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What happens in Böblingen . . .

What happens in Böblingen . . .

...changes the face of the translation world!

At least this might be the conclusion the reader could arrive at, having read the following article. The piece is an authorized reprint of an identically named article about Transit NXT that appeared as Premium Content in Issue 13-10-228 of the Tool Box Newsletter, a computer newsletter for translation professionals.

What happens in Böblingen . . .

True story: Ever since I was little I asked myself why anyone would call a town "Böblingen." I don't know how that name sounds to you, but even as a six-year-old the word sounded weird to me. My deep thoughts about said town were inspired because my aunt and uncle lived there for a while, but what I could not have known then was that this town would also be the birthplace of not one, not two, but three cornerstones of the technology that most of us use today.

Böblingen is home to the biggest IBM research lab outside the US, and it was there that an internal IBM team developed the translation environment tool IBM TM/2, and two translation service providers for IBM -- Trados and STAR-- developed MultiTerm/Workbench and STAR Transit/TermStar. This all happened between 1992 and 1994.IBM stopped marketing its product in 2002 and semi-revived it in 2010 as the now again defunct open-source product OpenTM2. Of course, we all know what Trados did, but what happened to STAR Transit? I'd bet anything that many of you have not even heard of the product, let alone seen or used it, especially if you are in the US, South America, or Japan. And yet it's alive and, as far as I can tell, well.The "as-far-as-I-can-tell" disclaimer has its reasons. Unlike Trados, the makers of STAR Transit have always maintained their emphasis on the translation service part of their business and trusted that their product will essentially sell itself. But now they have come to the "realization that it takes more than the best product to be a market leader." I'm quoting STAR AG's CEO Josef Zibung here, with whom I had a long chat about the product and its philosophy.Of course, there are many more TEnTs than Trados and Transit on the market today, but these two products inhabit two opposite ends of the spectrum representing what it means to develop and sell technology. Both have emerged with strong and mature products, but they reached that goal in very different manners and certainly with widely divergent market shares.On a functional or feature level, Transit and Trados had two main differences: First, from the get-go, Transit has used one independent translation interface for all formats (pre-Studio Trados, of course, used four or five different interfaces for the many difference formats). And second, while Trados (and virtually all other tools) uses a classic translation memory, Transit has always used a system of reference files so that the translator is able to see the context of each segment; this means that, aside from the many translated file pairs, you also have an index of sorts that connects the files and the segments therein. I know that both Trados and Transit would protest this "oversimplification" of things, but this is what it really comes down to.Transit does not release many "versions" -- Transit 2.7, the much-loved and very stable version, was introduced in the late nineties, followed by an ill-fated and faulty successor (Transit 3) that was quickly replaced with Transit XV in 2001 and with Transit NXT in 2008. These are long stretches without new payable versions for a development company, especially because the development never stopped (though for the higher-priced version you will have to pay for maintenance contracts). Shortly after NXT's release I wrote a review, but here is a list of the major features that have been added in the form of service packs since then:

  • Ongoing support for all new versions of InDesign, FrameMaker, MS Office, OpenOffice/LibreOffice, QuarkXPress, Quicksilver, and AutoCAD
  • Added support for all new versions of Windows and Windows Server
  • Added database systems for TermStar, the terminology component (MySQL, MS SQL Server)
  • Batch processing of QuarkXPress files
  • Language pivoting for the terminology and reference material
  • Preview for Office documents, synchronized PDF preview
  • Integration of OpenOffice and MS Office spell-checking
  • Support for XLIFF as an export and translation format
  • Morphological support for 15 European languages (incl. English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish)
  • Added MT interfaces (both for Google Translate/iTranslate4.eu as well as customer-furnished MT systems)
  • Support for subtitling files with synchronized playback during translation
  • Introduction of a parallel translation memory system with the TM-Container

And then, of course, improved usability, stability, speed, etc. No matter how skeptical you might be, that's a lot of improvements through service packs.The most fundamental change in the list above is probably the introduction of a true TM system that now runs parallel to the reference file-based system. The reason behind the introduction of that system is easier transfer and remote access to resources. The emphasis of the STAR representatives who continued to send me information on this was that it differentiates itself from "other TMs" by maintaining all the document structure information, so any document can be regenerated just on the basis of the content in the "TM-Container," and the user has all context-based information that she usually has access to in Transit.I have actually used Transit a lot -- in its older XV version -- and really like it. For this article I had a chance to look at the NXT version again. It certainly attempts to convey a much more modern feel -- with a ribbon and all -- and it mostly succeeds (I say "mostly" because it still has a "workshop feel" to it, but that does not have to be a bad thing). It's by no means a system that you can sit down with and immediately know what to do with -- there are incredibly many options to use and fine-tune the system. But if you take the time to learn it properly, I have a hard time imagining anyone not liking it. While some processes are slow (like the initial processing of large termbases or reference materials), the system is very quick and responsive when it comes to the regular translation work, the termbase is wonderfully integrated into the workflow, and the automatic matching on the target language level when no source match is found (called "dual fuzzy") is truly unique and very powerful.I hope Zibung's and STAR's "awakening" in regard to marketing and publicity will continue to have an impact and that this tool will reclaim a viable spot in the market, not just in Europe but elsewhere, too.

About the author

Jost Zetsche Jost Zetzsche


Jost Zetzsche is a German-American translator, sinologist, translation tool expert and writer who lives in Oregon. Among other publications about translation and translation tools he has published The Translator's Tool Box: A Computer Primer for Translators, an extensive 400+ page manual about computer assisted translation technology and tools. His bi-weekly Translation Toolbox newsletter is subscribed to by more than 10,500 readers.

Further reading about Transit NXT

You can find more information about Transit NXT on the STAR Group website and throughout this blog. If you would like to know more about the new features of the latest Service pack, here are some links:


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