Volume 13, No. 2 
April 2009

Vicente Victorica

  Front Page  
Select one of the previous 47 issues.



Index 1997-2009

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  From the Editor
The Invisible Articles
by Gabe Bokor

  Translator Profiles
Uniquely Typical or Typically Unique?
by Holly Mikkelson

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
Ethics 101 for Translators
by Danilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini

  Translators Around the World
Bringing the Best Western Classical Literature to Turkish Masses
by Arnold Reisman, Ph.D.

  Translation History
Japanese Technical Translation a Quarter of a Century Ago
by Steve Vlasta Vitek

  Science & Technology
Detección de problemas en traducción cientifica
Olga Torres-Hostench

  Medical Translation
The Sounds of Clinical Medicine
by Rafael A. Rivera, M.D., FACP

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
The Cultural Transfer in Anime Translation
by Mariko Hanada

  Arts & Entertainment
Translating Humor in Dubbing and Subtitling
by Anna Jankowska

  Advertising Translation
Motocicletas, Internet y estrategias de traducción publicitaria
by Junming Yao

  Literary Translation
Translating Rape
by Irene Chen

  Translator Education
The Effect of the Translator's Gender on Translation Evaluation
by Ebrahim Golavar
Professionalizing Literary Translation Education
by Rebecca Hyde Parker

  Translation Theory
Is Translation a Rewriting of an Original Text?
by Tomoko Inaba

  Translators' Tools
From Mechanics to Managers
by Jost Zetzsche
Uncontrolled Terminology and MT: The Importance of Making Good Comparisons
by Rafael Guzmán
TranslateCAD—a software tool that enables CAT translation with CAD drawings
by Vicente Victorica
Translators’ Emporium

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Translators' Tools



a software tool that enables CAT translation with CAD drawings

by Vicente Victorica


ranslating an AutoCAD drawing is a time-consuming and awkward job. And this is especially true if you work with Unicode-based languages. First, you have to enjoy a certain degree of AutoCAD proficiency, so that you can explode (ungroup) objects that have text entities within them, then use the MTEDIT command, and manually change the text and/or change the font to the target-language compatible Unicode font, and sometimes re-join the objects into the original group.

And worst of all, you'll find yourself missing your computer-assisted tool (Trados, Wordfast, etc.) very badly when the first repeated or similar phrase shows up.

A typical drawing could take 10 times as much to be translated than the same volume of plain text (i.e. MS Word). But normally you are not able to charge the customer 10 times the standard rate for a CAD drawing.

Translating an AutoCAD drawing is a time-consuming and awkward job.
As many other fellow translators, I found this situation very frustrating, so I started to search for a better solution. I found that the DXF format (Drawing Interchange Format) supported by all AutoCAD versions and lots of other drawing applications has the ability of being "human readable," and being a programmer for 20-years I could write a software application to extract the text from it. Then I overcame a number of technical problems and compatibility issues between AutoCAD versions, and finally got to a usable software solution for my own private use.

TranslateCAD is the enhanced version with a user-friendly interface that we have decided to offer to the translation community as a commercial product (shareware).

This is how it works:

  1. You select one or more DXF file from one folder in your hard drive (or other Windows' logical drive

  2. A Unicode-encoded plain-text file is created with the translatable text in a readable form (even if it is Chinese, Russian, or Hebrew). Also a second auxiliary file is created for further use.

  3. You can easily translate this plain-text file with your favorite CAT software, using your translation memories, glossaries, dictionaries, thesaurus, etc.

  4. Save a bilingual backup file and clean-up your target-language unilingual file.
  5. TranslateCAD will re-join your target file with the auxiliary file, providing a final usable translated DXF drawing.

Disadvantages and known issues:

  • TranslateCAD® handles only DXF files. You would need to use your AutoCAD® software to convert your drawings using the File->Save As... menu. Alternatively, there are a number of shareware or freeware tools that perform this task. Although we don't sponsor any of them, we have successfully tried AnyCAD, which allows you to freely convert individual drawings without apparent restriction (batch mode is not supported in the unregistered version).
  • DXF format is not perfect. I have found one DWG file that was rendered unusable saving it to DXF with AutoCAD itself (I didn't use any 3rd party software to perform the translation).
  • In some DXF drawings there are "hidden" layers or objects, that are not shown or printed, but you get the text within them when extracting with TranslateCAD.
  • This is not a limitation of TranslateCAD itself, but you would need it even if you are translating drawings using AutoCAD: you would need to install the suitable Unicode true-type font for languages that require this codification.

There is a trial version that allow you to translate up to the first 50 words of any AutoCAD drawing. It counts words within drawings without limit in size or number of words.

The license price is $29 USD, which includes perpetual updates and patches.

You may download your trial version here: