Outlook 2010's New Translation Feature

The world continues to get smaller with the expansion of the Internet and digital communications. Sometimes those communications are not in the language that you are accustomed to. Microsoft has made it a little easier to translate content between languages with Microsoft Office 2010. The Translation feature incorporated into Office 2010 extends into Outlook 2010. Now Outlook email message body content can be translated without having to cut and paste text from Outlook to a third party translation application or website like http://translate.google.com or http://babelfish.yahoo.com/.

When you open a new message received in Outlook 2010, the Outlook Ribbon by default has a Translate option with a drop-down menu as shown in Figure 1. This is a function of Office 2010 and is available in other applications, most notably Microsoft Word. As we know, Outlook 2010 uses Word 2010 as its email editor and HTML rendering engine. Selecting the Translate button offers three options in the drop-down menu:

  • Translate item
  • Translate Selected Text
  • Mini Translator

The first option will translate the message body using a Microsoft web service found at http://microsofttranslator.com (which is also the redirect destination for http://translate.bing.com). The message body is sent to the external site where it is translated into the chosen language. The current site is:


The default browser is automatically opened to return the output of the translation. Figure 2 is an example of that output.

The second option, Translate Selected Text, allows the user to highlight part of the message body for translation. The same resource is used to return the results; however, the output is displayed within a research pane opened to the right of the message body. (See Figure 3.) The research pane will automatically update and translate when new text is highlighted in the message body. If you aren’t happy with the translation output, the research pane is intended to provide a gateway to supplemental resources for assistance. Within the research pane, there is a link to open a Translation Options window. This window allows you to change the language pairs (from and to) for translation and the service used to execute the translation. (See Figure 4.)

The last option, the Mini Translator, will perform the same Internet query to the same service as the other options; however, the translated output is displayed in a mouse-over pop-up window. An example of this is shown in Figure 5.

Clicking the Choose Translation Language option at the bottom of the drop-down menu shown in Figure 1, opens the Translation Language Options Window reflected in Figure 6. The language choice you make here becomes the default language for the other translation options listed above. Of course, you can change this any time or select a different language for any specific translation you attempt.

The translation service faces the same modern grammar and language challenges as other automated translators do (converting slang, technical terms or newer words between languages). A potential concern to companies is outlined in the warning reflected in Figure 7. The input text to be translated is sent to a translation web service and presented in a browser. There is no Privacy Policy or EULA for the user to accept for this service and the content is sent as unencrypted HTML over the wire (or the wireless). Microsoft also leaves the door open for other translation providers based on the drop-down menus available for specific language pairs. Currently in the Outlook 2010 beta, Microsoft Translator is the only option available for those drop downs. (see Figure 4 again.) Sensitive information may be seen by packet capture applications or stored in caching systems between the workstation and the web service.

Overall, for companies needing a quick translation of text from one language to another, the translation service incorporated into Office 2010, including Outlook 2010, can be a time-saving benefit. As third party services get added, the option will become even more valuable.


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