Translator Tools: Tick Tick and Natural Reader

I used to be very reluctant to try new tools for my business. My point of view was

I used to be very reluctant to try new tools for my business. My point of view was that I had my tools for translation, review, time tracking and management, as well as tried and tested processes. Everything worked smoothly. Or maybe I didn’t even have a tool for a given task but was perfectly happy to do it manually (or in Excel). So why bother trying new tools? Why waste time? I wanted to stay in my comfort zone, thank you very much.

However, some switch flipped in my mind when I gave Wunderlist a go last year (I have switched to Tick Tick since then). I now have a very different mindset: If so many of my colleagues praise a certain tool and say it revolutionized their work, it is worth trying—as long as it’s free or at least offers a free trial. What’s the worst that could happen? If I don’t like it, I can keep my current tools.

I will share with you a few tools which have my seal of approval. I use them regularly, some of them daily, and they do have a significant and positive impact on my productivity and on the quality of my translations. Why not give them a try yourself?


Tick Tick

I have always been fond of lists. When things are written on a list, I can forget about them temporarily and free brain space for other tasks. The thing is, my writing is awful! So awful that, now that I almost never write anything with a pen anymore, I sometimes can’t decipher what I have written myself.



It also happens that sticky notes and loose sheets of paper fly when there’s a draft or disappear in the land of hair ties and bottle caps when the cat finds them. Enters Tick Tick. Originally, I used Wunderlist, which I discovered in some top 10 of productivity apps. I switched to Tick Tick recently, when I discovered that Wunderlist has been bought by Microsoft and is probably going to be discontinued soon. Now Tick Tick rules my life to the point that I am constantly backing it up in case the company suddenly has to file for bankruptcy and ends the service. I use it in all aspects of my work and it replaced calendar apps for me. For my accounting, I have repeated reminders—send invoices on the last day of the month, file VAT returns every two months and so on—as well as a list of my current invoices with their due date which allows me to see straight away if I have to chase payments. I also track my current projects and related tasks—like sending questions to the client. I have repeated reminders to update my online portfolio and my online profiles, to back up my translation memories and term bases, as well as for all the maintenance or “work about work” tasks such as archiving old projects and running the antivirus. Thanks to all this, all sides of my business run smoothly, from client acquisition to marketing, invoicing and finance, work tracking, etc. On top of the web app that I use during my work day, I use the very user-friendly mobile app to jot down ideas on the go, for instance if I find a cool pun for my current translation or a new idea for a blog post. It’s possible to share links directly to Tick Tick as a new task, to remember to check them later.

Tick Tick

I also maintain several personal lists. In fact, I have more lists than is allowed in the free version—9 lists—so I paid for the premium membership. The price is very reasonable: USD 27.99, and the membership also gives me access to the calendar view, which is very useful and can be synchronized with Google Calendar. There are still a few things that could be improved, in my opinion. I would like to color code the tasks and to format the text, in order to visualize my tasks more quickly and efficiently. It’s only possible to color code the lists by adding a little stripe on the side and to add a priority to each task, which only changes the color of the checkboxes. It would also be very handy to display the subtasks under the tasks in the main pane. Right now it is possible to have folders for the categories, lists of tasks in these folders and subtasks within each task. Unfortunately, the subtasks are displayed only in the “Today” and “Next 7 Days” lists. Otherwise, they are hidden, which makes them useless.

Natural Reader

You know when you have been staring at a word for so long that it loses its meaning and looks completely alien? When you read the same thing again and again, your brain pays less and less attention. This is very problematic in the proofreading phase. Your brain sees a typo but doesn’t notice it because it has seen it so many times, it’s now part of the furniture. I sometimes copy my translation into MS Word and to change the font before proofreading. The visual change is a very efficient way of making the typos pop out. Recently in online professional groups, I have begun to see translators mentioning that they use text-to-speech (TTS) technology as a review tool. Of course, TTS is not suitable for all projects. A big file of UI strings for a telecom product, with its code, placeholders, and specialized jargon, doesn’t read as well as, say, the voice-over of a video game cinematic or the nice flow of a press release. For these more creative things, I can now listen to my text being read by a French robot lady called Alice, ready to jump on the keyboard at the first issue.

And then your hands are free for your latest knitting project

Typos are very easy to spot as either they form a string of characters that is not a word at all, in which case Alice stumbles on it and makes a strange noise, or they form a word that has nothing to do with the context, which makes her sound like an alien trying to communicate with humans. I tried a few online TTS services that all sounded exactly the same, except from one, which is one step above the others: the desktop version of Natural Reader. You paste your text into a blank page or upload a Word document and choose a voice. Only one French voice, Alice, is currently free, with the catch that there is a pop-up that pauses the text every few hundred words. The voice does sound quite natural, even if she is not at all enthusiastic about what she is reading. You can buy more voices, both male and female. Another cool use of TTS is catching up with the industry news when out and about. I save a lot of articles about games, game localization or translation in general in Pocket, and I do mean a lot. I probably have a few years’ worth of reading to do! With TTS, these articles are being read to me while I am going to the shops. I can’t use Natural Reader for this, though Pocket has an integrated TTS service.

However, while TTS can help to make a creative text more fluent and catchy, it cannot in any way replace a thorough proofreading, as so many grammatical issues don’t imply a change in pronunciation. For example, in French, the verbs ending in é-er (j’ai mangé, j’ai manger) or the adjective agreements (elle est déçue, elle est déçus) sound exactly the same. TTS is only a complement to proofreading, but it is a useful one. It is not suitable for all projects and doesn’t help to spot all kinds of issues, but it is a nice addition if time allows.

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