These first impressions are based on a review license for Translation Office 3000 3D Advance provided by AIT.
Update 13/06/2017 17:30
I’ve been informed via email that previous versions of Translation Office 3000 had issues when backing up and restoring a database that had been moved to a different location. I checked and everything works fine, as long as you don’t back it up to
C:\Users\Public\Documents\AIT\TO3000, Version 3D\db
AIT has made a name for itself with the release of Translation Office 3000, a very flexible accounting and project management application for translation agencies and individual translators alike, back in 1999. They recently got in touch with me and offered me a review copy of its follow-up named Translation Office 3000 3D to give you my impressions on it. While this is not a full-fledged review, I’ll try my best to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of this program.
Versions comparison and which should you choose
Translator Office 3000 3D (the name rolls right off the tongue) is available in 4 different versions, each providing additional features. Although this article will deal with the Advanced edition, I’ll try to be as comprehensive as I can be.
|AnyCount||No||13 formats||33 formats||37 formats|
|Built-in mail sender||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Credit notes and refunds||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|General prices and quotes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Custom reports, variables and queries||No||No||No||Yes|
|Price||115 €||185 €||319 €||399 €|
The sheer amount of versions and number of available features may make more than one person scratch its head. That would be completely understandable and at first, before I even downloaded my copy, I didn’t know what to make of all of that information. I think part of why it’s confusing is because there’s no clear distinction in the names between versions aimed at individual professionals and those that will benefit agencies the most.
Freelancers will be more than satisfied with what Translation Office Starter and Standard have to offer. Both are entry-level products with a somewhat limited cap to the maximum number of clients. Starter allows up to 50 clients, whereas Standard raises the cap to 250, although I would argue that even Starter’s limit of 50 clients is hardly noticeable for even the smallest of freelance businesses. It’s still possible to “free up” space for clients by removing those you don’t work anymore with, but this will delete all related data, including invoices and projects, which is surely not ideal if you plan to use TO for accounting purposes, but won’t probably matter if you delete obsolete clients after the closure of the fiscal year.
The real star between the two versions is Translation Office 3000 3D Standard, though, thanks to its inclusion of AnyCount, a nifty little tool that helps you get rough estimates of the word count in Office documents (both current and legacy), TXT and CSV files. Coupled with CATCount, it allows you to get a rough estimate of how much to charge your client for a certain project with just a few clicks. It’s not the perfect solution (more on that in a bit), but it’s certainly more convenient than having to rely on Excel spreadsheets.
Agencies will benefit the most from Translation Office 3000 3D Professional or Advanced. Both versions come with all the functionality available in TO Standard, but with the addition of a more advanced version of AnyCount (allowing for counting words in a lot more file types) and other functionality such as the ability to manage your in-house knowledge base with Dictionaries, Translation Memories, Glossaries and even a list of outsourcers complete with CVs.
Professional and advanced also include a calendar which makes it easy to have a glance at when your deadlines are due. Unfortunately, it doesn’t allow you to send reminders at specified times (for example, two days before the due date) or at least I couldn’t find that functionality. Another unfortunate lack is the ability to calculate expenditures for outsourced jobs, unless you create custom fields for that (for example, one for the number of words and one for the fee your outsourcer charges). And even then, I don’t think there’s a way you can multiply those two numbers and assign them to the total value of the expenditure, forcing you to make that calculation outside of the application.
After installing and activating your copy of Translation Office 3000 3D, you’re presented with an interface that resembles closely that introduced by Microsoft with Office 2007. If you’re a regular of Outlook, you will feel right at home: on the top is a ribbon bar and at the bottom is a list of hyperlinks for the Dashboard, Workspace, Calendar, Reports and Knowledge Base (but the list of features may be more limited in other versions of the application).
If you’re running Windows 8 or later and are hugely picky with the looks of the application, you may also choose a more modern look for Translation Office. In the Settings menu, accessible from the Home icon on the left, you may pick among 5, although at least two aren’t very appealing (Blueprint is too hard on the eyes and Coffee looks too much like a Linux application from the ’90s), one looks rather dated (McSkin is reminiscent of the Aqua user interface used in MacOS X until Mavericks) and “No skin” and “White” are identical, with the exception that you can choose the accent colors in No skin and you’re stuck with blue accents in White. I’m not sure why they chose to go with two identical skins, but it’s worth pointing that out.
I have to say that I like the interface: it’s clearly laid out and relatively easy to use (as much as such a complex program can be easy to use), but I need to point out that the animations aren’t as smooth as they could be, which in my opinion is slightly annoying, but your mileage may vary if you don’t mind somewhat sluggish animations.
There is an elephant in the room to address about language availability for Translation Office 3000 3D, though: if you’ve used the previous, non-3D version, you may have grown accustomed to using it in your native language, since it was available in 26 different locales. This isn’t the case with this new one, but hopefully the old localizations will be converted for the new version and made available through a future software update.
Impact on system performance
Translation Office 3000 3D is, at its core, an SQL database, not too dissimilar from those you can create in Microsoft Access. Thus, its system requirements will grow as your portfolio of clients will grow bigger and more data will be stored in the database file. I’ve only been using TO 3000 3D for a little bit more than a week and I’ve seen its RAM usage hover around 200 MB, whereas the CPU was mostly sitting idle, ramping up only when I was editing stuff or querying the database. A very big factor in this application’s performance was storage speed. By default, the database is stored in C:\Users\Public\Documents\AIT\TO3000, Version 3D\db and the user cannot change its location, except by moving the directory somewhere else and creating a symbolic link to the aforementioned path. I did just that to reclaim some SSD space and I noticed a slight loss in performance, indicating that storage speed has a rather big impact on this program’s performance.
My gripes with Translation Office 3000
TO 3000 is surely a solid application, but there are some minor annoyances that, if fixed, would make it much more usable, at least for me. Here is a list of my pet peeves with the program.
Inability of moving the database location within the program
As I mentioned earlier, the user cannot change the database location within the program itself, or even at the time of installation. This is probably going to cause some irritation in some people who use small SSDs as their boot drives, but thankfully can be fixed by closing the program, copying C:\Users\Public\Documents\AIT\TO3000, Version 3D\db to another hard drive (possibly a spinning one), opening a Command Prompt window with administrator privileges and using the command
mklink /d "C:\Users\Public\Documents\AIT\TO3000, Version 3D\db" "D:\NewLocation"
Remember to replace
D:\NewLocation with the actual path where your database is stored.
Somewhat slow UI
Despite being functional, the UI isn’t as smooth as it could be, rendering the application slightly less usable in my opinion. By comparison, look at how smooth animations are in an Office application. Let’s hope this gets fixed in a future update.
Inherent inaccuracy of CATCount
This is probably the most damning thing about the application. Picture this scenario: you accepted applying a discount on repetitions or high-match segments and insert the relevant discounts. When you’re done, you click OK and Translation Office will calculate a price based on the information you’ve provided. However, if you do the same calculations either by hand or in an Excel spreadsheet, you’ll soon find out that CATCount’s result is off by about 0.05%, leading to you charging slightly less than you normally would.
This is due to the fact that CATCount doesn’t apply the discount to your fee, but calculates a word count based on the data you’ve entered and then multiplies that against your full fee, meaning that CATCount is inaccurate by design. In my opinion, it would have been much better if CATCount didn’t bother with calculating an adjusted word count but instead just gave you an exact price.
Lack of online documentation and localization support
Compared to previous versions of Translation Office, for which quick start guides and other types of documentation are available on AIT’s website, TO 3000 3D doesn’t come with any simple to understand guides. The only help you’re going to get will either have to come from the help file available in C:\Program Files (x86)\AIT\Translation Office 3000 Version 3D\Help or by contacting AIT directly. I know the program just came out, so I’m writing this paragraph to give AIT incentive to include more documentation as soon as possible.
Another issue is that TO 3000 3D is currently only available in English, so you may want to hold off from purchasing it until new languages are made available.
So far, AIT has done a pretty good job at providing a useful tool for translators and agencies who need an accounting and project management solution without having to resort to generic management software or Excel spreadsheet.
I’ve heard only good stories about previous editions of Translation Office 3000 and I hope AIT can manage to keep walking that path, squashing bugs in time and adding what’s missing from its management software.