Monday, November 17, 2008

First look at Felix the CAT

I have been meaning to write about CAT tools and have always been putting it off, because discussion of any CAT tool would required at least four to five pages, and I'm sorely pressed for time! I have used Trados, DVX, Wordfast and I'm now working on an actual job using Felix, developed by Ryan Ginstrom, who has given translators some very useful tools (see description of CountAnything) and macros such as Wide2Narrow and, FindNextJ (see here) . I'll probably run this feature on Felix over several days, but here are my first impressions of Felix used with Word.

Felix works differently compared to Trados and Wordfast, with which I am familiar. However, I tried it on an actual translation job using Word and coasted along fine within a day or two. In this write-up, I'll talk mainly about my impressions of Felix with regard to translating a fairly large Japanese document into English in Word, using translation memories (TM) and glossaries originally used in Wordfast, and converted to Felix native format.

You can use Felix for translating documents in Word, Excel, Powerpoint, HTML files. It has tools for converting TMs to and from TMX, and glossaries to and from Multiterm and Excel. I found this conversion feature easy  to use and did not hesitate to try out Felix on an actual job using TM and glossaries from Wordfast.

I found that these basic features of Felix were sound for Japanese as source text:

1) Fast concordance searches

2) Good fuzzy matching

3) Good term recognition ability

4) Convenient conversions of TM and glossaries between TMX and native-Felix formats 

5) Ability to load and use multiple glossaries and TMs

Here's what the translation-in-progress screen looks like:


Felix translation windows

The uppermost window to the left is the Memory window, the one to the right is the glossary window and the one at the left bottom is the Word window in which you overwrite the translation.

The process is fairly simple. You place your cursor before the source segment to be translated and hit ALT+right arrow. Felix immediately selects  the segment, displays terms in the segment in your glossary (if available)  in the right window (terms can be pasted into the translation by Alt+1, Alt+2), and displays the source text with fuzzy matches (if any)  in the upper left window. If a 100% match, you hit Alt+G and the bilingual segments are registered in memory and the next sentence to be translated is displayed. If a fuzzy match, you hit Alt+Down arrow to copy the fuzzy match into the Word window, edit it as you wish and upon completion, hit Alt+S to register it in memory and move to the next sentence. That's the basics for translating segments. Felix performs these basic operations neatly and efficiently.

You can also register new entries in the glossary or several glossaries; the process is a little cumbersome but the developer has promised to make it easier in the next release, including insertion of a default comment for each item.  One of the more convenient features of Felix is saving the glossary directly to an Excel file and editing the entries in Excel. The same feature for TMs would set Felix apart and high above the other CAT tools in the market. The present version has some limitation in not being able to save the TM directly in Excel format because of the limit on the number of characters in one cell in Excel. This too is on the list of improvements for the next release.

I have only translated about 80 pages in Word using Felix, but I think it is definitely a keeper. Support is also very good; being a translator, the developer understands the problems of a translator and is very responsive to suggestions.

Although Felix does not have the abundant options (Pandora) of Wordfast and its flexibility especially for power users, I feel it does score over Wordfast in terms of stability especially when handling double-byte languages, and in terms of ease of TM and glossary conversions. Overall, considering ease of use, stability, support, and price, I would rate Felix as equivalent to Wordfast when working with Word documents (will review other formats in the near future, hopefully) . With improvements for quickly registering glossary entries and saving of TM as Excel files anticipated in the next version, it is likely to become my favorite CAT.

Have a great day!


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