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Hi there,

CI student here. I used to be super organized but somehow now I'm sitting here under piles of papers and I find myself wasting a lot of time because I'm not organized. I tried going the digital route but that's not helping much as I'm used to pen-to-paper but categorizing everything manually isn't easy either.

Any tips highly appreciated!

Thank you!

asked 06 Feb '13, 07:12

TheInterpretator's gravatar image


edited 06 Feb '13, 16:49

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck ♦♦

12next »


Assuming as you do that there is a digital vs paper dichotomy is a non-starter: you can always print your digital glossary; and to an increasingly large extent you can scan and OCR paper-based glossaries or hand-written notes.

So the real question is: how should you organise your digital resources? I grappled with that question a little over 20 years ago when I was starting as an interpreter (and raised some eyebrows from colleagues who wondered why on earth anyone might need to bring a laptop to the booth...)

The first thing to realise is that, hopefully, you're in there for the long haul. In the course of your career, software applications, file formats, popular tools, operating systems, input devices, permanent storage systems will change many times over.

What you want to avoid is proprietary lock-in, ie using software with a specific format that can no longer be accessed by other software, unless the original vendor has provided and continues to provide for data exchange or conversion mechanisms.

To give you an example, if you like your glossaries well structured (more about that later), but feel that Excel (a proprietary but extremely common spreadsheet package that's been around for 20+ years and lets you convert from and into a number of open formats - such as CSV) is not enough and decide to use a dedicated glossary package, you must make sure that it will let you convert your glossaries into open formats (without losing too much of the structure that made you opt for a dedicated package in the first place).

Another consideration is where your glossaries come from. Of course you will be creating and maintaining your own, but it's safe to say that you will also be reusing glossaries or the terminological resources that you may find elsewhere. There are plenty of those on the web, available in readily downloadable formats (PDF or word for instance) or not (paginated or look-up only web-based dictionaries). In the latter case, you'll need to decide on a format in which to store web-based dictionaries. I would recommend PDF (there are a number of free PDF printers that you can use). At any rate, your collection will be composed of multiple formats, some of which may not be mutually compatible.

A further consideration is where you will be storing your glossaries. As somebody who is also a software developer with a keen interest in the start-up scene, I can only tell you to be very wary of the new generation of cloud-based, free or low-cost services you can find out there: nothing is free forever, and under current business models every bit of content you entrust to somebody else's care free of charge often ends up belonging to them. What is more, such services come and go (think Megaupload). This is an immense problem that, in my opinion, even professional interpreters are not sufficiently aware of. My recommendation is to store everything on your computer(s) and to keep a synchronised copy on a reputable cloud-based storage provider (personally, I use Amazon S3, but there are good alternatives).

Aside from privacy and reliability over the long term, you also want all your glossaries and the language resources on your local computer(s) because you absolutely want to be able to perform cross-glossary searches. 20 years later, when you've accumulated 20GB worth of glossaries, meeting notes and such, you want to be able to go back and locate some very old stuff.

How do you do that? By indexing that part of your hard disk where you are storing your terminology, similar to how Google indexes the web and makes the index available to you through a search interface. There are specialised software applications that let you do that. Some operating systems, such as Windows, also implement full-text search, to some extent.

I do recommend one low-cost software package that I've used very successfully for over 15 years: dtSearch Desktop (I'm not affiliated with them, BTW). It will let you search through huge collections of documents in various formats using a combination of full-text and meta data search. It will highlight and display hits using its internal viewer (meaning that you do not need to open another application to view the file in its native format). It is also very fast, way faster for instance than the (totally unusable in my opinion) Interplex multi-glossary search, even though you may be dealing with a collection that's 10,000 times bigger.

It follows from the above that you want to manage glossaries on a file-based basis, as opposed to within a dedicated application or even a custom-built database. At any rate you do not want to use a database like Access. All database solutions that have efficient native full-text search features - Sybase SQL Anywhere, PostgreSQL aree currently the best open-source or no-cost contenders - are really meant for professionals only and require some programming work to be useful.

Whether you use Interplex, or Excel, or Word, or a combination of the above to manage your file-based glossaries is really a matter of choice.

If you wish to organise your glossaries in tabular format with one column per language, you're better off with a spreadsheet. The inconvenient of spreadsheets in my book is that data entry tends to be slower than in a word processor. There is also a lack of formatting options within cells.

Personally, I usually do not bother with tables and I'm very happy to type up my notes vertically in a simple text editor, like this for instance:

dépôt de calcaire  
scale deposit 

For the following reasons:

  • I do not need to be able to sort my glossaries alphabetically by language because I'm using a full-text, multi-file index
  • it's faster to type up
  • vertical lists improve readability
  • I will often add notes, explanations, links to websites of interest, the formatting of which is more difficult in a spreadsheet (unless you create extra columns, but then you'll end up with loads of columns with very little information in them)

In addition to terminology, I do recommend that you keep some meta data in each of your glossaries including:

  • Client name
  • recruiter name
  • meeting title
  • language regime of the meeting you prepared to glossary for
  • name of your booth mates
  • date
  • sources for glossary-making (documents provided by the client, websites, glossaries found online provided by colleagues, etc.)

You should be consistent with your meta data, which means using the same keys and format so that you can have dtsearch index the meta data separately. On some operating systems, you may also wish to use the built-in the file meta data properties.

Then, you want to come up with a consistent naming scheme for your glossary files that works for you. I personally use something like this:


but that really depends on your market.

Good luck

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answered 06 Feb '13, 11:49

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck ♦♦

edited 20 May '15, 09:09

I think the problem with proprietary solutions is an important one. I'm sure some of the newer glossary-specific software for interpreters is great, but there's always the concern that one day it will go defunct and you'll have to think up a whole new solution.

Personally, I use Google Sheets because for me it's quite easy to use and I like being able to update terms on my phone during my commute without having to worry about problems with different versions of the same file and merging them all together when I get home.

I'll definitely have a look at including some meta data in my glossaries; it's something I'd thought of but never put into practise and seeing someone else mention it reminds me just how useful it could be.

(22 May '15, 22:05) jbeagley


So are you trying to go paperless after all or do you want to stick to paper? I would definitely recommend going the paperless route, ideally with specialised terminology software for interpreters, such as Interplex. You could also start by putting your stuff in digital files, maybe Access or another database application.

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answered 06 Feb '13, 09:42

Alexander's gravatar image


Hello, I will definitely go paperless: it's easier and sustainable! Interplex is a very good software for terminology management: link text

Also, Copernic desktop search tool could help you organising all your conference material. link text

Good luck!

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answered 06 Feb '13, 10:07

Federica's gravatar image


Hi! You can download Copernic for free. If you have a Mac you can use Interplex by downloading a Windows emulator such as CrossOver: link text While you are still a student you can use the demo version for 14 days and experience the paperless route;)

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answered 06 Feb '13, 10:30

Federica's gravatar image


I'm trying to go paperless, as it's much more practical, but I'm having a hard time doing so since I don't learn as well from digital materials as I do from written materials.

For the moment I'm just trying to organize hand-written paper glossaries etc. but as you might imagine I've piles of paper!

Thanks for the suggestions! But the two software you mention don't seem to work with Mac OS, which is what I have. Also, while I'm still a student (read: poor) I'd love to stick to free or low-cost options whenever possible :)

(06 Feb '13, 10:18) TheInterpret...


In my blog about information management for interpreters (, I have just published a short market overview of the four booth-friendly terminology management systems I know: InterpretBank, Interplex, LookUp and Terminus.

Comments appreciated!

Kind regards Anja

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answered 08 Apr '14, 09:11

Anja's gravatar image


edited 08 Apr '14, 09:12

Hi Anja, thanks for that post. Very interesting. Particularly you're saying "MS-Access (my favourite)". Pleased to hear some vindication for staying with MS Access! But I wasn't sure if Access was your favourite full stop or just favourite amongst the flat tables. How do you think it compares to the programs you reviewed? (I've been using Access for years, but wanted to change because it's not very compatible with Mac and its expensive. I've been looking for a program that can filter like MS Access but haven't been won over by the arguments for other softwares. )

(08 Apr '14, 12:41) Andy

Hello Andy - you could take a look at Tap Forms ( It's not optimised for interpreters but should fit the bill nicely with a bit of customisation. I've used it for other purposes and really like it.

(08 Apr '14, 14:50) Alexander

Hi Andy! Have you checked the Excel template glossary included in my blog article? It looks quite similar to your access structure, and is does the filtering trick all the same. I prefer Access because you can use forms and pre-defined queries and reports, but if that's not what you are after, Excel might do just as well. I have also heard of people using Filemaker instead of Access, have you ever tried that? (I haven't so far)

(08 Apr '14, 14:55) Anja

thanks Anja

XL doesn't do quite as much filter-wise as Access (or at least I don't know how to do the following in XL): filter in multiple columns at the same time; filter for partial (not whole) column entries; do queries. There is also a very nasty feature in XL where you can sort one column alphabetically but the other columns don't more, so you basically screw up the whole list. But again, I'm not very good at XL so there may be a simple way to avoid that!

So do you prefer Access to the specific glossary software you reviewed?

(10 Apr '14, 16:19) Andy

Hi Andy, all the things you mention about XL can be solved, I think. The sorting problem does not occur if, before sorting, you make sure you select the whole table and not just one column, and the filtering should work fine if you turn the auto filters on? We could also sort this out bilaterally if you want. And yes, I do prefer Access, because it allows me to have exactly the categories I like and, as Vincent Buck rightly points out above, a plain table format is open and flexible.

(10 Apr '14, 18:09) Anja

Hi Anja, Thanks for the offer but my experience with XL (way back) put me off for ever. I've just treated myself to Parallels, Windows and Access and I'm now enjoying (on a Mac) a beautiful new Access which works exactly the same way as the less beautiful old one. So I'm good for another 10 years now ;)

(17 Apr '14, 15:01) Andy
showing 5 of 6 show 1 more comments

Hello, I use InterpretBank ( for managing my glossaries and also the conference texts (Powerpoints, PDFs) related to a specific conference. The glossary management function is in my opinion very good. The text function primitive, but okay. Best regards

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answered 20 Feb '14, 13:05

Franz%20Derry2's gravatar image

Franz Derry2

One thing that is important to decide is whether you want the notes/terms you've collected to 1) serve only as a reference to look things up, or 2) help you with preparation for the next time you cover a similar subject. I do the latter and like to look thru my notes from the last meeting, or last time I did that topic, before I start work. Interplex for example is great at 1) and less good at 2)

I use Microsoft Access, with columns for the languages, subject, sub-subject, meeting title, term source, acronym marker, date,

alt text

You can filter for a specific meeting, by area (as in this screenshot for "mining" from several different meetings), for acronyms or look for a single term. You can also filter multiple columns, so "mining" but only in "patent proceedings meetings", or "aeronautics" but only at "Airbus meetings" - so for example call-up a list of 50 key terms for a given subject area. I recommend this method, though not necessarily MS Access...

MS Access is expensive and I'm having trouble with it on a Mac. Also databases are only useful if they are consistent, and the more you work the more sub-categories you will think up and the risk of losing consistency (and thus the benefits of using them) increases.

I'd like to change to use another software in the same way, so if anyone can help me out, please do!

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answered 22 Feb '14, 05:14

Andy's gravatar image


edited 22 Feb '14, 07:02

For the Apple world, Interplex seems to be a good choice. For the Android world, I have developed a glossary assistant (on a Nexus 10). Allows up to 10 languages, any 5 displayed at the same time, columns can be sorted and swapped with touches. Search for words/phrases. Existing glossaries can be easily imported from excel, word, interplex, various web sites. Basically if you have the glossary in a table format, it can be imported with very little effort via USB cable or network or Drive. A demo version is available (3 glossaries, 250 lines each). Production version, no restrictions except the capacity of your tablet. Fact sheet on request. Android 4.2 or later required. If you need to view more than 3 languages at once, 8 inch or larger recommended.

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answered 08 Apr '14, 07:57

RegM's gravatar image


Is this app already available on the Play Store? Or does one sideload it? I would be happy to test it on an Xperia U or an Asus MemoPad.

(08 Apr '14, 14:46) Alexander

It is not in Play Store yet. For now, I provide it by Google Drive plus email information. I would be very happy to provide you with a demo copy to for your Xperia and Asus. This would be useful in detecting quirks in different implementations of Android OS. How can I provide the app to you?

(10 Apr '14, 07:34) RegM

I don't think the platform has private messaging, so could you maybe just drop me a message via Thank you, looking forward to testing the app.

(10 Apr '14, 07:53) Alexander

After a decade of MS Word and 1 year of Interplex, I now use Interpretbank I find it just 1) easy to use 2) powerful, as it does a lot of nice things for me which speed up my work (automatic translation, i.e. lookup of terminology databases on the web, which of course, is to be double-checked by me). When I got the software the first time, there were some minor problems, but now they have been fixed. Some function could be easeier to be used, but I'm sure they will improve it.

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answered 06 Dec '14, 04:46

John%20DeBlasio's gravatar image

John DeBlasio

One more vote for InterpretBank. Excel would be my second choice.

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answered 01 Apr '14, 13:29

Diana's gravatar image


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question asked: 06 Feb '13, 07:12

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