Category Archives: Technology

Five Online English-French Translation Tools

Life is most certainly getting the way of my good blogging intentions, so here’s a quick post with links to some useful French translation sites. It’s by no means exhaustive – more a way of me keeping track of the list I have so far – and I’ll update it in future, when I have more time.

My Top Five English-French Translation Tools


This is a new one to me but it looks interesting as it’s just an English-French translation tool. I haven’t had much chance to use it yet but I know that will change. With a few months of use behind me I hope to have some idea how it compares to other tools I’ve been using, nameley:


This is an excellent translation tool, far superior to Google, which really does come up with some dubious translations at times. Reverso also has an excellent dictionary, which gives context-based translations.

Google Translate

Google Translate is probably the least accurate but also the most convenient. Perhaps this is most useful in the web browser, allowing you to quickly translate a page from French (or any other language) into English. It’s not perfect but you can get the idea. If you’re using this for translation from English to French I recommend running your text through another translation tool as well and then cross-checking any differences. Google seems to simplify translation and doesn’t account for nuance. It’s the quick and dirty option.


Linguee is fantastic dictionary and als very useful for translating short phrases – definitely one of the best translation tools that’s out there given it takes context into account. There’s now a mobile app, which I’m yet to try out.

Cambridge Dictionary

Whenever James sees me using Google Translate he berates me for forgetting about the Cambridge Dictionary translation tool. This is his favourite. I use it as one of my go-tos for double-checking Google’s efforts.




Working with Google Sheets

In my previous life within a large corporation I worked a lot on metrics and reporting. Because tech writing is usually an afterthought when it comes to a large R&D and Sales focused organisation like the one I worked for, naturally we had no money for this so it was all done with a digital-equivalent of make do and mend. Our stats were spread out everywhere in different systems (systems is overstating it somewhat) and the formats weren’t unified. It fell to a nerd like me, someone who just can’t stand that level of chaos and also has a thing for Excel, to design a more streamlined system that would enable me and my fellow managers to a) keep track of the monthly stats for our team and b) create meaningful(-ish) reports to justify our existence for the higher ups. In tech writing, a fairly uncreative definition of the stats usually means numbers of docs, pages, etc. That’s what our main superior was interested in (he was a numbers guy and didn’t care for modern nuances like quality, consistency, customer satisfaction) so that’s what we did.

Anyway, I digress. What I’m trying to say is that I used Excel – a lot. Now, on my home PC, I have Open Office and I also use Google Sheets. I like Open Office very much because it’s free open source. It’s not as easy for me to use as Excel, I think because I’m so familiar with the Excel interface. That’s just a learning curve. Functionally, I think it’s on a par but since I haven’t had the need to put it through it’s paces, I can’t say that sure.

Google Sheets, on the other hand, I mean please. It’s sooo basic! And slow. We have a 20MB connection here and it’s tedious just trying to format a cell. I’m trying to set up some really simple accounting spreadsheets and it’s painful! I know I could use OO but I really want these particular docs in the cloud as then they’re handy to share with my accountant and also accessible from any machine. It would seem the price for ease of access is functionality, unless I’m missing something. Anyhow, in the spirit of keeping things handy, here’s a link to the list of functions that can be used for calculations.

Google spreadsheets function list

I know I’ll need it again.

Now to figure out whether it can do pivot tables (I suspect not!) should the need ever arise again (I hope so! I have a rather love-hate relationship with them; mostly it’s love.)

Do you do fancy, clever spreadsheety things with Google Sheets? If so, please enlighten me!

How to Back Up Your Anki Flashcard Deck

Boring post alert! This is for mine and James’s benefit really because living in this tiny house things get lost all the time. James is in the habit of posting any new techy info he needs to remember on his blog, which works really well so I thought I’d try some of the same. As things like this are bound to come up again I’ve created a new category called Nerd Alert! This and any future computing-related posts will be filed under there. (This is me trying to be more organised and also rewaken my work brain.)

So, Anki flashcards. What are they and why am I backing them up? Well, the clue’s in the name. Yes, they’re digital flashcards that can be customised so that you can design your own system or download an existing deck and start from there. We’re both using the template deck that Gabriel Weiner advocates on his Fluent Forever site. The software is open source freeware that with versions for PC, Android, Mac. It’s a brilliant tool for learning a new language – or anything else, for that matter. You create your deck, adding new words or phrases then open up the software which uses spaced repetition to show you cards depending on how well you have learned them. Words or phrases you’re familiar with get shown less often than those you’re struggling with. It basically feeds you information in the same way that a parent teaches a child new words. Similarly, the key to success is little and often. Anyway, I digress.

The Anki software is easy to use – just download it from the web (for your PC) or from the Google or iTunes stores (for Android or Mac) – and away you go. If you’re moving between devices, as most people are these days, you can create an AnkiWeb account, which allows you to sync any changes in the form of new cards you’ve created or the latest results from a revision session so you can pick up and continue on any other device. It makes the learning method very portable unless sync doesn’t work properly. This has only happened to me one time and I think it was a “feature” of the way the Kindle Fire handles memory but enough hard work wasted in that one time – about three weeks worth of new cards, I think – that it can really throw your progress because without a backup you have to create any cards that have been lost from scratch. With so many new words to learn that’s not something I would wish on anyone (remember the days before autosave where the essay you were about to print out just disappeared because of a power cut?) Anyway, let’s just remind ourselves – always back your work up. Since that fateful day that an Anki sync ate my homework, this is the method I use. It works because I only ever use my PC to create new cards. Any other devices, like the Kindle or the mobile, come out when I want to test myself while out and about. With the “development deck” existing only on the PC, here are the steps I take to back it up after every deck update:

  1. Open SyncBack and run the Anki backup.

Haha, yes, that’s it! SyncBack is a genius bit of freeware that saves me hours of time backing up individual software programs or folders. When I got into trouble with Anki I created a new backup profile for Anki and now I can update it without having to remember where any of the files are.

So let’s make that:

Step 1. Download and install SyncBack. There’s a freeware version that I use but if you like it and will used it more extensively there are also paid for versions with more features.

Step 2. Open up Syncback and create a backup profile for Anki. This is what mine looks like. (**** is the username.) You want to backup (copying contents of folders A, B, and C, to D) not sync.


Step 3. Run the Anki  backup profile. You can check the files list or just okay it. I think I checked the first few times but now I’m happy with the way it works I just hit OK.

Step 4. Relax, you’re done!

Easy peasy, eh?

Are you using Anki to learn a language? How do you backup your files? Feel free to share!