I’m taking a few days off work at the moment (not part of the July shutdown though) Both myself and the missus have had an extremely hectic few weeks, so we’re spending Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week hanging around the house, doing the sorts of things that we don’t normally get a chance to (you know, finally getting around to that weeding, hedge trimming, me cleaning my bike, that sort of thing).

One of the things we were able to do, was go furniture shopping yesterday – together, for once! We’ve been meaning to get a new bed for one of the spare rooms for a while, and thought we’d try to get that sorted out.

Most double beds, it seems, come in two sizes : 4’6 and 5ft. The room we have isn’t huge, so a 4’6 bed would do fine. Now, here’s the great part : matresses also come in two sizes – 4’6 and 5′. Duvets, fitted sheets, bedspreads, throws and valances (no I don’t know what they are either) are also made in in 4’6 and 5′ sizes.

Interoperability ! Wow, what a concept – the bedding industry has this already sorted.
(maybe you can see where this is going, in a sort of Rolf Harris-“Can you tell what it is yet?” stylee…)

The translation tools industry hasn’t worked this out : we’re definitely getting there, but sadly, not everyone’s on board so far. One of the first requests we got on the Open Language Tools project, was support for the the Trados TTX format. (here’s the thread if you want to follow the whole discussion)

Initially, I wasn’t sure what to make of this request. I mean, our philosophy states that we want to deal with open standards, and that everything we do should be based around those standards. TTX is not an open standard, it’s a de-facto standard, but it’s not open.

My thoughts to begin with, were that we shouldn’t support the format : by making our tools deal with a standard that wasn’t (so to speak) we’d end up in a constant tail-chasing exercise, having to jump everytime Trados changed their format. What’s worse was, that since Trados don’t document the standard, I’d have to rely on sample files people mail me in order to work it out…

Now, thinking a bit more about the whole thing, I’m starting to think that is is probably more useful to try to reverse-engineer the file format, so that people can get out of the Trados-trap, and start using real open standards.

Here’s the problem though, and this is why open standards matter : I spent a while trawling through Google trying to find how TTX files were structured. Of immediate interest, was a document on the Trados website called The Trados File Formats Reference Guide – but nothing there (or on the rest of the Trados website, for that matter) was of any use at all. Then spent a bit longer looking through translator’s news groups and forums looking for something similar – no joy there either : maybe I’m just missing something obvious – is this stuff documented anywhere ? Our users can’t open Trados files until I write this support, and I can’t even find sample TTX files anywhere.

Here’s a request : Trados, can you please document this format somewhere that’s freely available to anyone who wants it ?

SDL announced recently that they’re buying Trados, so I’ve got great hopes that good stuff will come of this – I’ve talked to SDL folks in the past, they’re good guys and seem to grok open standards too, which is great. Let’s hope they do the right thing, and both open up the specs for the Trados TTX format, and really start to push people over to using XLIFF and TMX : let’s rid ourselves from these closed standards please and advance ourselves to the technological level of the bedding industry !

(If you feel like having a go at describing the TTX format, let me know, and I’ll post a link to it here)