Linguists may have received emails about it from our project managers or linguistic leads. Or medical translators may have used it on one of our projects. Or you may have wondered why our supplier newsletter recently contained an article about "an attempt to overthrow the established order of a society." In any case, at ForeignExchange Translations, there is a lot of talk about Subversion (and don't worry, no revolutionary tendencies are required).
What is Subversion?
Subversion (svn for short) is an open source version control system, or revision control system, known as that has rapidly become a favorite of, primarily, developers. It is stable, flexible, capable, security-conscious, free, open source software, and scales well for any size project.
In Subversion, files are stored in a central location called a repository (typically a server online, but can also be created on a local PC), and checked out to a working version to be edited – edits are later returned ("committed" in Subversion language) to update the main copy of the file in the repository. Subversion maintains these edited revisions on an incremental level in order to maintain a permanent record of each version of the file or project.
What does this have to do with translation?
Because, at its core, Subversion is a revision control system, and we are translating, not developing software, you may be asking yourself now "What does this have to do with me?"
While it may not be the original intent, Subversion has some substantial benefits in medical translation, particularly for management of translation memories (TMs), as well as being a file transfer and project management tool. The tables below highlight some of these benefits, in comparison to non-Subversion practices:
|Translation Memories||Without Subversion||With Subversion|
|Where are TMs stored?||On a drive or a network server, that may require a VPN or direct local connection.||In a Subversion repository that can be set up for secure access from any PC with a Subversion client and an internet connection.|
|How are changes to TMs managed?||Because there is no way to "save" a TM (changes are always automatically saved), previous versions must either be kept as copies of the full TM, or as a TXT/TMX export of each version.||Every time the TM is changed and committed, it is tracked as a new version. Older versions are always accessible through Subversion.|
|What happens if an error or corruption is introduced in to a TM?||Hopefully you have a TXT or TMX export of a version before the problem was introduced. Then you can create a new blank TM in TRADOS, and import the old version.||Simply revert the file to the prior version with a few clicks.|
|Project Management/File Transfer||Without Subversion||With Subversion|
|How are files stored throughout a project?||Files are kept in a network server or drive for the project. Separate folders are maintained with copies of the files created at each step of the project.||Files are maintained in a central repository. Each time the files are changed, they are updated in this central repository.|
|How are files transferred?||Project files are placed in a .zip or .rar archive, and sent via email or FTP. When the work is complete, the entire set of deliverables must be re-packaged and sent back by email or FTP in full.||A link is provided to the Subversion repository and, with a few clicks, the files are downloaded to the designated folder.|
Subversion updates the repository on an incremental level; only data about how the file is changed from the repository version is sent, reducing upload times.
|What happens if a file (either source or reference) is changed after work is started?||The entire file (or package of files must be re-sent.||If the files have already been downloaded, a few clicks will sync the files up to the latest version.|
|How are staggered deliveries managed?||Each delivery must be sent with a separate email or FTP upload, with a new zip file.||All files are downloaded at project start. As files are ready, the working copy can be easily updated with each delivery.|
While Subversion offers substantial benefits for medical translation professionals, this is not to say that the system is not without its flaws. As part of our current test phase, we have received some great feedback and questions from those of you that we have contacted, or collaborated with on one of our projects.
We will provide more information as we complete the test stage and move towards rolling out Subversion on a larger scale. In the mean time, take a look at Subversion yourself!
[Thanks, Justin, for the original article!]
ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translations for regulatory, marketing, and clinical groups at pharma and device companies. Contact us to find out more.