The short guide to CAT tools

Essential for many translators, there are many CAT tools (Computer Aided Translation), each with different features. And for good reason: “The perfect CAT tool” simply doesn’t exist! Each translator has his or her own needs and working habits. That’s why there’s a plethora of programs on offer. Here’s a small list to get you started with CAT tools 🙂


Why should I use a CAT tool?

Pc and tablet on garden table outside

We’ve already spoken about CAT tools and their advantages on this blog, but here’s a reminder of why they’re useful.

To start with, it’s not just translators who are interested in CAT tools! More and more clients will ask for the translation memories associated with their projects to be sent to them, as they’ll allow savings to be made on future orders. And of course, translation memory is often synonymous with CAT tool (creating and managing the former).

As with any good work tool, although you’ll need some time to adapt at first, it can quickly become a way to save a lot of time (and therefore money) by increasing your productivity once you master it.


How to find my CAT tool?

First of all, it has to be said that, despite their strengths, CAT tools may not be as useful to all translators. Indeed, some types of translation, such as literary translation, require the translator to be especially creative. The result is that the translator will find the translation memory generated by the CAT tool less useful than if they were translating a technical document, which by its nature, will result in many more relevant matches.
Moreover, rest assured: the software is only a tool and will not tarnish your creativity and inventiveness, as you’re always in control of the final result.

Scène Harry Potter choisit sa baguette magique

You’ve decided to choose and learn to use a CAT tool? Above all, the golden rule is to try out the software that interests you. As such, most of them offer a free trial period (usually up to one month), sometimes with limited features. Trying it out over several weeks (ideally the whole trial period offered by the publisher) is a good way to find out whether you become more efficient, and therefore save time.
Once you’ve chosen your tool, the cost of the licence can prove problematic (especially for the most expensive software like Trados). Luckily, there are some interesting solutions, such as free software (detailed below), and group purchases (in this case via ProZ).


Fee-based CAT tools

Investing in a fee-based licence can completely change the way you work, as they have abundant features that you’ll use every day (and which you’ll quickly find you can’t do without). Some of these tools are designed to be potentially used with other products from the same publisher with more advanced features. Here’s our selection of safe bets on the market:


SDL Trados Studio/SDLX

This is the world leader in CAT tools. SDLX and SDL Trados Studio have now been combined (SDLX was a module for older versions of the software). Trados Studio is an extremely comprehensive and well-designed software suite (used, not surprisingly, by many translators and agencies).

30-day trial period | Publisher’s website


Compatible with many formats (Office, Indesign, frameMaker, RESX and others), this is a comprehensive software environment designed for both freelance translators and the biggest companies. In addition to managing translation memories, it also has several project management features.

One month unlimited trial period | Publisher’s website

Wordfast (Classic & Pro)

[Watch out! As the editor’s website explains, Wordfast Classic and Wordfast Professional are very different. The Professional version is more comprehensive, more expensive and more difficult to master than the Classic version.]

Wordfast Classic remains one of the cheapest fee-based software options on the market, and is particularly easy to master. It handles all Office files very well, and also runs on Mac.
You can produce memories and glossaries, and it’s compatible with Trados, which can be particularly useful. This publisher has a “try before you buy” policy which requires you to use the trial version (with few limits) before you buy 😉

Free demo (with few limits) | Publisher’s website

Déjà Vu

Another very comprehensive solution, including advanced project management features. Déjà Vu integrates memory management, with a good hint of machine learning to increase the translator’s productivity. This tool has significantly evolved, and provides a unique user experience.

There is a Free version (mainly to work with a team that already uses the suite) | Publisher’s website


Although it’s not used as much by translators, this is a fairly comprehensive tool that has a space that each participant of a project will find useful. Of course, this tool allows you to create and manage memories and terminology databases, align documents, and convert Trados, Transit and Déjà Vu memories.

There’s a free version for students! | Publisher’s website

CafeTran Espresso

Yes, we’re talking about a CAT tool! A tool with a unique interface, which you’ll either love or hate. It allows you to manage translation memories, glossaries and synchronise terminology research on the Internet. Translation without sources is also possible thanks to a semi auto-complete feature. Designed for professional freelance translators, agencies will also find its memory server feature particularly useful.

Free version without a time limit, but with restrictions on the size of translation memory and glossary | Publisher’s website


Free CAT tools

homme protégeant sa tirelire cochon rose avec ses mainsWe’ve also spared a thought for students and young translators!
Here are some free options that are mainly based on solid features rather than user comfort.
Don’t forget that when we talk about open source, there’s often a community of active users that can help you when you’re starting out.


An open source software from Lionbridge, it’s starting to age a little bit but is still a decent free solution. It has a translation environment that manages memories, terminology and the context of a translation. It allows you to add native support for new file formats, and has a project management feature.

Free (Open Source) | Download here


Without a doubt, this is the most widely-known open source CAT tool. It runs on both Windows and Mac. It handles many formats, including openoffice, staroffice and unicode (making it able to adapt to non-Latin alphabets). Among other features, you can use several translation memories at the same time, in addition to having glossaries and a large community of users to help you 😉

Free (Open Source) | Publisher’s website

Similis (connection required)

Free for students and freelance translators, this tool allows you translate Word documents while connected to a Similis server. This connected system manages projects, memories and glossaries, as well as aligning and pre-translating documents.
You must be connected, as the server stores all this data. Last but not least, Similis recognizes and handles the vast majority of memory formats available today.

Free for students and freelance translators | Publisher’s website

Wordfast Anywhere (connection required)

Also completely free, the connected Wordfast solution could be an interesting solution for your work. Of course, it includes a private, unlimited translation memory and terminology management – all completely confidential. It also has optional features: automatic translation and public memory.

Free | Publisher’s website


This brings us to the end of our short guide to CAT tools! We hope you’ve found it useful, and that it will help you to choose and start to use the software that suits you best. We emphasize that it’s extremely important to take the time to try out the options, as they can change the way you translate for the better.
Finally, please note that all of these solutions will allow you to produce and manage translation memories, which will make your profile more visible on our platform (feel free to read our FAQs for more details on this).


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