Use case: DEVONthink in the translation business

Is anybody here who has ever tried to use DEVONthink in the translation business (both fiction and non-fiction)?

I found a thread from 2017 by the student kylera. He or she was a student at that time and did not have any practical experience in the translation business, so the thread ended without concrete suggestions.

Managing contacts, assignments and invoices could be done in DT although this part is probably best done with a good CRM (customer relationship management) software or a database. When I was still in the business, I used FileMaker Pro which could link contacts and assignments and automatically create invoices, all in one application.

I guess writing the translation itself is best done in Nisus Writer Pro because it has an inbuilt glossary management, split windows feature which can scroll synchronically, i.e. you have, for example, the original text on the left and the translation on the right, and when you scroll up or down in the translation part the original text window will move up or down in synchrony (or vice versa). Changing formatting with macros is lightening fast, and Nisus has the best Find & Replace feature I’ve seen in any word processor (much better than Mellel and MS Word).

When the translation is finished, it could perhaps be imported into and stored in DEVONthink; Wordlists could also be stored in DEVONthink, but that’s about all I can think of.

Hello. As a professional translator, I used to use Trados and other similar software. Specialized tools far exceed anything a personal information manager like DEVONthink can do. If you are working as a professional, I’d recommend asking around about any tools widely used by agencies and freelancers these days. This isn’t a criticism of DT, just like saying a jet has advantages over a car—sure, they both get you from point A to point B, but a jet is not especially useful (or economical) for your daily commute.

I am a researcher now, and even though I translate every day, there isn’t a revenue stream from it anymore, so I have neither the incentive nor the means to afford professional tools like TRADOS. Perhaps, if you are in a similar situation, Wordfast might be appropriate.

As for DT, I keep glossaries, word lists, completed translations, and other resources in DEVONthink, where I can go and look for them as needed. In this respect, it is perfectly suited to the task, and searches regularly turn up useful information for me. However, in the process of translation, which you described in your post, I recommend a translation tool.

To summarize, I’d say it is generally best these days to try and find the best tool for the task you are attempting to perform (CRM for managing customers / clients and perhaps even invoicing, CAT for translation, etc.), combining multiple tools as needed rather than relying on one product to do it all. At least in the translation world, the specialized tools are going to give you tremendous advantages, increasing accuracy and consistency, reducing time spent on each project, and enabling you to collaborate better with others.

For more information, take a look at this research paper, which is a bit dated (2017), but gives concrete examples.


What can you say about OmegaT? I recently started to use it. Is Wordfast that better than OmegaT that it is worth paying 480$?

Thanks Frobgoblin for your interesting post.

In the 90’ies I used to work as a freelance translator in Germany. People would call me up and then send me all sorts of documents which were to be translated in …one or two days. Although I hated the deadlines, I loved the job; but I never got enough clients to be able to survive in the real world, so I had to stop and look for something else to be able to pay the bills.

Now, 30 years later, it so happened that I opened my old translation folder a few days ago (I haven’t done that for years) and rummaged among all the old files that I accumulated back in those old days. Being retired now, I was overcome with acute nostalgia for my old days as translator, and I asked myself: if I were ever to start as a freelance translator again, how could I use DEVONthink to help me do the job … as easily and effective as possible? I also asked myself: are there any translators out there now who use only a Mac nowadays?

You said: “I used to use Trados and other similar software”

Trados used to be a way too expensive for me, and it was Windows only.
Did you use a Windows PC or an emulator on the Mac? In my heyday, there was no Mac version available, and I’m prepared to bet that this hasn’t changed.

You said: “I’d recommend asking around about any tools widely used by agencies and freelancers these days.”

Well Frobgoblin, that’s easier said than done. As I already said, I live in Germany and I have never ever heard of any translator here who uses a Mac. — In case anyone knows of one, please let me know. :–)

What are (or were) your working languages?

Thank you for the link to the research paper. :–)

Hello Anton,

Are you a translator who uses a Mac?

What are your working languages?

And do you use DEVONthink for your translation work?

When I was translating (Japanese / English) as a professional (with those absurd deadlines worsened by time-zone trickery) I almost exclusively used Windows and software like Trados, DragonNaturally Speaking (back in the day I dictated the first drafts), and Wordfast. I think every purchase of tech those days I made paid for itself within days or weeks.

Is product X worth it? I suppose the answer depends on how much you like it (I think I remember trying OmegaT years ago), how much revenue you have from translation to justify the purchase, etc. At any rate, you can try before you buy for most software, so I recommend doing that.

Whatever you use, you can store completed translations in DT to build up a nice stock of material for reference. I still come across translations I did a decade or more ago, so DT has helped me extend their useful life. DEVONSphere is nice for scouring the Web for obscure terms, but for the work I have been doing recently, I am relying a lot on non-digitized sources, so I haven’t done as much with DS as I would like).