SDL Trados Studio and memoQ: side by side

memoQ_studio iconsThis year, I’ve revisited memoQ. I sounded it out four years ago (memoQ 4.5) but missed so many Studio features that I didn’t persevere. Fast forward to 2014. I’ve worked with memoQ quite intensively for six months now, first because an agency has been sending me on-line projects and later because I was really rather enjoying it. My impression? memoQ is now a mature product.

Edit December 2014: I’ve updated this blog post with changes introduced in Studio 2014 SP2 and memoQ 2014 R2 (highlighted in yellow). 
Edit August 2015: Updated again with the new features in Studio 2015 and memoQ 2015 (highlighted in pink).
Edit May 2017: I’m no longer updating this post because it’s getting too unwieldy. The developers of both programs are as keen as ever and we have new versions with new features, such as full Word Track Change support in memoQ Adriatic, and fragment recall and adaptive MT in Studio 2017.


Studio 2014 and memoQ 2014 share almost all the features that can be considered essential in a CAT tool. For example, they both offer:

  • terminology integration; one-click-to-add-term. (In Studio, there’s no Java dependence any more. That’s such a big change that I’ve deleted the section on terminology differences, and added it here, under similarities.)
  • customised QA, including highlighting of typos
  • bilingual Word file export for review
  • updating of the xliff file from a reviewed target file
  • customised shortcuts
  • several Translation Memories at once
  • project templates
  • segment filtering by status, repetitions, etc.
  • localisation of dates, numbers
  • shared interface languages (2015): English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Russian
  • integrated Word comments

Instead of continuing this almost endless list, I think it would be more interesting to comment on some of the differences I’ve noticed. All from my point of view, of course.


Presentation and layout
  • Studio 2014/2015 has a ribbon, giving the whole interface a familiar feel to new users, with ribbon tabs emulating Office programs (home, view, advanced, etc.). The quick access toolbar and ribbon can be fully customised.
  • Layout is highly customisable. Windows can be easily undocked and moved around (or even placed on a second monitor).
  • The Editor window only displays segments side by side, not above-below.
  • Additional interface languages that only Studio has: Chinese, Italian.
  • memoQ has a ribbon, which follows the workflow in a translation: project > documents > preparation > translation > review. The quick access toolbar, workflow and quick access tabs can be customised.
  • Fortunately, the pesky Zen button has been buried deep in R2 (I won’t even explain where you can still find it.)
  • memoQ has two main layouts that are easy to call up by toggling F11. Windows can also be undocked, although it’s not very intuitive.
  • The active row can be displayed horizontally (source above target), but otherwise there’s no above-below display.
  • Additional interface languages that only memoQ has: Hungarian, Portuguese, Polish.
Word processing features
  • AutoCorrect has been repeatedly requested on the SDL Ideas site, and is finally present in Studio 2015.
  • The spellcheck works fast, although I prefer the Xbench plug-in where you can quickly run through a full list of ‘unknown words’.
  • This is neatly implemented in memoQ. AutoCorrect makes typing much faster (nO uPPERCASE by mistake or INitial CApital problems).
  • You can also import a Word AutoCorrect list with common misspellings and add customised abbreviations for long expressions.
  • Running the spelling and grammar check can be very slow. Spellchecking is considerably faster in memoQ 2015.
  • Studio’s search engine is based on regular expressions, so you can filter wider ranges of strings, such as segments containing certain number formats, or words spelt in two different ways.
  • Studio doesn’t let you search in source and target simultaneously.
  • You can’t perform a cascading filter.
  • memoQ has a big advantage here of searching for specific strings in source and target segments at the same time.
  • You can also set up a cascading filter, by searching for another string within the filtered results.
  • You can now use regular expressions in the search boxes, and even filter by tags using \tag.
User friendliness*

* This is very subjective. It’s almost impossible for me to compare the two tools because I’ve spent thousands of hours using Studio and probably only hundreds of hours with memoQ. But since it’s a very important aspect, here goes:
  • First-time Studio users can get help under the “Get Started” tab in the Welcome view.
  • Most settings can be found under General Options or Project Settings. I think that’s quite straightforward.
  • memoQ has a neat Startup Wizard for first-time users.
  • Drag and drop files to the new dashboard. memoQ 2015 does the rest to set up a brand new project.
  • My first on-line projects were easy because everything was set up for me, and I found it intuitive to move around the Translation Window.
  • However, when I started creating my own projects, I did (and still do) find it hard to distinguish between the Resource Console, Options and the Operations tab.
  • Out of the box, Studio 2014 lets you merge files on the fly, in a customised order, but you need to install the SDLXLIFF Toolkit app to create other views. Even so, the choices are more limited than in memoQ.
  • memoQ has a very rich views feature, where you can combine files, split individual files, or create views with certain elements (comments, changes, errors, status).
  • memoQ 2014 now even has a preview for these views, and lets you split/join rows too.
  • One drawback: you can’t use track changes in merged file views.
Working with projects
  • The Editor window in Studio lets you open several projects at once, under different tabs. This is useful if you’re working on one project, and have to make a quick change to another.
  • It’s easy to switch to the project list: just one click away.
  • In memoQ you can open multiple tabs (files and views), but they have to belong to the same project.
  • It’s a nuisance to have to close a project to view your project list on the dashboard.
  • Working/Master TMs have been introduced in memoQ 2014.
Translation Memory management
  • You can only scroll through 200 units at a time in the TM editor window.
  • You can’t easily display the end of a TM (where the latest segments are stored) unless you set up a filter.
  • Filters are a little tricky to set up.
  • Duplicates are displayed one at a time, not in a long list.
  • You can scroll through a whole TM from start to finish.
  • The filter window is very user friendly.
  • You can flag entries to be edited/deleted.
  • Edit an unlimited number of entries at a time.
  • Get rid of all tags in selected entries.
Track changes
  • Studio handles source files with track changes in native Word format.
  • It saves target track changes in the final formatted Word file.
  • These two features combined make Studio compliant with regulated industry requirements.
  • Track changes can’t be saved in the final file (only in an unformatted file when you “export changes to Word”).
  • Track changes are only virtual, so source files with controlled track changes in regulated industries (e.g. EMA product information) can’t be processed in memoQ.
Subsegment suggestions / autosuggest / concordance
  • Studio builds autosuggest dictionaries from translation memories (with at least 10,000 segments) and its version of Predictive Typing (AutoSuggest) is based on TBs, A/S dictionaries and AutoText lists. The combination makes typing much faster.
  • Autosuggest mines your TM in real time, offering suggestions from 100% and fuzzy matches and concordance look-ups.
  • Bad news: the A/S dictionary creation tool is an optional extra in the Studio Freelance edition.
  • Automatic concordance kicks in when no matches are returned in the TM.
  • Most recent hits are returned first in TM results.
  • memoQ uses Muses to provide subsegment suggestions in predictive typing. You can throw in TMs and Live Docs corpora and train memoQ to produce meaningful results.
  • Concordance results are displayed in the form of longest substring concordance in the translation results pane.
  • The disadvantage of such a wide source of resources for predictive typing is that there can be a lag in typing while memoQ comes up with suggestions.
  • MatchPatch automatically corrects fuzzy matches from resources including term bases and non-translatables.
Open Exchange
  • For translators, Studio’s OpenExchange is a great way to have access to lots of features that would overcrowd the core product if they were all packed in there. KISS (Keep It Simple Strategy) works with the OE.
  • For third party developers, the OpenExchange provides access through an API to add customised features.
  • memoQ has lots of these features (reverse direction TMs, MS grammar check, Visio filetype, X-Bench integration, online dictionary searches, etc.) but you can’t take them in and out to customise memoQ according to your needs. KISS doesn’t work here.

Minor details that make memoQ that bit better:

  1. Source segments in other languages can be recognised and locked
  2. Unlimited languages
  3. Preview pane is HTML-based (no Word version issues)
  4. LiveDocs corpus for concordance in bilingual and monolingual resources
  5. Terminology extraction feature
  6. Small footprint in your computer, i.e., it’s quick to download and install
  7. Decide which term base to add a term to by customising a shortcut

Minor details that make Studio that bit better:

  1. Progress bar in Editor window shows the word count as well as a percentage
  2. Alphanumeric strings are recognised as placeables
  3. Jump to a specific file in a merged file view
  4. Choose target file name on the fly
  5. Xbench integration (this has been enhanced in memoQ, but still involves an extra step)
  6. Prompting options for auto-propagation
  7. Capability for processing scanned PDFs

In both tools, I’d like to see:

  • An option for above-below segment display in the Editor window, not just side by side.
  • Improved help documentation. (Ever tried looking up how to add a “forbidden” term in Studio or a “synonym” in memoQ?)
  • Ultimately, fewer proprietary formats (imagine being able to drop a Studio TM into memoQ and vice versa).

Which should you choose? Studio and memoQ both have a demo version (30 days for Studio, 45 days for memoQ). Test them when you have plenty of time and see which you like best. Or click through to my post comparing Studio and Déjà Vu. Maybe DVX3 is for you.

Work with both? CAT hopping is a big productivity killer. Exporting proprietary TMs to tmx format is time consuming, and the Studio and memoQ widgets for TM lookup are not as flexible as a fully-fledged translation memory. Most shortcuts can be customised, so you can use the same ones for both tools, but the instinctive clicks you do without thinking to set up a project, change options and complete your translation are hard to reproduce in more than one environment.

I suggest focusing on one particular tool. After all, you can process memoQ xliff files in Studio, and Studio ones in memoQ, so this is probably the best solution of all. Nevertheless, on-going familiarity with different tools is useful, because it’s important to know the different options that are available and how they develop over the years. Also, you may get sent on-line projects that have to be processed in a particular tool. That’s the only situation where you have no choice. Otherwise, take your pick.

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29 Responses to SDL Trados Studio and memoQ: side by side

  1. Pingback: (CAT) – SDL Trados Studio and memoQ: side by side | Emma Goldsmith | Glossarissimo!

  2. Herman Boel says:

    Excellent overview, Emma. I also have and work with both tools (although I use MemoQ as my main tool) and concur with all you have written.
    How well the tool one chooses works also heavily depends on how you tweak the various settings. Incidentally, the settings are something both tools fail in my view. In both tools they are sorted and placed in a very illogical way. That could be heavily improved. I keep a list where I can set what because it will otherwise take me too long to find it again.
    When both tools are tweaked to one’s wishes, they perform almost equally well and are equally productive.
    One question: do you have experience with using Xbench in MemoQ?

  3. Jayne Fox says:

    Thanks for your detailed overview, Emma! I’ve also worked with both Trados Studio and an old version of memoQ, and would be keen to try the latest memoQ version. I agree that CAT-hopping is a productivity killer, especially while you’re still learning to ins and outs of the new application. But it’s good to know what else is out there and keep your options open.

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  6. Olly Pekelharing says:

    Excellent overview. I personally think the real-time, wysiwyg preview pane in Studio is one of its major advantages. I use it for proofreading. I also much prefer the way Studio manages and presents files and folders, with recognisable names as opposed to the gibberish folders and file names MemoQ creates! One of MemoQ’s important advantages is that you can split and join source segments however you want.

    • Tomas Mosler says:

      Hello Olly:
      “I personally think the real-time, wysiwyg preview pane in Studio is one of its major advantages.”
      – Have you tried View / Show View Pane option in MemoQ? Do you consider it to be worse than the preview in Studio?

      In regards to files and names, I experience no issues in MemoQ. I save the source file into a desired folder, then open it in MemoQ and that’s it (the file name in the project overview in MemoQ is the same as in the Windows folder).

      • Olly Pekelharing says:

        Hi Tomas,
        MemoQ’s html preview is good, but Studio’s word-based view is better (original layout, images, etc.). Having said that, Studio will not preview some files that MemoQ does (e.g. old style ‘tagged’ docs). What I mean with MemoQ’s file and folder names is that I don’t like the fact that they are meaningless to me (e.g. folders like “0f221c96-1642-4055-be8b-54c36beeb472” under “Documents”, even though this fact doesn’t actually get in the way of translating.

  7. Thanks for sharing your view, Olly.
    I agree that Studio is more flexible in terms of file names and paths, but the preview pane for doc files only works if you’ve got the MSI version of Office installed, so in my case I don’t have a preview any longer.

  8. When comparing Studio 2014 and memoQ, you are saying that memoQ has far more possibilities for merging files than Studio. Is that really so?
    I have now a memoQ project consisting of 25 small files, which I would like to merge in the same way that I can do in Studio. How do I do that?

    • Tomas Mosler says:

      I’m not Emma, but I believe she won’t mind. 😉
      Highlight all the files in the project (e.g. via Shift+arrow down), then right-click, and choose Create View from the context menu. Enter a name for the view, confirm, and voila… 😉
      Observe the Views and Documents tabs on the screen.

  9. paulfilkin says:

    Hi Emma, I thought it was a fair article describing the pros and cons of both tools. The only comment I would make really is that I was surprised you didn’t make more mention of the OpenExchange. I think this is a big differentiator between the tools because every Studio user has access to the development platform for Studio which is very extensive. I know you can’t comment from the developers perspective, but as an end user you can still benefit from the range of tools and plugins that some developers have provided for Studio users… and the majority are free. This is a product in its own right and continues to grow adding more capability with each release.

  10. Alinea Doc says:

    Nice comparison, Emma! The main difference for me is Studio’s lack of an auto-assembling feature. Without this it’s just not productive for my language combination (German > Dutch) and text types (user manuals, instruction manuals).

  11. I thinks Studio is still a nightmare when it comes to adding terms on the fly; as you mentioned, the fact that MultiTerm is a separate program, does not help very much.

    Also, I find minor annoyances, which reduce user-friendliness and increase the number of clicks translators must make, incomprehensible. For example no “automatic target document opening after exporting” as you mention.

    Subsegment MT matches can only be achieved with OpenExhange apps — at a price that is. Compare DVX which does that by default.

    And when it comes to OpenExhange per se, there is an interesting video about it (sorry Paul)!

    • paulfilkin says:

      Just thought I’d comment on this comment. I completely agree that adding terms could be easier… it’s not a nightmare but it could be easier. I have an AHK script that allows me to add and save terms with a single shortcut but this is often hit and miss because of Java. So removal of Java is going to make a significant difference here… something to look forward to very soon. The fact it’s a separate product is its strongpoint. It’s integrated into Studio and you can use it without even installing MultiTerm separately. But as a separate product it provides functionality that is hard to match elsewhere and is why so many terminologists use this without Studio at all. There are things I’d like to see possible from within Studio like deleting terms… hopefully these will come as we evolve the product.

      No automatic target opening incomprehensible? Why? There are some 80+ filetypes supported out of the box, how many of them do you want to open automatically and do you think translators will always have the native application to do this? If you’re referring to Office Docs (which I guess you are) then use a different approach in Studio and you have exactly the same result. Saving Target just saves the file. Previewing opens it.

      Subsegment MT matches. I like that feature too and similarly I like the fact there is one OpenX app that will allow you to get subsegment MT matching from any of the 20+ MT engines Studio supports.

      On the OpenX. I think the video is poor as you may have seen from my comments some years ago when it was made, and it’s certainly out of date today. The OpenX is not a separate product. You get this when you purchase Studio free of charge and can benefit from it yourself, or through apps others have created. The 100 or so apps on the OpenX today are also a fraction of the amount that have been created by users making the most of this feature for themselves.

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  16. yvlanthier says:

    Thanks very much for such an informative comparison, Emma. Hope such an approach is available somewhere to compare memoQ 2014 and DVX Pro. And, why not complete the triangle with DVX Pro and Studio 2014.
    One point, if I may: in both Studio and memoQ, when in View, it would be so useful that some other mark than the file name would tell in what specific file we are, for instance, a colored, vertical band or stripe somewhere along the left or the right margin. It’s hard to know where we are especially when file names are so much alike.

    • I agree that it is sometimes hard to see which file you’re in when multiple similarly-named files are merged together. In Studio, I keep an eye on the list in the left-hand window and make this view a bit bigger than usual for such projects.

      Another, more visual way of identifying a particular file is to check it in the real-time preview window. Unfortunately for me that feature has been broken since I installed MS Office 2013 on my machine. I hope SDL will solve this issue soon.

      With regard to your comment on comparisons between DVX Pro and Studio 2014, if you or anyone else would like to post a side-by-side review of the two here on my blog, I’d be happy to host it.*

      *Edited Jan 2015: David Turner came forward with a column for DVX3. Read the comparison in this blog post.

      • yvlanthier says:

        Thank you. Just thought: meanwhile, I think that at the next occasion I’ll take a minute or two and number the files names (I use mainly memoQ):
        3- (…)

        • Oh yes, as translators we often play “spot the difference” in file names!
          I recommend using Advanced Renamer or a similar tool to add incremental numbers as a prefix. It’ll take a couple of seconds instead of a couple of minutes.

          • yvlanthier says:

            Excellent, thank you! And then, developers will add the feature in their tool, and the number will erase by itself when exporting 🙂

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