A few ways to make your glossaries future-proof

So you finally decided to take your old glossaries and bring them into the 21st century. But you don't know where to start? Here are a few ideas on how to proceed.

Paper glossaries

You're not going to like this, so I better say it right now: You're basically stuck with having to type everything into your computer or tablet. Unless, of course, you have pristine handwriting, in which case you could scan your glossaries and run them through OCR (optical character recognition) software. After all, just having a photo of your glossary is not very useful.

You can use the scanner in your (home) office or a scanning app on your mobile device (such as Scanbot). In terms of software, you may already own a scanning and/or OCR program like Abbyy FineReader. OCRKit is a more affordable option (currently 40€ on the Mac App Store and 50€ for the Windows version). Ideally, the software should also recognise glossaries with the enclosing tables.

Congratulations, your glossaries have now entered the digital age.

Google Docs/Sheets

Whether you digitised your old glossaries or you already had them in an electronic format, they are not too useful when they just sit on your hard drive. I suggest you move them to a cloud service. Dropbox or other services are fine, but putting your hard work into Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive gives you more options, because you can edit it in a web browser or the mobile apps available for smartphones and tablets. On top of that, you can share terminology with colleagues for preparation or even editing while you work.

While there is nothing wrong with Excel or Word files, I recommend putting your terminology into a database instead to have even more flexibility when working with those valuable terms.


One very good option is Airtable. Traditional database applications like Microsoft Access or FileMaker are hard to use and expensive. Airtable is a refreshing take on databases, combining the intuitiveness of a spreadsheet grid with the capabilities of a database. It is a general-purpose database app that works in the web browser and on mobile devices (iPad, iPhone and Android [currently in beta]). Getting started is very easy, and it lets you import existing files quickly and easily (using CSV).

A good alternative is Tap Forms (which I have covered before), but they have no Windows app and no web-based solution. 

Interpreter's Help

Lastly, there is a tool specifically geared towards interpreters, the aptly named Interpreters' Help. According to glossary management (with collaborative features), it also offers some features for client and assignment management. Check out my previous coverage of the app on my blog.

If you want to know more about terminology, check out the excellent website of my freelance colleague Anja Rütten and listen to the podcast interview I recorded with her and our friend Leonie Wagener.

The Troublesome Terps are back!

The Troublesome Terps are back!

New video: iOS 9 features for (interpreters and translators)

New video: iOS 9 features for (interpreters and translators)