Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Translate in iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma


Apple first introduced the Translate app in iOS 14. Although it was a welcomed addition to the language translation space, I stopped using it a couple of months after its release. Many languages were still missing, its interface was lackluster at best, and I found that its French translations were not great. I would also still often rely on Google Translate to translate text in the real world using the iPhone camera — a feature that was initially missing from Apple’s app. This year, however, the Translate app received a substantial makeover and a handful of new features in iOS 17.


Each translation card contains the same set of actions: ‘Show Full Screen,’ ‘Add to Favorites,’ ‘Define,’ and ‘Copy.’ Adding to Favorites is not something I expected to use, but it’s actually very useful, considering that the Translate app will not keep a full history of your translations after you close it.


Apple’s Translate app still doesn’t support as many languages as its competitors. However, I can safely say that there have been substantial improvements for the languages it already supports. The app also stands out with some of its features. The Conversation tab is unique in its well-thought-out design. Manually selecting the grammatical gender for gendered words sets it apart from a simple translation app you may use during your vacation abroad, perhaps transforming it into a daily work tool.

I still find the popover-based interface on the Mac frustrating. It doesn’t show much at once, you can’t select text, you can’t reference it while working in another window, you can’t make live changes to the input, and it doesn’t work in all apps (BBEdit, Xcode, Terminal). Why isn’t there also a separate app like in iOS? Catalyst and SwiftUI have already been available for 4 years.

Translation is working better for me now in Safari, but it only works within the app. There is no way to send someone a link to a translated URL, as with Google Translate.


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