A Beginner’s Guide to CAT Tools

CAT tools

A Beginner’s Guide to CAT Tools

What on earth is a CAT tool? Hopefully you weren’t picturing a cat hard at work! CAT tools are software that  professional translators use to help them translate. Cats not included! This type of software is designed to make translation quicker, easier, and more consistent. Translation companies use CAT tool features like translation memories and termbases to further increase efficiency. This article is a beginner’s guide to CAT tools.


What Is a CAT Tool?

CAT stands for computer-assisted translation. A CAT tool is a software that helps make translation more efficient. What is the computer assisting you with? Great question! A CAT tool saves data from previous translations in a translation memory, also called a TM. The software suggests possible translations based off of your previous ones. Many documents are similar or repeat so a TM saves a lot of time. In addition to suggesting translations, CAT tools can help with reviewing a document by automating parts of review. For example, in some software you can set rules so that the CAT tool marks sections for review as you go.

There are many different CAT tools on the market. Some are very simple, like WordFast. Others are more complex, like SDL Trados Studio. The type of tool the linguist uses depends on how often they translate, what they are translating, and who they translate for. For example, if a person is translating 12 hours a day, 7 days a week they will want a CAT tool with a lot of timesaving features and good review functionality. If someone is only translating a few times a week, a simple CAT tool that records their translation will suffice.


The Biggest 3 Reasons to Use CAT Tools

Like we said earlier, there are many reasons to use CAT tools. Here are the three biggest ones.

CAT tools make translation faster

The number one reason to use a CAT tool is to make translation faster. Suggestions from translation memories and other documents in a project greatly increase the speed of translation. Translators have to translate less from scratch. In addition, the way that CAT tools are set up allows for faster translation. Most CAT tools use a split screen to show the source on one side and the translation on the other. Translators can upload dictionaries and glossaries. With a CAT tool a translator doesn’t need to flip between pages or tabs in a computer.

CAT tools increase consistency

Remember the translation memory the CAT tool creates? The TM stores word choices each time a document is translated. When a translator works for the same client multiple times the TM can help them to choose the same word they used last time. This is especially important for the technology, legal, and marketing sectors. In addition, CAT tools allow translators to upload glossaries and termbases (TBs). These glossaries and TBs can be made by the client and help the linguist when choosing a translation of a certain word or phrase.

CAT tools save translators and clients money

You know the old saying, time is money. This is very true in translation. The more words a translator can translate, the more money they can make. For a client, the more words the translator gets from the translation memory the less money they spend. Both translators and clients benefit from the time-saving processes in CAT tools.

Some Other Reasons to Use CAT Tools:

  • CAT tools increase production capabilities
  • CAT tools can translate almost any file type
  • Editing and proofreading are streamlined in a CAT tool
  • Many CAT tools have online and cloud-based capabilities
  • CAT tools can translate in almost any language
  • Project management is easier with CAT tools

People around the world use CAT tools. As long as you have access to the internet to download the software, you can use a CAT tool. It may surprise you to learn that translators aren’t the only people who use CAT tools. Professional editors, proofreaders and post editors all use CAT tools. Plus, project managers, terminology experts, engineers, and language department heads all use CAT tools. Anyone who wants to store their translations easily should use a CAT tool.


At Acutrans, we use the latest CAT tools available. We believe that technology helps, not hurts translation. All our clients see year over year savings thanks to their translation memories and glossaries. We leverage our CAT tools so our clients can save! For more information about our translation process, including CAT tools visit our website.