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Zhangduo Business Translator - A Shell Game

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 8/2/2012

This product is not worthy of the name "translation software." It occasionally would crank out the translation of a line or two from a web page, but I would often find myself having to use another translation product instead.

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    Imagine a product that installs lightning fast; good so far, right? Now imagine that same product sporadically failing to deliver even to a minimal degree on the promises of its manual, in which you then discover the product is shareware. In the manual, Zhangduo's publisher explains that--well, no, I won't tell you. I'll let you read what it says in the manual, mistakes and all. In the opening paragraph of the online manual, it states:

    "Business Translator (TM) is an online translation software based on Internet resources. There now exists many distributed machine in the world that can do the language translation work from a certain language to another specified language. Can we exploit these free or public domain resources? Business Translator (TM) could be the answer."

    I've left the mistakes so you can decide whether you want to trust a translation company that didn't take the time to get its manual translated into idiomatic English. Further down, printed at the top of page two of this online manual, it declares: "Business Translator (TM) is also included, with which you can look up precisely the meaning of any word or phrase in more than 12 dictionary simultaneously. Business Translator (TM) is shareware. We provide you with a free trial period, you are encouraged to register with a small registration fee of 88 Euro or 88 USD. More information on registration can be found ..." (All emphasis in these quotes is theirs.)

    So now I knew what we had spent 88 clams on, only to find out that when the heat was on, they wouldn't open, so to speak.
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    Installation & Setup

    What's Hot:&nbsp
    The download instructions for this product were bizarre. Upon confirmation of the online purchase, they provided a registration code/license key, a very long code (45 characters long), and instructed me as follows: "After you enter your Registration Name and Registration Code, please **hold on** your 'Shift' and 'Alt' key, and then use your mouse to double click on the lines of the words in green, then you will be asked to enter your Activation Code" (which they did provide). Sounds weird enough, doesn't it? But I opted to have a disc sent to me so I could just load it the old-fashioned (!) way. Keep reading in the next column, because up to this point in the process, I thought just maybe this program would be hot.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    I used the disk to install the program. It took about five seconds. "Wow," I thought. Then it occurred to me that if it loaded that fast, it must be either the most sophisticated program on earth or the most shallow. I was never prompted to enter either the registration code or the activation code, but I thought nothing of it, since I had used the disc. Then it didn't work--not just not well, it just did not work. You can read about those problems elsewhere in this review. So I uninstalled it and with some tech help of my own, downloaded the software from the Web. Once again, a lightning-fast installation and still, no prompts for the codes. And still, the same dud of a program.
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    Price to Value

    What's Hot:&nbsp
    What's hot? My frustration at getting a product I wouldn't spend a quarter on at a carnival sideshow to watch! I'll admit, once in a while the Business Translator would work hard, taking 30 seconds or so to translate tough sentences I would type in, like "I am thirsty" or "Will this product work?" into Spanish--and do not too badly. But often, far too often, an error message would display "Error (999) Unable to process request at this time-error 999." It fared worse when I tried to paste text into the box.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    Well, I tried to find something positive to say, but realized that I really should be typing on this side of the matter, because this program is not hot. I used the manual to follow their instructions for sentence, Web, and file translation and it failed far more often than not. More confusingly, sometimes it would succeed, particularly at providing a rough translation of a web page. But once in a while is not what consumers pay for.
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    Help & Support

    What's Hot:&nbsp
    OK, they get a point for answering my email.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    In my frustration at finding a program that was so bad, I at first tried hard to believe that I was doing something wrong, but for the life of me, struggling with the poorly written English of the manual and going step by step through the sorts of procedures other programs have for similar tasks--I still kept coming up empty. So I sent an email and asked to please, please allow me to talk to someone. I received a reply within a few hours (a good thing, yes), but they only informed me that they could help me only via email. While I do understand that it costs a great deal to run a phone-based support line, I even revealed to them that I was reviewing the product to possibly recommend it and that I wanted to be sure I was giving the product a fair chance. When that failed, I still did not give up. I enlisted some tech help of my own and collectively we fared no better. Forget this product.
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    What's Hot:&nbsp
    Don't just take my word for it. Let's let them speak for themselves.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    I looked at the manual, where the instructions for translating a work, a sentence, or a passage are one and the same. Users are told to open Business Translator (there is a dictionary, as well as two tools for different types of translation of web material). I was connected to the internet, as instructed. My language pair and direction were dutifully set. Then, click--nothing. Blank screen. Sometimes. Sometimes an error message saying I couldn't be helped right now. Here's what they say about possible problems one might encounter at this point: "Wait just a second and you will see the translating results in the window below the source text window. Responding speed is up to your Internet connection. If you impatiently switch from Business Translator (TM) to another application such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or some others, and then switch back to Business Translator (TM), you will find either translation is done or Business Translator (TM) is frozen." The best part is next: "If frozen, do not be panic, wait longer, Business Translator (TM) will soon report Connect Timeout or transfer the translation results to the destination text window." Had enough? I had. And so it went. The web page translation sometimes would give me a good draft, but more often, it would open Systrans' window (another translation company, which I've also reviewed). If I were Systrans, I would not want Zhangduo doing my promotion; that's kind of like, "if you were God, would you want televangelists speaking for you?!"
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    Product Features

    What's Hot:&nbsp
    Zhangduo's Business Translator loads four icons, one each for four translation modes plus another called a "magic dictionary." Let's examine them, but not in this column.

    What's Not:&nbsp
    First, the Business Translator has the common split screen found in most translation software packages, into which you can paste, send a file, or type text, click, and get a translation. This one did not work at all for any type of text I tried, except once in a while for text I typed into the window. Another is the Internet Explorer Observer, which was awkward. Its purpose is to float over web pages and allow translation of the URLs when you select them. They appear in a list in this floating window. The Unicode Viewer is for use with East Asian languages and Russian. The problem was that the instructions that appeared in the window simply could not be executed. The most successful of the four was the Web Translator--by which I mean it occasionally would work swiftly and deliver a draft translation of a web page. However, as I note elsewhere in this review, it would more often take me, mysteriously, to Systrans' web page. As for Zhangduo's "Magic Dictionary," it was so rudimentary that a tourist's guide book is probably as useful--and you don't have to install it.
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    [inlineImage|sectionimages||Zhangduo 1|][inlineImage|sectionimages||Zhangduo 2|][inlineImage|sectionimages||BT not so great|][inlineImage|sectionimages||zhangduo Web trans. after script error msg removed|][inlineImage|sectionimages||Zhangduo IE observer, messing up format on yahoo page|][inlineImage|sectionimages||Zhangduo Unicode view -- useless message, leads to no solution|]
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    Suggested Features

    The developers and marketers of this software need to create a product that really does download a translation program to a PC. Ironically, they need a translator to do their user manual, which was clearly written by a Chinese speaker of English but never edited. They need to do a lot of troubleshooting. The product needs to consistently deliver. In their manual they reveal it is shareware, but not in their marketing materials.
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    This product failed to deliver. Don't waste your money. There are actually some decent programs, with good tech support online, at similar prices. Their manuals are even in real American English. Try Systrans, or the Power Translator 11 Pro products (each of which I've also reviewed).
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