Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews

SDL Localization Suite

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, SDL International (London Stock Exchange 'SDL') has grown to be one of the world’s leading provider of translation services and technology solutions, employing over 1300 staff worldwide in 40 offices.
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: SDLX 2004 features several new enhancements of the SDL Edit Module:
Simultaneous view of TM (lower panel), Terminology (upper right) and Differences between the selected match and the current translation segment (upper middle) as well as the new comment feature (lower middle at mouse pointer).
Please click on the image for a closer look!


The SDL Localization Suite includes SDL's Translation Memory (TM) product SDLX, the Software editor SDLinsight, the machine translation product AutoTrans (formerly known as Transcend®), and the testing tools for RTF and HTML-based Help-Systems, named HelpQA and HtmlQA, respectively. The last component of the suite is ToolProof for Quality Assurance of software applications.

Components of the Localization Suite:


The Localization Suite contains SDLX either in the professional or elite version. Both editions feature a modular architecture consisting of eight components: The SDL Project Wizard simplifies and automates the preparation and post production of translation projects. Alignment of previously translated material and external references with new source files is done by SDL Align. The third component, SDL Maintain, enables you to import and edit TM information using SDLX's standard interface.

At the core of the Suite is SDL Edit (Fig. 1). Although the interface appears like a simple two-column grid, it provides all functions typical of text processing software: find and replace, copy and paste, undo and redo, and statistical functions including word and character count. SDL TermBase features a concept-oriented terminology database and management system.
The Professional and Elite versions of SDLX feature three additional modules: The statistics module SDL Analyse provides project managers with convenient tools 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. The batch processing module SDL Apply is used to apply a TM to all project files in a single batch operation. Finally, the optional SDLX™ AutoTrans performs bidirectional machine translations between English and French, German, Spanish, Italian Portuguese and Dutch.
Besides AutoTrans, all modules are quickly accessible through SDLX's Switchboard and are presented with the same or similar user interface to support your efforts in getting acquainted to SDLX. You can translate 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. SDLX furthermore supports almost any file type that can be displayed within Windows by the new Clipboard Translator including bi-directional and multi-byte text - such as Arabic, Japanese and Hebrew and is fully TMX and Unicode compliant.

Fig. 2: SDLinsight.
SDLinsight features a context sensitive WYSIWYG editor with an automatic selection of best environment for each resource type and the option to resize dialog controls to accommodate expanded text by using the mouse, X-Y coordinates and by resizing to content.
You may click on the image for a closer look!

The brand new SDLX 2004 provides several new functions and enhancements:

  • You can now configure SDL Edit to open multiple Translation Memories and specify which ones are used for Filtering, Look-up, Updating and Concordance search.
  • On request of SDLX users, you can customize the SDL Edit Interface according to your needs by adding and moving additional dockable windows. You can now see both TM and Terminology information as well as the "View Difference Window". In addition you can close and reopen windows without loosing your customized GUI.
  • SDL Edit now displays the White Space of your choice for an easier detection of double spacing, tabs and other formatting.
  • To improve the use of TermBase glossaries in SDL Edit, a new TermBase Toolbar has been added.
  • SDLX now allows you to perform a Terminology QA Check: you can analyze your files against a terminology base to make sure you use the correct expressions from your glossary and report the results of your findings.
  • In version 2004 SDLX allows you to add comments to any segment while translating, proofreading or editing, making it much easier for Project Managers, translators and reviewers to highlight areas of linguistic concern.
  • You can now create a condensed SDL Project TM containing only project-specific matches by scanning one or more TMs for matches specific only to the selected files.
  • Easier and more flexible Format Painting allowing you to disregard the formatting of the source files if no formatting of the target is needed or just delete unwanted formatting from target segments. In contrast to this you can simply clone source formats that require duplication in the target. There is also more choice in how formatting is displayed: either by coloring and red vertical bars to indicate the location of formatting or by changing to one of 3 different tagged views.
  • Due to the popularity of Java as a programming language to create cross-platform applications, SDLX 2004 now adds support of Java properties files which contain much of the translatable text of a Software developed in Java such as button names, captions and message text.
  • SDLX 2004 now allows you to apply global search and replace to your ITD project file which will affect all files included. The results are stored in a log file so you can tell your client how many occurrences needed to be altered!.

Fig. 3a: HtmlQA shows the recognized dependent elements of each HTML page in a project.
You may click on the image for a closer look!
Fig. 3b: HelpQA showing a tree view of all analyzed elements of a Windows Help System.
You may click on the image for a closer look!


The Localization Suite's second major component is SDLinsight which is based on the much less developed LocSmith, a software localization environment for RC files originally owned by Translation Craft, acquired and extended by SDL Desktop Products in 2000. The tool provides a visual environment consisting of a combination of fixed and freely dockable and undockable windows for localizing Windows 32-bit and .NET software by using either executable and binary files (.dll, .exe, .ocx, .cpl and .resources) or resource scripts such as .rc, .dlg, .str, and .resx and .txt for .NET applications, respectively. SDLinsight supports single- and multi-byte languages such as all Asian languages but currently not bi-directional target languages. The tool features also a comprehensive font and locale support under Windows 2000 allowing you to install the appropriate locale support on English Win2k and avoid multiple machine setup steps. The tool separates translatable and non-translatable items, allowing you to transfer only translatable items to external translators. As most Software localization tools, SDLinsight features a context sensitive WYSIWYG editor with an automatic selection of best environment for each resource type and the option to resize dialog controls to accommodate expanded text by using the mouse, X-Y coordinates and by resizing to content. You can leverage translations either from other SDLinsight files, glossaries or align file pairs. Translation units can be marked by flags and you can generate several statistical reports about your projects such as counting the number of words, dialogs, menus and string tables. There are several QA functions built-in such as validation and consistency checking (truncation, duplicate hotkeys, untranslated text) as well as spell checking (MS Word). The exclusive "Binary Chop" feature automates the process of locating strings with localization problems by chopping the entire binary into parts (chops) and test them individually for errors. SDLinsight features a SQL Backend Database for higher stability and scaleability as well as the support of larger projects than any other commercial tool eliminating the painful process of breaking up an application into smaller parts. You can use VB Scripting for Automation, Customization and Integration and there is a basic graphic editor integrated within SDLinsight for bitmaps, cursors and icons. Initially introduced as a component of SDL's Localization Suite, SDLinsight is now also available for purchase as a freestanding product.

SDL Help/HTML QA Suite:

HelpQA and HtmlQA (formerly of Translation Craft, acquired by SDL Desktop Products in 2000) are professional tools designed for project managers, authors and engineers to assure the quality of On- and Offline Help systems (HTML-Help and RTF-Help) and web sites. The QA suite provides over 200 validation checks on source and translated RTF and HTML-based Help files and Web sites such as: deleted or added links, deleted or added formatting markers, missing graphic references. Both tools offer source authoring, project management, engineering verification, and visual comparisons as well as detailed reporting features allowing you to review errors and fix them quickly.

  • HtmlQA: used to verify the integrity of HTML files and the functional identity of a set of Html-based files, typically an untranslated source project and a translated target project. HtmlQA is based on on HelpQA, which is used to verify the functional identity of source and localized RTF-based Windows help systems.
    HtmlQA includes support of the HTML standard up to version 4.0 and full support for JPEG, GIF and PNG image file formats. In addition, Microsoft's Html Help
    project files (HHP) and native compiled help (CHM) as well as DBCS Html source files are supported in all common extended character entities and multilingual character sets. The tool contains a fast, native C++ parser for Html files. Ten source error classes can be triggered across 77 supported tags and 22 attributes.
    HtmlQA provides one click access to full project reporting including project and per-file word counts, graphic, missing and orphan file lists, problem and remote URL listings. HtmlQA can output a complete Html or ASCII report which is immediately printable and can be used as the basis for project quotation.
    HtmlQA offers a full dual Html browser interface from two instances of either Netscape or Internet Explorer allowing you to view the source and target file simultaneously.
    Version 1.4 also implements a dual-browser (Internet Explorer only) interface for Microsoft's Html Help CHM file format, so you can view your final compiled Html Help projects as they appear to the end-user.
  • HelpQA: Translating the RTF source of a Help system almost invariably introduces errors such as deleted and inadvertently translated footnotes, altered jumps and missing graphic references which can affect the functioning of the help system. HelpQA performs a complete consistency check across the source and target help projects to ensure that the localized help file functions are identically to the original source project. HelpQA includes support for all native help-compiler source formats, including help project files (HPJ), rich text format (RTF), contents files (CNT) and BMP, WMF, SHG and MRB graphic formats. The tools includes full support for all single byte and double byte languages and contains a fast native C++ parser for Win help RTF files. Over 60 source errors can be triggered, including broken ALink and KLink macros, invalid characters in footnotes and macros and incorrect jump destinations. HelpQA offers interactive visual compare of compiled help files, CNT files and project graphic files by a side-by-side view of source and target files. The tool uses OLE to automate Microsoft Word for instant point and click access to the source text. HelpQA also features a detailed reporting system which includes project, file and topic word counts (translatable and Microsoft-Word compatible), graphic lists, macro lists, button lists, external reference and unresolved internal reference lists again with point and click access to source from all topic and error lists.

SDL ToolProof:

ToolProof (also acquired from Translation Craft in 2000) is a QA assistance tool designed to test your Windows 32-bit Software applications (*.EXE) in a runtime environment either during development or localization. It is the only commercially available runtime user interface (UI) bug detector. As such it checks just for errors of the UI and will not find functional or crash bugs. ToolProof works in the background while a QA engineer is testing an application and continually scans the active windows and automatically records any occurring UI problems. When the tool finds a problem, it signals the QA Engineer to enter the steps which led to the problem in order to reproduce the situation. ToolProof offers a dynamic real-time validation by automatically checking for clipped strings, duplicate and invalid or missing hotkeys and overlapping controls in dialog boxes. Errors are automatically marked and can be exported together with your comments into a detailed QA report. ToolProof offers support for multiple-tester environments including project and bug list merging, export / import and complete configurability through a comprehensive series of project setup dialogs.


Editions & Prices:

SDL Localization Suite is available in two flavors:

  • The Professional Edition provides all the functionality that a freelance translator needs to accomplish work for their customers. SoftLock License: US$ 3995.00 (download version - no CD, ex. VAT).
  • The Elite Edition provides all of the functionality of SDLX Professional, with the added ability to create Lite-enabled files which can be translated by an unlimited amount of external translators who download our free SDLX Lite version. Includes SDLinsight Translator's Edition (5 pack)and placement on www.locsuite.com for company awareness. SoftLock License: US$ 5995.00 (download version - no CD, ex. VAT).

Single components:

  • SDLX (Standard: US$ 595.00); Professional: US$ 1395.00 (included in the Professional Edition of the Suite) and Elite: US$ 3495.00 (included in the Elite Edition of the Suite).
  • SDLinsight: (SDLinsight 2003 Translator: US$ 595.00); SDLinsight 2003 Professional inc Translator 5 Pack: US$ 2995.00.
  • HtmlQA v1.4 & HelpQA v2.1: US$ 995.00.
  • ToolProof v2.02: US$ 795.00.

Dongle versions: add US$ 25 for each dongle and US $24 for S&H (ex. VAT).

Fig. 4: SDL ToolProof featuring a hierarchical view of all tested resources and warnings about discovered problems which can be commented in the text field (lower panel).
You may click on the image for a closer look

Usage & Evaluation


In version 2004, the Suites main and obviously best supported component is further on its way to become one of the best translation memory (TM) solutions available. SDLX is the first TM to offer full certified TMX compatibility which offers you the best guarantee, never to be forced to continue using SDLX if you prefer another tool or process a project using multiple tools. The option to simultaneously view of all matching TM units within the customized fuzzy match range (TM view), together with a difference view between the selected match and the current segment and matching entries in the terminology base (TermBase) was long expected and is finally released in SDLX 2004. You might still argue that the TM difference view should be included into the TM view but as you can freely arrange, dock and undock these windows or close them if not needed and the fact that the difference view gives you detailed information about the kind of difference such as formatting, context and penalties, the current solution might even be superior to other ways handling this functionality. Especially translators who prefer to use keyboard shortcuts will like the fast access to the displayed TM and TermBase units.
Helpful new features are the Terminology QA Check which helps you to locate units containing terms not complying with an approved terminology. I suggested to improve the current logging to a text based protocol to HTML format featuring hyperlinks to the corresponding translation units for faster navigation. In addition, SDLX's TermBase should allow you to enter the linguistic root of terms thus enabling to find grammatical flexions of the root such as plural and cases. This would greatly improve both, the current use of the terminology as a helper in translation and the new terminology QA checking. Fuzzy-Match Terminology Lookup is scheduled for the next version of SDLX. Another great new feature is the addition of comment fields to each translation segment within SDLEdit. This enables to submit commentaries and questions and keep a track record on the solution of open questions.

Some apparent disadvantages of SDLX are not really such but appear to be simply because the tool uses another strategy than the one you are used from your tool. Let me give you an example: TRADOS users are used to the default setting to have the highest matching unit auto selected in the workbench whereas in SDLX: target as source is the default but can be changed quickly. Other examples include the use of MS Word as translation environment in TRADOS as to SDLX's own grid-based editor. The advantages of having the same internal editor for all handled file types might also be a disadvantage for some prominent file types such as Microsoft *.DOC and *.RTF as you do not see the text formatting of the file. Currently it is not possible to directly analyze .DOC files in SDL Analyse. They have to be either converted to .RTF format or .OTF. This causes some inconvenience as a translator would like to quickly analyse a source file to be able to give an appropriate estimate, especially if it is one of these frequent "rush translation". However, you can right click on the DOC file and SDLX automatically takes you to its translation editor, from here you can select "View / Statistics" and get an immediate word count. Another issue are functions which require MS Word running in the background such as the Spell Checker, RTF to DOC conversion and the preview of RTF/DOC files. The initial call of these functions might take quite a while and sometimes needs several confirmation dialogs to be answered with "Retry", especially if the standard or "paranoid" security options for MS Office products are selected. In the latter case it is therefore advisable to have MS Word already running in the background.

Attached to the decisions not to use MS Word is the necessity to handle complex text formats especially in RTF and DOC files differently. The new options to simply copy the source formatting to the target or disregard the formatting completely relativizes some of the critics always mentioned about SDLX's complicated way to handle text formatting. However, it is still one of the most important weaknesses of SDLX. It would be much better to represent formatting in a WYSIWYG mode as it is better handled in other grid-based TM system such as Deja Vu or pseudo text processors such as STAR Transit. However, SDLX includes a very powerful internal preview function for other file types such as Adobe FrameMaker allowing you to view the file at any time and see exactly how the translated document will look.
Although SDLX 2004 now features global Search/Replace within the "Translate" menu of the switchboard, Search/Replace within the TM handling module SDLMaintain only searches units within the selected maximum size of translation list which can not be set higher than 1000. If the search term is in the second or later list, you will not find it. This important limitation should be quickly eliminated.

Minor problems were: I ran into some problems with the auto matching of number separators in cases of just 1 digit before the separator which were logged by SDL and are scheduled to be fixed soon. A minor accessibility flaw is that in some windows of the SDLEdit GUI like e.g. the TM view, you cannot mark phrases or words and copy them by right mouse click whereas Drag and Drop or Copy and Paste by Ctrl-C/Ctrl-V or the Copy and Paste icons of the toolbar is possible.
Some dialog boxes in SDLX can be very misleading. So the confirmation dialog when selecting the TM Apply function. It appears that you can only chose between overwriting your current translations (when selecting yes) or nothing would happen (if selecting No) although it will still apply the TM if you select No. Another example is a dialog box coming up when saving a translation in SDLEdit telling you that you will not be able to save your translation before working on several unsolved problems in text formatting using Format Paint. For me it appeared as if SDLX would not even save my translation, whereas I could even save it back (export it) into the target file format without problems. A third example was observed within the TermBase module. If you edit a term in Termbase this can be lost as there is not confirmation dialog upon closing the application.
Exchange between TRADOS and SDLX is another highly stressed feature of SDLX and is generally very good in both directions. While testing, I wanted, to transfer just the already translated strings from SDLEdit to TRADOS and not loose the text formatting. Unfortunately, I could only transfer the whole file inserted into SDLEdit including still unprocessed segments which either included yet unapproved fuzzy matches or yet untranslated segments. It would be nice if you could set a marker and only transfer units up to this marker or below this marker. However, I am unaware of this option in any other TM tool. It is certainly possible to exchange just the processed and approved segments by using the TM from the SDL Maintain module. The disadvantage of this approach is, however, that you lose all formatting information.
Besides the options to approve translation units one-by-one (by hitting enter) or use the built-in options to approve 100%, fuzzy, untranslated or all units (via Edit/Confirm-Unconfirm), it would be great to be able to just approve all selected and marked units.



SDLinsight is a robust and complete localization tool for Windows 32-bit and .NET applications offering easy to learn environment especially for a better handling of large resource files. Its architecture based on SQL-Server instead of MS Access allows faster access times on resources and shorter retrieval times in Search/Replace functions, especially in projects of sizes above 80 MB. A nice feature of the WYSIWYG mode to localize dialog boxes it the "Fitting to Content" function for fast adjustment of controls. In addition, I also liked the detailed project statistics which also gives you an idea about the complexity of nested resources within your project as well as the option to filter Windows executables to only include resources necessary for your target language.

Some features I missed in the first place such as a Concordance Search within previously translated units or leveraged resources and the Auto-Propagation of translation units. These functions were hidden in an unfortunately not easy to find Visual Basic Script library. You can include only one source-target pair into a project which is not always a disadvantage as it allows to keep projects smaller and better manageable. In addition, there is again a helper tool for the quick creation of various unilingual projects from one source hidden in the Script Library. You can create additional enhancements and customizations of SDLinsight programming new scripts. However, this requires elaborated programming skills as there is no visual script editor provided. SDL plans to implement at least the above mentioned scripts as regular options within the menu of the next release version which will also add support of bidirectional languages.
You can currently not attach and interlink glossaries or TMs to your projects and therefore not perform searches while translating. Especially the handling of whole Software localization projects containing for example of the actual Software, its documentation and promoting web pages would require a better integration between SDLX and SDLinsight, which the name Localization Suite actually implies.

Observations of minor importance include that the installation of the SQL-Server should not be mandatory but an option to the use of a simple MS Access database if you need to handle larger projects. SQL-Server uses up quite a bit of system resources and as the server auto starts as a windows service it has to be deactivated from within the control panel which needs some knowledge about the administration of Windows systems. I would also like to see support of XML and XLIFF in a future version.


SDL Help/HTML QA-Suite: Both QA tools for Windows based Help Systems and HTML based Help Systems as well as complex HTML projects face barely any competitors. There are only a few functions offered by Help authoring systems and HTML link checkers. As these tools are therefore constituting a de facto standard, it is almost impossible to compare and evaluate their features. In the case of HtmlQA, it would be great, if future versions would include support for links and processors within external style sheets (CSS), internal and external JavaScript (within the script tag or in *.JS files) and e.g. Macromedia Flash media files. Although it is not the direct focus of the tools, it would round up there features if a HLP and CHM decompiler would be included. Although HtmlQA and HelpQA are unique tools, they are presently not adequately supported and further developed. It is almost unbelievable that this includes the very purpose these tools were made for: a better Help system. SDL would be wise to rediscover the great value and promise of these tools and support and develop them adequately.

The same goes for the last component of the Suite, the only available dynamic user interface verification tool ToolProof. It automatically logs the most frequent problems in graphic user interfaces at runtime and again does not have any competitors beside Alchemy CATALYST which integrates a similar tool into the localization process. Future versions of ToolProof should add .NET support and implement an automatic logging of all user actions making it unnecessary to manually insert the steps to reproduce the problem. Another minor suggestion would to include a file format for the presently unnecessary "Save As" option of the file menu.


In conclusion: The SDL Localization Suite features five powerful tools that address the entire localization process from MS Windows applications to Web Sites and Help systems, covering the tasks of translating, engineering and QA. A integrated switchboard is in development which will provide users with a fully inter-connected entry point for the tools comparable to the great switchboard facility in SDLX. This will enable integration of these tools to provide even higher benefits than just the sum of the advantages of all individual tools present.
A general issue of all tools within the Suite but most noticeable within the somewhat neglected QA tools HtmlQA and ToolProof is the insufficient or simply missing help file. In most cases there is documentation in the form of one or multiple Adobe Acrobat PDF or DOC files. For many people this will be an acceptable substitute for a printed manual, but it does not adequately replace a help system. Even in SDLX and SDLinsight a Help system featuring direct access to relevant Help topics right from within all sub dialogs would be a valuable enhancement.
Although there is an edit-only SDLX Lite version which agencies can (temporarily) deliver to their freelance translators, I would suggest to offer at least SDLX and SDLinsight as dependent Lite or Satellite versions to freelance translators willing to offer their clients support of SDL based projects.

System Requirements:
Hardware: Pentium III 300 (PIII 800 recommended), 32 (128 recommended) MB RAM, 20 MB Hard Drive (Installation). Software: Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0, 2000, XP.

Company Information:
SDL Desktop Products Division Headquarters: Globe House, Clivemont Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 7DY, England; Tel: +44 1628 416320; Email: productsales@sdl.com.
North America: One N. La Salle, Suite 1855, Chicago, IL 60602, USA; Tel: +1 312 658 0260; Email: naproductsales@sdl.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@sdl.com; URL: http://www.sdl.com



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

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