Translating and scrivener?

I started to do translating {poems etc.} and I would like to know if here in the forum are professional translater using scrivener for their work and if, how they use it, how is their workflow, how they integrate other applications (Babylon, promt, lexikas etc.). I’ m thankful for every tip/screenshot.

I have been using Scrivener now for several years to produce draft translations. I have played around with several CAT programmes but have found that for the type of academic translations I do Scrivener is quite adequate. My use of Scrivener is fairly basic – split-screen mode with the source text in one half and the translation in the other. For easy access to on-line dictionaries I use Fluid to create stand-alone applications which I can easily search using Keyboard Maestro macros. (For searching all my off-line sources I use a Japanese application called Logophile.) I don’t bother compiling the draft translation once it is finished – I just copy and paste it into Mellel for final formatting.

A fairly basic workflow, but it has served me well over the years, although I am of course open to any suggestions for improving it.

I’ve been using Scrivener for many years now, though for editing translations rather than doing the base draft … I collaborate mostly with a particular Chinese friend, though I have worked with many people’s translations.

Like @rwg, my use of Scrivener is pretty basic, split screen, binder open, inspector open, usually on Notes, using comments rather than inline annotations. However, since translation (including editing translations) is an activity in which one is continually changing one’s mind as to how to render a difficult passage, I highly recommend the regular use of snapshots, as they allow you to roll back a translation quickly and easily.

As the texts come to me often in one paragraph Chinese followed by its English translation, I’ve recently been splitting them up at each point of language change, and label each one as Chinese or English as appropriate. I use label colour in the binder as that lets me identify them rapidly, and using labels I can create a collection that lets me use Scrivenings to view the English version as a continuous text. On compiling it is all put together automatically in alternate language format. I presume that that is not something that is of importance to either of you, but I would still recommend splitting your translation up into small(-ish) sections as you work, as that will make using snapshots even more effective as the snapshots are of the specific binder document, not the draft as a whole.

Of course, if you split your text in Scrivener into small sections, copying and pasting, like @rwg does will be truly tedious and compiling is a better route. I always compile to RTF, even though my collaborator — who uses Windows — will open it in Word. RTFs are much smaller than DOCs or DOCXs, more accessible, open naturally in Word/OpenOffice and clones, and more importantly, as it is the native format of Scrivener — and Nisus Writer Pro — all the footnotes, comments etc. are transferred with no problem. Using the DOC/DOCX compilers in Scrivener first compiles to RTF and then passes that to third party converters; to me you’re better off leaving that to Word or whatever. Just don’t open the RTF in TextEdit as that will remove headers, footers, footnotes … anything except the body of text.

I use the Mac, to which I have added the MDBG Chinese dictionary, so a quick check is often only a three-finger tap away, as well as giving me access to the Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus. Where that fails me, I also use iTranslate — available for OSX and iOS from the appropriate App Stores — though you have to be online to use that; it requires copy and paste to enter the term to be translated, but it’s pretty new, so I would hope some sort of script will eventually come to allow type access. As further supplements I have the Pleco Chinese–English dictionary system on my iPhone and iPad — presumably won’t be relevant to either of you — as well as the Chambers Dictionary and the Chambers Thesaurus; Pleco, the full system comes at a hefty price and the two Chambers apps are not cheap.

So for me: at the Scrivener level, it’s split screen, comments, generous use of splitting or working in small units and snapshots, resources as mentioned — together with Wikipedia and other online sources. I export to RTF and then do final formatting etc. in Nisus Writer Pro. I also have Mellel, but don’t normally use it as I find NWP much more intuitive, and having RTF as its native format, rather than Mellel’s own file format, I consider much better.

Mr X

Thank you both for your suggestions. I just started with translating so I’m happy to get some tips. I didn’t know fluid before, but it is very interesting. I normally have my split screen scrivener on the left two thirds of the screen, and on the right side the app promt. The good thing about it is, that this software automatically translate everything that you copy in scrivener, the bad thing is, however, the quality is not very good, it just gives you an idea of what it can mean, no more.

I use BetterSnapTool to get my windows at the same places every time, and I made up a workflow in keyboard Maestro that executes with one keystroke command all these things: first it opens scrivener, then it opens my project translation, then it snaps the window to the left, it opens promt, snaps it to the right and it closes the dock. And since I use speech recognition software {Dragon Dictate} I can execute this with just a voice command, in my case: „prepare for translation“.
Now I am experimenting with keyboard Maestro and the Oxford dictionary as a fluid-app to make a macro, that every time I use a special voice command the Oxford dictionary opens and immediately translate the word, the mouse cursor is on. And all that with one single voice command.

@rwg: What I didn’t find on the Internet is Logophile? Could you please give me a link where I can find some infos about it?

Thanks again,


The Logophile Web site is unfortunately only in Japanese:

It is essentially a browser for electronic dictionaries and glossaries in a wide variety of formats which allows you to search multiple dictionary files simultaneously and instantaneously. You can arrange your dictionary files into groups according to language or other criteria and search only within a particular group. You can also create your own user file and add items on the fly which are then instantly available. All in all, I find it an incredibly useful piece of software which revolutionised the way I translate when I began using its predecessor Jamming many years ago. It’s just a shame that it isn’t more widely known outside Japan.

I have used Scrivener for translating “short documents” (1-25 pages) and a novel by another author.

My process is the same in both cases.

a) I divide the original text in chapters and scenes in a folder in the Binder (sometimes while translating).
b) I have both windows open (side by side), with the original text on the left and the translation on the right.
c) I use comments instead of inline annotations, sometimes with the same comment in both language versions.

I usually don’t need to format the text, but I sometimes use the format options in Scrivener (for light formatting) or convert to Word and format there. The book was entirely formatted in Scrivener.