5 Lesser-Known Free Online Tools for Translators Hidden in plain sight

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When I just started translating fifteen years ago, I had my desk cluttered with all kinds of dictionaries, textbooks and handwritten notes from university lectures. Today, translators have all the world’s knowledge within arm’s reach — but not all of it is visible at first sight. Here are five of them that are not that famous but should be in every translator’s toolbox.

Via the SmartCAT blog


Something halfway between a dictionary and a translation memory database, Linguee processes a huge amount of bilingual content, extracting and highlighting translations for the words and terms you are looking for. Although some usage examples contain obvious blunders, most of them come from reliable sources such as United Nations documents and can be trusted.

New Oxford American Dictionary via Google

A somewhat hidden feature of Google is that when you make a search for “define [something]“, the engine automatically looks for matches in the New Oxford American Dictionary, arguably the most state-of-the-art dictionary out there. (Note: you should be using Google in English to do this.) It also puts a cherry on top by listing synonyms, showing the word origin in a nice and legible form, and plotting the word’s usage over time based on Google Ngrams (see below).

Google Books Ngram Viewer

If you ever find yourself stuck between several ways of writing a phrase or unable to choose between different options to translate a term, the Ngram Viewer is your best friend. Based on the complete analysis of all Google books, it builds configurable usage charts for words and phrases (up to 5 words long). It also provides a number of research tools by allowing you to use wildcards to e.g. distinguish between different parts of speech.


Unless you are translating just for fun, time tracking is a must. It is the only way you can convert your per-word rate into hourly earnings and thus have a firm understanding of and control over the prices you offer to your customers. Having tried a multitude of time tracking apps, I found Toggl to be exactly what a translator needs. It is powerful enough to be able to manage multiple clients and projects, but not so powerful that you spend more time tracking time than working.


Finally, a piece of software whose development I’m proud to have a hand in. Despite being a SmartCAT employee, I believe I’m qualified to post this here, as for one year before joining the team I had been extensively using SmartCAT in my translation practice. From being completely free to having a multitude of built-in CAT features (translation memories, glossaries, multi-stage execution, quality assurance, you name it) to providing an open marketplace of translators, SmartCAT is the IKEA among CAT tools, covering 90% of my translation workflow.

That was my list of “hidden in plain sight” tools I use for translation. What about you? Do you have some secret knowledge to share?

Vova Zakharov

About Vladimir Zakharov

Hey, I’m back from my slumber! Now giving my best shot at running Gyglio ⚜️ Grows you global. I know a bit about running a translation business and will try sharing some of it here.

5 thoughts on “5 Lesser-Known Free Online Tools for Translators Hidden in plain sight

  1. Haha! Nice self-plug there, Vladimir! But I allow it. 🙂 How are things with Smart CAT these days? I saw you guys got new investors, right?

    I also wonder what’s your take on the super low prices that your platform offers. I saw a Facebook post among my Russian colleagues with an automated message from Smart CAT offering a remuneration of 0.002 USD per word. Any plans of filtering such offers out? Otherwise scaling will be quite a challenge (many translators are offended but such prices, hence the platform might risk loosing all the credibility).

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    1. Thanks, Dmitry — it’s my honest (pre-employment) opinion 🙂 We’re doing great, and the new investors will let us be completely independent in our strategy from ABBYY LS, which of course is a good thing.

      Regarding the low prices, this needs a lot of education and repeated explanations to be cleared out, but in general:

      – Customers invite freelancers at the rates set _by these freelancers_ in their profiles. Many for some reason have set their rates erroneously (to 0.002 USD/word or otherwise) and still get offended when such offers come. Every now and them I send out mailings trying to clarify whether people are really willing to work at such rates or is it just a mistake.

      – Many users really do set rates as low as above-mentioned (though usually at least a bit higher). I tried talking to those translators, and the main reason they mention is one of the three:
      1. “I want to get some customer orders before I increase my rate”
      2. “I am a student and want to get some free experience before I increase my rate”
      3. “I am retired and don’t really care about rates, I just want to translate what’s interesting for me”
      To me, all three explanations seem pretty legit, and I don’t see how we can deny them this right.

      – Finally, we are a platform not an agency — all communications and invitations are done directly between the translator and the customer (though we act as a medium to streamline their interaction) — so it is impossible for us to monitor every project invitation. Also, we believe that customers do understand that they won’t get the same for 0.002, 0.02, or 0.2 USD per word. It’s up to them to choose quality versus price.

      Finally, note that all translators on the platform are real people under their real names. So, unlike some other platforms, where one can dump the prices shamelessly without the fear of being identified, here translators do understand that if they set a low price, they will have to explain that on their own behalf, if someone ever asks.

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  2. “Customers invite freelancers at the rates set _by these freelancers_ in their profiles.” – that’s very smart, I didn’t know that, although the screenshot that I’ve seen make it sound like it’s a platform inviting a freelancer to view this job and not an invitation from the actual client. I actually found that post on Facebook and it seems like the rate there was 0.004 and not 0.002, but still 🙂

    Here’s a link if you’re curious: link to facebook.com

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    1. We definitely have to change to communication to stop it sounding like SmartCAT is making those calls 🙁

      A good comparison is: if someone sends you an inappropriate message via Facebook, you will receive a notification from Facebook’s address. Still, you probably wouldn’t blame Facebook for this.

      Thanks for the link — I’ll try to clarify the situation for those involved in that exchange.

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      1. “A good comparison is: if someone sends you an inappropriate message via Facebook, you will receive a notification from Facebook’s address. Still, you probably wouldn’t blame Facebook for this.” – yes, but here’s a thing which is based on my experience of running a community-based platform. People look up to you and hope that you will protect their rights and interests. At least this is how it works in our industry. You see, too many platforms ended up serving the industry, ignoring the interests of translators. If Smart CAT wants to be on our good side, you need to show that you care about translators. And this can only be done by fighting for our rights and advocating for higher rates and better business practices.

        People have very high expectations when it comes to communities and platforms (because there were too many bad apples). But finding a balance between serving the industry (and making money) and serving the translator is a very difficult thing and I haven’t seen platforms yet who could do this very well, the vast majority of them ends up on the “dark side” (industry side) and treats translators like they’re not people but rather a tool that serves the industry and helps it make money.

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