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What Is a CAT Tool and the Benefits of Using One?
by Terralíngua      Posted in  December 16, 2015

What Is a CAT Tool and the Benefits of Using One?Many have heard of translation memory (TM), but few may know how one is created. A Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) Tool is a program that assists translators with their work and enables them to build translation memories to remember words, phrases and terminology to be used again on further topics in the future. CAT tools work by presenting the text in small, easily manageable segments which are then saved in the translation memory along with the source text so translator can access the segments at any time.

There are many different CAT tools available, such as MemoQ, Across, Idiom, XTM and Wordfast, but one of the most widely used nowadays is SDL Trados Studio. Though translators may use different CAT tools, there is a translation memory format that is universally supported and can be exported and imported by all of them: .tmx extension.

What Are the Benefits of a CAT tool?


An important benefit is a significant cost reduction. A translation provider will look at the following before supplying a quote:

  • • New Words – This is completely fresh content which has not been previously translated.
  • • 100% Matches – A segment of text which is identical and can be used again. This is often the case with multiple instruction manuals which share a common template.
  • • Repetitions – Repeated words or phrases within the text.
  • • Fuzzy Matches – These are similar words or phrases that are generally matched between 75% and 99% to be useful.

For example if a company wants to translate a manual similar to one they produced two years ago, they will want to ensure the existing translation memory is used for the proposal. If translation memory is used in the analysis, they will only be charged the full word rate for any new additions and the other similar and exact text will be charged at a heavily reduced rate. Therefore a brand new manual at a fraction of the cost thanks to the use of a CAT tool.


It is vitally important to keep documents consistent – whether it is a guide, manual or brochure. The wording and your company message should be similar throughout. Terminology, product names and abbreviations should be the same style to establish your brand.

A CAT tool ensures you are not tied to one translation provider. Should a deadline or budget require using another resource, a translation memory created from the CAT tool will ensure that another will keep the same terms and existing content. Even if you do not have a CAT tool, your provider should provide a copy of the translation memory for your records upon request.


Every company that produces materials in another language should work with translation memories. A CAT tool is able to build a translation memory for you by aligning the source and target text if you already have translated material without using a CAT tool before. A translation memory is also the ongoing repository of preferred terms and wording. When review comments are returned, the translation memory should be updated and maintained as well.


A CAT tool has error tagging verification, much like spell check or grammar check in MS Word, which are also available. Spelling, formatting errors, and missing translations will create flags to inform the translator, thus creating a double quality assurance check.

Faster Turnaround Time

As the translator is working through a file, the CAT tool will suggest similar words or content which could be used. This saves time and enables the translator to complete the translation faster. For example the turnaround time to complete a manual similar to a previously translated one would be considerably less than the original file.

Source Files and Formatting

Translated files come in various formats and often include photographs and graphics. A CAT tool enables the translator to work in a number of different source files, which is particularly useful if a customer has only a PDF source file and the translated version has to be recreated. A CAT tool will allow the translator to deliver the target language document in the same format as the source language when working with editable formats like MS Office, although some formatting adjustments may be required.

Though they may only be well-known to translators, CAT tools are valuable to anyone translating material. They primarily assist translators with the day to day management of tasks but they also create a priceless database called the translation memory, which maintains your company’s localized material with all of the preferred terminology and the related investment.


Terralingua provides translation and linguistic support to the world’s top brands. With 16 years in the industry and ISO certification, we have extensive translation and localization experience. Visit our website or call us to discuss your translation requirements with one of our representatives.

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