Which is the Best CAT Tool 2021?

Which is the best CAT tool in 2021?

Written by Gwenydd Jones

Spanish-to-English translator and translator trainer

Whether you’re a working translator or just starting out in the profession, you’re sure to have heard of computer assisted translation or CAT tools. You’ll know these translation tools have nothing to do with feline friends. Instead, they’re an essential bit of kit that can help you translate faster and better. But, like our furry friends, there are so many different types! How can you tell which to invest in once you’ve decided to take the plunge? Read on for the lowdown on the best CAT tool in 2021.

Conclusion on which is the best CAT tool in 2021

You can scroll down for detailed information on each of the CAT tools researched. But, if you’re desperate to get some computer assisted translation right now, here’s a summary of my take on the best CAT tools of the now.

Reasoning

Until a few years ago, freelance translators would normally work in their own CAT tool. But nowadays, more and more translation agencies are insisting that translators use the agency’s online translation software or choice of CAT tool. The downside to this is you have to be able to adapt to different tools. The upside is that you get the licences for free. That’s the way the translation industry is going, and it isn’t likely to change.

That means today’s translator isn’t going to be as reliant on having their own translation software as the translator of the last decade or so. For that reason, I think the smart choice for the average translator in 2021 is to spend less. All the average professional translator needs is the standard features available in most CAT tools. These will enable you to work on projects for direct clients or where the translation agency doesn’t supply the translation tool.

So, it might be a good idea to small and, hey, if you grow and start running multi-lingual projects, you can always upgrade later.

Recommendations

Best paid CAT tool 2021: it’s a tough choice, and I have two winners. If you can get Trados Studio 2021 for under €400 on a flash deal, that’s too good an offer to refuse. Bear in mind you’ll have a bit of a learning curve, though. If you can’t get a discount, consider Déjà Vu because it’s much more user friendly. Just make sure they promise to include the upgrade to the new release coming soon.

Best free CAT tool 2021: Smartcat. Let’s face it, you’re only ever going to get so far with free CAT tools. If you’re looking for free translation software, it’s probably because you’re not working as a professional translator yet. In that case, with Smartcat, you’ll be able to get your first taste of the most basic functions of translation software with very little training effort.

Scroll down for details on each of the CAT tools researched.

Also check out: 10 Basics for Help Choosing a CAT Tool.

Note: the images used in this article were obtained as screenshots of relevant pages on the brand websites. At the end of each section, a link to the website is provided.

Trados Studio

Latest version available at time of writing: Trados Studio Freelance 2021

Trados Studio 2021 CAT tool

Overview

Trados Studio is a CAT tool for drafting, editing, reviewing and managing translation projects. Like all CAT tools, Trados Studio uses translation memories (that is, the place where your translations are stored). For terminology management, it comes with Multiterm, which you can use to make glossaries using termbases.

Basic Features

  • Available on PC and Mac.
  • Wide range of file types supported.
  • Powerful analysis features.
  • Option to integrate machine translation technology to speed up your translation process.
  • AutoSuggest saves you time by offering you a list of suggested words or phrases when you type the first few letters of a word.
  • Termbase creation through Multiterm to ensure consistency and save dictionary time.
  • Quality assurance (QA) features to help with consistency and productivity.
  • Option to work in the cloud.
  • Import old translations created in Microsoft Word.
  • Large online support community, includes webinars and online conferences.
  • Training and certification exams available for purchase.
  • Compatible with other CAT tools.

On the downside

The tool isn’t massively intuitive and it can take a great deal of effort to master the complex functions. But, as a freelance translator, you’ll probably never need to use many of the more advanced features. The quality assurance features can become tiresome and slow you down when agencies impose too many of them. Importing your old translations from Word takes forever.

Pricing

A Trados Studio Freelance 2021 licence is usually priced at €695, with large discounts (like 45%) available in flash deals by the new owners RWS. There is also the option of an annual subscription currently priced at €295.

Free 30-day trial

Bottom line

One of the big pluses of Trados Studio is its position as one of the market leaders. That means it’s widely used and accepted by translation agencies. It enjoys this position because it’s a quality piece of software. That said, it offers more than the average translator needs while lacking some very basic features, like being able to highlight the source text. Recent flash deals make this a very attractive choice.

MemoQ

Latest version available at time of writing: MemoQ Translator Pro

MemoQ CAT tool

Overview

MemoQ translator pro is a CAT tool “created by translators for translators”. For glossary creation, you have a terminology management module. There’s automated quality assurance to check for errors, and linguistic quality assurance, which categorises errors and offers statistics.

Basic features

  • Available on PC and Mac.
  • Wide range of file types supported.
  • Powerful analysis features.
  • Option to integrate machine translation technology to speed up your translation process.
  • Termbase creation to ensure consistency and save dictionary time.
  • LiveDocs, an alternative to translation memories involving automated document alignment, so you can add bilingual files and monolingual reference materials.
  • View the translation in its final format as you write.
  • Real-time spell checking and quality assurance (QA) features to help with consistency and productivity.
  • Beginners training course available for free, makes it easier to get started.
  • Wide support available in translator communities.
  • Compatible with other translation software like Trados and Wordfast.

On the downside

Much like Trados, the tool isn’t very intuitive. You’ll need to invest time in training and then practise to speed up. As a freelance translator, you’ll probably never need to use many of the more advanced features. The quality assurance features can be extremely restrictive and slow you down when agencies impose too many of them.

Pricing

MemoQ translator pro for freelance translators is currently €620 + tax. This includes a Support and Maintenance Agreement (SMA) for 1 year. You can download upgrades released that year and access the support team.

Free 30-day trial

Bottom line

MemoQ is a premium piece of translation software. It was created by translators and has loyal supporters. It’s sometimes said to be more intuitive than Trados and easier to use. However, that wasn’t my experience. I found it to be on a par with Trados in terms of difficulty. The pricing (excluding offers) is very similar to Trados. Remember you can trial both MemoQ and Trados before you buy.

Déjà Vu

Latest version available at time of writing: Déjà Vu X3

Deja Vu CAT tool

Déjà Vu  is a complete translation CAT tool designed by Atril Solutions. As CAT tools go, it’s quite easy for translators to learn how to use. It’s less of a behemoth than Trados and MemoQ, which means it offers a simpler layout and comes with a lower price tag.

Basic features

  • Only available for Windows.
  • Wide range of file types supported.
  • Good analysis features.
  • Option to integrate machine translation technology to speed up your translation process.
  • Easy termbase creation to make glossaries to ensure consistency and save dictionary time.
  • AutoWrite suggests words from the terminology database as you type, which improves your speed.
  • View the translation in its final format as you write.
  • Spell-checker and quality assurance features.
  • Easy to move between project view and document view.
  • Easy to add new files to a project.
  • For large projects with lots of files you can have them all in one single list view. It makes it easier to see where you are.
  • Free training, webinars and support group.

On the downside

The more advanced glossary management can get quite technical. Atril has been very slow to release the latest update. Less technical support available than for the market leaders.

Pricing

A big advantage of Déjà Vu is the price. At€420 for Déjà Vu X3 Professional, it’s quite a bit cheaper than the full price of Trados and MemoQ.

30-day free trial

Bottom line

A big advantage of Déjà vu is the price difference when compared to the full price of other leading CAT tools. It has everything your average translator needs and is easier to use. On the downside, the most recent reviews available about the X3 version say it lags behind other tools in terms of compatibility. The market is dominated by other tools and if you work mostly with agencies using Trados or MemoQ, good compatibility is essential. At time of writing in September 2021, release of the next version is imminent, and a big improvement is expected.

Wordfast

Latest version available at time of writing: WFP 6.5.0

Wordfast CAT tool

Wordfast is a standalone, multi-platform translation tool. It stores your translations in a translation memory database and retrieves that content for future projects. It has a user-friendly interface and is quick and easy to learn and use. Both free and premium versions are available.

Basic features

  •  Runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • Wide range of file formats supported.
  • Wordfast Pro can integrate with multiple machine translation engines so you can use machine translations when there are no translation memory matches.
  • WYSIWYG interface. With Wordfast Pro you can choose a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor or a tag mark-up editor.
  • Wordfast Pro lets you filter segments based on terms, expressions, notes and other attributes (as with the other CAT tools mentioned).
  • You can drag and drop to import the package, translate the files, and export (as with the other CAT tools mentioned).
  • Direct import of SDL Trados packages.
  • Permanent free version (not just a trial).
  • Beginners training available for purchase at a reasonable price.
  • A strong support community and a hotline to help you if you get into difficulties.

On the downside

Wordfast has been around a long time and, perhaps owing to the success of the free version, it tends to be viewed as an introductory translation tool. As CAT tools go, Wordfast Pro seems to have got a bit left behind the times. It isn’t as sophisticated as the market leaders.

Pricing

Wordfast Pro is considerably cheaper than Trados Studio and MemoQ, at about €400 + tax. There’s even a reduced price of about €200 + tax for translators in countries with developing economies.

Permanent free version

Bottom line

Wordfast Pro is often said to be a good introduction to CAT tools. The free version of Wordfast is one of the best free CAT tools. The pricing of the pro version is reasonable and the support community is good. As a result, it’s one of those translation tools with lots of loyal fans. It could be a great starting point. But if you’re going to work a lot with agencies, you may do better to opt for a CAT tool that’s more widely used. Kudoz for the reduced price for translators in developing economies.

Smartcat

Smartcat CAT tool

Smartcat is an all-in-one free CAT tool. It’s a cloud-based CAT tool. An advantage of this is that it works on both Mac and PC. It’s also completely free for translators.

Basic features

  • Free CAT tool.
  • Compatible with PC and Mac.
  • Easy to export/import TMs and glossaries.
  • Detailed statistics for projects.
  • Helpful support service.
  • Easy-to-use interface.
  • Very easy for translators to learn.
  • Full support for importing SDL Trados Studio Project packs so you can work on them in Smartcat and then generate an SDL Trados Studio Return Package.
  • Browser-based, which makes it convenient and accessible.

On the downside

Smartcat is a very simple computer aided translation tool and it offers limited functionality. Working in the cloud can be slow and, of course, an Internet connection is essential.

Pricing

Free for translators. Subscription plans for language service providers.

Give it a try

The bottom line

This is one of the top free CAT tools. If you’re new to translation software, it’s a good option for learning a bit about working with translation memories. However, working in your browser can be slower than working on your desktop. Also, if you’ve used paid CAT tools like the ones mentioned above, you’ll find this free CAT tool wanting in terms of features.

STAR Transit

Latest version available at time of writing: Transit NXT

STAR Transit CAT tool

Transit NXT is the newest version of STAR’s translation memory system. This is another of the CAT tools created by translators for translators. The difference with transit is that instead of using a sentence-based translation memory system, the whole context of the document is available in the reference material. This can reduce the price even further for clients because the text analysis will turn up more repetitions and exact matches.

Basic features

  • Translates all formats.
  • Customisable views, layouts and taskbars.
  • Working in Transit is like typing in Microsoft Word, including all shortcuts used in Word.
  • Terminology management system TermStar included.
  • Advanced quality controls go way beyond spell-check.

On the downside

In terms of paid CAT tools, this one isn’t a popular CAT tool among professional translators. It seems to be aimed more at language service providers and translation agencies. No free trial.

Pricing

I couldn’t find prices published on the website or the option to do a free trial.

See for yourself

The bottom line

The ability to use Microsoft Word shortcuts caught our attention, as did all the file formats available. The interface looks good. Indeed it’s functionality seems very similar to the that of the leading translation tools. But without being able to do a free trial or see pricing information, it’s difficult to recommend this over the other translation tools.

Memsource

Memsource CAT tool

Memsource is a fully featured CAT tool. It includes all the traditional CAT tool features. These are combined with state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. While its name looks a bit like MemoQ, it’s a different company. The company claims Memsource is “the most innovative CAT tool on the market”. If you’re looking for free CAT tools, a forever-free personal edition of this translation tool is available.

Basic features

  • Runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.
  • Supports a wide range of file types.
  • Manage your translations with your mobile phone or tablet. Available for iOS and Android.
  • Cloud editor opens in a browser.
  • Desktop editor syncs with the cloud in real time and means you can work offline.
  • Intuitive platform.
  • Possible to create termbases.
  • Possible to integrate machine translation.
  • Technical support.

On the downside

This CAT tool is designed with language service suppliers and companies in mind. It enables project managers to better organise and monitor linguists. On the translator end, numerous colleagues have complained about lost time owing to log-in issues and the software being on a general go-slow when working online.

Pricing

By subscription, starting from €27 a month for a single project manager and two linguists.

Get forever-free personal edition

The bottom line

This is a translation tool designed with the translation agency rather than the professional translator in mind. If the client insists you work in the cloud, this will teather you to a Wi-Fi connection. Also, speed issues on the platform may reduce your productivity. That said, the subscription price seems reasonable and the forever-free version means interested translators can go in and draw their own conclusions.

Got anything to add?

Think we’re missing an important basic feature? Want to do an in-depth guest post on your favourite CAT tool? Let us know. We’ll be keeping this post updated on a regular basis and are happy to add other paid and free CAT tools to the list. Subscribe!

You may also like …

Get our newsletter!

News, blogs, quizzes and more. Written specially for translators.

Privacy (newsletter)

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This