MemoQ vs Trados vs WordFast

Legal Disclaimer: what you find below are author’s private opinions. His intention is NOT to advocate against any company or tool.

Every professional translator needs to know how to use CAT tools. This is not a matter for any discussion. CAT tools not only speed up the translation process, but also ensure terminology and stylistic consistency with previous jobs, as well as within a single job realized by several people. The offer of CAT tools on the market is pretty rich, and each tool is slightly different from the rest. We have chosen MemoQ as our preferred infrastructure (even though we own and use the majority of the most popular CAT tools, including all three mentioned in this text), and we use it always when it’s up to us to select the app to work in. And we believe the choice was right. Why?

Among the most common CAT tools on the market, there are three or four solutions that are the most popular. An undisputed leader in terms of sales is SDL Trados, followed by WordFast and MemoQ. The SDL Package leads the pack by a fair amount of users[1], but is that justifiable? We believe it’s not. Nonetheless, it is a very important factor that influences the purchasing decision, especially in the case of beginning translators or freelancers who want to begin from a single app. Probably as a result of an old habit, translation agencies still usually prefer Trados, which makes it necessary to own it in order to be able to cooperate with them. This mangles the numbers and the level of popularity of these tools, as it is clearly not all based on their functionality and stability of operation.

We find MemoQ the most stable, and we value the fact that the work completed in the app is protected against loss in case of failures. WordFast comes second, as up until version 3.x it was a fairly uncomplicated and reliable solution. Even though its functionality was pretty scarce in comparison with the competition, the functions offered in the app worked well and enabled smooth and efficient work. Unfortunately, from version 4.x the creators decided to transform it into a more sophisticated tool. How did they do? Well, not awesome. The tool is still inferior to MemoQ or Trados, and as a result it’s also less stable and fluent. The current 5.x version was expected to solve numerous issues reported, but it’s still not exactly stable. Trados on the other hand (up to the 2013 version) did not cope with a translation job of several thousand words and ten people simultaneously working in it. We had to switch to MemoQ, and in the end the software played a trick on us, as it couldn’t recognise its placeholders inserted in MemoQ, which resulted in a fair amount of extra work right before the deadline. Next, we were using the 2015 version of Trados, which was a bit better, but it still fell short in terms of fluency and smoothness in comparison with MemoQ. Things seem to be a little bit better with the 2017 version. That’s why nowadays, we use both Trados and WordFast only when we have no other choice, i.e. when we receive working files in their native formats along with e.g. online translation memory links, which are sadly still unsupported by MemoQ at the moment of creating this text. (Although you can import the majority of file formats into MemoQ, the compatibility is not exactly full, especially in terms of placeholders, etc., whereas there’s virtually no compatibility when it comes to using online resources dedicated for one app in a different one.) In all the remaining cases – when the selection of a CAT tool is up to us – we use MemoQ.

In terms of functionality, we perceive MemoQ as a winner as well. Although Trados finishes pretty close, the mere fact that is needs separate modules (i.e. MultiTerm or XLIFF Converter) results in MemoQ being rated higher. I won’t use a declarative tone, as we do not follow each upgrade introduced in Trados, but I must admit that the creators of MemoQ constantly improve their product, adding new and expanding the already existing functionalities, solving issues, and providing very decent support in case of technical issues. We use both Translator Pro clients for translators, and a server, which gives us a wide range of possibilities in the area of project management – from creating a Project to assigning work to internal and external translators, to receiving completed work, compiling it, and exporting to a target document.

The English version of user manual consists of nearly 1,500 pages with descriptions of features and functionalities offered by the app. That’s why it is impossible to even list them here. Let me put it this way – we are yet to face a situation in which we will feel like the app lacks something, especially some important feature offered by the competitors. The only problem for us, which may be impossible to solve due to technical limitations, is the fact that despite the support of nearly all translation formats, MemoQ still does not offer support for online translation memories e.g. on WordFast servers. If the creators solved this issue, we would most probably replace WF with MemoQ altogether. Using online TMs is very often mandatory, so we cannot complete such jobs in a different app that does not support this feature. Thence, we still use WordFast 5 or Trados 2017, but with little enthusiasm.

In our opinion, the main advantage of Trados or WordFast over MemoQ is the fact that they both were created earlier, and are still preferred by the majority of translation agencies or bureaus. This makes is difficult to leave them or work without them. Translators at the beginning of their professional career and those focusing on cooperation with translation agencies simply cannot select an app that does not support online TMs provided by their clients, no matter how good, fast, and stable such app might be. This is a key factor that somehow “protects” Trados or WordFast against the impact of MemoQ on the market. I think that the developers of those two solutions know that their native TMs are some sort of a string, keeping numerous customers with them, and try their best to keep it this way. Nevertheless, MemoQ successively shortens the distance to its two older competitors in terms of market presence. Also in Poland, more and more agencies begin to treat MemoQ infrastructure as their preferred choice. It’s a good sign. We wish the Hungarians success, and we hope that they will win more recognition, as their products simply deserves that.

[1] As per https://www.vertaalt.nu/blog/how-many-cat-tools-should-you-need/, accessed on 25 Feb, 2019.