Hardware tools for translators

When we think about translation tools, our first thought usually goes towards the software side of things: indeed, many translators cannot work properly without their trusty CAT (Computer-assisted translation) tool(s), but one less-talked about topic is the hardware that can simplify your job on a daily basis, especially if you’re working in games.

If you’d like to know more about software apps for translators, I recommend this great article from localization.it (thanks, Alain Dellepiane!)

Here are some of the tools that I use to increase my productivity:


Multi-button mouse

Admittedly, I purchased a multi-button mouse primarily for gaming, but it turns out that it’s also surprisingly convenient for a wide range of other applications, including CATs. Here’s an example of the functions I mapped on my Razer Hex mouse onto my memoQ profile:

Of course, you can create an infinite amount of profiles that automatically link to whichever program is running in the foreground. Pretty nifty!

Many translators will tell you, and rightly so, that the more time you spend with your hands on your keyboard, the more productive you are. However, when you factor in the fact that you will also use your mouse a lot to go back-and-forth on your browser tabs, email clients, internal dictionaries, etc., it’s always useful to have several options accessible at the press of a button (and fewer shortcuts to remember down the line).


Elgato Streamdeck

When I first got introduced to this device by my husband, who’s a media designer/video producer, I was amazed at the myriad of possibilities it offered: scripted actions, opening several programs at once, simulating shortcuts, control other options such as audio volume or Spotify playlists… the list goes on.

Comes in 3 sizes: mini (6 buttons), regular (15 buttons) and XL (32 buttons)

I’ve only recently started diving into “advanced” scripting through AutoHotKey (and I intend to write a full article about that later), but in the meantime, here are some macros I made for memoQ using multi-actions:

Example 1: Select & confirm all segments

System Hotkey: CTRL + SHIFT + A
Delay: 500 ms
System Hotkey: CTRL + ENTER

Quick and dirty. Can you do the same thing quickly with a regular keyboard? Absolutely. But what can I say… I like my dedicated buttons.

Example 2: Dictionary search

System Hotkey: CTRL + C
System Website: Open Reverso/Linguee/Wordreference
Delay: 1.000 ms
System Hotkey: CTRL + V
System Hotkey: Return

I use a lot of different terminology/dictionary websites, and having to constantly copy/paste words has become a huge strain on my wrists and fingers. Using this macro, I can design a “custom search” for whichever term I currently have highlighted. I consider this to be a bit “bootleg” because you still have to do a lot of alt-tabbing, and it’s not 100% consistent, but that’s always better than doing it manually.

Example 3: Auto-capitalization

I work with lots of texts that are entirely capitalized (comic strips). If any of you has ever tried to type thousands of words exclusively in capitals, you’ll know that it can quickly become a nightmare: in French, for example, every single accented capital is an alt-code. At first, I used the Streamdeck as a “second keyboard” exclusively for those letters, but I ended up wasting more time moving my hands from the keyboard to the deck, so I quickly scrapped that idea.

As some of you may know, memoQ has a function to capitalize every segment in any way you want (more on that here), but that requires a long sequence of actions. Therefore, I automated it as such in a single button:

System Hotkey: CTRL + A
System Hotkey: SHIFT + F3
Delay: 300 ms
System Hotkey: UP
System Hotkey: UP
System Hotkey: Return

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to capitalize all the segments within a file (I’ve actually sent a request to Kilgray support about it) so this will have to do. More recently, I have programmed a new script that will loop this sequence over a specific amount of segments through an AHK script, but that’s a story for another time.

Do you already have a Streamdeck and want to easily import those macros? You’re in luck! Here’s a link to my memoQ Streamdeck profile. Just double-click on it and the profile will automatically be added. Make sure you are using memoQ’s standard key bindings.

These examples are just scraping the surface of what’s actually possible with the Streamdeck, and it’s been one of the best hardware purchases I’ve made recently!


Miscellaneous

Here are just some of the other pieces of hardware that can help improve your workflow:

Multi-monitor setup:

Living the dream. (Credit: Reddit)

I cannot overstate how much of an improvement this is, not just for my work, but also in my day-to-day life: being able to multitask and have all of my programs/dictionaries/web searches accessible at a glance is a godsend. I especially notice the difference when working on the go with my laptop. Seriously, if you haven’t already, try it out!

My own setup includes an ultrawide monitor (LG 38UC99) for my main workspace and a cheap 24” Acer for all my other programs (Discord, Spotify, Outlook, etc.). I understand that’s a bit of an overkill… but since my main hobby is gaming, it’s like killing two ducks with one stone.

Ergonomic keyboard:

This goes without saying, but a keyboard is a translator’s most trusted companion. If you have a limited budget and can only choose one piece of hardware to invest in, let that be a comfortable, ergonomic keyboard. Your hands and wrists are your most important assets and they deserve to be treated well.

All good things in life come in RGB.

There are a plethora of options on the market and I’m no keyboard expert, but I would recommend a mechanical keyboard with switches adapted to your typing style/noise tolerance as well as a resting cushion for your wrists (as well as a cushion for your mouse). My personal choice is the Razer Ornata, although I’ve been itching to get a “true” mechanical keyboard for a couple of months!

As far as mechanical keyboards are concerned, one of my colleagues swears by the Ducky Shine, and another colleague told me that he prefers using wireless peripherals (mouse + keyboard) for a complete “clean desk” experience!

Noise-canceling headset:

I am the kind of person that cannot work without absolute silence. Even within my office, I am no stranger to noisy neighbors, demanding cats (the feline, not the tool), or even the occasional protest down the street. And since I’m wearing my headset for up to ten hours a day, it needs to be more than just average.

Many people out there agree that as far as noise cancellation is concerned, the Bose Quietcomfort series are some of the best headsets on the market, and I couldn’t agree more: with the QC function activated, there needs to be a LOT of noise for me to actually notice it. It’s just awesome. That being said, some people cannot stand cover-up style headsets, so make sure to try it for a couple of hours first, since it’s on the relative higher price-end for consumer headsets.

Very, very comfy.

That wraps up this hardware overview! Which tools do you use to improve your translation workflow or overall business efficiency? I’d love to hear more about it!

Comments

  1. Pawel

    The article is very nice, thank you for sharing it!

    I’m thinking about buying an ultrawide monitor of the same size as yours.

    Isn’t it, however… too big? My desk is 80 cm deep – do you think it’s enough?

    What does memoQ look and feel like on it?

    Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author
      Lucile Danilov

      Hi Pawel, thanks for reading!

      My desk (IKEA Bekannt) is about 70cm deep and it works perfectly fine, here’s a pic to give you a good idea of the overall setup – excuse the mess: https://imgur.com/5GzMQhJ

      MemoQ was clearly not designed for this kind of resolution, so I always use it at about half-width, and use the rest of the space for Concordance windows, messengers, etc. – I only use it in maximized mode when there’s segments that are so long they create their own window, which is not very often.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!

      Best,
      Lucile

  2. Pawel

    I have to choose between two monitors, a 27″ @ 1440 or 38″ ultrawide, similar to yours.

    As you wrote yourself, you don’t always use the whole screen, but only a part of it, e.g. with the memoQ mentioned above. Isn’t it distracting for you in such cases, a big screen glowing straight into your face? ; )

    Thanks!

    1. Post
      Author
      Lucile Danilov

      Actually, the “blank space” is there on purpose, as I often drag and drop files from my mail client and other applications on the second screen. Overall I’d recommend two monitors even if they’re not necessarily ultrawide, my own setup is clearly overkill and I’d work just as well with regular 27″ monitors 🙂

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