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Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews
presents:


Version 3

Introduction:

across is a division of Nero AG (formerly Ahead AG), the producer and developer of Nero Burning ROM, one of the leading application for CD/DVD-recording. Nero AG was formed in 1995 by Richard Lesser and has been privately owned ever since. The company's place of birth and headquarters is located in Karlsbad-Itterbach, Germany. The US subsidiary Nero Inc. was founded in Glendale, California in October 2001, followed by the Japanese subsidiary Nero K.K. based in Yokohama in April 2004. The motivation for starting the development of across was the lack of affordable tools to localize Nero Burning ROM capable of both, Software localization and document translation as well as project coordination. After recognizing the great need of such an integrative tool, the development of accross as a commercial product started in 2001 culminating in the first public release (of version 2) in 2003. This is the first review of the recently released version 3 of across.

Features:

across is a complete solution for anybody involved in translation and localization Tool (Corporate Translation Management, CTM). It combines translation and localization features with project and workflow management functions within a single local or networked environment.

Translation Features:

The central translation module is crossDesk, a grid-based editor which handles all supported file formats: Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint; Adobe Framemaker; XML / HTML; as well as Software-related formats such as RC, EXE, DLL and OCX. Especially in Software Localization, many of these formats occur within a single localization project. As many translation strings will occur within the user interface of the Software as well as within the documentation or the help system, being able to handle them all within the same environment provides you with an optimal efficiency. In addition, only an integrated system reduces or omits conflicting processing and inconsistencies.
In addition to the above mentioned document formats, you can also handle formally unsupported file types by means of a tool named crossBox. This module allows you to copy, translate and paste back text from and to any Windows application. Besides the actual editing fields, crossDesk displays all information and any content relevant to the translation task. Another element of crossDesk is crossView providing you with several display options for the document under translation, such as a hierarchic outline, a listing of all paragraphs containing errors or a sorting of paragraphs according to their processing status, allowing for a rapid navigation within a document. Additional crossView display options include reference documents such as style guides or background materials or a full-text search offering search and replace functions.
In order to minimize clutter, source and target fields of the editor only show character formats essential for the translation. However, a WYSIWYG display option is always only a click away. Matching strings within across internal Translation Memory and Terminology base are displayed below and to the side of the editing fields, from where you can include them into your translation by a mouse click or a key command. crossDesk, crossView and the crossBox are included in all across editions.

 

Fig. 1: crossDesk - Translation Interface:
crossDesk is a grid-based editor for all supported file types, consisting of a field to display source and target strings (upper middle), an input field (center), as well as a hierarchic outline of the document (crossView - left side), terminology (crossTerm, right side) and translation memory including concordance search (crossTank, lower middle).
Please click on the image for a closer look!

crossTank - the Translation Memory (TM) of across stores translation pairs in a relational data base (dependent on the product version either a Microsoft Jet Engine, Desktop Engine - MSDE or SQL Server). crossTank is filled by translating sentences in across or by an alignment function which allows to transfer the language information of existing document pairs into the data base. Besides suggesting (fuzzy) matches for your translation segments, crossTank also features a concordance search which shows in which context a search term was used before. crossTank is part of all across editions.

Terminology data (dictionaries, glossaries) are handled by the crossTerm module. Due to fuzzy matching using word stems, terminology search yields not only identical but also grammatically similar terminology entries (flections). All results are displayed in the same list. If necessary or helpful, you can accompany your term pairs by definitions, figures, remarks on grammar and information about their correct and/or approved use. Concordance search links to the translation memory (crossTank) and displays all pervious use of the search term in their context. Like crossTank (TM of across), crossTerm can be closely and seamlessly integrated into crossDesk to enhance your translation performance. If a source string contains previously translated terms, they are marked within the source field and displayed as language pairs within the crossTerm field. You can insert them into your translation by mouse or keyboard commands. In order to increase your terminology base you can in return insert term pairs right from within crossDesk into crossTerm. Terms can be assigned (or limited) to certain topics, projects or users and you can create links between individual entries in order to create cross-linkages. Users without an across-installations can profit from your terminology if you host your data base on the optional crossTerm Web Server. crossTerm Web Server is part of the across Network (optional) and Enterprise editions (included).
Intelligent terminology extraction from new documents is no privilege of the more elaborated across editions but is already included in the personal edition intended for freelance translators. These features allow you to assess the difficulty of a text or extract die specialized terms in advance. In addition you may optionally include the digital content of standard dictionaries (Langenscheidt) into crossTerm.

 

Fig. 2: crossTerm - Terminology Interface:
crossTerm lists all related terms and their cross-linking as well as additional information such as multilingual descriptions, notes and figures. Concordance search produces all occurrences of the term in the corresponding context by Cross-linking with the TM crossTank.
Please click on the image for a closer look!


Project- and Workflow Features:

In addition to the above described translation features, across integrates a complete project management module. All project and workflow management functions are controlled by crossBoard, which is optimized for each user individually according to their user profile. crossBoard displays all tasks and grants access to all associated data within the access rights and responsibilities of the user currently logged-in. In a networked environment, every user receives information about the scope and time-frame of his or her tasks within a project and can accept or pass on outstanding jobs sent by a project manager. The decision process is enhanced by the opportunity to either access associated documents or perform various analyses including match quotas. Project managers gain overview on all active projects and collaborators including progress charts and important deadlines for each document and target language.
All collaborators and colleagues and their login state are displayed within the crossBoard. Users can easily exchange messages by a internal messenger or integrated email functions.

 

Fig. 3: crossBoard - Project Management Control Center:
Here with the administration side bar (left side).
Please click on the image for a closer look!

A Project Wizard facilitates the setup of projects and association of documents of various formats by multiple dialogs. You can create projects aiming on bi- or multilingual target languages and define (or assign) required workflows such as: translation -> proof-reading -> release dates and deadlines as well as quality management criteria, and suggest certain tasks for individual collaborators. Customizable and comprehensive reports allow you to calculate project estimates. Projects and documents are stored allowing you to retrieve them if needed again.
If a source document changes
, you do not need to re-translate the entire document. The across Update Wizard compares both versions of the source document and identifies differing strings which are passed on for translation. If large projects are shared to various team members in a networked environment, there is always the danger that appendices, formats, pagination or automatically generated tables of contents do not fit anymore. In order to overcome this, across provides each collaborator with a copy of the entire document which only allows editing within the assigned part leaving the rest to be read-only (Partition Wizard). Upon translation completion, across re-joins the partitions to form a consistent target document. In addition, across also disburdens work-flows in which one translation is based on the target language of another task. By gaining access to those parts of the document already translated, the second translator advances almost simultaneously and concludes only shortly after the others. The most common standard workflows are included in all across editions. More complex and customized work flows can be designed with the help of crossGrid which allows the entire project management to be delegated to an external collaborator.
across also features a quality assurance module named crossCheck. Without any special functions, across already prevents errors but the tool's general architecture: central storage of consistent data, cross-linking of all project collaborators, avoidance of redundancies and automatization of frequent procedures. In addition, separating content and format information avoids divergence of document formatting. A third strategy is version control allowing to roll-back documents to an earlier state. This option is presently limited to paragraphs only. An extension to entire documents or even projects is in preparation.
The implementation of up to three spell-checkers reveals errors already during the translation process, and the display of the numbers of strokes within a string informs you of differing string sizes within the source and target fields. Additional automatic test methods check whether mandatory terminology or TM entries were used and if the use of formats and fields is consistent. Applying a special correction mode and a WYSIWYG preview enable a fast and systematic control and editing of content and appearance. Furthermore, the project manager may define document specific test criteria, which will have to be processed either automatically or manually in which case they have to be signed as processed by the responsible editor. Other measures are clearance procedures for new crossTerm- and crossTank entries. crossCheck is part of all across editions.
Intelligent task allocation: across manages all team members and their master data, access rights and tasks. This also includes qualifications in relation to language pairs and areas of expertise as well as availability. This enables project managers to identify the most appropriate team member for each task. The selected team members receive their tasks including all associated data within their crossBoard. The project manager receives notice if and when the team member accepted the job. He or she can always observe the processing progress and check if the project schedule is in time. Task allocation is part of all across workgroup solutions.

Fig. 4: Project- and Task Management in across:
across lists all projects and related tasks and allocates them to members of the team. The project manager is always informed about the specifics, progress and deadlines of a task.
Please click on the image for a closer look

 

System Architecture:

All networked edition of across allow team work via a local network using crossLAN or a WAN, typically through the internet using crossWAN. This is achieved by a databased client-server technology. External user can either use the crossWAN online-client for direct access or exchange data packages synchronized by across using the crossWAN load-client. This saves third party interfaces and prevents media breaks due to incorrect communications using a broad variety of tools and media, as well as misunderstandings and inconsistencies caused by erroneous or incomplete data transfer. crossLAN is part of all networked editions - crossWAN is part of the Network and Enterprise editions.
Multiple across server can be combined using the collaboration tool crossGrid. The term "grid" refers to a hardware architecture which optimizes the computing capacity of multiple connected computers by an intelligent bundling and balancing of resources through the Internet. crossGrid integrates the interactions of multiple across servers by distributing tasks over all connected machines. Different strategies are used to connect the server of a service provider and their customers. Other dependencies are: the degree of difficulty, translation volume, schedule, and available resources. crossGrid allows for the delegation of projects between two across servers, e.g. a translation service provider which in return delegates the entire project or certain tasks to internal or external team members. crossGrid is an optional addition to the Team and Network-Editions of across and already included in the Enterprise Edition.
crossVPN allows secure transfer of e-mails and documents through the Internet by creating a SSH tunnel to the local network. crossVPN is included within the Enterprise Edition and optional for the Team- and Network Editions. across may also be connected to content management, authoring or merchandise management systems such as SAP by using the crossAPI. This allows data exchange and remote control of across from third party applications. The crossAPI is an optional component. across also develops strategic partnerships with several content management systems.

 

Fig. 5: crossAdmin - Server Configuration in across:
The small tool crossAdmin allows to stop or restart the thre across servers: across server, crossTank server and crossTerm server. In addition you can control crossLAN (local network access), crossWAN (Internet) and crossVPN (secure acces for WAN).
Please click on the image for a closer look!

Editions & Prices:

  • across Personal Edition: stand-alone version for freelance translators or businesses with a single translation and localization workstation. It contains the entire translation and project management features of across (including term extraction). Includes Microsoft Jet Engine. EUR 399.
  • across Team Edition: enables the entire translation and terminology workflow within your company network. It includes the server application and 3 LAN-clients featuring user rights administration and messaging. Includes MSDE. EUR 1490.
  • across Network Edition: provides a comprehensive solution for Corporate Translation Management (CTM). A highly scalable architecture allows seamless integration of external collaborators - e.g. by means of WAN-clients which may access the central accross-server through the internet. This can either be done on- or offline - by a permanent or temporary connection to the across server. Basic license includes the server application and 5 LAN or WAN-clients and can be extended to fit your needs. Optional extensions allow the interaction between multiple across servers or a web-based access ton the terminology system. Includes MSDE, optional MS SQL-Server. Starting at EUR 3990.
  • across Enterprise Edition: tailored to fit the needs of the localization units of multinational organizations and global language service providers. Featuring optimal performance and equipped with all available features, interfaces and options allows for unlimited scalability and seamless integration of all locations, processing steps and working environments. Virtual Private Network and highly scalable user rights enable maximum security and simple administration. Definition of individual workflows. Starting at EUR 37000.

Usage & Evaluation

across is a complete suite of translation and project management tools providing almost all features you will ever need at a very reasonable price. One strength (but also a potential obstacle) is the concept of just one central translation memory and terminology base for all projects. This offers maximum recycling of previously translated strings but might create a system overhead and slow-down of the working pace if getting too bloated. A very fine feature is the implementation of a fuzzy terminology search which includes the recognition of grammatical stemming capable of producing results including all grammatical flections of a term. Another great terminology feature is the terminology extraction workflow which is already included in the most reasonable priced across edition. It provides a visual and fast way to identify and extract terminology candidates but should be easier accessible than just as part of a defined workflow. In addition, I would like to see some term editing options before importing terms into the terminology base.

Installation was quite time consuming. First I had to install a required font: Arial Unicode which across did not provide and which is not part of the standard installation of Microsoft Office 2000 or 2003 from which CD it had to be installed before the installation of across could continue. After this, installation stopped again during the installation of the MSDE (Microsoft Desktop Engine). Luckily I received exclusive support during my review and within a short time a MSDE version conflict could be identified. The present installation procedure does not allow multiple instances of the MSDE - I had to uninstall a previous MSDE installation which was luckily not needed by any other application anymore. across acknowledged this problem and is working on a modified installation routine to support multiple instances of the MSDE. Minor flaws include the incapacity to resolve virtual directories (shortcuts) - they are taken as files and do not guide you to directory view to be able to browse for a certain file. This problem was acknowledged and was included into the bug list. Importing translation memories from previously translated material was tested using several TMX files of various origin. The import of strings worked fine, however, there was no indication about the origin of the imported strings nor penalties for uncertain sources. I was informed that origin information will only be included if a user profile for the author of the imported strings exists. As much I agree with across's argument that this procedure prevents uncontrolled growth of auxiliary information, I still think all available information from a TMX file should first be retrieved and then options should be offered to edit that information.
For the localization of Software interfaces, there is no visual (WYSIWYG) mode to translate menus.
The visual translation of Software dialogs does not offer very intuitive and comfortable means to resize dialog elements such as buttons and headers and lacks resizing options for entire boxes. Text resizing is not entirely visual as it is done within the source/target string view and not the dialog visualization. You therefore work blindfolded until you either receive an error message to inform you of improper size or not. In addition auto-resize of dialog elements to the string length is not implemented.
Documentation is limited to a large 450 pages PDF manual. The help system was not available in English yet - the German version showed many incorrect or not implemented jumps and not sufficient cross linking with across dialog help buttons. The present Quick start PDF is no substitute for a tutorial including sample data advising you in basic working methods and/or the processing of special file formats such as XML files. across is working on animated tutorials to close this gap.
Considering the fact that across works with a single large TM and terminology base, there should be better ways to prevent accidental adding of nonsense strings and terms and better Undo functions to reverse accidental transfers to the crossTank TM and crossTerm terminology base.
The support of XML files shows still some rough ends. First I encountered parsing problems when opening XML files with a valid doctype declaration using an external (Online) DTD. This was partially an across bug but also occurred because across only uses the msxml parser. The across support team provided me with a patched DLL within a day and also created a across XML template file based on the DTD which was able to handle many but not all nested inline tags and attributes. I could still not generate the target file nor get a preview of the partially localized target. Last minute I received a first non public assistant to generate across XML templates from DTDs, schema files or sample XML files. It created instantly a XML-configuration file (DST) but did not allow any interaction or customization nor visual interface.
The segmentation in paragraphs is something to get used to - it is easy to make mistakes if you are used to sentence-based segments. On the other side, this avoids problems known from other tools if you need to enlarge or downsize a pre-made segment.
Vertical handles of the HTML-GUI frame set of crossTerm do not show and are therefore not easy to adjust.
crossTerm allows the import of many terminology exchange formats (TRADOS MultiTerm, TBX, MARTIF and CSV) and some commercial dictionaries (Langenscheidt LexTerm XML format).
PM misses customer and vendor management as well as invoicing.
Contact management without interfaces to common Address management solutions and e-mail systems such as Microsoft Exchange/Outlook, Lotus Notes, Goldmine, ACT etc.
Some list items are taken from windows and therefore in German, Calendars should include predefined international public holidays.
Handling of MS Word files requires to deactivate ListBlocking in several anti virus applications. This opens potential security issues and should be not necessary as there are many other applications which communicate with Microsoft Office applications which do not need to switch off this feature!
No support, integration or interfaces for any machine translation solution.

In conclusion, across is a fantastic and versatile tool which offers almost everything you ever need in the translation business. It lacks a few functions here and there and might not be as well grounded as the old bulls of translation tools but it comes along with a lot of fresh initiative, a great general concept and an unbeatable price-performance ratio.

System Requirements:
Pentium III, Pentium IV recommended; 500 MHz, 1-2 GHz recommended; 128-256 MB RAM, 512 MB recommended; Windows 2000, XP or higher; applications: MS Office 2000, XP or Office 2003, MS Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher; font "Arial Unicode MS (Standard)". across Workgroup Solutions require a 10 MBit network (100 MBit recommended).

Company Information:
Nero AG, Im Stoeckmaedle 18, D- 76307 Karlsbad, Germany; Phone: +49 7248 92540, FAX: +49 7248 925444; URL: http://www.across.net

Alternatives:

  • GlobalSight Ambassador Globalization Management System (GMS). Translation and PM features. Software Localization using integrated partner tool: Alchemy CATALYST. http://www.globalsight.com
  • SDLWorkFlow™ 2004. Translation, Software Localization and PM features.: http://www.sdl.com
  • TRADOS TeamWorks. Translation and PM features. Only basic Software localization features. http://www.trados.com
 

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

 
 
  Translation & Localization

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