Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews


Alchemy Software Development Limited was founded in Dublin, Ireland by Enda McDonnell and Tony O'Dowd, the original developers and designers of its precessor Corel CATALYST™ in November 2000. The new company acquired the Software originally owned by Corel Corporation Limited. In return, Corel has aquired a 25% stake in the company. After being available only in English, Alchemy and their partner XLsoft Corporation released a fully localized Japanese version of Alchemy CATALYST 5.0 in April 2004. Other partnerships include Microsoft - who bundled their evaluation version of Microsoft Visual Studio.NET 2003 in France with CATALYST - and a OEM Agreement with GlobalSight Corporation on the integration of CATALYST's visual localization tools to enterprise level workflow solutions. CATALYST's success allowed the small company to open new offices in USA (Salem, Oregon and Silicon Valley), Japan and China.

Fig. 1: Alchemy CATALYST's new Project Manager in the visual WYSIWYG mode.
Please note the new Quick Launch Taskbar (far left), new toolbar for visual editors (far right) and the enhanced Translator Toolbar featuring the integrated glossary.
Please click on the image for a closer look!


Alchemy CATALYST is an Integrated Localization Environment with powerful project management features featuring a visual approach to almost all functions. CATALYST focusses on Localization engineers but offers seamlessly integrated editors and tools also suitable to support the work of Translators, Quality Assurance (QA) Specialists, Project Managers and Software Developers. The software offers 72 built-in parsers to support all Windows™ program, resource and help files, as well as XML/XHTML based files, databases and .NET applications.

  • CATALYST includes several visual editors which work in a WYSIWYG manner. Each visual editor can validate translations automatically. In addition, glossary support and spell checking are included in all editor environments.
  • QA of large localization projects is supported by a suite of tools ranging from layout, clipped text and duplicate hotkeys validation to the detection of missing parameters or controls and spell-checking. Another helpful tool is the Runtime Validation Expert, which detects errors introduced by dynamic dialogs and text substitutions as your translated software is running. This frees up your QA to focus on functional rather than cosmetic testing of your localized product.
  • Software Engineers can develop custom editors and validators using the CATALYST Software Development Kit (SDK). Any text file can be parsed and included into the Translation Environment by using CATALYST's Text Parser Expert. Support for JavaScript, CGI, Pearl, ASP and .NET is provided through Alchemy's source file editor. Furthermore, CATALYST's Visual Comparison Expert enables engineers to determine the differences between product revisions and their impact on QA and translation schedules.
  • Finally, CATALYST incorporates a number of essential project management tools ranging from basic word count reports to more complex update word counts. Such reports can be used to scope the cost, time and complexity of localization projects in order to priories resources. A memo function enables you to send messages to translators and track revisions and translation histories. CATALYST's internal TTKs (Translation Tool Kits) format can be exported into the industry standard translation memory interchange file format TMX Level 2 (TMX 1.4).

Fig. 2: Alchemy CATALYST's enhanced Toolbar.
Please note the new graphic display of inline tags in XML/XHTML files and the integrated glossary.


Alchemy CATALYST 5 (version 5.01 build 3047) provides several new functions and enhancements:

  • Translation of Database Content: Save, efficient and convenient visual translation environment supporting the localization of many database types, such as Oracle, IBM DB2, MS SQL and Microsoft Access. Automatic generation of connection strings to SQL databases where user names and passwords need to be provided. You can simply select tables by drag and drop and select data content by entering SQL statements (Fig. 3). The specified data can then be included by simple drag & drop into your localization project. You can easily configure CATALYST to use existing string IDs from the source file instead of creating new IDs while inserting the strings into your project. This might increase translation consistency dramatically and provide better leverage results.
  • ezParse™: Development of custom parsers without coding: Combining the power and flexibility of regular expressions with a CATALYST's visual development environment, ezParse™ (Fig. 4) enables you to develop text parsers for almost any file type. ezParse™ supports popular encoding systems such as UTF-8, UTF-16 and Shift-JIS.
  • Visual XLIFF enables the direct localization of XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) documents either as raw XML files or visually in WYSIWYG mode right within the familiar CATALYST project manager.
  • New Licensing Technology: GoMobile introduces the ability to borrow licenses temporarily from any machine on the local network or even by logging into the LAN through the internet.
    You must request a new license file from info@alchemysoftware.ie in order to enable this feature.
  • Enhanced Microsoft .NET Visual Component: In addition to the support of .NET source files (RESX) you can now translate, test and engineere .NET binary application files. In addition you can now build language assemblies directly from your Project TTK files and insert satellite assemblies and resource only dlls.
  • Redesigned Powerful Translator Toolbar: CATALYST's new Translator Toolbar centralizes all activities and functions for translation in one highly intuitive interface that includes an advanced glossary manager, visual tag editor and integrated spelling and validation tools (Fig. 2). Each of the windows in the Translator Toolbar has an Accelerator Key for quick access and Accelerator Keys have been added for automatic selection of items 1 to 9 in the glossary list.
  • Redesigned Project Translation Environment: The enhancements include a new Quick Launch Taskbar for CATALYST's Experts, new toolbars for visual editors in WYSIWYG mode and a completely new Project Navigator that combines Replica™ and advanced filter functionality in a simple to use interface (Fig. 1). The Project Manager furthermore features a new User Profile Manager (Fig. 5) to help you with the configuration of many of the tool's advanced features and provide easy find and reset options. User profiles can be managed and shared amongst team members.
  • The Enhanced Secure XML Environment now provides exception lists for text segmentation and introduces Nav-Points which allow you to take greater control on the display of XML documents and help you split large XML files into smaller segments using Nav-Points as references points.

Fig. 3: Database Rules Editor: Simply select data content by entering SQL statements and include the specified data by simple drag & drop into your localization project.
You may click on the image for a closer look!

Editions & Prices:

  • Alchemy CATALYST Translator/Lite Edition: Includes almost all visual editors and interactive validators of the Translator Edition. The product can not be used to create and maintain own translation projects but is a nice gift to freelance translators working for companies which use CATALYST 5.0 : Developer/Pro Edition in their localization projects. Free of charge. The CATALYST QuickShip Environment can be downloaded from Alchemy's website at www.alchemysoftware.ie/quickship/.
  • Translator Edition: Complete with WYSIWYG editors that support all Microsoft Windows™ program, help file formats and XML based file formats. Includes the Validate and Replica Experts (glossary lookup, spell checking, layout validation etc. and display of repeating strings allowing interactive or automatic replication, respectively). The translator version does not allow for leveraging of previous translations and only provides basic project management. 699€.
  • Localizer Edition: Same as Translator Edition with additional Leverage Expert which supports exact and fuzzy matching techniques, the Pseudo Expert simulating the effects of translation, a Runtime Validation utility which detects user interface problems while executing the product and the Visual Comparison Expert for the visual determination of the scope of change between software revisions. 3999€.
  • Developer/Pro Edition: Provides CATALYST SDK (Software Development Kit) for the seamless integration into 3rd party development environments and enabling the development of custom editors for non-standard resources. Combines all features of the Localizer Edition and adds the Quickship Expert Technology, which allows translation projects to be deployed throughout the enterprise or between translation partners using the free-of-charge Translator/Lite Edition. 6499€
  • .NET Visual Localization Component and Visual XLIFF Component. 199€ each for the Translator Edition and 499€ each both for the Localizer and Developer Editions.
  • Database Component. 399€ for the Translator Edition and 999€ both for the Localizer and Developer Editions.

Fig. 4: Alchemy CATALYST 5 ezParse™: Using regular expressions (second and third input field from above) and a visual development environment allows to build parsers for virtually any file type and check them in a preview (lower left and right panels).
You may click on the image for a closer look

Usage & Evaluation

Alchemy CATALYST 5 corrects and improves several shortcomings I observed when evaluating version 4:

1.) CATALYST's main interface, the Project Manager, finally uses the workspace area intelligently and economically, providing even old fashioned users of a 17" monitor with sufficient space to do their job. The new windows arrangement is supported by adding three easy hide and show buttons for the most important supporting screens and by ways of an easy dock/undock feature of almost all windows of the GUI, especially the translation bar (Fig. 1).

2.) The Translation Bar now concentrates all important information to support the translation
process: it displays a list of fuzzy matches for the selected source string but still lags behind real TM solutions by not providing the percentage values of concordance. In addition, the Translation Bar now also offers visual display of inline tags in XML/XHTML based files (Fig. 2).

3.) CATALYST 5 does not provide any improvements in the processing and translation of Help/RTF files nor the documentation of those features. As this also reflects the significance the handling of those file types has for the Alchemy Software developers, this feature should be ceased and left to specialized tools or TMs.

4.) CATALYST 4 was the only Software translation tool supporting XML. Now almost all of its competitors offer some XML support but CATALYST 5 still offers the most visual and in the meanwhile seasoned approach now also featuring a "TRADOS-like" display of inline tags (Fig. 2).

5.) Unfortunately, CATALYST is still quite expensive, aiming mostly at Software Localization engineers. Translators will even have a bigger problem then in version 4 to fork out at least 3500 € for a CATALYST edition providing support of leveraging previous translations wherease the only reasonable priced edition (Translator's Edition at $ 699) does not offer this feature. It is a good suggestion to buy all needed Plugins when you first purchase CATALYST or you might end up spending an additional 600 or 1500 €, respectively.

6.) The developers of CATALYST 5 took my observation about the insufficient program Help serious and remodelled the entire documentation material also providing some nice tutorials to jump start your start to work with this powerful tool.

Among CATALYST's new features, I was most amazed by the advanced visual database tools featuring the Database Rules Editor for a fast and guided selection of translatable data content by entering simple SQL statements (Fig. 3). Although the use of the rule editor is pretty straight forward, a basic SQL reference would be helpful either located in the help or as a convenient table with drag & drop support. Furthermore, it might be time saving and helpful to assist the user with suggestions to locate translatable fields. This also applies to my second favorite: the great new ezParse tool to build custom parsing rules for text based file types (Fig. 4). Again a more detailed documentation or better a support table enabling drag & drop of expressions and coding would be more convenient. A third great novelty ist the convenient new licensing technic GoMobile, which is by far more convenient than a dongle or a simple SoftLock mechanism. Exciting enhancements are the direct support of .NET binaries extending the earlier support of just .NET resources, the central administration of all user settings (Fig. 5) and and the direct implementation of TIDY functions for an internal preprocessing of misformed XHTML. I am in contrast not satisfied with CATALYST's current visual support of XLIFF. As the implementation does not support source and target inline tags, many files can not be parsed and can only be processed as raw XML files losing all WYSIWYG options.

Fig. 5: The Alchemy CATALYST User Profil Dialog offers quick access and complete control of the CATALYST environment and many of its advanced features. Profiles can be managed and shared amongst your team members.
You may click on the image for a closer look


Up to now you could only connect CATALYST to TM solutions by means of exporting either a tabs-delimited text file or a basic TMX (Translation Memory eXchange) file. Version 5 elaborates the later option to be confirm with TMX 1.4 and support the extended Level 2 options with support for container, content, and segmentation allow you to recreate the translated version within any other tools supporting TMX Level 2. However, as most other tools, CATALYST is currently not officially TMX certified. In addition to the two way interexchange through TMX, you can use any TRADOS TM by leveraging with a Trados workbench.

In conclusion: Alchemy CATALYST 5 provides many great new features and valuable enhancements which make one of the best Software Localization tools even better. However, CATALYST is more than ever the Rolls-Royce within these tools and therefore often not really an option for freelance translators or small agencies unless they can take advantage of the free TranslatorLite edition which, however, only allows to process projects which were created and pre-processed by a client who owns the Developer/Pro Edition.

System Requirements:
Hardware: Pentium 300 (or compatible), 32 MB RAM, 55 MB Hard Drive.
Software: Windows 98, ME, NT 4.0 (Service Pack 3), 2000, Windows XP.

Company Information: Alchemy Software Development Ltd.; Block 2, Harcourt Business Centre, Harcourt Street, Dublin 2, Ireland; Phone: +353 (1) 7082800, Fax: +353 (1) 7082801; email: info@alchemysoftware.ie; URL: http://www.alchemysoftware.ie. Free demo download available.



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

  Translation & Localization


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