Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews



SYSTRAN (SYStem TRANslation) was founded 1968 in San Diego, California to develop a Machine Translation (MT) system for the U.S. government. In 1975, the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) contracted SYSTRAN to develop several European language pairs. In 1995, SYSTRAN PROfessional for Windows was released introducing the technology into the desktop tools market. In 1997, SYSTRAN powered BABELFISH as the first-ever online translation service. Today SYSTRAN offers desktop products, scalable client-server applications (customer-hosted) and ASP solutions (SYSTRAN hosted) and serves large corporations such as Ford Motor Company, Cisco Systems, NCR and Daimler Chrysler Corporation, Portals such as Google, AltaVista, AOL, CompuServe and Lycos, and Government and Public Administrations such as the European Commission and the US Intelligence Community. SYSTRAN is headquartered in Paris, France and maintains an office in the USA, located in San Diego, CA.

Fig. 1: SYSTRAN 5 Translation Project Manager (STPM):
The STPM features either a side-by-side or a horizontal view of source and target including highlighting and alignment of corresponding sentences (bright yellow) as well as many more customizable categories like custom-made User Dictionaries, Translation Memories or DNTs (do not translate: non translatable terms) through color-coded highlighting.
Please click on the image for a closer look!


SYSTRAN Professional Premium consists of the following components:

  • SYSTRAN Toolbar: The SYSTRAN Toolbar is the primary user interface in SYSTRAN. Depending on your version of SYSTRAN, it consists of Plugins for the Microsoft products: Internet Explorer, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. The same interface offers access to the same MT system in all supported applications. Besides the proprietary office formats (DOC, XLS and PPT), you can also translate RTF, MSG and HTML and preserve the documents' formatting. Maximum text size per file is 5 Mb.
  • SYSTRAN Clipboard Taskbar (SCT) allows you to translate text up to 4 MB from almost any application by cutting and copying text to the Windows Clipboard taskbar supported by MS Windows preserving the original formatting.
  • The SYSTRAN Dictionary Manager (SDM): lets you build, create, and maintain User Dictionaries (UDs), Translation Memories (TMs), and Normalization Dictionaries (NDs) used in other SYSTRAN applications to customize your translations. You may search through and work on your local or Online dictionaries in a bilingual or multilingual editor. The Expert Coding wizard allows you visualize and modify SYSTRAN's analysis and import and export text and MS Excel files.
  • SYSTRAN Translation Project Manager (STPM) enhances the management of translation projects. It stores all related information such as source and target files, dictionaries and DNTs (do not translate: non translatable terms). You can work on DOC, RTF, TXT, HTML and XHTML while preserving the formatting of the documents. The STMP features full connectivity to the SDM module, side-by-side comparison and alignment of source and target texts (Fig. 1), and highlighting of unknown words as well as highlighting and linking of items corresponding to entries in your user dictionaries. Terminology Extraction module for terminology mining that provides users with potential terminology candidates for UDs, single words as well as coumpound expressions guessed by the built-in linguistic analyzer.
  • The SYSTRAN Multi-Translate Utility (SMTU) is designed for users who perform a large number of translations. You can place documents into groups (or "batches") and translate them in one operation. Any combination of: TXT, RTF, DOC, HTML and XHTML, PPT and XLS can be processed in a predetermined priority list. A progress indicator displays the status of the stack and stores the times needed per document. To optimize translations, SMTU lets you specify general and document-specific translation options. SMTU leverages your linguistic resources, User dictionaries and Translation Memories.

Fig. 2: SYSTRAN Dictionary Manager (SDM)
SYSTRAN 5 adds the option to setup Translation Memories featuring phrases and sentences rather than single or combined words and terms.

SYSTRAN 5 provides the following new features and enhancements:

  • SYSTRAN Toolbar:
    • Internet Explorer PlugIn: Fluid navigation: Automatic translation of links on a Web page - several navigation modes: all links, disabled, enabled for links within the domain only. Possibility to alternate between source and target documents, at any time.
    • Microsoft Word PlugIn: Extended alignment offers side-by-side display of source and translated documents with sentence alignment and advanced markup. Contextual menu (right-click) offers access to SYSTRAN features such as sending to SDM or define DNT blocks.
  • SYSTRAN Clipboard Taskbar: Cross-application support (i.e. possibility to copy text from one application, translate it and paste it to another application).
  • SYSTRAN Dictionary Manager:
    • TRADOS MultiTerm iX import
    • Possibility to reverse dictionaries
    • New dictionary types: Translation Memories (TMs).
    • Support of large UDs (20,000 entries) and TMs (40,000 entries), up to 10 UDs and 10 TMs can be specified and prioritized by the user.
    • Import/export of Translation Memories to TMX format.
  • SYSTRAN Translation Project Manager (STPM):
    • Import of HTML documents or open an online document by providing its Web address (URL) and HTML editing and formatting capabilities
    • Import/export of TMX with SDM, export to TMX from STPM, translation of TMX with SMTU.
    • Translation review interface (post-edition), and interaction with SYSTRAN’s Translation Memory (post-edited sentences are candidate for integration into the TM)
  • SYSTRAN MultiTranslate Utility (SMTU)
    • SMTU leverages the Translation Memory process as it allows users to add linguistic clues to existing terminology.
    • Supports Web documents and whole Web sites (web crawler) by just specifying page URL.
    • Aggregated terminology extraction for a whole set of documents
    • STPM translation mode: an STPM project is created for each document, which allows post-editing in STPM.
    • Directory translation. No need to select files one by one anymore: just select a directory and all its files will be translated.
    • in future versions: translation of TRADOS “no-match” units from pre-translated "unclean" bilingual files with internal tag support which can then be re-imported into TRADOS.
  • Ability to translate PDF files and displays the translation in Microsoft Word. PDF can be imported into Word by right Mouse-click or opened in STPM or SMTU. It can also be translated in IE.
  • New language pairs - English<>Swedish and English<>Arabic.
  • Linguistic options: correction of missing or incorrect accentuation, common spelling errors, selection of US/GB English, Portuguese (Brazilian/European) and Chinese (Simplified/Traditional), New German spelling, Entity recognition for EN and FR source (addresses, dates, proper nouns, currencies).


Editions & Prices:

SYSTRAN 5.0 comes in the following flavors:

  • SYSTRAN Professional Premium: Designed for international companies, manufacturing firms, retail group, but also freelance translators. Translates documents, emails, Web content, chat, PDF and any text in the clipboard. Expert translation project and dictionary managers. Many different Packs, e.g.: Single Language Pack: US$ 760; English-European or English-Asian Language Pack: US$ 899 each; Global Language Pack: US$ 999..
  • SYSTRAN Professional Standard: Busy small or medium size businesses. Translates documents, emails, Web content, chat and PDF. Advanced translation project and dictionary managers. e.g.: Single Language Pack: US$ 299; English-European or English-Asian Language Pack: US$ 399 each; Global Language Pack: US$ 499.
  • SYSTRAN Personal: SYSTRAN Personal 5.0 translates any smaller written text (up to 2 pages) as well as real–time translations of Web pages within Internet Explorer. e.g. Single Language Pack: US$ 59; English-European or English-Asian Language Pack: US$ 99 each; Global Language Pack: US$ 149.
  • NEW: SYSTRAN Office Translator: For any size of business or home use. Translation of files up to 5 pages of text right within Microsoft® Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel, as well as Web pages within Internet Explorer. e.g. Single Language Pack: US$ 149; English-European or English-Asian Language Pack: US$ 199 each; Global Language Pack: US$ 299.
  • SYSTRAN Web Translator: Translates Web pages on–the–fly without having to leave Microsoft Internet Explorer. e.g. Single Language Pack: US$ 29; English-European or English-Asian Language Pack: US$ 49 each; Global Language Pack: US$ 59.
  • NEW: SYSTRAN PDF Translator: Translation of PDF files into RTF files of the target language. English-European or French-European Language Packs: US$ 59 each.

There are many different language packs for the 6 products. For details on the difference between the features, a detailled price list and more information about customer hosted translation solutions designed for corporate Intranets and more scalable options that interface with third-party applications such as the SYSTRAN WebServer and SYSTRAN Enterprise, please consult with the SYSTRAN Website!

Usage & Evaluation

SYSTRAN 5 provides many, sometimes hidden new features and is now designed on a XML based engine, providing SYSTRAN with the best preconditions for the future development.
The new version
extended various dictionary functions introduced in version 4 featuring elaborated linguistic and semantic knowledge. SYSTRAN 5 provides you with 3 dictionary types: User Dictionaries, Translation Memories and Normalization Dictionaries - a feature which is unique within MT products and enables a maximum of customization and elaboration of MT results. However, the main development is a new strategy to combine the advantages of Machine Translation (MT) with the strength of Human Translation enhanced by the use of Translation Memories (TM). SYSTRAN is focusing on the interaction with TM products and provides import and export functions to an internal TM structure via TMX. There are plans to extend this communication to a 2-way data exchange with TRADOS MultiTerm iX. In addition it is planned to support the MT of TRADOS “no-match” segments containing text and internal tags within "unclean" bilingual RTF files and can continue to work on the enriched files within TRADOS. It is also planned to extend this to a real dynamic linking via the TRADOS workbench API. In the moment there are only internal solutions available for TRADOS (demonstrated to me) and Star TRANSIT (personal communication).
Minor but still important novelties are the support of the translation of whole web sites by simply adding the URL of the first web page and get the whole or a customized part of the web site translated and the increase of SYSTRANS supported language pairs by English<>Swedish and English<>Arabic

Despite all novelties, initial translation quality without intensive customization and human translation is not much better than in version 4, even if the appropriate dictionaries were selected. This test was again conducted using an English to German sample translation of one page of the SYSTRAN web site. However, translation quality improves with greater coverage of the software’s understanding of the subject matter which involves the creation of User Dictionaries and the use of SYSTRAN 5's powerful and comfortable customization features. In principle User Dictionary coverage can be compared to Translation Memory coverage, but it is in many cases superior as the probability of finding User Dictionary entries in a document is much higher than for TM matches of whole sentences.
Smaller shortcomings already reported for version 4 are the not-minimizable SYSTRAN Toolbar of the Plugins that cannot be minimized to just one icon or switched to a menu bar entry and the lack of an easy deactivation of plugins before starting the SYSTRAN server and / or office applications.
The most important shortcoming is the insufficient documentation and the missing help system which should include direct access from single dialogs to the appropriate part of an Online-Help. Many features are not explained or not even mentioned such as the import of MultiTerm iX terminology and the import / export of TMX. I could therefore not verify the functionalities of these data exchange options. A MultiTerm iX test import failed as there was no information that MultiTerm's default language naming is needed for this to be successful. This shortcoming was acknowledged and improvements were promised.

In conclusion: It is still true that you should not expect translation results comparable to a well trained bi- or multilingual human translator familiar with the document's topic when using any MT. SYSTRAN 5 therefore wisely features a new strategy: a mixed MT-TM approach. As most TM solutions neglect such joint ventures so far, it seems to be up to MT solutions such as PROMT and now also SYSTRAN to initiate such syntheses of forces. I am convinced that SYSTRAN will always play a major role in the future of Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) as it is for sure one of the best MT solutions available.

System Requirements:
PC with Pentium III 500 MHz or higher processor; Microsoft Windows® 98SE / ME / NT4 with SP6 / 2000 / XP; Microsoft® Office Suite 97 / 2000 / XP / 2003; Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or above; 128 MB RAM or above recommended; 160 MB plus 60 MB per language pair available hard–disk space (during installation 500 MB).

Company Information:
Headquarters: SYSTRAN S.A.; Paroi Nord - La Grande Arche; 1, Parvis de la Défense; 92044 Paris La Défense Cedex; France; Tel: +33 (0) 825 80 10 80; Fax: +33 (0) 1 46 98 00 59.
North America: SYSTRAN Software, Inc.; 9333 Genesee Avenue; Suite PL1; San Diego, CA 92121; USA; Tel: +1-858-457-1900, Fax: +1-858-457-0648.
URL: http://www.systransoft.com



© 2004 by Dr. Thomas Wassmer, e-mail: tom at softreviews.org

  Translation & Localization


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