A common feeling in game localization is that assisted translation tools are too complex and expensive for our needs. They are overkill . That's not necessarily true. There are now free and open translation memory tools that can be learned in minutes, giving measurable benefits *in terms of turnarounds, quality and consistency.
One of these is surely Apsic Xbench, a free concordancer and QA tool which had a pivoltal role in our team. I will show step by step how it can be used in order to help your daily work. If you want to do the same, you just need to download and install these two free programs.
ApSIC Xbench: the tool itself - http://www.apsic.com/en/products_xbench.html
(Update: Apsic has since added a paid version but the free 2.9 build is fine for most people, especially if you don't need Unicode support) TMBuilder: transforms Excel files into Tmx usable by the above - http://ankudowicz.com/tmbuilder/
We've all been there. You clearly remember having already translated a word or a sentence (and it was a good translation too!) but you just forgot how.
It may be on the same file. So you need to stop translating, try one or two searches, then finally you can copy your translation, find where out where you left the text and paste.
Or it may be in a past translation. And you dig through your hard disk to find it, then check inside the files, then maybe don't find it at all and you give up, bitter and sad. In both cases, the process slowly gnaws your time and energy.
Enter Xbench. Let's say that we have already translated the first part of our friend Venetica and that we are ready to start the next.
Game texts are commonly split in many, small strings, and that's very good for translation memories, because it creates short, accurate entries. All we need to do is take the old translations and put them in a two columns file like this:
Aligning legacy translations
Then, we just need to convert it in a format supported by Xbench. The simplest option is to save it as "Unicode text" or "Csv (comma delimited)" directly from Excel, but it may create some problems with line breaks. That's why we usually prefer Tmx, which is solid and widely supported. The process is very simple. Save the Excel file and start TMBuilder. Then you just set source and target language ("English US" and "Italian" in our case) and the output format (TMX). You can leave the other options alone.
Converting into TMX
Now simply fire up Xbench, select Project>New, set the formato to tmx, load the file we just created and we're done! So, let's say that you have another case of amnesia. You are pretty sure that you translated Darskstreets before, but how was it in Italian? "Strade buie"? "Strade oscure"?
Well, just select the source words you are looking for ("Darskstreets"), then press Ctrl+Alt+Ins (or configure another combination, if you prefer). Xbench will pop up and show all the sentences that contain it ("Callefosca"!).You are than free to copy and paste what you need. The system works from any application. A process that took minutes of your time, is now instantaneous and can browse through tens of thousand of words!
One step beyond: priority and key terms
Xbench allows you to load multiple translation memories and give them a priority. Let's say that we have a tmx with last week's translation, finalized and confirmed by the client, and another one with the work we did yesterday, still a bit rough and work in progress. We want the most reliable results to appear first, and the rest showing only when that possibility is exhausted, and that's precisely what Xbench allows to do. Each translation memory can be set as high, medium or low priority (and its order of appearance be tweaked even further within each class). It may not seem much, but having results to appear in the order we want and color coded by how much we trust them, makes the process even faster and second nature (and that's what we want, when the Xbench window will be called hundreds of times per day!)
Setting TMX priorities
Thinking about our translation memories, there's one we really keep in evidence, and that's our glossary. No problem: we select the "Key terms" box and all its results will have a star next to them to be clearly recognizable.