CAT across

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The company Across Systems GmbH is based in Germany and appears to be absolutely professional. To me it was very attractive that free-lanced translator are offered the Personal Edition for free. The requirement to register was another advantage, too, because customers may find you in the database. At http://www.across.net/en/fdb-search.aspx you can, for instance, look for all registered translators matching certain criteria such as translating to and from Turkish.

Requirements and registration

Details on the requirements reveal that modern PCs (with Windows 2000 or later installed) should meet them. My PC is 2006 standard and compared to the minimum requirements you'll see

Across Personal Edition My PC
Processor Pentium IV or equal AMD 3300+
Processor Speed 1 GHZ 2,01 GHZ
Main Memory 1 GB RAM 1 GB RAM

Therefore I registered which is a very straight forward (simple) procedure. I was told that it may take 2 to 3 working days until I receive my licence. I actually received the e-mail with the licence number on the first working day after my application.

Installation and first steps

The download of more than 200MB should nowadays be no problem. You'll find detailed instructions on how to install the personal edition of across. These instructions are written for absolute beginners, because they could have said: "unpack the files and click setup.exe".

Unfortunately it is not as easy as that and there are no hints in the instructions on what to do if error messages appear. I got the first error warnings when I unpacked the 15,000 odd files. I was asked five times (or more) to provide a password for a certain file to be unpacked. I tried my licence number, but that was not the password. In the end I decided to say skip several times and found the unpacked setup.exe file.

The installation went through different phases and a number of things I'm not really familiar with (like the type of database created) were installed. In this phase there were again several error messages such as "could not make necessary changes to this or that file in windows". Again I simply ignored the warnings and finally got the program up and running.

You should have a look at the documentation centre first to get an idea of what the first steps are. The Quick Start pdf file includes instruction on installation and on page 11 pp. you are told how to create your first project. Alternatively, you might want to look at an interactive online tutorial in American English.

You will realize that the projects set up in the example are intended for larger works of several translators doing translation, proof reading etc.

Another useful tutorial is the lesson on how to translate with Across. The interactive points are at times a little frustrating since you are asked to repeat a step that has just been shown to (e.g. click the same button or icon).

Once you've started a project and made the correct choices (most options are not relevant, if you are translating something as single translator) you may want to go one step further:

Building a glossary

This part is shown in the tutorial on how to work with crossTerm. When the point of editing (inserting) your own term is reached you are presented an example where the fields Term, Language, Sublanguage, Subject and Relation have been filled in (by multiple choice). You are told that you can enter further information on Term Type, Part of Speech, Grammatical Gender but that this is optional.

I started to build my own glossary either with Quick Entries or using the full screen (it takes some time until you find the icons to click on). Unfortunately, some of the terms I entered did not show up as matches that I could include with a double click. I tried to find the reason and looked for trouble shooting in the help section of the program, hints among the FAQ on the website and discussion groups (forum) on the software. After more than an hour I gave up. Only by coincidence I discovered that when you mark an expression both in the source and the target language and say "copy pair of expression to crossTerm" (SHIFT+ALT+1) you are offered more options and you definitely have to choose another option to "Usage", which is pre-defined as "none".

You can use Quick Entry only on the crossTerm Manager. You have to take care that hits only are shown in the source and target language of the project and the glossary you built are identical, i.e. if you translate a text to and from American English the entries into a dictionary with British English are not shown.

Completion of a project

You move from one section to another by clicking in the next text field. Unlike other programs across will only divide paragraphs into sentences, if the paragraphs have more than 1,000 signs. Whenever you move to another section the previous is marked "edited". You can set each section to the next level "translated" or, once you are finished, for the whole document by choosing Tools > Set all paragraphs to... > Translated. Afterwards a dialogue for finishing tasks appears and you are given the number of errors. This is useful, if you are given a mismatch of numbers (did not type the year correctly, for instance), but it can be annoying if it is just because the huge number of names of persons and places in a certain country were not included in your dictionary.

You can, of course, during translation tell the dictionary used for the spelling check to include the unknown words.

Once, you are happy with the result (you either corrected the errors or told the program to skip the seemingly mistakes) you would opt for "finish the task". Alternatively you could keep "continue task" open and set a reminder at a later stage. Now the text will go into memory and you can make a choice as to when "fuzzy matches" are displayed. You can export your project at any stage, but it is stored in the format of across (*.ara) and neither the help section in across nor the Internet offered any solution to me (after one hour of search) as to how I can convert such a file to the known *.tmx format that most programs understand. If you finished working on a document you have to check it out at the end, in order to get the final result. Alternatively you can opt for "preview target document" and can save it as a file.

Problems arising

There are, of course many things that I did not test. In particular the reporting on the translators involved, the counting of words and characters in the source and the target texts, planning and deadlines were not tested at all.

Yet, with only little texts included in the translation memory and the glossary the program is working very slow to get results. That may (to some extent) depend on lack of resources of the PC, but it is frustrating that besides the length of time it takes to search the memory the program tends to crash easily. In just two days I had several crashes, in particular when OpenOffice was running parallel to across.

The general problem (for a beginner) is the navigation. When you start it you are not asked whether you want to open a project. Equally you are not able to just say file > open project. There are several symbols (icons on the left) and the ones you believe would take you to your projects don't lead anywhere. It takes some time until you get used to make your first step via "task".

The confusing number of small icons at the top and in the middle (above the pane) need much practice to get used to them. You can work on different levels at the same time, but you have to know that for each "job" a separate window will be opened and you have to move between the windows on the toolbar at the bottom of your screen.