CAT tools in 2023: part one

  cumpulsory cat at a computer


The first full report on Computer-aided Translation (CAT) tools was published in 2013. In the last ten years, translation-related technology has changed a lot. And more recently, some things have started to change at a pace which can leave your head spinning. But some things have not changed, at the same time. Let’s get into it.

First, a quick look at the professionals who participated in the surveys and conversations that went into making this report. Data gathering focused intentionally on full-time translators. While some respondents to surveys were part-time translators, unless otherwise stated, the information presented here comes from full-time professionals. One reason for this is that the part-time freelancer tends to invest less in such things as tools and training than the freelancer who is “all in”. For example, 93% of full-time translators use a CAT tool, while just under 80% of part-time translators have one. Time and money spent in CAT tool training was likewise much less among those who are translating part time or on the side.

Age groups were varied, with the largest group being in the 35 to 45 years old range. An older, probably mistaken way of thinking about age in relation to software is that the older the person, the lower the adoption rate or the proficiency in the software might be. But this is not necessarily true. In fact, it appears that older age groups may have an inherent advantage when it comes to CAT tools. Those who are not digital natives, in general, have had to learn to use software which is much less intuitive than much of what exists now, and they had to learn it using means which were much more scarce than what we have access to now. This sets one up for better chances at success in CAT tools, which are often less intuitive and more difficult to become proficient in than more widespread software available nowadays.

Sixty percent have been in the industry for ten years or more, and the largest group have been at it for twenty years or more, so we’re also talking about professionals with a generally high degree of experience and knowledge in the language services game.

Age groups

Years in the industry as a translator

chart cat-1


Who does not use a CAT tool

If you are reading this and are a translator, chances are you already use a CAT tool, or are considering using one and need more information, or need to decide where to start, so we won’t spend too much time talking about translators who do not use a CAT tool. At different moments in this report they may be used as a point of comparison, but bear in mind that this is a shrinking point of comparison.

At the moment, about 7% of translators do not use a CAT tool at all. Of that 7%, slightly more than half have never tried a CAT tool. It is possible that some translators do work which, by its very nature, excludes the use of a CAT tool. There was no consensus on any given field of expertise where this is the case. The most notable differences in CAT tool use by subject matter were in the Art/Literary field, and in “General” translations. If you are not specializing, it is likely that it is more difficult to build and maintain translation memories which will increase your efficiency in a CAT tool, if every new translation you start is in a different field. It is also likely, in that case, that your overall efficiency is below what most translators are able to reach on average. 

In file types, there was also a noticeable difference between CAT tool users and those who do not use a CAT tool. Among those who do not use a CAT tool, scanned documents or images were more prevalent, as were hardcopy documents. 


Up next: Who uses a CAT tool


This post comes from CAT tools 2023: an industry report. industry reports can be found at . paying members receive immediate, full access to the information available in industry reports, which are about and for freelance language professionals.


Topics: CAT tools, language services industry

Jared Tabor

Written by Jared Tabor

Jared oversees Member services at An ex-language teacher, he has lived and worked in Argentina since 1996. He has been with through the La Plata office since 2007. You can follow him on Twitter, @taboredinc .

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