cloud service solutions and marketing automation solutions. On top of this, it also offers an analytics functionality, quality assurance, a customer portal, and a workflow builder that can be used to define complex processes.
Due to its wide range of functions and relatively high investment costs, XTM is aimed primarily at big-business clients who have complex requirements in terms of their automation and reporting. Most of the organizations that use it have a multitude of stakeholders – such as Marketing, HR and Documentation teams –who all need to be able to assign translations in various different file formats while also taking into account differences in process requirements and review steps.
Like many online tools, XTM comes with a relatively streamlined translation editor that falls a little short of the capabilities offered by desktop tools such as memoQ and Trados Studio. Nevertheless, it does boast a few innovative approaches of its own – such as the ability to produce alternative translation suggestions for creative marketing copy and its powerful Visual Editor for Adobe InDesign, XML and HTML, which can be used to preview translations in their original formats and directly adapt them to fit the target layout. However, there is still room for improvement in some of its core translation functionality – such as the user-friendliness of the concordance search and text production, the inability to work on multiple translation files simultaneously, and the spellcheck and QA.
2. memoQ: Robust Management Features and Happy Translators
The first version of memoQ was published in 2006 by Hungarian development studio Kilgray. By 2010, the solution had already risen to become the second most popular CAT tool and TMS in Europe after market leader SDL Trados.
Having initially been launched as a local TMS, memoQ has long since expanded to the cloud. For customers with strict data privacy requirements, memoQ offers the option of a Server Hosting Service. It is also the only solution that allows businesses to host their own on-premise server.
memoQ focuses on project management, translation resource management and the translation process itself. Business management components are provided on demand by external partners such as Plunet, LBS and Consoltec. memoQ is a tool for power users – while its sprawling array of functions can seem daunting to beginners, experienced users find plenty of benefit in the extensive range of customization options it offers for translation workflows.
Rather than relying on large numbers of ready-made connectors, the software often requires an individual connection via web service API (WS API). This isn’t a bad thing, however, as many of the out-of-the-box connectors used by other systems don’t always run smoothly either (causing segmentation problems when importing files into the tool, for example), and end up needing further adjustment anyway.
But the real jewel in the crown of this solution is memoQ translator pro. This popular translation editor offers a powerful concordance search, an intelligent autocorrect functionality and a wide range of text filtering functions. The ability to create custom views allows users to stitch together multiple translation files to form a single document – an incredibly helpful feature, especially when working on projects that contain dozens of separate files. Modular elements enable users to customize many aspects of the interface, and they can also create their own shortcuts to navigate it. The QA module offers an outstanding range of functions as well.
memoQ also boasts a great community. Once a year, the company invites its current and future users to the memoQfest in Budapest – a user conference that combines the obligatory networking events with talks on localization trends, an opulent gala dinner, and even sightseeing trips of the local area.
3. Memsource: An Accomplished All-Rounder in the Cloud
Memsource has 250,000 users all around the world, and counts global players such as Uber, Zendesk, Vistaprint and Huawei among its clients.
In terms of functionality, Memsource can easily hold its own against the industry’s biggest names, supporting over 500 languages, 50 file formats and 30 machine translation engines. It includes all the standard features – from central translation memory and terminology management to a CAT editor, a REST API for custom integrations, and countless CMS connectors for cross-system localization. As such, Memsource is a solid choice for global businesses with a large volume of translations who want to link their translation processes up to other content systems.
Like XTM, Memsource is a devoted follower of the connectivity and workflow automation trends. Its constantly evolving range of connectors is easy to set up and includes all the classics: Wordpress, Github, HubSpot, Marketo and Zendes. Its workflows can be customized extensively based on content type or product series, and assigned a wide range of review steps. Thanks to the high degree of integration and wide range of automation options it offers – from translation requests to project delivery – Memsource has proven particularly popular among developers and software engineers.
Still something of a new player compared to memoQ and XTM, this solution was named Most Viable Translation Management System by CSA Research in 2019. When it comes to the integration of machine translation, Memsource was one of the industry’s pioneers. And while most providers now offer equivalent functionalities in this key area, Memsource still has a few innovative tricks up its sleeve. For example, 2020 saw the launch of Memsource Translate, which uses artificial intelligence and information on a text’s language pair and field to select the ideal MT engine and calculate the quality of the generated output.
From a translator’s point of view, Memsource offers more than XTM but still trails behind memoQ. Like XTM, Memsource focuses on the cloud, though it also offers a desktop editor, which is especially handy when working on larger translation projects. The local editor is compatible with all common platforms and thus also suitable for Mac users – unlike many other CAT tools, which only support Windows.
In 2020, private equity firm The Carlyle Group acquired a majority share in Memsource. CEO David Canek promised to “significantly accelerate the pace at which we bring innovative solutions to our customers [and] strive to lead the transformation of enterprise localization.” The company has already taken its first step along this path: In early 2021, Memsource acquired the Hamburg-based software localization platform Phrase to create what it referred to in a press release as “the industry’s leading translation management company.”
4. Lokalise: Fresh Momentum for Agile Workflows
A new player on the market with exciting approaches that set it apart from its clunkier, old-school rivals, Lokalise has recently experienced significant growth and represents a welcome breath of fresh air in the industry.
Like other TMS providers, Lokalise woos potential clients with the promise of cross-platform localization from a central location – whether they are looking to translate websites, mobile apps, games, software, marketing materials or technical documentation. The provider markets its tool under the slogan “For developers, by developers,” and specializes in software companies with agile development philosophies. API/CLI can be used to set up extensive workflow automations, while powerful integrations with GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, etc. allow the translations to be incorporated smoothly into the development and deployment process.
The system’s in-context editing for websites and mobile apps enables early-stage detection of context-sensitive translation errors in the target text format. And thanks to integrations with Sketch, Figma and Adobe XD, developers can check translations in real time in the respective design tool and give translation teams feedback on any layout conflicts.
Lokalise is an entry-level TMS, and at this stage in its development it is particularly well-suited to startups and SMEs. The initial costs are relatively low and tied to a transparent pricing model. Its relatively streamlined range of functions could still do with expansion if it wants to hold its own against the heavyweights of the industry – this applies in particular to the translation editor, which is still a rather minimalist model without any in-depth QA. Other strings to the company’s bow include its highly proactive and customer-oriented Support team and its excellent feature request program, which will push forward further improvements for the tool.
There is a huge amount of diversity in the translation management system market right now – even our own clients use a surprisingly wide range of TMS solutions. This makes it all the more important to ensure that the tool you choose suits your own individual requirements. Are you more interested in speeding up your translation process or improving the quality of your texts? What systems will you be using to create, manage and publish the content you want to translate? How much are you willing to invest in your new solution? Each of the translation memory systems covered in this article has its own characteristic strengths and weaknesses, all of which should be taken into account when it comes to making your decision.
Are you tied to using a particular file format for your translations? Do you work in a heavily regulated industry that requires strict compliance with specific data protection standards? Nimdzi’s excellent Feature Comparison Tool allows you to compare the range of functions offered by different TMS solutions in detail so you can draw up a shortlist for the next phase of your research.