Better Translating – Part III: Install the right software

choose the right translation software

In the last two part of our mini-guide Better Translation: How to become a more efficient translator, we looked at physical parts of our setup, i.e. office furniture and hardware (PC and multi-screen setups). Today, let us talk software. The right software makes your life a lot easier when it comes to (1) the translation process, and (2) staying in touch with your clients and/or collaborators.

It is incredibly important to use software that’s efficient, stable, and actually makes your life easier instead of adding even more steps, and mouse clicks, to what are already complex business practices. Today, let us look at research tools.

The main software we use for research is, without a doubt, the web browser. Translators need to use quick lookup techniques. This means that we need to be able to quickly search for a word on multiple sites (we will talk about translation sites, online dictionaries and glossaries in a few days). This requirement excludes two browsers, unfortunately the two browsers which are probably the best, for general requirements, at the moment: Google Chrome and Internet Explorer 9 (and the Metro IE 10 which is part of the upcoming Windows 8). These browsers have a unified address and search bar, which is very handy for casual web surfing but impractical for translation lookup. My choice is therefore Opera, the underdog browser from Norway. It’s a bit more complex and resource-intensive than its competitors, but the search bar is the most customizable of them all, which makes it our favorite. It’s also easy to set up:

Let’s open the LEO English-German dictionary, for example, the old-fashioned way (Type the address into your browser of click on this link). We’ll introduce a word into the search field like we used to do (but it’s the last time we’ll use this approach, ever). Let’s do a search for the word “translator”.


Ok, so here we go. That’s worked alright. Now, delete the word “translator” from the search bar, and what you get is an empty search field. Right-click into the space and choose “create search”. In the next step, you can change the name of the search engine, and I would recommend that you choose something simple which does not take up too much space on the screen and is easily identifiable: say, “LEO DE” (DE for German).


See what we did there? From now on, we can look up words in LEO by following these simple steps:

(1) Open Opera (or activate the window on the second screen if you are using the dual-monitor setup we talked about last time).

(2) Focus on the search bar by clicking into it or pressing ctrl+e

(3) Type your search terms

(4) After typing your search terms, use the DOWN arrow to chose your search engine/dictionary/terminology database previously added to the search box.

(5) You can re-search using a different search engine/etc. just by picking a different option in the search bar’s drop-down list.

You can add multiple, unlimited research sites by repeating the procedure detailed above (click “create search” to add search engine. Include ALL your favorite lookup sites until you end up with something like this:


Suddenly, terminology lookup got a lot easier, didn’t it?

Which web browser do you prefer for your translation research? Have you got your search field stuffed with different dictionaries? Of do you still have ten big fat physical dictionaries lying on your desk? Sound off in the comments.

  1. oliverlawrence said:

    Isn’t that rather a lot of scrolling through the drop-down list? Have you compared your approach with using IntelliWebSearch, to see which is faster?

  2. Hi Oliver, funnily enough I’d never heard of IntelliWebSearch before. I just downloaded it to see what it does. I haven’t worked with it yet in an actual translation so I can’t really compare it right now to what I do, but it sure seems useful. Would you like to write a short guest post about IntelliWebSearch to help our readers use it maybe?

  3. oliverlawrence said:

    Hi, David Turnbull at Legally Speaking translations has already blogged about IWS.
    Best regards.

  4. Hi, thanks, any chance you can find the article for me? I did a web search but it did not come up with the article you mentioned. It would be nice to be able to point our readers in the right direction. Has anyone else used IntelliWeb Search?

  5. Rolf Keller said:

    You want to search several Websites plus several local dictionaries simultaneously? With a single click or keystroke? With several predefined configurations? With the possibility to extract the term to be searched automatically from a document you are just working in? Try the Multifultor freeware, then. Version now available.

  6. Hi, many thanks, Rolf, do give us a link please so everyone can check it out easily.

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