The second question and answer in this series: Software Localization Tools. What are they and where can they be found. A guide to this linguistic resource using an expert source: Jost O. Zetzsche Ph.D. Let us begin.

FAQ’s asked by you:

Q: What are Software Localization Tools?

A: Let’s talk about software localization tools – this is a lot more complex than anything we’ve discussed before, but it is important for you to be aware that translation is much more than knowing a second language.  How our industry has become commoditized blows me away, when the expertise required for translating software or a website is truly for geeks and engineers. I hope after you read this you will appreciate the work that we do.  So what are software translation tools?  The complexity deserves explanation by someone I truly consider to be an expert in the subject of translation tools, Jost O. Zetzsche Ph.D.

Here it goes:

Software localization tools. Some of the more sophisticated companies such as Microsoft and Corel started to look for other solutions so they developed internal tools that perform the following functions:

— allows developers to test the software before translation to determine whether a translation could indeed be performed into more complex languages such as Arabic/Hebrew or Chinese/Japanese/Korean

— allows translators to directly go into the binary software files to translate and build a glossary during the translation that functions as a translation memory

— allows translators to see everything in a WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) format and resize text fields that need to accommodate text expansion or contraction

— allows the automatic testing for various errors

— eliminates the need for the various compilation procedures and at the same time streamlines updates to the software (like for a new release or bug fix), because the old glossaries could be applied and only new text will need to be translated

This, in a nutshell, is what software localization tools still do today, although they have included other development formats.  Recently, Microsoft has development a new standard .NET or XLIFF (the translation exchange format that was discussed in the last newsletter).

While Microsoft decided to keep its tool, LocStudio, internal, Corel decided to market its tool, Catalyst, to the rest of the translation and software development community. Catalyst, owned by Alchemy Software, is the market leader in a field with numerous other players, many of which have remarkably similar feature sets. (There is a plethora of blame that unofficially goes around between the different vendors about copying features, etc.)  Here is a list of the involved players:

— Catalyst: Supports Win32, .NET, Java, XML, XLIFF, and numerous database types and offers an interface to Trados applications

— Passolo: The second-largest player in the market and the most formidable contender to Catalyst. Originally developed for medical applications.  Passolo today supports Win32, Delphi, Java, XML, XLIFF, and offers an interface to Trados and Transit memories and terminology databases. It also supports .NET, possibly in a more sophisticated manner than its competitors.

— RC-WinTrans: Originally a tool specialized in the translation of RC files (thus the name — it boggles my mind that they haven’t changed it). Today supports Win32, .NET, Java Properties.

— Multilizer: Finnish tool that originally was designed for Delphi. Today it also supports Win32, .NET, Java, XML, and database contents.

— SDL Insight: Product in the SDL tools suite that plugs in to all the other SDL tools, including SDLX. Supports Win32 and .NET.

— Other smaller players include Language StudioLingobit LocalizerRapidTranslation, and Visual Localize.


All of the tools come in several editions that have radically different price tags, and many of the above-listed abilities are sold as separate plug-ins. Typically, there is a translator edition that excludes some of the more development-oriented functionality, and a developer or localizer edition that contains all the functionality. Catalyst also comes in an edition that allows the developer to create files that can be worked on in a freely downloadable edition for the translator (the Lite or QuickShip version).

To come back to our original question, when these tools were first released, software developers across the board became nervous. They were afraid that a new development-oriented tool would likely cause problems — as most of us know, developers feel quite protective of their “baby,” the software. At this point, however, it’s clear that these fears are completely unwarranted. Unless software is completely unique and customized in its make-up, it’s not only safe to use a software localization tool, it’s silly not to — and a great waste of money, time, and energy to boot.


© International Writers’ Group. Excerpt from the Tool Kit Newsletter, a biweekly newsletter for people in the translation industry who want to get more out of their computers.

This is a direct quote from Jost Oliver Zetzsche from  Tool Kit Newsletter, a biweekly newsletter for people in the translation industry who want to get more out of their computers. For more information see