My top 5 online CAT tools for translators

Whether you like them or not, in 2024, you can’t be a translator without using CAT tools. Here are my favorite online CATs for you to choose.

I have never been a fan of CAT tools. There are certain considerations we should do about how they impact the way we look at sentences. I tend to get obsessed with their percentage bars. They often return weird errors you lose hours on solving.

But also – how greedy of me – they are EXPENSIVE!

Luckily enough, online CAT tools don’t share most of these issues. And they are getting more and more popular these days.

That’s why I usually prefer them over their desktop competitors! So here goes – these are the 5 online CAT tools for translators I like the most. Learn how to use them, as most companies want some basic level of experience using their favorite CAT before they start to assign you projects.

Crowdin

I have translated more than 500,000 words on Crowdin and I’ve never run into a single issue.

Let me be clear: I love Crowdin. Not only it works, but it comes with a number of great features:

  • Their notes are fantastic, if your PM knows how to use them you will never lack context again
  • You can see what other colleagues used in their respective languages; if you speak more than one foreign language and you are in doubt about something, this can come in handy
  • Crowdin is QUICK. I used it on large projects and very rarely I have seen it slowing down

I wish all my clients used it. I would be a happier translator. That said, would I recommend using it to individual translators? Unfortunately no, as they don’t have plans that are tailored for us.

And now (December 2023) they have a plan that is just perfect for translators!

Their Pro plan starts at $59/month ($50 if you choose their yearly plan), and give you 60,000 words. Even if you are fully booked, it’s unlikely that you’ll run out of words.

The only problem I found is that it only has 2 private projects. If you are interested in checking it out, I suggest you to set up the 2 areas of expertise you work with the most as your 2 projects.

Phrase (previously Memsource)

This is another seriously good tool. Clients from all industries use Phrase for a reason – it’s got all the features you may need, in a translation environment that simply works.

I have nothing bad to say about it, except that I have noticed it slows down a bit when working on very large projects (I’m talking 100k+ words). However, it is not common to have 100,000 words in a single file, and even if you do, you can solve the issue by splitting it up in 2 different files.

Contrarily from Crowdin, they do have plans specifically tailored to translators.

How much does Memsource/Phrase cost?

At the moment (2023) they have a suite called Team Start that’s perfect for freelance translators. At $29 per month, it’s perfectly affordable even for beginners. And you can try it out for free for 14 days so that you can decide if it fits your needs.

It appears to have all the features you could possibly need as a translators except for LQA. The features you don’t have access to seem to mainly be tailored to project managers and end clients.

Phrase certification

Having a certification testifies your professionalism as a translator. That’s why I recommend anyone who’s interested in becoming a translator to get a few. They are usually pretty cheap and totally worth the (little) money!

Phrase does have a certification program. Right now (December 2023), though, they are redesigning it, and it’s not open yet. Once it’s open again, the Linguist certification paths (both Strings and TMS) may be worth checking.

Smartcat

I have worked on Smartcat on several occasions, for different clients. It’s not bad, it works. And knowing how to use it can make a difference between landing a project and twiddling your thumbs. That said, it appears that they are focusing more and more on machine translation. From their perspective, it makes sense – they are probably hoping to become the standard platform for translation clients interested in AI.

Right now, they don’t offer a plan tailored for translators, so you will only use it as part of a client’s plan.

Whether or not to learn how to use it depends on this – if you are interested in taking more PEMT projects in the future, go for it. If not, there are probably more useful online CAT tools for you.

Smartling

While most CATs jump on the AI wagon, Smartling puts an emphasis on helping translators producing quality translations. I have worked on their platform before and I can confirm that it’s true.

Their interface helps you to fully understand what goes where by showing you the context of each string. Think SDL Trados Preview feature on steroids. That’s Smartling.

Not only that – they have the only cloud-based Transcreation tool in the industry (that I know of). I like their approach and I like their platform.

They also provide clients with a whole database of translators, agencies and freelancers included. Try to fill out their dedicated form, who knows if any good job opportunity comes out of it.

In 2023, Smartling doesn’t offer any plans to translators, so you won’t be able to use it for your day-to-day projects. But if I were you, I’d learn how it works – it may come in handy.

Memoq

Back when I started out in the translation industry, dinosaurs still roamed the earth SDL Trados was the CAT tool you were expected to have. Memoq was a close second, and in the game localization industry it was basically considered a standard choice.

Based on their website, this is an industry they are still focusing on heavily. But I have now used memoq (their cloud-based version, actually) for clients in a wide variety of fields.

The good news is, if you like it, you can buy it! Their perpetual license for translators costs €620 and it’s yours forever. Or if you are still unsure, you can subscribe for one year for €360.

I have been working in their translation environment pretty often, and it is a good choice. Whether or not you buy it, I suggest you get to know it – sooner or later, you’ll find a client who works on their platform.

Memoq certification

Good news! Memoq has a certification program, and their Basic course is completely free.

Beginner translator? Go through the program, finish it, make sure you understood everything. Then, put it on your CV. I love small improvements like this! Together, they can make a huge difference.

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