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3-minute review of Swordfish II CAT tool

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve experimented with the Swordfish II Computer Assisted Translation (CAT) program; this post is a brief walkthrough of its main features.

Flexibility: The main attraction of Swordfish for me was that it’s cross-platform, so I can use it on a Windows PC and on a Mac (or on the Linux operating system). This degree of flexibility is hard to come by on the CAT tools market, and in my opinion is Swordfish’s main selling point. The only slight snag is that, although you can use the same licence across more than one computer, you have to disable and enable it each time (unlike with open source cross-platform programs such as OmegaT, for example). This is fine in principle, but you need to be good at remembering to disable the licence on your desktop PC before venturing out to work within Swordfish on your laptop!

File formats: Swordfish can handle an impressive range of different file formats very competently, including Trados .ttx files. It works by converting these file formats to ‘XLIFF’ format (an open standard) before opening the file within the Swordfish editing environment. The documents are converted back to their original format once you’ve completed the translation and are ready to proofread the final version. This also means I can convert a PowerPoint file, for example, to XLIFF in Swordfish, start working on it in Swordfish and come back to it later within another program that supports the XLIFF format (e.g. MemoQ). This adds an additional layer of flexibility and interoperability.

Layout: The interface is clean and extremely easy to find your way around, even if you don’t have time to read the (short) user manual back-to-back before starting to use it. Like in other programs, the Translation Memory database and terminology database results are displayed in a right-hand column as you type. A click on a term (or keyboard shortcut) will simply add it to your translation. You also have the option to have several TM and terminology databases open at the same time.

Terminology search integration: One of the features I like most about Swordfish, and which I haven’t seen offered to the same extent by any other CAT tool, is its integration of search tools such as Linguee, IATE and Termium Plus, which you can search while translating (provided you’re connected to the internet) without having to open a separate browser. This feature is fully customisable for the language combinations you work with, and is so useful that I tend to have Swordfish open just for this even if I’m using another CAT tool for a particular job. Like some other programs, Google Translate is also integrated, should you want to search its corpora during your first draft.

Downsides: Swordfish can be slow in moving between segments compared with other programs of its capabilities. The QA function is up there with the best programs of its kind but again tends to run slower than I’d like. The ‘concordance’ function can take far too long to load if your Translation Memory databases are sizeable. Also, the ‘create database’ function doesn’t differentiate between a Translation Memory database and a terminology database, so you need to ensure you give meaningful names to your databases (e.g. _TM/Term) in order to find them again.

Verdict: The PC version of Swordfish could certainly run a lot faster than it does, but the program does offer a very great deal for its relatively small price tag, and I think it has the edge on cross-platform interoperability. Its integration of the main online terminology search tools makes it feel like a ‘translator’s translation tool’. The support offered is also extremely responsive, in my experience.

Swordfish is can be downloaded as a 30-day free trial. See for more screenshots and details.ови услуги

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User Responses

12 Responses and Counting...

  1. Phil Macdonald

    March 04, 2011

    I was looking for a review online of Swordfish last night, so your timing is impeccable, Philippa! I have used the trial version, and liked it, but it’s good to hear positive reviews from more experienced CAT users. Thanks!

  2. Rachel McRoberts

    March 04, 2011

    I have been using Swordfish for about 1.5 years now, and I love it. (I was actually planning to review it this month!) Your comments are spot on with my experience. One significant “feature” you didn’t mention is the customer support. Rodolfo, the program developer, provides fantastic support, and other users on the support listserv are similarly helpful. Rodolfo is very responsive to customer questions/concerns and also takes suggestions for further program development.

    Nice review!

  3. Thomas Ruehl

    March 04, 2011

    Interesting review, thanks! Almost the entire tool sounds too good to be true; however, the database function does irritate me a bit. Does it mean that you cannot freely import or export TM(X) files?

  4. philippa

    March 04, 2011

    @Thomas It’s very easy to import and export TMX files in Swordfish, like most tools these days – no problems there

  5. Thomas Ruehl

    March 04, 2011

    OK, I wouldn’t have expected that so far. But what about importing TMX files, working on them and exporting them in order to use them with other CAT tools — have you encountered any issues in this regard? Also, does it mean terminology files created in Swordfish can be exported in the TMX format? Sorry for bothering you with that, but I still don’t quite grasp the framework behind this.

  6. Joakim Braun

    March 04, 2011

    Xoterm 1.0.3 – A lightweight TMX viewer for Mac (shareware):

  7. vertaalbureau

    March 04, 2011

    I was thinking about trying out this software. Your review helped me a lot, Thanks!

  8. Zak Frinks

    March 04, 2011

    Many thanks for this. As someone who has often dipped his fingers into the world of CAT (but doesn’t know Swordfish) this is extremely helpful.


  9. Engels Vertaalbureau

    March 04, 2011

    Great! I love Mac but usually end up buying PC to work on translations. I will run the trial version on my husband’s Mac, can’t wait to try it out!

  10. Tom

    March 04, 2011

    I hate to spoil the theme of positive feedback but my experience of Swordfish is not that great. I find it incredibly slow to the point that it crashes my computer. The analysis takes forever, even with the smallest of files. Other than this, it’s fair to say it’s good but this is one hell of a resource-intensive program and this is a big downer for me. I am running an i7 intel with 2GB RAM on Win7 and it’s without doubt the slowest piece of software on my PC. Would be keen to hear any other thoughts on this because i see it as such a hindrance to what could be a potentially great CAT tool.

    Just try analysing the word count of a 10 page Word docx file in a demo version of Wordfast and Swordfish. Compare the difference in speed; Wordfast is akin to a Ferrari and Swordfish is like a Morris Minor.

  11. Hilda

    March 04, 2011

    Philippa, I’m currently testing the Swordfish trial version. Is there a way to do a files analysis with multiple files all at once?

  12. philippa

    March 04, 2011

    I’m not sure there is actually. This may be a limitation of the softwre, but I haven’t used Swordfish for a while now, so I may not be the best person to ask!

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