WorldServer v. SDL TMS
Posted by Nick Peris on March 20, 2012
Paul Harrap (Enterprise Localization Consultant at SDL) said: “We’ve obviously got several products that fit the same broad product niche in the enterprise TMS space (…) and need to focus on one for future Sales and Marketing to avoid a confusing message to the marketplace. That is World Server.” more
Tim Lee (Director of Product Management at SDL) added: “(…) As the person responsible for product management of SDL TMS and SDL WorldServer, please let me start by confirming that SDL continues to be committed to both TMS and WorldServer with dedicated teams and roadmaps for each product respectively.” more
The overall message is that WorldServer is now the flagship product, but support and development will continue for both products until at least 2013. This may be seen as a change in direction compared to what was originally stated when SDL acquired Idiom in 2008, and the priority seemed to be given to TMS. However, SDL commits to a Service Pack 3 for TMS 2011 and at least one new major release, tentatively called SDL TMS 2013.
Giving priority to WorldServer is in my opinion the correct choice, but this still seems like a non-fully committed announcement, and we could easily see another adjustment by 2013 or later. Having first hand experience using and managing both applications, I want to take this opportunity to share with you what I think are the main strengths and weaknesses of each system, and why my personal preference goes to WorldServer.
WorldServer is the clear winner in this category. It has a very intuitive, flexible and powerful graphic workflow designer. TMS really only offers lists of entries to pick from, and I find the Workflow/Configuration distinction inefficient.
WorldServer workflows can go back and forth, but also loop and go through parallel Steps. It can skip Steps, or offer multiple transitions in and out of every Step. The transitions are represented as radio buttons when a user completes the Step. In TMS, one can only Submit a Task to the next Stage or Reject it back to the previous one.
You can also add your own custom Human Steps and Automatic Actions (through Java script imports) to WorldServer’s catalog (more about customisations in the next section). Even the Task History shown within projects is much clearer, with a graphic representation of the full workflow, with current Step visually highlighted, as well as a list of past Steps with owners, time stamps and global comments included.
This is another of WorldServer’s core strengths, thanks to the immense flexibility of its design. Custom automation can be created using the SDK and is relatively easy to add. Even easier are the “LSP pages”: jsp files dropped into the WorldServer installation folder structure let you add custom dashboards for project overview or even some batch processing (e.g. push all languages within a Project Group from a given Workflow Step through a predetermined transition)
User permissions in WorldServer can seem confusing at first, but once the Administrator gets familiar with them, the possibilities are limitless. Each users’ privileges are defined through a set of parameters. All of these are fully customisable, meaning that you can not only adjust their settings but also create entirely new categories.
- User Types define the general rights: project view or edit access, TM and TD read or write access, possibility to edit offline, import export etc.
- Workflow Roles: define who is assigned specific Steps in a Workflow, in conjunction with the Locales. This may be set for specific users or entire Workgroups.
- Workgroups list users of all types, locales and roles assigned to a Program, Customer or Project Type
- Project Types are presets used during project creation to automate the linking to TMs, TDs, Filter groups, Workgroups, Cost Models etc.
- Clients determine access to the Transport Portal for project submission or quote requests by third-party users.
All this potential for customisation can mean time-consuming setup. Thankfully by exporting and importing WorldServer Objects settings can easily be copied from a test to a production environment. Items can be backed up for recovery or roll-back, either in batches (e.g. all settings for a certain customer) or individually. For instance, you could export a whole workflow as an xml file, rename it and reimport it to quickly create a variant of it.
Filters are also much better in WorldServer than TMS. While in TMS Filters are SDLX-based and only some can be customised, in WorldServer they can be imported from a number of CAT tools (Trados ini, xsd, dtd, raw xml). All Filters can be edited from the WorldServer UI, they can be teamed up in Filter Groups and linked to Project types. WorldServer Projects use the out-of-the-box filters unless the Project Type is linked to a custom filter for the given File Type.
But WorldServer filters are not perfect in every way: I have experienced problems with certain rtf files, json files, even xlsx (in relation to repetitions) in WorldServer 2009. Still few tools can filter xml and resx files as precisely as WorldServer: the content of one tag can be set to be exposed to translation or not depending on the value of another tag’s attribute. There are even desktop CAT tools which can’t do that!
Here TMS has a few unique features that its users would probably miss if they migrated to WorldServer. For example, Project Managers can impersonate other users to check the content of their Inbox, or even submit Tasks on their behalf if they were unable to do so themselves. This is much faster than logging as those users every time. TMS also lets translators upload multiple deliveries within the same zip file. The version control is smart enough that you do not need to open the project for which you are submitting a delivery. Another interesting out-of-the-box feature of TMS is the QA Check which can be set to run automatically to prevent submission to the next Stage if for example there are untranslated segments or Terminology inconsistencies. The QA Check can be overridden by users if needed, but it is a useful automation.
Overall though, I find the .NET Framework-based UI is a lot more rigid and prone to screen freezes than WorldServer’s Browser-based UI. The latter is more friendly and requires less training and user support because it mostly works like any website. That said, it is also one of the downfalls of WorldServer: the browser support is not always keeping up, particularly with Firefox. Since browsers are often set to auto-update, this is a problem. Browser-specific issues can be difficult to troubleshoot. Getting a hotfix from SDL for them has proved impossible.
For linguists working online WorldServer’s Browser Workbench has an edge over the outdated TMS Translation interface. Again it benefits from being browser-based which makes it more intuitive and versatile. User support is much lighter with WorldServer than TMS.
Things are a little more complicated when it comes to working offline, which is the most common scenario. Both tools have removed support for TTX (i.e. Trados 2007) in their 2011 releases. This is part of the push for linguists to migrate to Trados Studio. TMS relies on ITD’s for work in SDLX which is also very outdated. Both tools support downloads for Trados Studio. Up until WorldServer 2009, the “free” tool Desktop Workbench was available and quite full-featured. In WorldServer 2011, it is only compatible with projects using legacy (i.e. Idiom) file Filters and not the new Studio File Types, which require Trados Studio. Even worse, Desktop Workbench is about to reach end-of-life. In short, whichever Workflow system you are using, SDL are actively pushing for linguists to use a version of Trados Studio, whether it is the full desktop tool, Studio Online for TMS or Studio Express for WorldServer 2011. None of these are free.
This is an area where I’ve always had concerns about TMS.
WorldServer still benefits from a more CAT Tool-agnostic approach dating from the IDIOM era. It can be used as a full-fledged Translation Memories and Terminology Repository and Portal. Through User Types and Workgroups, access to the Tools tab can be precisely managed. Users can view selected individual or Groups of Linguistic Assets, and the Administrator can easily turn Editing, Exporting, Importing, Purging, on and off for either Linguistic asset types. Term-based workflows can even be created so the Terminology approval process can be managed exactly like any other WorldServer Project.
For offline work, TMS relies on scheduled TM exports. These are usually weekly occurrences; exports are made available through a dedicated page in TMS, which unfortunately is quite difficult to search through when there are several pages of TMs. I observed and heard of several cases where the export stopped working, often after a Service Pack upgrade, so not only is this impractical it is also unreliable. By opposition WorldServer has none of these issues and all the solutions: any user with the right permissions can export and import a TM or TM Group at any time. TMX exports can also be scheduled to process automatically, as often as every 15 minutes if you so wish. I’ve only seen this process fail once, and I must admit it was my own fault…
TM sequencing can be setup in both systems. TMS is the only one to allow the updating of multiple TMs. But WorldServer has a more sophisticated leveraging algorithm, cycling through all the TMs in the Groups for each fuzzy band, including ICE (in-context) Matches and reverse leveraging.
IT and infrastructure
However WorldServer is immensely more scalable. The database architecture is well thought-out and individual components can be separated into clusters, which has advantages for troubleshooting and reliability.