Software Localization

Dr. Tom's Independent Software Reviews


Short Reviews

STAR AG was founded as a small translation agency in 1984 by Josef Zibung and Hanspeter Siegrist in the northern Swiss city of Stein am Rhein near Schaffhausen. The agency specialized soon on the globalization of product information and technical documentation. By winning and keeping customers from the automotive, machine tool, computer and aeronautics industries like ABB, AT&T, BMW, Dornier, IBM, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Saab and Siemens, ten years later, in 1994, the group posted revenues of roughly SFr 30 million with a permanent staff of 150 and major branch offices in Böblingen (Germany) and Tokyo
. Today, STAR Group is one of the 10 largest Agencies in the globalization business and is the only one of these companies that is still privately owned with 600 permanent experts in over 30 offices in 22 countries. In addition to their translation services, STAR AG started writing its own computer software to rationalize operational processes. After only being used internally, STAR released their Translation Memory (TM) Transit and their Terminology Solution TermStar. Both are accompanied by a growing number of specialized content management and automated publishing solutions like the TWS - Translation Workflow Server, STAR GRIPS and STAR SPIDER.


Fig. 1: Translating a RC file using Transit XV with a fuzzy index of the translation memory (lower right) and an integrated TermStar Terminology Base (lower left)
Please click on the image for a closer look!

STAR Language Technology consist of the TM Transit which also serves as the front-end or translation editor for the translations: all documents are directly opened within Transit. Unlike all its competitors, Transit uses a system of reference files that allows users to base each translation on a number of old translations selected for the actual purpose. The second part is the terminology module TermStar which can also be used as a stand-alone product. Transit's included standard filters support a variety of file formats: ASCII- and ANSI-Text (TXT), Corel WordPerfect, WordPro and AmiPro, Word documents (DOC and RTF), help files (RTF), resource files (RC), Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, as well as tagged text file formats, including XML, SGML, HTML and QuarkXPress. Optional filters increase this spectrum for: Adobe Frame- and PageMaker, Interleaf, XGate and C / C++, Java/VB or other source code. In addition, you can either define custom-made filters for other document types yourself or order them to be included to your customized Transit installation.

Fig. 2: Translation of a WinHelp RTF Source using Transit XV with a fuzzy index (lower right) and a TermStar dictionary (lower left)
Please click on the image for a closer look!


  • Transit: Transit supports about 100 languages and variants including Asian and east European as well as middle east languages. All of the various input formats are translated within the one and only internal editor of Transit. This has some serious advantages compared to other tools which use external front-ends such as MS-Word for the translation of some file types:
    • Working with a specialized editor only provides the necessary functions for translation thereby reducing cluttered user interfaces.
    • Translators get more used using only one editor for all file types. This leads to a thorough knowledge of the translation tool and an increase in productivity over the time.

    In addition, the same GUI is also used for the quality assurance of translation, statistical functions, the manipulation of the internal TM and the alignment of source and target files of previous translations.
    Another great features of Transit is its ability to load and display all similar files of a project simultaneously. This function is called: "global loading". You are able to work on all files at the same time as if they would be just a single file. This is especially valuable in the localization of websites which consist of a large number of short HTML files. File and edit functions such as open, save and find replace, respectively, can be globally applied to all opened files. In the same way, spell checking and formatting can be assigned to the whole project within a single command. This again saves time and money.

Fig. 3: Translation of a HTML 4 File using Transit XV with a fuzzy index (lower right) and a TermStar dictionary (lower left)
Please click on the image for a closer look!


  • TermStar: STAR's terminology solution TermStar can be either accessed as an integrated part of the TM and editor Transit, as a macro module of several common text processing software products (e.g. Microsoft Word), or as a stand-alone dictionary application. In all cases, terminology management can be limited to a single workspace, or to an intranet using almost all common database servers like Oracle, Sybase, IBM DB2 or MS-SQL or through the Internet running on a webserver. TermStar's power is not limited to several small bilingual dictionaries but can also manage large multilingual corporate terminology bases of several million elements. In order to access such large distributed dictionaries, a separate product called WebTerm is necessary which was not evaluated within this review.

Fig. 5: A simple bilingual TermStar terminology base
Please click on the image for a closer look!



  • What's new in Transit/TermStar XV: At first sight, the huge jump from version 3 to XV seems like a strange marketing ritual, but is in fact caused by the 15th (XV) anniversary of the STAR Group. However, Transit/TermStar XV shows some quite impressive innovations compared to version 3:
    • Finally Transit XV's project management also includes a report manager introducing various standard analyses and statistics.
    • Transit now includes concordance search which quickly locates terms in various contexts and improves translation consistency and quality.
    • Semiautomatic terminology extraction from different sources. Drag&Drop between multiple dictionaries, improved formatting and database supported search functions.


Editions & Prices:

  • Transit XV Enterprise: All functionality for project management and team translations. Network enabled Transit XV Professional with all filtering functions. Incl. TermStar Professional, Alignment-Tool, 18 Spellchecker all handbooks in printed version. 10 CDs Transit Satellite PETransit Professional. 4495 € ($ 4030.22).
  • Transit XV Professional: All functionality for project management and team translations. Single workspace. Incl. TermStar Professional, Alignment-Tool, User Manual in printed version, 3 Spellchecker. 1.595 € ($ 1430.08).
  • Transit XV Smart: All functionality for freelance translators. Reduced standard filter palette: HTML, Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word. No distribution of projects. Only three dictionaries per project. No multilingual projects and other restrictions. Incl. Alignment-Tool, 1 Spellchecker, pdf-documentation. 795 € ($ 712.8).
  • Transit XV Workstation: All functionality of the Professional-Version, but no Import and Export of Projects. Suitable for translators, who receive their material from project managers in-house or remote. Incl. pdf documentation, 2 Spellchecker. 645 € ($ 578.31).
  • Transit Satellite PE (Personal Edition): Free translation memory and editor for freelance translators working for agencies and companies using Transit Professional or Enterprise. Transit Satellite PE is NOT a standalone product and requires Transit Professional to prepare the translation project. Free.
  • TermStar XV Enterprise: Network enabled. Incl. all printed manuals and reference guides. 995 € ($ 892.12).
  • TermStar XV Professional. Analog Transit. 695 € ($ 623.14).
  • TermStar XV Workstation. Analog Transit. 345 € ($ 309.33).
  • TermStar XV Viewstation. Analog Transit. 195 € ($ 174.84).


Usage & Evaluation:

At first sight, the fact that Transit doesn't use a translation memory database but uses an array of reference files seems to be a strange concept. However, as Michael Benis pointed out, many of Transit's unique or superior abilities are derived from this alternative concept of a TM:

  • You never get a database that's any larger than it need to be. The consequences are: searches take less time and are less likely to result in useless information.
  • You can always tailor your database precisely to your needs.
  • Thirdly - and this is the most important bit - it makes your system far more reliable.
  • And finally - this is of particular interest to translation companies - you can store a large number of segments in much less space than conventional translation memory systems.

(Adopted from Michael Benis (http://www.michaelbenis.cwc.net) - first published in the ITI Bulletin (http://www.iti.org.uk))

Another apparently awkward feature of Transit at first sight is the concept of using Transit's proprietary editor for all file types seemed awkward. In the time course of the review, I came to appreciate the concept of having only one simple but sufficiently equipped editor do do it all. However, the editor shows some shortcomings in the display of some file formats. While RC files as well as RTF WinHelp files were correctly displayed, HTML files are either displayed with all code, which is quite confusing - or no structure at all, which neglects the special order of tagged file types. Consequently, Transit's representation of XML files is also quite poor.
File handling and translation is convenient and accurate but requires some serious exercises in order to learn this refreshingly unconventional tool. After lacking some standard elements of TM software, Transit XV now also includes concordance search and supports statistics report generation.

With the new version XV, STAR Transit proofed to be a complete TM and terminology solution. In addition, it is well equipped to guide you through the localization of resource script files (RC) and various types of software documentation such as WinHelp and HTML/XML files. However it fails to be a general software localization tool as it lacks support for binary file types such as executables and link libraries (EXE, DLL and OCX). From all tested software localizers, PASSOLO harmonizes best with STAR Transit / TermStar due to the fact that PASSOLO offers several STAR-AddIns. Unfortunately, and this is NOT STAR's fault, PASSOLO's TermStar AddIns does not really easen data transfer between the two applications as it should.

Last not least, STAR Translation Solutions initiated the most welcome business strategy of providing contract freelance translators with a FREE Satellite Edition - a strategy which was also adapted by Alchemy CATALYST and PASSOLO.


System Requirements:
Windows 9x, ME or NT, 2000; 133 MHz Intel Pentium CPU or above; 32 and 48 MB RAM for Windows 95 and 98, NT, 2000, respectively - 128 MB recommended; 80 MB HD for each Transit and TermStar.

Company Information: STAR AG; Wiesholz 35, CH-8262 Ramsen, Switzerland; Phone +41 52 7429200, Fax +41 52 7429292; E-mail: postbox@star-group.net; URL: http://www.star-transit.com.




Dr. Thomas Wassmer, voice: (208) 247-9204, e-mail: tom at infotom.com