CSV File Type – A Hidden Feature

To be perfectly honest, it’s not really hidden anywhere. I just never paid any attention to it even though it has been there since the version 2009. In my own defense, I have to say that I have not translated CSV (Comma Delimited/Separated Text) files for many years. Anyhow, I came across the CSV file type settings the other day when I was looking for good examples for the next intermediate/advanced Trados Studio workshop here in San Francisco  (Dec 1st) to demonstrate how to use the file type settings in general.

Obviously the CSV settings are important for those of us who happen to translate CSV files but what caught my attention was the possibility of utilizing this file type for a couple of other purposes: translating partially translated Excel files and converting bilingual Excel files into translation memory. This is possible because the settings allow you to also bring the existing content from the target-language column to the target-language column of your Studio file. You just need to tell which column is the source and which one is the target (see the screenshot below).


1.  Translating partially translated Excel files

Sometimes I get partially translated Excel files for translation. The missing translations (= empty cells) are here and there throughout the target-language column. I usually sort the file so that all the empty cells are together and I can copy all the matching source cells at once to a new document which I then translate. After translating I copy the translations to the empty target cells and sort the file back to its original order.

One downside of the above method is that I won’t see any of the previously translated material in Studio and I need to keep the Excel file open as a reference. Now, if I saved the file as a CSV file and opened it in Studio, I could see all the existing translations and utilize Studio’s search functions and the Display filter which could be very useful. I can also lock all the existing translations so that I don’t accidentally change them (see the “Lock existing translations” setting in the screenshot). The translated CSV file can then be opened directly in Excel and saved as an Excel file. Note, however, that the conversion from Excel format to CSV is not always a good idea because you can lose some information, such as all the formatting.

2.  Converting bilingual Excel files into translation memory

This makes it easy to convert bilingual Excel files to a Studio memory. Just save the file as a CSV file, select the suitable CSV file type settings in Studio and open the file in Studio. While the file is open in the Studio Editor, you can run a spell-check, QA verification or anything else you want before saving it as a SDLXLIFF file which you can then import to an existing Studio TM. Note again that all the formatting is lost when the Excel file is converted into CSV format.

All the above also applies to tab delimited text files and there’s an identical file settings page for this file type.