Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) Tools

A rough guide to the CAT tools currently available for freelance translators:

SDL Trados Studio
Support: PC only
Starter: USD129/GBP100/year, full package (SDL Trados Studio 2019 Freelance + SDL AutoSuggest Creator Add-On) USD1095 / EUR895
Originally a German company, it was acquired by the UK company SDL in 2005, hence the name (“SDL” stands for “Software and Documentation Localization”).This is the first commercial CAT tool (released in the 1990s as the Translators Workbench), and today still dominates the industry. This means no matter what you think of it or what your preferred software is, you’re going to have to use it.

When I first encountered Trados is was a bloated, unintuitive thing to use, and very buggy. That is no longer true, but it is very expensive for what it is, and you have to pay for updates. If you’re a member of you can get group discounts (there was an offer in October 2019 for 45% off, USD589).

Their other products include SDL Passolo (a visual software localization tool for translating user interfaces). I’ve also seen job listings mention SDL Worldserver, though this is a translation manager’s tool to coordinate large projects so I’m not sure why you’d need to be familiar with it as a freelance translator. SDL OpenExchange is a platform where third-party vendors publish Trados add-ons, some of which are very useful.

Support: PC only
Made by Hungarian company Kilgray. Praised for it’s reliability, unlike many CATs out there it doesn’t crash and burn at random moments, and for its good tech support. Does not offer on-the-fly spellchecking.

Déjà Vu
Support: PC only
Basic version DVX3 is free
Made by Paris based Atril, originally also based on Word but now is a standalone program. The success and low cost of Déjà Vu pressured Trados into lowering their (still high) prices.

Support: PC, Mac, Linux
Wordfast PRO 5 USD625/EURO472 (October 2018)
Wordfast Classic (= MS Word Macros) Euro400/GBP350, Wordfast Pro (standalone program) Euro500/GBP440, or 500 Euros for both
Developed in France in 1999 as a cheaper alternative to Trados, the program had modest beginnings as a series of macros inside Microsoft Word, and you can still get this version (Wordfast Classic). In 2006 the Wordfast was bought by an American company, and is now headquartered in Delaware in the US, though most of the development continues to be done in Paris. Wordfast Pro is a standalone program, it doesn’t have all the features and widgets of the above three, but that makes it easy to learn and use.

Support: PC, Mac, Linux
The most popular free CAT tool. Java-based opensource software, simple and easy to use, compatible with Trados files.

Free online “student” version, monthly fee for standalone version
Famously ugly, employing a Windows 98 aesthetic, and the autosuggest is reportedly not great.

This US company does use proprietorial software but is aimed at companies not freelance translators, though you can apply to join as a freelance translator on their site.

Lite USD45/GBP35, MetaTexis for Word NET/Office USD160/GBP120
A German company that’s been going since the early 2000s, the software works with Microsoft Word (full title MetaTexis for Word).

By the company MultiCorpora.

CafeTran Espresso
Cross platform (Windows, Mac, Linux).

Swordfish Translation Editor
Multi-platform (you can use it on a Mac or Linux system), updates are free. Easy to use, and

Alchemy Catalyst

Star Corporate Language Management (CLM)
Also known as Transit, developed by the Star Group. which has been going since the 1980s. Seems to be aimed much more at companies than freelance translators.

CAT software that you’ll still see mentioned that have now died:

Trans Suite 2000
By the company Cypresoft, ceased trading in 2004.

Stands for “Java Computer Aided Translation Tool”, only works with XML and HTML, seems to have died in the early 2000 though still available as opensource.

In house translation software by IBM, discontinued in 2002.

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