Microsoft has released to their ‘Fast Track’ some improved Translation features in Word 2016 for Windows.
The new Translator is cloud powered and will eventually flow to all Office 2016 ‘subscribers’. Yes, even Office 2016 for Mac!
The new features replace the existing Research Pane and Mini-Translators. It’s only for Microsoft Word, not other Office programs.
Overall, new Translate is an improvement but has some surprising problems. Beware before using the new Translate.
The current Microsoft animations make it look fantastic and fast:
Alas, our tests weren’t anywhere near as smooth or fast. That’s when the translation worked at all. It repeatedly failed with a measly 452 word all-English document. Maybe others are having better luck? This is a new ‘Insider Fast’ feature so some troubles are to be expected but usually ‘Fast’ features are better from the start.
Translations aren’t always as fast as the above Microsoft animation suggests.
Translating an entire document (Review | Translate | Translate Document) does create an entirely new document in the new language.
Translate a Selection
Selecting a chunk of text and choosing Review | Translate | Translate Selection worked a lot faster. Or right-click on a selection and choose Translate.
Language Auto-detect problems
The new Translate includes an auto-detect option that is supposed to work with a multi-lingual documents. Our quick tests suggest that works, but not in the way you’d think.
Technical writers should be careful using the new Translate. Be careful when translating more than just straight-forward text. Things you might expect to be left unchanged are translated and there seems to NO way to stop it.
Translate did not detect obvious technical elements like a Windows Registry key or DOS batch file commands which should NOT be translated.
Unwanted translation happens even if the text is marked ‘Do not check spelling or grammar’ in the original document or given a fixed space font. Those settings are copied to the translated version but otherwise ignored.
Language Settings ignored
From our tests it seems the new Translate feature totally ignores the Language settings available in Word.
We tried tricking Translate with Word paragraphs that have incorrect language settings (e.g. Norwegian text is marked as Slovenian). Translate did its job based on the text not the language setting.
That’s probably the right call for most situations but there should be a way to stop Translate from acting on certain text. If there is such a way, it’s not documented. The obvious option already in Word doesn’t have any effect.