SDL Trados: tricks of the trade

If translation is a craft, translation memory software is an indispensable tool. Here are a few tips on how to master it.

SDL Trados is the world’s leading CAT software, featuring translation memory and terminology tools and much more. As a language manager at Supertext I use Trados on a daily basis, playing the double role of project manager and translator/proofreader. So I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up, first from a translator/proofreader’s perspective, then maybe the project management side in a later post.


It might make sense to quickly go through the workflow of a Trados project. Essentially, it looks like the table below. At Supertext, translators are only involved in stages 4-5, proofreaders in stages 9-10.







Create project with original doc and TM+TB

Produce package

Send package to translator

Open package and translate

Convert translation into a return package

Import return package into project







Produce package

Send package to proofreader

Open package and proofread

Convert translation into a return package

Import return package into project

Clean up and export final document

The nitty-gritty

When translating in Trados, a few tricks can make the technical side work in your favour. Here are a few, in no particular order:

  • Some translators forget to Ctrl+Enter before moving on to the next segment. This confirms the segments and commits the translation to memory, which means the translation is inserted automatically in repeated segments (auto-propagate) and can be called up easily. Ctrl+Alt+Enter will do the same thing but simply move you to the next segment, rather than the next unconfirmed segment. If you don’t want auto-propagate to change a segment, lock the segment (Ctrl+L).
  • The preview feature (Shift+F12) will show you the translation in the original layout, either in an external program (e.g. Word or PowerPoint) or in a Trados window. This is essential for context, especially when there are images involved.
  • Highlight term and press F3 to perform a concordance search, which searches through the TM for all instances of this term. To insert the selected translation into the target segment, press Ctrl+T.
  • The terms from the termbase can be called up using Ctrl+Shift+L and selected with the arrows and Enter key.
  • Tags can be added by highlighting the place they should go in the target segment, holding down Ctrl and clicking with the mouse on the tag in the source segment.
  • Formatting can be copied in the same way – highlight relevant target text, press Ctrl, click on source text.
  • Sometimes, there are so many tags that it’s easier to copy the source text into the target segment and translate between the tags. Ctrl+Insert will do the copying in an instant.
  • Sorting segments can be helpful when you’re dealing with complex files. For example, you can filter segments containing just numbers, copy or localise them and finally lock them – they’ll be out of your way.
  • Need to keep within a certain number of characters? There’s a tiny symbol at the bottom right that tells you how many characters are in the segment.
  • Leaving the target segment empty will result in the source text being copied into the target file. So, for example, URLs can be left empty (if not localising).
  • Track Changes can be switched on in proofreading mode – but beware, auto-propagate doesn’t seem to work. I recommend switching Track Changes off after you have proofread everything through, then confirming the segments again (see point 1).
  • The QA checker is your friend, it’s your safety net. Supertext has its own QA settings that should be included in every project; you can also set the checker to your liking under Options. It will give you a list of inconsistencies, misplaced spaces, missing punctuation and tags, wrong numbers, etc.
  • Final port of call: spell check: F7, QA checker F8.

Making progress

I’m sure there are many more shortcuts and tips; please feel free to share. Just a few points on SDL Trados 2014 – the biggest changes seem to be superficial, e.g. the ribbon tabs. However, some improvements do make a difference.

1. Virtual merge: until now, if a project contains multiple files, the documents had to be merged when the project is set up. 2014 features “virtual” merge, which means you can open all files at once – and benefit from auto-propagate, QA check, etc – at any time.

2. Concordance search: if no matches are found in the TM, 2014 runs a concordance search on all terms in the segment automatically.

3. Auto-save: 2014 backs up the SDLXLIFF file every 10 mins by default. Lifesaver when your computer crashes…

4. 2014 sets up folders in a designated place on your desktop automatically when opening packages. So you just double click on the package and presto – it’s in your projects list.

So, I hope some of this has been useful. Next time, tricks for the other stages!

Titelbild via Pexels (CC0)

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2 Kommentare zu “SDL Trados: tricks of the trade”

  • Aidan am 30. July 2015 7:34 Uhr

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Übersetzen. Regards

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