VoxOx now translates as you type

VoxOx's claim on a robust feature set makes it a powerful, if slightly unstable, multiprotocol chat and VoIP client--now with free universal translation for all IMs and tweets.

Since it was introduced in late 2008, VoxOx has tried to cut a name for itself in the competitive multiprotocol chat client market by providing users with an aggressive feature set. These include VoIP, a "personal assistant" for managing incoming calls with more than a simple redirect, and SMS and Web-based callback to cut down on the cost of long-distance, transnational calls. The latest improvement is a universal translator that translates all text-based messages in real time, and with a reasonable amount of accuracy, for both the Windows and Mac versions of the program. It will work with all supported instant messaging services, including Facebook IM, Twitter, and SMS messages.

The VoxOx Universal Translator will work on all supported IM networks, including Facebook IM, as well as Twitter and SMS messages. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

To activate the translator, click the Universal Translator button to the right of the text box; it looks like a grayed-out globe. Check the "translate" box and choose whether you want all messages translated, only incoming, or only outgoing. Next, choose your languages, hit OK, and start typing. For both incoming and outgoing messages, you will only see them in your preferred language. Click on one to view its translation.

The feature supports 50 languages, from French, Spanish, simplified and traditional Chinese, and Hindi to more obscure languages such as Welsh, Icelandic, and Catalan. Some heavily used languages, such as Tagalog, are not currently supported.

In tests performed with several colleagues at CNET, we discovered that the translator works well in general. It works best when the selected languages are set as the defaults for the system users. This means that if I'm translating into Chinese, the person I'm chatting with should have his or her chat program's default language set to Chinese. While this may seem frustrating to some, it's important to remember that the program only requires one user to be using VoxOx to take advantage of the translation feature.

The translator only requires one participant to use VoxOx. This is what somebody receiving the translated text might see. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Somewhat annoyingly, the translation feature also lacks any kind of "nuance engine" to help determine the context of the words as they're being used in the conversation. In other words, there's no support for slang. It translates what you type more or less literally, so expect some broken translations along the way.

For a free, on-the-fly text translation service that requires little effort from users, this seems like an acceptable trade-off and should be considered another feather in the VoxOx cap.