Apart from my Ukrainian-sounding name, I don’t have any affiliation with this country. Although I have been to nearly every post-Soviet republic, my only – very short – stay in Ukraine lies many years in the past. I spent two days in Kiev to visit Valentin Silvestrov, one of today’s greatest maverick composers, and this explains the iconic ECM cover picture above (Valentin Silvestrov’s Silent Songs, ECM New Series 1898/99). The reason I mention Ukraine of all things has to do with the fact that AIT, Advanced International Translations, is a software development company based in the Ukraine. So needless to say, my non-affiliation statement for the country goes for the company as well. Also needless to say, I think both Ukraine and this particular Ukrainian company deserve our support, perhaps now more than ever. AIT builds quality software that delivers value. Since years, Translation Office 3000 has been a popular solution for managing language service projects. However, despite a very good support of AIT’s team, this highly versatile and customizable tool is seldom utilized to the full of its potential. Many convenient functions remain largely unknown and unused. The idea of this blog post is to show a few things that help make the software more usable and useful (the following tips refer to Version 11, Advanced Edition).
1. How to make up for the lack of network capabilities
Translation Office 3000 is intended for individual translators and is designed as a single-user desktop system. However, it still can be used in a team.
With Translation Office 3000, all your data are stored in a Firebird SQL file called TO3000.fdb. The path to your database is shown at the bottom, in the right corner of the Translation Office 3000 window. You can move the file to any other location on your PC, but the software won't be able to access the file once it is placed in a network folder or on a virtual drive. That pretty much describes what the lack of network capabilities means.
To make up for the restrictions and make your database accessible from various machines, AIT suggests using “some folder synchronization software like Dropbox”. Alternatively, if you have concerns about cloud storage, you can sync and always keep updated your database in a local network.
To do so, I recommend that you set up a dedicated folder on your local drive where you want to store the database. After you repeat the procedure on every machine in your network, you will have a series of TO3000.fdb files. Now you only have to sync them. A good idea is to create a central node, e.g. on a NAS device.
First of all, make a backup copy of your database and copy the TO3000.fdb (the path will be shown in the bottom of the Translation Office 3000 window), say, to your desktop. Set up your dedicated folder, e.g. on your C: drive, and copy the TO3000.fdb in this folder. Now go to Settings -> Database -> Set Database Folder:
In the window Destination path to TO3000 database, identify your dedicated folder, press Set database folder and Close to return to the normal view:
After you set up your dedicated folders on every computer in the network (and copied the TO3000.fdb to a dedicated folder on a NAS drive, if using it), you can define the synchronization rules in your synchronization software.
You can use any software like SyncToy (Microsoft's supremely understated, free utility), Allway Sync or GoodSync (my tool of preference). Basically, you simply align your dedicated folders in the left and right windows, the rest is self-explanatory.
However, I would warn against using any auto functions like “Newer files win” in GoodSync. Translation Office 3000 assigns a timestamp to the TO3000.fdb file each time you close the program. As soon as you merely open and close your Translation Office on one of your computers, you “update” your local TO3000.fdb file at the risk of overwriting the node database that might be more up-to-date. To prevent any accidents, remember to manually synchronize your aligned folders before you open Translation Office and after you close it, that’s the deal.
2. How to customize your invoice templates
Unlike many other invoicing tools out there, Translation Office 3000 enables to customize your invoice templates in endless ways. In fact, a plethora of possibilities and options might seem overwhelming. Although AIT provides a comprehensive, detailed guide on how to create your templates (click on RTFTemplatesGuide.pdf to download the PDF), I heard many fellow translators complaining about their difficulties to cope with all those variables listed in the manual (and ending using the default templates instead).
That is why my advice is to start from the opposite end. Instead of trying to adapt one of both default templates, open an empty Word document (you can use PC or Mac, it doesn't matter) and create a dummy invoice. You can start from scratch, take one of your past invoices or reproduce any available invoice form to your liking. Or download some generic invoice form and save it in RTF format.
Now identify the obvious placeholders that you are going to replace with TO3000 variables. For example, if you want the address part of your invoice to look like this:
you can use the following variables in your RTF template:
The central part of my English invoice template –
never fails to generate nice, round numbers –
If you wonder about this weird variable:
It is a simple trick to put any number in the field Notes (Edit Invoice, tab Notes) to be used as the current invoice number:
The possibilities are endless. But finally, after you have designed your RTF template, go to Settings -> Personal settings -> Templates -> CLIENTS -> Invoices to check the list of your templates and the path to the templates folder:
Copy your newly designed template to the folder displayed at the bottom. Now, when producing invoices you can choose Your newly designed template.rtf from the dropdown menu:
3. How to include your suppliers, subcontractors and colleagues in your database
If you outsource or run a translation agency, you should probably consider purchasing another AIT’s product, Projetex. However, you can still include your suppliers, subcontractors and colleagues in your TO3000 database. In fact, the Advanced Edition of Translation Office 3000 has the potential to serve as a fully fledged ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.
The most logical place for your subcontractors would be Business Expenses:
But before opening your Business Expenses, first go to Settings -> Advanced -> Custom Fields -> Business Expenses. Press the green plus button left from Group of fields to create a new group. For simplicity’s sake you can call it Vendors or Subcontractors. Now in the new group (it will be highlighted blue), press the green plus button (&New Field) on the right to create a New Custom Field. In the pop-up window you can start creating new custom fields:
One big advantage is to use Multiple Text Lines as a field type and assign 15 as the maximum line number in the field Lines count. As a result, you will have a fairly large field to enter free text information regarding your subcontractor (notes, remarks, copies of emails, etc.).
For my purposes, I compiled a series of custom fields that are self-explanatory even in German:
You can find additional information on Custom Fields in the Help file of Translation Office 3000, but I don’t think you will really need it. It is a no brainer as far as I am concerned. There is only one tricky thing you should bear in mind when entering information on your subcontractors. After you opened Business Expenses and pressed New, make sure you (1) enter some number other than 0,00 before you (2) click on the Custom Fields tab:
Otherwise you will receive the following error message after you have filled all your fields (and you will probably want this message to be more specific about where on earth – among all your fields – you should enter your value?!):
Well, you are set to go. In this way you can enhance the functionality of Translator Office 3000 with the addition of a very flexible “vendors” database which I find quite sufficient for individual translators who outsource part of their jobs as well as for larger translator teams or small to medium boutique translation companies. The next step from here would be to configure the calculation of contribution margins, set up an automatic notification system etc. In this case though, you are probably ready to look for a more powerful ERP system. Or upgrade to Projetex (I am not familiar with this software).
The three small how-tos illustrate the multitude of ways Translation Office 3000 can be used to improve your translation business. TO3000 has numerous other features that could come in handy for GTD (Getting Things Done) and keeping your work organized. I would appreciate any further tips and comments on this practical tool. Thanks for reading!