A word processor or office suite is now the chief tool of almost all translators, and I'll take the liberty of assuming that any of my colleagues reading this will be using one. A word processor serves two purposes: it provides a means of text input and retrieval, and it defines the format in which the text is exchanged with other parties. A number of word processing applications are available for Linux, including several with functionality which would no doubt meet the needs of the most demanding translator. These are the applications listed below.
Apologists for the Linux cause are inclined to discuss these applications on their respective merits of their functionality. From a translator's point of view, that is unhelpful, to say the least. Most translators, particularly those of us working freelance, receive work from customers in a particular file format, the most common being Microsoft Word. Our customers in turn expect to receive the translated file in the same format and with the formatting preserved. As customers are unlikely to be persuaded to change their favoured file format to suit the whim of their translator supplier, any word processing application used by a translator needs to be assessed in terms not simply of its functionality, ease of use, etc., but also in terms of its ability to handle, i.e. preserve, the formatting of file formats currently in widespread use, notably Microsoft Word. This aspect is sufficiently important to translators as to outweigh all other considerations, at least for translators working into European languages.
I will say from the outset that MS Word is not needed in order to produce a file in MS Word format, or to edit an existing MS Word file. Any mature word processing application should include filters which fulfill these functions. The question is simply how well these filters perform.
The other aspect of particular interest to translators is the foreign-language support offered by the word processor. There are several aspects to be considered here, notably:
- the language of the user interface;
- the available proofing tools;
- the ease with which alternative fonts can be installed;
- support for non-European alphabets.
As far as proofing tools are concerned, the absence of a spellchecker in your particular language, for example, shouldn't be a criterion for rejection of a particular word processor, as the use of external spellcheckers such as ispell may be an alternative.
For information on specific office suites and word processors, select from the menu on the left.