CAT Tools: A General Outlook

CAT Tools: A General Outlook

CAT Tools: A General Outlook

“CAT tools: a translator’s best friend.”

Known as one of the world’s oldest fields of study and practice, translation holds a place in both historic and modern platforms as one of the key ingredients for successful mass communication. Therefore, the fields of translation and localization have been at the heart of the technological revolution that has taken place in the past decade, giving way to the development and continuous advances in Computer-Assisted Translation tools used widely in translation, localization, and even interpretation of text. As a matter of fact, CAT tools have come so far as to be described as “a translator’s best friend.”

What are CAT tools?

CAT tools, or Computer-Assisted Translation, offer a suitable environment for translators to increase the quality and productivity of their bilingual exchange. This is done through an intuitive, user-friendly interface, a ready-to-use translation memory, text segmentation, and providing the necessary tools for editing and analyzing the quality of the translated text. When used by qualified and trained individuals, these tools offer the translator an upgrade on both personal and professional levels.

Must-Use Tools

In the growing industry of translation and localization services, CAT tools are continuously joining in the race. Over the past decade, over 20 CAT tools have come to play a major role in the increase of both productivity and quality of translated material, among which stand MemoQ and SDL Trados as key performers in the field. Popular names have also stepped up their game, such as Smartling and Memsource, to offer a desktop and an online version as to suit the needs of the majority of users under varying circumstances. Others have also left an undeniable print that places them at the top of any translator’s must-use list, such as Wordfast, Déjà vu, and Across.

CAT Tools on a Broader Scale

Computer-Assisted Translation is a broad term that refers to a wide variety of tools, devices, and technologies;

       A- Translation Memory Tools:

a software that divides the text into segments while maintaining a translation memory, suggesting text in a repeated segment that was already translated. These tools are most frequently used by translators for their highly effective properties and intuitive interfaces.

       B- Terminology Managers:

A software that allows translators to create a translation database created to the users’ preference, while maintaining and ensuring the usage of these set terms throughout the text.

       C- Linguistic Search Engines:

A software that allows the user to search through a database of previously translated text or references; the experience it offers is very similar to that of an Internet-based search engine, except for the fact that the search results are submitted from pre-existing translation memories, rather than the Internet.

       D- Language tools:

They include a wide variety of linguistic-aid tools designed to offer the translator a satisfying experience, whereby presenting utmost function in a simple, easy-to-use manner. Usually, they come in the form of tools built into the CAT tool at hand; among the most useful items are:


ü  Translation Memory tools or Translation Databases

ü  Spell checkers for proofreading

ü  Grammar checkers

ü  Concordance tools that retrieve all instances of the selected text, whereby it helps in maintaining the accuracy and consistency of translation

ü  Full text search tool, which allows the user to search for data in an already translated text

Future of CAT tools

Being such a vital part of the translation industry, CAT tools have witnessed a variety of trends and advances over the past decade. With the growing demand, CAT tool manufacturers reached the peak of competition in their efforts to enrich their content with different built-ins and over-the-top features. However, the upcoming years are expected to set a new trend for such tools, deviating from complex to simple and futuristic to traditional. All in all, CAT tools are expected to change the course of their play towards user-oriented designs, hidden features, and intuitive interfaces.


Rajaa Otaibi

Junior Translator