I’ve been meaning to write a post about the SDL OpenExchange since I published a comparison on Studio 2014/memoQ 2014 a few months ago. I didn’t mention the OpenExchange in that post, mainly because I’ve got mixed feelings about it.
The OpenExchange was set up in 2010. It started with a small number of plug-ins and apps that extended the functionality of SDL Trados Studio and it has grown exponentially over the last four years. Now there are more than 120 apps at the online store with a wide range of functions. For example, they:
- automate tasks
- process lesser-known file types
- access third-party resources
- convert and manage translation memories and termbases
- enhance and tweak SDL features
- improve interoperability with other CAT tools
Under the hood
But all this just scratches the surface of the OpenExchange. Third-party developers can access the Software Development Kit (SDK) and use different Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to create their own apps, which they can then publish on the OpenExchange or use in their own setting.
So, an LSP can set up its own project management system and a verifier with tailor-made settings. A multinational can create a customised machine translation provider and call up domain-specific corpora. A software company can develop its own file type for Studio so that its translators can work with the native file format without having to extract the text and process it in more complex ways.
I recently came across an example of how one company has put this to good use. In his blog, Sébastien Desautel explained how they used the SDL SDK to create an sgm file type for GRIPS data, a content management system, to process these files in Studio. That’s cool.
OpenExchange for freelance translators
Back to your common-or-garden freelance translator. Does the OpenExchange give you good value for money? Well, the answer is yes, of course, because most OpenExchange apps are actually free (in fact, access to the developer partner community is also free). All you need is a Studio license. There are lots of ready-made apps for you to pick and choose from. The OpenExchange makes your Studio experience unique.
Why the mixed feelings?
I have some reservations about OpenExchange apps:
1. Some apps should be built into Studio
I think some apps should be available out of the box in Studio. Most users would benefit from having immediate access to termbase creation within Studio; simultaneous searches in source and target segments; standalone apps accessible from a customisable menu in Studio.
Of course, there has to be a balance between offering essential features and overwhelming new users with a sea of options. Keeping things basic makes sure that Studio runs fast, too. Some apps that are great for me (adding symbols with a handy shortcut) won’t be used by others at all, and vice versa (I don’t need SDL Studio InQuote, but I’m sure it’s very handy for some people).
“Export for External Review” and “Batch Find and Replace” are two apps that SDL brought into Studio several years ago, so you don’t have to go to the Store and download them. I hope other apps will follow.
2. Some apps need clearer instructions
I’d like to see clearer set-up instructions for apps in the OpenExchange store. It would be helpful to know:
a) whether it’s a standalone app or a plug-in
b) which file I should click on to install it
c) where it will appear (on my desktop, in the Studio ribbon, with a right-click somewhere…)
d) where the help file is (in the downloaded files, in the app itself).
Most apps are straightforward to use, but this extra information before you download an app would be helpful for less-experienced Studio users.
3. Batch app processing is slow
Downloading and installing a single app is pretty fast, but doing the same for a number of apps at the same time takes a long time.
I moved to a new work machine earlier this year and getting all my OpenExchange apps up and running again was time consuming. Freelancers with a plus license who run Studio on two computers have to install apps twice. Hard disk re-formatting also means spending most of a morning at the OpenExchange store.
It would be nice if SDL came up with a solution for a more seamless process. Would it be possible to create an app that makes an image of your current Studio set-up, apps and all? Or could there be a way to select several apps in the Store and download/install them all at once?
Rant over. Now for my current top 3
Here are the three OpenExchange apps that I use most at the moment. It’s interesting, because I wrote a post just over a year ago about three apps that I found useful back then, and they’re quite different from my current list:
- ApSIC Xbench Plugin. The Xbench plugin is very useful for performing extra QA on a translation and clicking back to Studio to correct the errors. I also like its spellchecker feature because you can browse through possible errors in a list. Searching project resources (TMs, TBs, SDLXLIFFs) is fast and powerful.
- TermInjector. This plugin is installed as a TM provider but it actually checks for results using a set of customised rules in your chosen TM. This improves the match that is found. I started using it recently to automatically translate days and months in my source language that weren’t written in the correct date format. TermInjector replaces terms by applying exact matches and regex rules.
- SDL Trados Studio Bookmarks. This takes you to the last segment you translated, to the last accessed segment when you re-open a file, or to a custom bookmark that you can add yourself. Simple and effective.
What do you think about the OpenExchange? And which are your favourite apps?