Open Office: ‘Table to text’ and ‘Export as PDF’

I use Open Office as my word processor over Word most of the time because it has a few features which for me as a translator and a self-employed person are particularly useful. My favourite functions are:

  • Export to PDF: this makes documents look more professional, is more accessible (I always send Word files otherwise but not everyone has Word despite what Microsoft would have you think!)  and I know it will look the same on their computer as it does on mine. I have had my CV in PDF format for months but realised when writing this that I could and probably should send my invoices as PDFs too. It would mean they couldn’t be accidentally changed and there are less likely to be problems reading it.
  • Table to text: Word and Open Office both have “text to table” which is a great feature for creating bilingual tables if you aren’t going to work in a CAT tool – highlight the source text, convert to table and add a target text column to the right. However, only Oo has “table to text” which allows you to easily convert your bilingual table back to a monolingual target text – delete the source contents and its column then convert the target column “table to text”.

The other important feature is that it is fully compatible with Word files and you can save files to be compatible with various versions of Word. The only downside is I often end up with two versions of a file as I prefer to save as Oo files to start with.

Do you use any other helpful tools in Open Office or Word?

Note: I have since noticed the ‘table to text’ function in Word so some versions do seem to have it.


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Adobe Reader ‘save as text’ and Memoq LiveDocs

Yesterday I discovered two fantastic tools for translators:

‘Save as Text’ option in Adobe Reader found under the ‘File’ menu. It may not be ideal, the formatting is a little odd but it is perfectly sufficient for a quick word count and quote. I’d probably import it into Memoq to translate anyway. Really pleased to find this as I thought you needed extra software to convert PDFs to text and I try to be cautious about downloading free software and tight in spending on costly rarely-needed software. I’m not sure if it works for all PDFs but for those it does, great!

LiveDocs in Memoq – apparently a big advantage over Trados which I’ve never used. I watched a Webinar on Memoq on Wednesday and I am so glad I did or I would have wasted time, produced a less acceptable translation and generally stressed myself out more yesterday. I was sent a Declaration of Conformity and a link to an English reference file. A quick search found the corresponding German and this tutorial guided me through using Memoq to automatically align them which it did pretty well. Automatic alignment took my word count down about 90% and after 5 minutes tidying up the alignment I was left with almost nothing. Incredible!

Hope you find these useful, I certainly did!

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Keeping records

In order to feel in control o my work and the business/tax side of things I keep spreadsheets of the following data:

  • projects: date assigned, client, document name, description, word count, time taken, invoiced amount, invoice sent, payment received
  • clients: name, since when, how I started working for them, words to date
  • expenses: item, date, receipt location, amount

I have kept a project database since I started getting work, even when it was only my first job. I update this database at the beginning and end of each project. The time column helps me get an idea of how quickly I work and how this varies for different projects. I still need to work on my timing, in particular I tend to underestimate how long proofreading takes. Or can take if you let it! I didn’t keep document name until I started freelancing when I realised this would be useful and I now also colour coordinate by client to give a visual representation of where my work is coming from. I should probably have a deadline date on here but as I normally am only working on one or two projects at a time I manage to keep these in my head and have them written in my diary.

My client list started last week after chatting to another translator who said he kept a record of where all his clients came from. This is a great idea as it will help me know where to focus my marketing energy. It is also encouraging to see it growing slowly and the word count shows me where most work comes from. I should perhaps have a rate column too. I update this whenever I get a request from a new contact or roughly once a week for the numbers.

The expenses list is still a bit odd to me and more of a better-safe-than-sorry. I’m not sure how self-employment income and taxes work entirely – that’s an ongoing research project! However, I think I can offset work-related outgoings against my income so I’m writing them down for future reference. So far I have IoL exam, preparation course, Memoq and dictionaries.

Should I be keeping records of anything else?

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First month as a freelance translator

I’ve been really fortunate in my first month of freelancing, I was prepared for not much work and consequently a few lows. Thanks to a few previous contacts but mainly due to my mentor I’ve actually been quite busy which has helped me feel positive about how things will go from here. I’m on target for my (pretty low) word-count target for 2011 which is reassuring.


  • getting responses from emails sent out both this month and months ago; nice to know that work I put in last year might still pay off
  • working with my mentor which allows me to do jobs I might otherwise be afraid of taking on, therefore extending my knowledge and confidence
  • an email from an agency after I’d responded to a job advert; I was told they were looking for someone more experienced for that job but would still be interested in working with me and gave me a call to talk things through; made my day!


  • being told my test translation was awful,that I was non-native and had used google.  This actually happened in December but made me nervous about submitting tests this month
  • misjudging my timing and ending up working all hours to get a project finished
  • a particularly quiet week when I spent a lot of time wondering how often and for how long it would be like that

I am learning more every day and getting a better understanding of how I can progress. Plus translators generally seem to be a very friendly and helpful bunch which is great when I’m sat at home on my own! Bring on March!

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Approaching freelancing like an office job

Although I love the freedom freelancing offers and appreciate not pursuing a regular office job, I still impose certain things on my freelancing as though I were working in an office.

I started freelance translation on January 26th this year.  I had been thinking about and preparing for a freelancing career for a while in various ways but realised I needed a start date to really get things moving, after all, most other jobs have a definite start date. So since Jan 26th I have worked roughly 8 hours a day at my freelancing career. Currently that includes a lot of reading articles, asking advice, networking and sending out emails to companies, as well as the expected translation.

Work starts at 8 or 9 for me and finishes around 5, depending on deadlines. During this time I remained signed into Skype which is one of my main communication channels with all my clients. Being signed in reminds me I’m “on duty” and signing out gives me a sense of leaving work.

I always take a lunch break away from my computer for at least half an hour and often go for a walk to get out of the house. This helps break up the day and gets my energy going again (I’m a morning person).

I’ve considered ‘commuting’ to work, ie taking a short walk before and after. Does anyone do this? I think it would help frame my day and give it a beginning and end, as well as being a change of scenery.

Do you follow any other aspects of office life in your freelancing?




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A happy CAT tool owner

A week ago my opinion of CAT tools was:

  • hellish expensive
  • confusing – so many different versions, so many new terms
  • Trados seemed the epitome of both of the above and yet it seemed to be almost unavoidable unnecessary; I’d translated before and even during a 3 month internship with a translation agency I’d never really used a CAT tool.

However, I have using Memoq for a few weeks now (trial version) and although it took some getting used to, I have finally seen some benefits:

  • dealing with PDF conversions: I battled with a particularly unruly one in December and now realise that a CAT tool would definitely have helped and enabled me to return a translation matching the original rather than the plain text file I submitted
  • repetitive documents: I worked with a file yesterday with a lot of repetitions, find & replace in a word processor would have been a help but it was all a lot easier in Memoq
  • term bases/translation memories: still getting my head round these, but yesterday it enabled me to produce a translation consistent with previous work done for the client using a term base and this morning it’s nice to have some of my work pre-translated, even if it’s mainly the basic parts!

The expense still sickens me and I have yet to see if it will work out as cost-effective. I have no intention of upgrading every year, I have yet to see why this should really be necessary but as the last week has shown, that could all change.

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Stepping into the world of freelance translation

I have been considering and preparing for a career in translation for about 6 months and decided that Jan 26th would be my first day as a freelance German to English translator, which was about 3 weeks ago now.

This blog will be about translation – as a career, as an art, as a business – and about my personal experience. I hope to include discussions of important topics, particularly those most relevant for someone just starting out as I am, reviews of translation-related books and links to useful articles or blogs.

Welcome to my blog, thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy it.


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