Business Tools Update


Happy mid-year! Have you checked in with yourself lately to see how you are doing with meeting your annual goals? I just started my paralegal training this week, so that’s one thing checked off my list.

A goal I didn’t write down is to streamline my billing and accounting system. Software packages like QuickBooks or Quicken are too expensive and complicated for my business type.  I do everything in homemade Excel spreadsheets right now, which I love, but I know they can be improved upon. And guess what? Someone has already done that! A colleague sent me a link to Simple Planner. It has everything I was looking for – income and expense calculators in the same Excel file, plus an invoice generator. It may even motivate me to calculate my profit and loss statements. I won’t be changing my system mid-year, but this is definitely going on my list of year-end buys (especially since this tip comes from someone I trust; I promise we are not in the pockets of this company). Check it out here.

[Bonus tip: Apparently, most banks let you download your transaction statements as Excel files. So instead of doing all your bookkeeping data entry by hand, you can copy/paste or link it all up!]

If marketing is your focus this year, BufferApp is another great tool to try. (Again, I am not compensated in any way for sharing this information with you.) I have been paying the nominal fee for their Awesome Plan for a couple years, no regrets. I love being able to schedule updates for events and holidays in advance, and spread out the news I read (usually in one big go on a Sunday) and share so I’m not just dumping everything on my followers at once. But it gets better: BufferApp recently added a feature that lets you sign up for RSS feeds for blogs, newspapers, magazines, etc., right in the scheduling app. So now, instead of going to my RSS feed to catch up on news, then switching to the app to post articles of interest, I can do it all in the same place. Isn’t everything better when it’s streamlined? Check out their plans here (they have a free version, too).

What goals have you checked off your list this year? What tools are you using to meet them? Please share your favorites below!


Proofreaders’ marks

Thanks to everyone who participated in today’s webinar with the ATA! It was fun leading you through the creation of a proofreading system. I’ll be following up on some questions that came up afterwards over the next few days.

One participant asked, “Where can we download or get the proofreaders’ marks?” That’s an easy one, so here you go:

And a similar version from the Chicago Manual of Style:

Chicago Manual of Style proofreaders' marksHappy translating (and proofreading)!

Corpus linguistics research tool

I’ve been talking quite a bit about ABBYY FineReader this month, but today let’s look at something completely different.

cartoon ant

AntConc is “a freeware concordance program for Windows, Macintosh OS X, and Linux.” Which means that it is a free software tool you can download to pretty much any computer to explore words in context. It was created by Laurence Anthony of Waseda University for corpus-based research.

Tutorials for how to use this software are available on YouTube and elsewhere. Scroll down this page for a long list and take your pick. We’ve been using this program in the FutureLearn Corpus Linguistics course. As someone who had almost no experience with either corpus linguistics or the tool in advance of this class, I can tell you, it is simple to use if you just watch the tutorials.

This glossary I shared earlier might be useful for deciphering some of the tricks it can do. Basically, you can use AntConc to analyze word use within a body of texts according to:

  • frequency of a word;
  • frequency of the words that are used in connection to a certain word; and
  • patterns of use of certain phrases.

In its most basic application, you can use AntConc as a monolingual, context-based dictionary of sorts (much like many translators use the bilingual website Simply search for a single word and see how it was used by other authors. Take it one step further, and language teachers have an easy way to get real-life examples of word usage for demonstration to their students (or test creation). One more step further, and you can turn your body of work into plaintext files and find out, objectively, what topics you translate most often. And so on!

Click here to download AntConc to your computer and begin exploring your languages.

The basics of OCR with ABBYY

In case you missed the live event yesterday in Sacramento, I pre-recorded one of my practice runs for you.

This video gives you the very basics of setting up and using ABBYY FineReader Pro in your translation workflow. I demonstrated the Mac version of the software, but there’s a version available for PC users, too.

We’re planning on doing a couple more live events (with recordings) like this to explain the more intermediate-level functions of the tool—so send me your questions!

Happy translating,


An afternoon with ABBYY, Feb. 18, in Sacramento

ABBYYpackageTranslators and interpreters are invited to a special Sacramento coffee hour at Hacker Lab on Tuesday, February 18, from 3:30–5:00pm. This is part of the new series of regional events within the Northern California Translators Association.

My review of ABBYY FineReader was recently featured on the ABBYY website, and I will be giving a short presentation on how I use the OCR tool in my translation workflow. All attendees will receive a discount code for the software and be eligible to win one free downloadable copy of FineReader Pro (for Mac or PC), valued at up to $169.99.

I will be posting a pre-recorded version of the presentation shortly after the event, so don’t worry if you’re too far to attend in person! Sign up for my newsletter if you’re interested in the discount codes; they’ll be valid February 17–27 only.

A representative from ABBYY will be available to answer your questions and hear your feedback about the product. Snacks, drinks, and meeting space provided courtesy of Monica Nainsztein, CEO of SpanishOne Translations.RSVP to me at by February 15th. Space is limited!

Event Details
Date: February 18, 2014
Time: 3:30–5:00pm
Location: Hacker Lab, 1715 I St., Sacramento, CA 95811

Corpus linguistics glossary (English only)

CASS logo

The ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS) has published an English-language glossary of terms related to corpus linguistics. For translators working with this subject matter, it can serve as a mini-dictionary. For everyone else, reading through these key terms should offer a great introduction to the research method.

You can access the glossary as a PDF here. To learn more about corpus linguistics, CASS has several other briefings available online here.

I learned about CASS by taking Tony McEnery’s Future Learn MOOC on corpus linguistics. Another option is to sign up for the 2-part webinar series offered by the Northern California Translators Association. Anyone looking to compile a glossary of terms based on real usage, or to provide real-life examples of language use for students, can benefit from this technique.

Do you use social science to back up your language intuition? How do you conduct terminology research?

A review of the ABBYY Pro upgrade for Mac

ABBYY FineReader recently introduced an upgrade for Mac users. We now have a Pro version of the OCR software. Hooray!

ABBYY FineReader Pro for MacThis upgrade is a fantastic improvement to optical character recognition for Mac users. The Pro version reads files much better than the Express version did—and I liked the Express version. I recently did a rush job on some heavily formatted personal documents using Express. I ran the same four documents through Pro and was blown away by the results.

My favorite improvement by far has to be the option to convert to not only .DOC format, but also ODT, RTF, HTML, CSV, and a few other choices. Because I can now convert directly to ODT files, I save a major step in my standard workflow for heavily formatted documents. Instead of running them through ABBYY, opening them in NeoOffice, saving as an ODT, and then putting them into OmegaT, I can go directly from ABBYY to my CAT tool. Major win!

Another plus in the Pro version of this OCR tool is that you have four options for how you save your files: you can save your scanned output as a single file, a set of files (one for each page in the original), one file per source file, or a set of files separated at each blank page that appears in your source. This is great, because often my clients send me personal documents, like driver’s licenses, that have a front and a back, which they scan and save as individual files. I like to scan them as one large file to save time during the OCR stage—but then I would have to separate them out again when I’m done. With this improvement to ABBYY, I can benefit from the time-saving workflow I’m used to, but also save time during the finalization of a project by not having to manually separate files for my client. Hallelujah!

As far as actually reading the text goes, I noticed a major improvement in how the Pro version of ABBYY reads tables. Express read the table fine, but decided to lump some rows together according to a set of rules I could not figure out. It wasn’t difficult to separate the smooshed-together rows, but it was annoying. Pro read all of the rows separately, and displayed them that way. No muss, no fuss.

ABBYY FineReader Pro icon

One of the upgrades that didn’t work quite as well for me was the option to leave out images when saving the scanned file. I would love to use this for documents like transcripts and diplomas, since clients don’t like to see stamps and seals reproduced literally for the translation. Even though I selected this option, images still showed up in my scanned file. Unlike the image output using the express version, however, I was very quickly and easily able to delete the images from my converted document. So, still a step up.

Now, obviously, with increased functionality, this software upgrade is not nearly as intuitive to use as the simpler express version. You have to read your options a little more carefully and maybe even use the help/search feature to get started with the more advanced upgrades.

You might also have to take a little more time massaging your output before you can save a usable file. On my first pass of these test documents using the auto-recognition setting, I ended up with three blank pages and one page with text output inferior to what the express version produced. After less than one minute taking advantage of the Pro image editing features, however, I was able to create a document whose quality surpassed the results from the express software.

The Pro version doesn’t improve every detail. In my transcript table, the Pro version and the express version both messed up a column of data that was blank except for a heading. Both versions of the software lumped the relatively blank column in with the next column. It was a pretty simple fix, but one I wish I still didn’t have to make.

[I know some of you have dismissed ABBYY in the past for those “dreaded” boxes that show up in its output. I’m sorry to say they’re still here—though they are more accurately placed. If you really need to get rid of them from your final file, I recommend cutting the text out, pasting it somewhere else for a second, and selecting the box as an object. It should be easy to delete that box and then rearrange the text in its proper place.]

I’m very happy to see such a professional piece of software for Mac users. It’s a tool I already use regularly to speed up the formatting time for documents, and now I expect that formatting time to drop even more. If you don’t already incorporate an OCR tool in at least some of your translation projects, I strongly encourage you to try ABBYY. It really is a huge time-saver.

What’s your opinion of Google’s Nexus 7?

My current laptop is 7 years old, a bit wheezy, and kinda clunky for quick email checks while out of the office. For the new year, I’ve been considering getting a tablet computer. They’re lighter, smaller, and seem just as capable as a laptop at keeping me in touch with my clients while I’m running errands.

Google Winter Wonderlab

Lucky for me, Google has a Winter Wonderlab set up the next town over, right where I host my translator coffee chats. So, last week, after our time was up, I strolled on down to get a closer look at the Nexus 7. Maybe you’ve heard of it? This is Google’s own, Android-based tablet computer. It works just like a smartphone, except you can choose to use it with Wifi only—and thus avoid paying for a monthly data plan.

The direct connection to my email account, Google Drive, and Hangout is the most attractive feature to me as a businessperson. Typing on tablets and touch screens drives me nuts, so I’d be thrilled to skip login screens. One quick tap and I can see my emails? Yes, please! That would have come in major handy at the ATA conference, not to mention all the in-person events I’ve got planned for the coming year.

Google Nexus 7 tablet

I spent a good half hour playing around with this tablet at the mall. It’s pretty easy to navigate and has a lot of useful business features, including a word processing app compatible with Word. Two taps and you’re reading email, looking up directions, or video chatting with a client. It’s solid enough that I wouldn’t worry about breaking it in my conference bag. (In fact, the guy that helped me said it was designed with dudes in mind—just the right size for throwing in your back pocket, and sturdy enough to withstand you forgetting it’s there when you sit down.) What’s not to like?

I was a total skeptic going in to the Wonderlab, and now I’m fairly certain I’m going to buy the Nexus 7. But first, what do you think? If you own one already, how does it work for you? If you’re a tablet user, how has it helped you?