In a message sent out today to current users, Alchemy announced the imminent release of its localization environment Catalyst 8. Alchemy’s website does not seem to contain any information about version 8 yet.
The main problem with previous versions of Catalyst, in my opinion, is the overdone attempt of making its interface user-friendly through floating windows, bars, widgets, context menus, and a whole series of interface gadgets that are only accessible through mouse clicks. This only makes the program confusing. Sometimes I have to read through the manual several times before I can find out how to perform simple tasks, such as applying multiple filters to sentences. Let’s take a look at the main changes introduced with 8.
After skimming through the usual marketing blurb, here’s what I have found to be the most interesting new features:
Extensive Support for XML Content Management Systems: Alchemy ezParse technology has been extensively redesigned to support multi-lingual and conditional-based XML documents. The best bit!, as with all ezParse solutions, these parsers are developed in a highly visual development environment so you avoid writing the code yourself, Alchemy CATALYST does all the hard work for you!
My recollection is that the ezParse feature was not totally accessible in the Translator-Pro Edition. We’ll see if this has changed in any way.
The New Terminology Standard: TBX is rapidly becoming the standard for term-base sharing and lookups. Alchemy CATALYST 8.0 embraces this new standard and displays suggested terms within the Translator Toolbar. You can also export candidate terms to TBX files using the new and improved Export Project functionality.
This is a welcome introduction, although the previous version already allowed for simple terminology exchange through CSV files.
Machine Translation: Combine the accuracy of TM with the flexibility and speed of Machine Translation. Source segments that cannot be matched in a TM will automatically be sent to a web based Machine Translation service (MT) so that a translator always gets a translation suggestion while working.
As predicted by the main observers in this market, like Global Watchtower, almost all providers are scrambling to add some sort of machine translation functionality to their products. I’m skeptical that this overhyped technology will introduce any concrete benefits for professional translators, unless it’s considered as part as a whole process that includes strict terminology creation and control as a prerequisite.
Support for virtually every TM format: Alchemy CATALYST 8.0 is compatible with virtually every industry TM standard. It supports both desktop and server based TM technology, all integrated seamlessly into the Translator Toolbar. Technologies currently supported include Alchemy TTK (all versions), Alchemy PPF (PUBLISHER TM), Alchemy LANGUAGE EXCHANGE, WordFast, GlobalLink, SDL TM Server, Trados Teamworks, Trados Workbench, XLIFF, TBX, XML and TMX.
This could be interesting. Especially if it allows to export a non-visual Catalyst project (like error strings that do not have any graphical context attached) as a XLIFF file that can be translated with a “text-only” CAT tool more flexible than Catalyst and then imported back to Catalyst without problems. We’ll see if that is possible. The import-export functionalities offered by the current version 7 are sparse to say the least.
Enhanced Total SDL/TRADOS Compatibility: Work seamlessly with past, present and future versions of SDL TRADOS desktop and enterprise technologies such as SDL TM Server, TRADOS Translator’s Workbench (3.x, 5.x, 6.x, 8.0, 2007) and MultiTerm iX Server. No other tool gives you such wide range industry support for 3rd party TM tools.
Let’s hope that the integration will as seamless as described above. In its current incarnation, the integration between Catalyst and Trados is far from that.
I think that most localization professionals do not care about fine-tuning the placement of their toolbars and windows. Instead, they require a solid product with an easy to understand workflow. In my personal experience, Catalyst 7, while offering a huge list of features as far as supported environments are concerned, left something to be desired in terms of usability.
The list of improvements included in the announcement e-mail is very long and impressive. Hopefully Catalyst 8 will be able to deliver on those promises.