Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews


Short Reviews

@promt Expert

PROMT (PROjectMT or PROgrammer's Machine Translation) was founded in 1991 by a group of scientists and researchers interested in machine translation technology. Since that time, a team of 80 linguists and software engineers develop automatic translation software and services for 7 European languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Russian, forming a total of 19 translation directions. Products with non-Russian translation directions (English<-> French, German, Spanish, French<-> German) are mainly distributed under the Reverso® trademark by Softissimo. The new @promt™ translation software family is based on the PROMT XT technology. In addition to desktop products,
PROMT offers translation solutions for the Internet and corporate Intranet for Windows, Apple, Mobile and Linux systems (Unix under development), handheld devices and WAP under the trade mark @promtTM . PROMT’s translation solutions are successfully applied at NASA, NEC, Lucent Technologies, Lycos and other companies.

@promt Expert was tailored for translation professionals. It features extended options for the work with dictionaries and text files and is especially suited for companies and organizations that have to translate large volumes of documents. @promt Expert consists of the following applications:

  • The main component of @promt is the linguistic editor PROMT which resembles a word processor but adds a wide range of functions for the customization of your translations aimed to improve translation quality of documents covering similar topics. PROMT is an integrated environment in which you can translate, edit translations and work simultaneously with dictionaries for all translation directions. You can also carry out linguistic analyses of the translations. Available in the Pro und Expert versions.
  • The Dictionary Editor helps you to create and edit user dictionaries, view and edit dictionary properties, link the dictionary to the corresponding dictionary of the reverse translation direction, and save an alphabetic list of dictionary entries into a file. You may also insert words from text files and receive advanced search features. The program is suitable for users with different level of linguistic knowledge. Pro and Expert versions.
  • PromtX allows you to automatically perform translation from any clipboard content either from a file or directly while typing on the keyboard. All versions.
  • PromtE enables the translation of Web pages in Microsoft (MS) Internet Explorer 5 and above. In addition you may search the Internet using translations of queries to various popular search engines (Fig. xy). The PROMT toolbar is conveniently inserted into Internet Explorer and can easily be switched off. PromtE commands are also duplicated in a context menu of Internet Explorer. Pro und Expert.

Fig. xy: Web site Translator - Query Tool:
@promt does not only translate web pages but also allows to conduct Internet searches on various search engines.

Please click on the image for a closer look!

  • Unique for MT tools is the PROMT Plug-In for Acrobat, which performs the translation of PDF documents in Adobe Acrobat (Reader) 4.x/5.x. Currently there is no support for Acrobat 6. In the Acrobat Reader you can perform translation of selected text fragments in a separate window without saving it to the initial format. All versions.
  • The SmarTool offers central configuration (and easy on/off for all MS Office-Plug Ins (Office 2000, XP and 2003) which include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, FrontPage and Outlook. Translation menus and toolbars are embedded into the applications, allowing you to translate the documents while working inside these applications (Fig. xy). All versions (Standard version only MS Outlook!).
  • The Electronic Dictionary (ED) provides working an easy working environment for the dictionary base of the PROMT system and allows you to display information on any selected word or word combination, including translations from different individual dictionaries which together build up the dictionary base. It also offers you extensive grammar and morphological information. Currently only available between Russian and English, and German and French. All versions.
  • The Associated Memory (AM) Manager allows you to create, delete and manually edit AM translation bases and perform search and replace functions of entries in the base. The module is intended for saving text segments along with their translations into a data base in order to use them later while translating inside of the PROMT linguistic editor. This allows you to considerably reduce the time for editing repeating segments. Pro und Expert versions.
  • PROMT Backup is a very useful utility for the backup and restoration of system data of the PROMT system. It can also be used as a migration facility of all the data and settings from one computer to another. Pro und Expert versions.
  • The File Translator is a batch processor for the translation of a group of files in various formats. Offering a convenient and simple interface, it allows you to generate a queue to be translated. You can also run this from a command line. Expert version only.
  • Dictionary Services offer a set of auxiliary tools intended for professional work with the PROMT dictionaries. The program allows you to check the state, receive statistical information and view / edit the properties of dictionaries and group of dictionaries. In addition you can compare dictionaries to each other and merge two dictionaries of the same translation direction into one. Expert version only.
  • The SdcMaker allows you to create installation sets, which can be used for the distribution of dictionaries and topic templates. Expert version only.
  • PROMT Terminology Manager (PROMT TerM) is an automation tool for the extraction, mining and management of terminology. Expert version only.
  • Finally, PROMT for TRADOS (P4T) integrates the TRADOS Workbench system as a translation memory (TM) and the PROMT machine translation (MT) system for document translation (Fig. xy). Missing entries in both databases can be automatically complemented by the other database. Expert version only.

Fig. xy: Translation of Files Using Promt for Trados:
Promt for Trados allows automatic translation of documents using the opened Trados memory as well as the Promt MT system. Missing entries are automatically added to the other database.

Please click on the image for a closer look!

What's new in @promt?:

Revolutionary new dictionary architecture - PROMT XT uses new multi-dimensional dictionary architecture which provides substantial benefits for users. The new architecture makes possible the system general dictionary to be extended with the content from traditional electronic dictionaries. No frustrating job with translation customization! New dictionary architecture opens the capability to work with the unlimited number of translation variants. PROMT XT's intellectual algorithms provide high functionality for topic adjustment which is conducted by simple choosing the active translation (or translations) for the given text to be translated.
XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) file formats are supported.

Editions & Prices:

  • @promt Expert: For translation professionals including terminology mining and integration capabilities to TM solutions: English <=> German, Spanish, Russian and French <=> Russian: 535 US$ each.
  • @promt Professional: For medium to large businesses: Russian <=> English, German and French: 388 US$ each; Additional directions/combinations: 236 US$ each.
  • @promt Standard: For home users or small businesses. Fast and cost-effective way to translate texts and e-mails: 79 US$ per language pair.
  • PROMT Internet 2000: MS IE-Plug in: Russian <=> English, German and French: 50 US$ each.
  • Pocket PROMT 4.0: English <=> Russian, German and Spanish: 55 US$ each.
  • Dictionary sets and specialized dictionaries. See Web site for details.
Features @promt Standard @promt Professional @promt Expert
1. MS Office Plug ins (SmarTool)
2. PDF translation
3. Web site translation (PromtE)  
4. XML translation and Rule Editor    
5. Save layout  
6. Powerful linguistic editor (PROMT)  
7. Create & edit users' dictionaries
8. Associated Memory Manager  
9. File Translator (Batch file translation)    
10. Mechanism for terminology mining    
11. In-built macro language    
12. Included electronic dictionary
Price 79 $ 236 $ 535 $

Usage & Evaluation:

General observations: One of the major shortcomings of the whole suite of applications is the lack of sufficient documentation, manuals and further-reading web documents - and there are no tutorials at all. The latter would be very much needed to jump-start you with the filter-definition and translation of XML files.
A second general disappointment is that some file types, especially MS Office formats are only supported either in PROMT, File Translator (batch processor) or the SmarTool (MS Office Plug ins). As an example, you can not translate XML/SGML in the linguistic editor PROMT which would give you most control over your translation, but only using the File Translator or a 3rd party-editor MS-Word using the SmarTool Plug in. A second example are MS-Excel (XLS) and MS-PowerPoint files (PPT) which can not be translated as part of a batch queue in the File
Translator, which on the other hand avoids problems due to the background activity od MS-Office applications encountered in other MT solutions (Waßmer, 2003).

In the individual applications of the suite, I observed the following:

  • XML and XBRL translation: Besides the already reported need of a special tutorial on how to setup translation rules for XML-files and how to translate this file format efficiently and correctly, I found no way to use a previously defined XML-rule/filter while translating XML within the File Translator or MS Word.
    @promt's XML rules editor conveniently reads tags, and attributes from existing XML files but does not offer to read underlying DTD's or Schemas which would make the rule definition much easier. Minor shortcomings of the rules-editor are the lack of a "Collapse/Explode All Rules" function and an inconsistent rule ordination that does not subordinate child tags under the corresponding main tag.
  • Unfortunately, the Web site Translator (PromtE) only supports MS Internet Explorer version 5.x and later. This is, however, a common feature for most MT applications. Additional support for Netscape/Mozilla and Opera would be great. Encountered problems include the translation of web pages designed in frames, in which case only the main middle frame was translated but not the navigation frames. When trying to override this by selecting the whole page (ctrl-a) and using the "translate" instead of the "Translate Page" command - nothing was translated at all. PromtE also offers the automatic translation and submission of queries searching the World-Wide-Web supporting various popular search engines in highly customizable search strategies (Fig. xy).
  • File Translator: Positive observations of @promt's batch processing application are the support of drag & drop (but in this case, there is no confirmation dialog about the template/converter used to process your files!) and the smooth processing of MS Word files. Negative observations are a slow html processing, no support of PPT and XLS formats and changes in marked text blocks (different colors or highlighting) in MS Word files (DOC/RTF).
  • PROMT for TRADOS (P4T): A first observation was that the controls of the Trados Workbench were not accessible when Trados was started through P4T (Fig. xy) and that I could crash the program by selecting an invalid TMW (I copied only the TMW file but not the other files associated with a Trados Workbench database such as IIX and MTF). A dialog box informing me about this problem before running in a not resolvable conflict which crashes both programs would be more appropriate.
    When I used the properly started combined translation memory (TM) and machine translation (MT) databases in translation using P4T's default settings, I was disappointed that I could not influence the process at all after pressing the "Start"-Button. Later I discovered, that I can at least disable the automatic insertion of MT strings into the TM. As most user of TM systems prefer manual translation, the whole process does not provide enough confirmation dialogs and more important editing option. Although I am not an advocate for the TM approach, I would like to be able to see the strings proposed by both the TM and the MT before accepting them. I would also like to decide between competing strings. This would of course need the incorporation of either the editors used by Trados (MS Word or Trados' TagEditor) or using the PROMT linguistic editor. P4T offers a post-process editing via the import of a generated TXT-file in the Trados Workbench 2.0 format - but this is not really satisfactory. In addition, the TM strings are also automatically added into the used @promt Topic Template - a process for which I would also like to have manual control and not just post processing editing features through the @promt Topic Template Editor.
    Finally Trados users should be cautious when translating the first time after using P4T: If you do not change it manually, your Trados Workbench will still be opened by the user "MT!" and you will later receive a 15% penalty for machine translation (if you do not chance these defaults in Trados) for any new translation unit you entered manually not knowing that you opened the Workbench as "MT"!.

Fig. xy: The SmarTool in MS Word :
The SmarTool in MS Word offers plenty of useful options and preserves the formatting of the document (highlighting and text color).

Please click on the image for a closer look!

  • You can quickly and easily enable or disable any of @promt's SmarTool MS Office Plug Ins either central from outside the applications or within each of the applications. As MS Office applications tend to get cluttered and clumsy by a large amount of plug ins, this is a real advantage over other MT solutions. Other great features are a lists of unknown words created while you translate which allows you to enter those terms into the database to improve later MT's. In contrast to batch translated (File Translator) MS Word files, plug in-translated files keep all their formatting, highlighting and text colors at the right location within the translated texts (Fig. xy).
    A first problem I encountered and which crashed MS Word continuously, turned out to be an incompatibility between the @promt plug-ins and the Adobe Acrobat Writer 6 Plugin. Later I encountered another plugin-compatibility issue - this time in MS Outlook between the @promt and a plugin of the ISDN-Fax application RVS-COM. Both problems are common with heavily plugin-loaded MS Office applications and can be temporarily solved by deactivation of the conflicting plugin. However, PROMT should take care to solve these conflicts. My second negative observation is concern the heavily cluttered plugin toolbars (Fig. xy) which provide way too many icons for function which are otherwise easily accessible. However, as you can easily compress the whole toolbar into just one remaining icon - this is only a blemish. The The expanded toolbar also offers a "Speak" icon which is really only a gimmick since it only works in English - regardless which language you are working on. In addition, there is no way to pause or stop the vocalization of the text - so you have to hear it until the end.
    Whereas I did not face special problems in MS Word, Excel and Outlook, translations in Powerpoint were not reformatted to fit either their text boxes or the slides size. In addition, the "Translate Selected Objects" function only works if text on one slide is selected but not on multiple slides.
  • The Associated Memory (AM) Manager offers another chance to include TM-like functionality into MT. However, in order to conveniently setup and edit such associated databases, it should be possible to import and align document already available document pairs in all supported formats for the source and target languages of such AM's. In addition - or alternatively, it should be possible, to import TM's directly or by means of common exchange formats such as TMX and XLIFF.
  • For an estimate of the Overall Translation Quality, I, unfortunately, could test the @promt Expert language pair English <=> German using general texts only, as the package comes without any specialized dictionaries nor templates for this language pair. Qualitatively judged, the translation quality seems to be quite high. In addition I tested the English <=> Russian package by translating one of the PROMT web pages using the specialized dictionary for Computer-related documents. Although I did use the appropriate dictionary and the source text should be especially familiar to the MT engine, I was quite disappointed by the result. While most words were correctly translated and only a few words remained unknown, the syntax of the English target was awful. Syntactically unsatisfactory translation results do of course also occurred using other MT solutions and are not only @promt's burden (Waßmer, 2003). They can be highly improved by training the MT database more of the natural language it is supposed to know.

In conclusion, @promt Expert is a much more professional package as most of its competitors. However, given the relatively high price you pay just for one language pair, they should all come evenly equipped with a standard package of specialized dictionaries and topic templates. In addition, it would be a nice business strategy of PROMT to offer additional language pairs at a significantly reduced rate.

System Requirements:
For @promt Expert: Pentium 166 MHz processor or higher, 32 Mb of RAM and 105 Mb of hard disk space (up to 230 Mb if Dictionary is included). Graphic: SVGA or better, CD-ROM drive (for installation), mouse or a compatible device. Microsoft Windows XP, 2000 Professional, NT Workstation 4.0 SP5 or higher update package, 98 and Me.
In translation pairs between Russian and other languages, Russian language support should be installed. Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 or higher

Company Information: 16, Birzhevaya Liniya, Vasilyevsky Island, St. Petersburg, 199034, Russia; Phone: +7 (812) 327-4425, Fax: +7 (812) 327-4483; Email: info@e-promt.com; Web: www.e-promt.com.

Dr. Thomas Wassmer, fax: +49 (6131) 213911, e-mail: tom@infotom.com

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