With most things it’s really the small things that count. With Google Docs it’s just one small thing after another. The most recent is the announcement this week that Google Docs users will be able to translate their documents into 52 other languages thanks to native integration of Google Translate into Docs.

And in contrast to many software packages where translation can be quite a lengthy and arduous process, with this new ability, once Translate has been integrated into the Docs editor it really is just a question of scrolling down through the Tools menu to find ‘Translate documents’ to change languages.

Documents that have been translated can also be saved as the translated version or can be saved over the original version so that only the translated version is left in Docs.

Google Translate

If you haven’t come across it before, Google Translate, unlike some of the bigger machine-translation systems, is completely automated and does not depend on rule-based approaches with large defined vocabularies and dictionaries.

Instead, Google says it feeds its computers with billions of words of texts and aligns it with text consisting of examples of human translations between the languages -- of which there are currently 52.

While the new translation abilities in Google Docs probably don’t compare to the translation abilities of the recently announced product from IBM and Lionbridge, or some of the SDL products, this is not an enterprise translator, it serves the need of users who are working using Docs and just need a handy translation.

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Google Docs Translation

Translation Features

That said, it is still a Google product and as such has enough interesting features, including a new look that makes navigation easier with the new nav bar on the left as well as larger fonts and layout that make viewing easier. Amongst the other features are:

  • Translate on the fly: As soon as the user starts typing text a translation will simultaneously appear. A single word translator is also available at the bottom of the text along with a detailed dictionary page with examples.
  • Document upload: Enables users to upload an entire document, without cutting and pasting, which is then translated. Documents can be submitted as PDF, TXT, DOC, PPT, XLS or RTF.
  • Translator Toolkit: Enables better translations by deploying features like automatic translation, translation search and glossaries, along with the ability to collaborate with others on translations.
  • Transliteration: For Hindi, Arabic or Persian you have the option of typing the word into the input box as it sounds in English. The word will then be translated into the word in whatever script you are working in and translated.

Also if you are not sure what language you are working in, Google Translate will be able to detect it if it’s on its list of languages.

Again, it’s only a small thing, but a small thing with large possibilities not just for Google Translate, but Google Docs as well which by the integration of an existing app has extended its reach beyond the English speaking world.