Translation & Localization


Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews


Detailed Reviews

SDLX™ Translation Suite 2003


Mark Lancaster, a founding director of LISA, the Localization Industry Standards Association, incorporated SDL in 1992 after having identified the need for a high-level service provider for the globalization of software. Since that time, has SDL International (London Stock Exchange 'SDL') has grown to become one of the world’s largest providers of enterprise globalization technologies and services. Its comprehensive offerings include multilingual content management solutions, real-time translation technologies, translation memory and a full range of internationalization and localization services. SDL maintains its headquarters in the U.K. and conducts business worldwide from more than 35 offices in Asia, Europe and North America.
In 1998, SDL began its focus on acquiring and developing translation and localization technology and products, both for its own use in delivering client-specific solutions, and to be sold as free-standing commercial products. In 2001, SDL formed its Desktop Products Division in order to increase its focus on developing and distributing globalization productivity tools. Because many of its customers are service providers themselves, the division operates independently of the client services divisions.
SDL is a strong advocate for the use of open standards and a active member of various standards bodies including LISA and the OASIS XLIFF technical committee which defines standards for XML-based localization.

Fig. 1: The SDLX Switchboard provides fast access to almost all modules of the Translation Suite.



The SDLX™ Translation Suite features a modular architecture consisting of five to eight components: SDL Project Wizard, SDL Align, SDL Maintain, SDL Edit and SDL TermBase in all versions, and SDL Analyse, SDL Apply and SDLX AutoTrans in the professional and elite versions. Besides AutoTrans, all modules are quickly accessible through SDLX's Switchboard (Fig. 1). All modules are presented with the same or a similar user interface to increase the speed and ease of getting acquainted to the suite's functionality. The suite currently supports text and text processor formats such as TXT, CSV, RTF and DOC, tagged formats: HTM(L), ASP, SGML, XML, MIF (FrameMaker Maker Interchange Format), code and resource files: RC, CPP, FRM, BAS and Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint files (Fig. 2). SDLX 2003 adds support of almost any file type that can be displayed within Windows by the new Clipboard Translator and supports bi-directional & multi-byte text - e.g. Arabic, Japanese & Hebrew and is TMX and Unicode compliant.


The SDL Project Wizard (Fig. 2) simplifies and automates the preparation and post production of translation projects. Being an interactive tool, it effortlessly guides you through the conversion of your source files into the file format used by SDLX. It automatically separates text and formatting information and creates translatable and non translatable files. After the translation process, the Project Wizard re-joins these blocks back into the original source format and file structure. In addition, the Project Wizard is also capable to validate HTML files and repair non standard code. Multiple Web pages can be glued together and batch-processed. Another important feature for DTP users is the Wizard's capability to extract index and cross reference variables from FrameMaker files so that they can be translated separately.

Fig. 2: The Project Wizard allows for the import of any number of files in any of the supported file types.


Alignment of previously translated material and external references with new source files is done by SDL Align. Source language and target language translation documents are presented side by side allowing validation of the aligned sentences or segments. Once the alignment process is completed, the aligned sentences can be used to create an initial or update an existing translation memory (TM). The third component of all Suite editions is SDL Maintain. This module enables you to import and edit TM information using SDLX's standard interface. It provides access to various memory management functions including global find and replace, consolidation of multiple existing translation assets into a single TM, the application of filters to the TM to restrict the information retrieved from the database and the import and export of TM databases in a variety of formats, including: TMX (Level 1 and 2), tab-delimited and comma-separated text. You can also change or correct any formatting problems in the database.

Fig. 3: Translation of a HTML file using the SDL Edit module

Please note the color-coded representation of machine-translated (SDL AutoTrans), as well as full matches and fuzzy matches after applying a TM.
Please click on the image for a closer look!


At the core of the Suite is SDL Edit (Fig. 3). Although the interface looks like a simple two-column grid, it provides all typical capabilities of text processing software such as find and replace, copy and paste, undo and redo, and statistical functions including word and character count. Powerful spell checking is achieved by using Microsoft Word's spell checking dictionaries. For maximum efficiency, SDL Edit is used in conjunction with TM databases and TermBase dictionaries providing full access to previously translated segments and terminology. Another nice feature is "Auto Propagation", which ensures that previously translated segments that are repeated elsewhere in the file, will automatically be translated. This guarantees consistency and time savings throughout the project. SDL Edit displays the source file and new translation side-by-side in a color-coded display, enabling the translator to quickly identify the status of each segment (Fig. 3). Where there is a fuzzy match, the TM Difference View window can be used to compare the differences between the source file segment and the TM entity. Additional features include concordance searches and auto matching. SDLX’s unique Translation Preview enables you to inspect the appearance of your translation at any time. Format Painting copies the formatting of the source file identically to the assigned parts of the target without the need for a detailed knowledge of tag formats. The translation of HTML and other web-based formats features HTML gluing, validation and repair and ensures an easier and more effective translation of multiple files.

Fig. 4: SDL TermBase, the Terminology Module of SDLX

features an easily editable multilingual dictionary.
Please click on the image for a closer look!


The last basic module is SDL TermBase featuring a concept-oriented terminology database and management system. TermBase allows you to create, manage and reuse company or domain-specific, multilingual terminology from a single repository. The consistency of your translations is improved by automatically proposing previously translated terms during the translation process. The design and implementation of the database is fully configurable by the user: any number of free-format text fields can be combined with any number of user-defined attribute lists containing either single or multiple select fields. SDL TermBase is fully Unicode compliant – the database stores all information in Unicode. This architecture enables full support of all languages defined in the Unicode standard including Asian and bi-directional languages. Once the database structure is defined and the information has been either entered or imported, you can enhance navigation within the database by fully configurable filters that are saved with the database for later use. In addition, you can define concept synonyms or related terms for any language, which can be visited with a single mouse click due to the insertion of user-defined hyperlinks.


The Professional and Elite versions of the SDLX Translation Suite feature three additional modules. The statistics module SDL Analyse provides project managers with a convenient method for estimating the efforts required in new projects by listing the amount of repetition and fuzzy matches in a file or a set of files. It also suggests whether it is better to create a TM from an old translation and then translate the new files, or create a TM from the new translations and recommends which files to translate first for maximum leverage. Files can be analyzed against nothing, an old set of files, one or more translation memories, or a combination of files and translation memories. SDL Analyse can also be used to export a list of frequently occurring units in SDL Edit format. These units can then be translated in SDL Edit and used to populate a Translation Memory.
The batch processing module SDL Apply is used to apply a TM to all of the files of a project in a single batch operation. After completing the Apply module, the translation process for each of the fully or partially translated files can be completed using the Edit module. Finally, the optional SDLX™ AutoTrans performs bidirectional machine translations between English and French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.


Fig. 5: Batch Translation of XML Files: A. XML File Customization and B. SDL Apply including Machine Translation (SDL AutoTrans)
Please click on either image for a closer look!


Version 2003 of the SDLX Translation Suite adds a bunch of new features:

  • The new Clipboard Translator lets you virtually translate any file type that can be displayed within Windows. SDLX's advanced design allows you to copy and paste entire paragraphs or pages of text in one single operation. This is achieved by segmentation of the clipboard text into strings before looking for matches in the Translation Memory.
  • Additional TM context information provide you with more flexibility to define text and attribute fields to be associated and stored with each segment within the TM such as subject matter, product line, project code and translator's name.
  • The enhanced SDLX Enterprise Server 2003 utilizes true SQL Server data storage which makes it the only tool designed to operate natively with SQL Server in a true client-server architecture. This provides you with real-time, seamless access to your TMs over a LAN or even remotely over a Wide Area Network.
  • Enhanced Filters increase your productivity in handling important file types. New XML Filters support all well formed XML. You can import text from XML files even without a specified DTD file. In this case SDLX 2003 helps you to decide which tags to translate and which to ignore. The enhanced Web Based Format (WBF) Filter was introduced in SDLX 4.2.1 as an alternative HTML filter if validation of the HTML code is unnecessary and script within the code does not need processing. The WBF now also includes the "Gluing" function of the classic HTML filter. Further development of the Microsoft Excel Filter now allows customization of the extraction of translatable items from spreadsheets and ignoring empty cells. Finally, support for Trados TTX Files was added. TTX was introduced in Trados version 5 to translate HTML/XML and a variety of other tagged file formats.


Editions & Prices:

  • SDLX™ Lite: Edit-Only module. Only works with ITDs produced by the Elite version (below). External translators of an owner of SDLX Translation Suite Elite can work using SDLX Lite without any charge.
  • SDLX™ Translation Suite Standard: Designed for translators (freelance or in-house). It includes all features and tools necessary for the translation process. $/€ 595.
  • SDLX™ Translation Suite Professional: Designed for translators and project managers requiring additional analysis tools for project preparation and estimation as well as batch file translation of multiple files. $/€ 1195.
  • SDLX™ Translation Suite Elite: Functionality same as the SDLX Translation Suite Professional. Additional the ability to produce SDLX Lite enabled files. $/€ 2995.


Usage & Evaluation:

The SDLX Localization Suite is nice looking, convenient to use and easy to learn. Within its many worth mentioning strengths are the Switchboard which coordinates all your activities and allows for a fast and accurate navigation between the modules, the Project Wizard which organizes all necessary steps to setup projects in a variety of file types and SDLX’s simple yet versatile editor to process all supported file types. You do not need a third-party's product like a word processor nor multiple editors for different file types. SDL Edit provides a tidy tabular view which displays the level of concordance between the source and strings from the associated translation memories (TM) both in color-code and percentage values. Another accomplishment is SDLX’s truly multilingual and bidirectional TMs. This is especially helpful in the processing or development of multilingual documents. Within the new features, the Clipboard Translator is most remarkable. It is easy to use but nevertheless powerful enough to take care of the basic formatting (color and style) of the clipped text. Taking good care about the formatting of your projects is another general strength of SDLX: A feature called "Format Painting" allows you to adopt even complex formatting of your source files by painting them over the appropriate strings of your target. The Suite furthermore ensures by the use of color coding and reminders that you do not accidentally loose any important attribute in your translated targets.
You are always just a click away from a complete preview of your translation and the applied formatting as shown in the native browser or editor for this file type. It likewise only costs you a few mouse-clicks to create and customize complex filters and processing rules for XML files using an amazingly easy to learn and powerful graphical user interface (GUI). Cooperation within and between groups is enhanced by the easy exchangeability of the Suite’s TMs and TermBases with other applications. You can directly import and export Trados, Open-Tag and TMX 2.0. SDLX will be the first product to be certified for full TMX support. TRADOS file support also includes bilingual TRADOStag documents (TTX). This does not only facilitate the cooperation of translators working in different environments but encourages users to switch to SDLX.
Besides its extraordinary ergonomics, SDLX also impresses with a high level of work safety: All files in work can be saved into an intermediate format at any time – your work can therefore be completed in as many steps and in any time necessary. Furthermore, each and every step of your work can be reversed - the amount of undo procedures is only limited by your PC's memory.
Finally, the SDLX Translation Suite is moderately priced and offers flexible license schemes to fit almost any needs. Online Support is fast and competent and free for life for all license types. In addition, there are no charges for phone support for Professional and Elite users and a nominal charge for Standard Users.

Naturally, even in a great product not all can be perfect nor fitting everybody’s needs. However, I only found some minor shortcomings and very few major disadvantages of the suite:
My first critic is about the inconvenience of field definition when setting up TermBase terminologies or adding languages to it. Database fields like e.g. term definition are not automatically adopted following the established fields of existing languages. The user must repeatedly define which fields should be displayed for each language. In addition, no multiple selections of fields are possible within the much too small scroll field of the selection mask - only 2 lines or two field options are visible at a time. SDL took formal notice of this problem and promised to take care of it in future version. A more serious shortcoming of the TermBase is the missing support for any media. Especially graphic support (JPG and GIF) would be quite helpful for a dictionary. SDL stated that the next release of TermBase will add support for graphic files. Finally, there is no simultaneous interlinking of the TermBase and the TM in SDL Edit. You can either setup AutoSearch in the TM (which you have to do manually as it is not the default setting!) or the TermBase but not in both. Furthermore, you can not dock the TermBase Minibrowser to the SDL Edit interface in order to have TM and terminology always in your view. As this is pretty much standard in TM solutions, this is one of the real disadvantages of the current suite.
The current SDLX Suite lacks support of reference material which would enhance translations by enabling context checks. On the terminology side, you can not associate external dictionaries. XML-Filter creation is one of SDLX's special features. While it works really smooth and comfortable, it lacks a file viewer for fast reference to decide on the nature of tags (e.g. translatable - non-translatable, inline - block). A second major disadvantage is the missing native support of important DTP file types such as Interleaf, PageMaker, or Ventura (requires the use of the included RTF conversion utility) and QuarkExpress for which even the purchase of a third party product is required (CopyFlow by North American Publishing Systems). In addition, SDLX also lacks support for databases (including MS Access) and binaries. It does, however, handle RC and Code files also used in software localization. Unfortunately, there are neither tutorials nor documentation which would explain the special treatment required for those file types. Furthermore, if the support of RC and Code files should be taken serious, there should be some checks and validations e.g. for missing or double ampersands (&), access keys (Ctl D), or dialog / menu size. All of this functionality and support of binaries is available through another specialized SDL product named SDL Insight.
As the SDLX Translation Suite offers a large amount of functions and support for many file types, documentation and tutorials should be extended. There are presently no online tutorials or sample files to repeat the free initial online tutoring included for the Pro and Elite versions. However, this was the case before the last major update of SDL's web site and I was told that new material will be published within next 60 days. The SDLX Translation Suite does not include any printed material which those of us will miss who like to browse and read in good old paper documents. Basic Project and workflow management in SDLX is provided by the project wizard and the SDL Analyse module of the Pro and Elite versions. Those who need extended management functionality will have to purchase SDL WorkFlow. Finally, the Suite is currently only available in localized versions for English and soon German although SDLX supports a large amount of languages.

In conclusion, despite a few disadvantages, the SDLX Translation Suite is a powerful and complete translation solution at an astonishingly moderate price.


SDLX Translation Suite at a Glance

System Requirements:
Intel Pentium 90 MHz or above (350 MHz recommended) running Microsoft Windows 98 / ME / NT4 or 2000; 64 MB RAM minimum (256 MB recommended) and 50 MB disk space for the installation.

Company Information:
SDL Desktop Products Division Headquarters: Globe House, Clivemont Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DY, England; Tel: +44 1628 416320; Email: europeproductsales@sdlintl.com.
North America: 600 Davies Street, Evanston, Il 60201, USA; Tel: +1 847 492 1670; Email: naproductsales@sdlintl.com.
Asia: SDL Japan; Megurohigashiyama Bldg., 4F; 1-4-4 Higashiyama, Meguro-ku; Tokyo, 153-0043;
Japan; Tel.: +81 3 5720 2591, Fax: +81 3 5720 2592; Email: asiaproductsales@sdlintl.com; URL: http://www.sdlintl.com


Translation Memories (TM) and Computer Aided Translation (CAT) Applications:


Dr. Thomas Wassmer, fax: +49 (6204) 9868263, e-mail: tom at infotom.com