Free and Open Source Software for Translators

The translation community has long had a need for free and open source software: Translators are heavy users of computers, and consequently are expected to keep up with changes in computer software and hardware, which involves spending considerable amounts of money for software (in addition to reference works, etc.). This fact, taken together with the modest incomes earned by most translators, provides strong motivation to reduce the costs of software.

Many translators may not even be aware that an alternative has been available for over a decade: Linux. In its early days, Linux was not extremely user-friendly, and it developed a reputation (well-deserved at the time) of being suitable only for masochistic computer geeks, who might forgo drinking beer to "recompile the kernel" (although I can vouch for the fact that they are not mutually exclusive activities). Unfortunately, Linux has kept this reputation, even though it has become much more user-friendly.

Other obstacles have been compatibility with customers' computer systems, which are almost invariably proprietary desktop systems. By and large, these have been overcome. The only serious obstacle remaining is that most of the major vendors of translation tools are married to proprietary desktop systems. However, the limitations of these products and the emergence of Linux-based translation tools such as OmegaT and Wordfast leaves room for hope that these obstacles will be overcome in the near future.

So, what are we waiting for?

Go for it:

Read the presentation by Ms. Corinne McKay at the 46th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association (November 9-12, 2005 in in Seattle, Washington), which is a revised version of a presentation originally given at the 45th Annual Conference of the American Translators Association (October 13-16, 2004 in in Toronto, Canada)
Check out, a free office suite
Learn about Firefox, one of the best web browsers
Read what Red Hat has to say.
Explore related links provided by SuSE
Read what Tim O'Reilly  has to say.
Find out why the NSA chose Linux over Windows NT/2000
Read what Novell and Dell are doing.
Take the Linux tutorial
Read about free development tools for Linux
Learn about the Linux Journal, Linux Magazine, and Tux, "the first and only magazine for the new Linux user"
Already a Linux user? Stand up and be counted
Coming soon: How translators can try out Linux before taking the plunge.


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