What are the differences between localisation tools and regular CAT tools?
To understand localisation tools, you must first understand CAT tools. As a basic overview, CAT tools enable a translator to build up a 'memory' from previous translations. As the memory increases, it becomes quicker to complete future translations as elements of text which have already been translated previously will be pre-translated in future translation projects. The benefit of this functionality is that repetitions within a document are automatically translated throughout the document which also has a positive impact on reducing the time taken. CAT tools have a number of additional functionalities which also increase the accuracy, quality and consistency of a translation project such as glossary tools, word counts and formatting tools.
In a nutshell therefore, CAT tools increase the speed of translation exercises, ensure terminology consistency and reduce costs (through increased translation speed).
Localisation tools are basically CAT tools whose filters are prepared for the most common types of files found in software and websites. The text segments (called "strings") are separated from the source code so that it is not visible to translators. In this way they can translate more easily and the code is not exposed to unwanted changes that could damage the product.
These tools are often called "Visual Localisation Tools" (VLT) because they provide a visual representation of what the user interface looks like in a 'What You See Is What You Get' (WYSIWYG) environment. Translators therefore have not only the linguistic context but also the visual context for their translations.
Additionally, localisation tools feature help functions and verifiers for typical localisation problems, such as duplicate keyboard shortcuts or broken tags.
However, translation agencies sometimes deal with localisation projects in a more traditional way; they employ engineering experts to prepare the material so it can be handled on standard CAT tools. In this way, they do not need specialised translators and they can use cheaper or more user-friendly tools. If the project is small, even office suite programs are used.
The most common localisation tools are Catalyst and Passolo. They show more similarities than differences at a basic level, with the differences being more obvious at a specialized level. For this reason, the choice lies in usability and, of course, price.
There are less powerful tools that are however widely used for two main reasons: they are cheaper and they are simpler. The following are some of the most common. The prices are approximations (from the price in eUR/USD) for the standard, single-user licence.