Babylon 7.0 is quick and simple-to-use translation software, that won't break the bank.

Even for English users (far more web pages and documents are, after all, written in English than in any other language), there are countless times when a conversation or search has been struck down in its prime due to an inability to speak somebody else's language.

And while optical character recognition (OCR) software continues to get plenty of attention, translation tools have remained something of a joke. Here we've looked at two brand new market releases - Linguatec Personal Translator 2008 and Babylon 7.0 – to see if translation software is finally ready to make it to the big time. This is our verdict on Babylon 7.0.

Babylon 7.0 can work freely within 75 different languages. And it does this for the extremely modest price tag of £40.

Babylon 7.0 is designed to be a quick discreet solution. At any time you can call up the simple window and type in words or short phrases.

Most of Babylon 7.0's features really come alive when you're online – if you don't have access to an internet connection, you'll find it rather lacking.

It's only when you're online that you can call on Babylon 7.0's more in-depth text translation tool that lets you work on large paragraphs rather than words or phrases. Alternatively, the web-based spell check is a good method of checking that you're typing in the right words when scribbling an email or adding to a blog.

In addition, you get access to Babylon's LingoZ site. This is an attempt to build up a multilingual dictionary. It relies on users adding new words and entries, and in practice it currently works a lot like an inferior version of Wikipedia. It would, though, be worth keeping an eye on. Cheap and simple, Babylon 7.0 is a good way of checking out foreign words. However, when it came to translating large chunks of text, it clearly lagged behind the Linguatec package.

We tried out Babylon 7.0 with a number of German books and web pages on finance, sport and horoscopes. One thing that's clear is that translation software is still very much in its infancy. Babylon 7.0 struggled with a Thomas Mann book, for instance. And while a copy of Alice in Wonderland worked rather better, you'll still need to use plenty of logic to understand a number of the sentences.

This, though, is being a little unfair to Babylon 7.0 – translating a novel, after all, is always likely to be a hard task. Feed the programs some everyday websites, and the results are more palatable.

NEXT PAGE: reading out text and our expert verdict > >

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