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SDL Trados Studio and memoQ: side by side

memoQ TradosStudio

This article originally appeared on the Signs & Symptoms of Translation web site.

By Emma Goldsmith

I first used a CAT tool about ten years ago, adding Wordfast to my workflow, thinking I would see miracles as soon as the program was set up, without any effort on my part. Not surprisingly, I soon gave it up. Later, I got to grips with Trados Workbench (making sure I got some training to
use it properly this time) and then moved on to SDL Trados Studio. I also sounded out memoQ 4.5 a few years ago, but I missed so many Studio features that I didn’t persevere.

Fast forward to 2014. I’ve worked with memoQ quite intensively for several months now, because an agency has been sending me on-line projects. My impression? memoQ is now a mature product.


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

  • customized QA
  • bilingual Word file export for review
  • variables / non-translatables
  • several Translation Memories at once
  • multiple filetypes
  • localization of dates, numbers
  • 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.



Presentation and layout
  • Studio 2014 has a ribbon presentation, giving the whole interface a familiar feel to new users, with ribbon tabs emulating Office programs (home, view, advanced, etc.).
  • Layout is highly customizable. 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.
  • memoQ has somewhat confusing menu commands and a looong line of tiny buttons, with tooltips when you hover over them.
  • I think the Zen and “Do not press this button” icons are space wasters, but I guess it takes all sorts…
  • memoQ has two main layouts that are easy to call up by toggling F11. Windows can 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.
Word processing features
  • AutoCorrect has been repeatedly requested by users, but it’s still missing in Studio.
  • The spellcheck works fast.
  • 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 customized abbreviations for long expressions.
  • Running the spelling and grammar check can be very slow.
  • Studio’s search engine is based on regular expressions, so you can filter wider ranges of strings, such as certain number formats, or words spelled in two different ways.
  • Studio doesn’t let you search in source and target simultaneously.
  • You can’t perform a cascading filter.
  • memoQ searches 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’t use regular expressions in the search boxes.
User friendliness
  • 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.
  • 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 found 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 customized 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 and split 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.
  • SDL Multiterm is a standalone terminology tool with rich features and it’s integrated in the Studio Editor window.
  • It takes just two clicks to add a term on the fly.
  • It’s Java-dependent, which can make it unstable when Oracle brings out Java updates. SDL is moving away from Java soon. We all look forward to that.
  • This behemoth can be tamed by the OpenExchange Glossary Converter. Creating and converting termbases is much easier.
  • memoQ uses a simpler approach to terminology. Marking a term as forbidden, for example, is much more straightforward in memoQ (simply check the relevant box under the Usage tab in the Term Base view).
  • It takes just one click to add a term on the fly.
  • When several TBs are used, the Translation Results window doesn’t specify which TB the term comes from unless you click on the entry.
  • memoQ has a terminology extraction tool, which is useful for creating a termbase from scratch in a big project.
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.
  • memoQ keeps a record of version changes and marks changes in the current version accordingly.
  • Track Changes can’t be saved in the final formatted file.
  • Since track changes are virtual, 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.
  • 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, but here the oldest hits are returned first.
  • 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.

Other details that make memoQ that bit better:

  1. Automatic target document opening after exporting
  2. Source segments in other languages can be recognized and locked
  3. Unlimited languages
  4. Reverse direction TMs can be used as reference
  5. Small footprint in your computer, i.e., it’s quick to download and install

Other details that make Studio that bit better:

  1. Progress bar in Editor window shows the word count as well as a percentage
  2. Jump to a specific file in a merged file view
  3. Choose target file name on the fly
  4. Xbench integration
  5. Prompting options for auto-propagation
  6. Open Exchange apps provide a plethora of features

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.

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 customized, so you can use the same ones for both tools. Personally, though, I recommend focusing on one particular tool. After all, you can process memoQ xliff files in Studio, and Studio ones in memoQ.
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. Otherwise, the choice is yours.

Emma Goldsmith, RGN, MITI, DipTrans, is a freelance Spanish to English medical translator who made a career switch from nursing some 25 years ago. Emma enjoys networking with fellow translators on Twitter (@GoldsmithTrans) and she writes a blog called Signs & Symptoms of Translation about medical translation and SDL Trados Studio.

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