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SMARTCAT – Our full Review for Freelance Translators


What is “Smartcat”? As the name already indicates, Smartcat is a CAT tool (Computer-Assisted Translation), but actually, it is much more than that! It is a translation management system as well as a marketplace that brings together translators and clients.

Smartcat is cloud-based and completely free for freelance translators, which makes it stand out from other CAT tools. There is also a free version for companies and language service providers, but in contrast to freelancers, they can also choose between different packages that require payment.

So how good is a free CAT tool? Can it keep up with the ones you need to pay for? Find out in this article! At EHLION, we are not new to CAT tools and even offer CAT tool training. We will make it easier for you to find the pros and cons of each popular CAT tool available on the market.

What is Smartcat?

A quick google search will reveal that freelance translators are quite fond of Smartcat and tend to give it good reviews. But it is not popular, just because it is free, but it also comes with various tools to simplify and speed up the translation workflow.

This might come as a surprise for some as other well-known CAT tools also offer free versions, but these usually come with limited functions and are not suited for professional translators, who frequently work with CAT tools.

So how does Smartcat make money? Smartcat has its own marketplace that brings together translators and companies, which means Smartcat doesn’t only rely on selling licenses or subscriptions, but they charge service fees on transactions between a translator and his client. In some cases, the client pays the fees, in other cases, the translator must pay the fees themselves. In addition to that, Smartcat also charges money for the use of additional services such as machine translation engines.

Smartcat has it all –  it is a CAT tool, a project management tool, and a marketplace for freelancers. You can also receive automated payments through Smartcat and choose your preferred payout method. But what are the Pros and Cons?

Pro: Having so many functions in one place proves valuable for both translators and project managers, example Connected translation can save you a lot of time. Cons: On the other hand, so many functions can be a prove overwhelming when navigating through the dashboard for the first time.

Being a cloud-based service has its advantages and disadvantages.

Pro: You won’t have to install Smartcat nor keep up with regular updates. In addition to that, you can access Smartcat from your web browser independent of your operating system. Con: The downside however is that to make use of Smartcat’s full functionality, you are dependent on a constant and stable internet connection, despite Smartcat’s ability to continue working offline.  

Con: Furthermore, Smartcat doesn’t use the full potential that a cloud-based service has to offer as it doesn’t have an app for mobile devices yet. Competition is way ahead in this regard – Cloud solutions are known for offering maximum flexibility and the new SDL Trados Studio 2021 offers just that with an app for iOS and Android along with its new cloud services. This way translation projects can be managed on the go via tablet or smartphone.

Functions and application possibilities

Have a look at what the free version of Smartcat has to offer as we go into detail on each function!


  • Translation memory
  • Glossary
  • Supports more than 150 languages. Click here for all available languages.
  • Supports various file formats. Click here for all available file formats.
  • Allows collaboration between translators and editors, working on one document simultaneously in real-time.
  • Smartcat integrations of external applications.
  • Integration of machine translation engines.
  • QA Check checks for errors such as typos, capitalization, etc.

Smartcat Integrations: zero-click workflows
Smartcat Integrations (Taken fron smartcat website)

Translation memories and glossaries

Thanks to translation memories, translators do not have to translate the same phrase twice. Translation memories are databases, where the source text and its translation are stored. So whenever a phrase that is already stored in the translation memory of a CAT tool is to be translated, it will be readily made available to the translator.

Glossaries support the consistent use of terminology, therefore keeping a uniform corporate language. In glossaries, you can enter terms and their respective translation as well as comments and application examples.

Integration of machine translation engines

Although there are CAT tools that offer more options, the machine translation engines that are integrated in Smartcat are well-known. It is worth mentioning though that only Yandex MT is for free and the rest of the engines are charged for.

smartcat Supported machine translation engines

Integration of external applications

Various apps can be integrated into Smartcat, to mention a few: content management systems like WordPress or services to store and share data such as Google Drive and Dropbox. More information can be found here and here. Some apps that can be integrated are:

  • WordPress
  • Joomla
  • Drupal
  • Gmail
  • Google Drive
  • Box
  • Slack
  • MailChimp

How to use Smartcat?

It takes less than a minute to create an account with Smartcat! You can upload your translation memories and glossaries and start working on your projects right away! All you need to do is upload the file and name the project in the next step.

Set the deadline and target language and if you want you can activate “Advanced Settings” and configure the settings according to your requirements.

Set the deadline and target language and if you want you can activate “Advanced Settings” and configure the settings according to your requirements.

Following that, you can open the project in your translation editor. The translation editor has a clean look and is user-friendly. The user interface is similar to most CAT tools.

The column on the left contains the source text and the matching translation can be inserted in the column on the right. Matches with the translation memory will be displayed on the right side of the column, whilst at the bottom, you can find things such as QA check and document comments.

If you want to take advantage of one of the most active marketplaces in the translation industry, you need to first set up your profile and choose your payout methods. This is quick and only requires the following information:

  • Your Location & contact info
  • Native Language
  • Define the translation services you offer and your source and target language (e.g. translation, MT post-editing, certified translation)
  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Portfolio

Smartcat training

If you want to learn how to use Smartcat and how to get the most out of the functions it has to offer, you can go to their YouTube Channel or check out their Webinars. Whilst these options help to get you started, in comparison to other CAT tool providers, the training options Smartcat has to offer are more limited.

For example, SDL Trados and Across offer on-site training as well as online courses specifically designed for either translators or project managers, in addition to that one can also take part in different certification programs.

Conclusion – a smart and free CAT tool for translators

The Smartcat CAT tool for freelancers is a clear example that free doesn’t always mean low quality!

With Smartcat translators find a professional CAT tool that comes along with various functions. One can upload translation memories, benefit from translation management tools or the integrated machine translation engines, and much more.

It is worth mentioning however that although Smartcat for freelancers is free, you still need to pay if you want to use some extra features such as machine translation engines or OCR (Optical Character Recognition).

Are you still unsure which CAT tool is the perfect fit for you?

We have put together a series of articles with the most used CAT tools on the market so you can easily compare the functions, costs, and special features of each CAT tool. Check out our reviews for Across, SDL Trados Studio, Memsource, and memoQ.

EHLION offers a wide portfolio of language services!

So if you are not only searching for the right CAT tool for your company but also need a translator for your next project, we are here to help! Whether you are searching for software localisation, website and SEO translation, or technical translation we have got you covered! Get in touch with us today for all your language service needs under one roof! Contact us.

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