Babylon Translation Tool Does a So-So Job

The Babylon translation tool can quickly translate text, documents, and Web pages to and from a variety of languages, and can (for text selections, but not Web pages) automatically recognize the original language. But its extra convenience compared with free online tools such as Google Translate may not be worth the steep $100 price tag.

Babylon claims to translate dozens of languages, but its translations can be spotty.

You can use Babylon for a short, 2-day free trial, but if you choose the Quick install option you may get much more than you bargained for. By default, it will change your browser home page and your default search engine to Babylon, and will install a toolbar packed full of unrelated ad links (such as "Ringtones" and "Games"). You can choose the custom install option to de-select these obnoxious practices.

The program runs from the Windows system tray, and allows you to hold the CTRL button and right-click any word to translate it. Doing so will automatically detect the original language, as will translating a block of text, which can be handy. But while you can also point Babylon at a Web page to perform a translation, it can't automatically determine the page's original language. Babylon will by default display a 'globe' icon with links to its features on your desktop, but the feature didn't display correctly on my test computer and I had to turn it off in the configuration.

When it came to translating text in some informal tests, Babylon did an acceptable job. When pointed at some sample online text (taken from the BitDefender.com product site in various languages), it got the general gist but offered up some clunkers, such as "combines the Protection Superior Proativa of electronic threats with the syntony adjustment dies of his/her PC." Babylon claims to support 75 languages.

By contrast, the free Google Translation service did as well or even better with the same test samples, though you do have to first tell the site what language is used for the original text.

If you frequently translate documents, Web pages, and other text and want to make the process more convenient, Babylon might be for you. But for the average person, its high price tag, sometimes so-so translations, and obnoxious installation practices likely mean you'd be better off with a free service.

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