I am in the process of translating a script and am constantly struggling with the side-by-side vertical scrolling of the document.

Does anyone know of an editor which is capable of "locking" two columns side by side? Something novel translators would use, or so.

(Please, no recommendations of Word with columns turned on, or Excel...)

  • Diff editors such as meld and diffuse offer locked panes, but their diff-highlighting can get in the way once your task is managing docs which differ on another level, like language, but are more or less the same on the level of meaning. A locking based on paragraphs would help here...
    – isync
    Jan 13, 2012 at 16:58
  • Is this about screenwriting? (I'm asking for tagging purposes.) May 11, 2012 at 1:05
  • @neil-fein: Not really. The problem is with any text that needs to be translated, a script/screenplay, a text, a novel, copy for a website or brochure. In game-dev, people usually use Excel! Novel translators seem to import into a row based editor which splits on paragraphs, elevating some native format (I'm assuming plain-text in the context of my question) into something editor-specific. I'd like to keep it in plain text.
    – isync
    Mar 2, 2017 at 14:49

5 Answers 5


If you are using Windows, you can select two separate documents and display them side by side. This does not synchronize the scrolling between windows, but you probably wouldn't want that anyway. If the content in one window surpasses the length of the content in the other, then you would need to scroll in each separately.

I am using Windows 7, and I can open two documents of the same type, do a Shift-right click on their icon at the bottom of the screen, and then choose the option to "Show windows side by side". I don't remember the exact steps for earlier versions of Windows, but I know they are very similar. This will allow you to use the editor of your choice and keep each screen positioned where you need it so that you can easily move back and forth as needed.

  • 1
    I was hoping for a cool editor, which would recognize paragraphs and adjust the scrolling accordingly, like a writers-version of meld (a diff editor) or similar - but of course, your solution seems to be a good one. Following the mantra KISS.
    – isync
    Dec 17, 2011 at 21:08

I've been using the free Notepad++ text editor lately for writing software code, and find it very useful being able to have two documents visible, side-by-side.

It also allows you to lock the vertical scroll-bars. I expect it's limited to plaintext documents, so if that's what you have, give it go. Many other text editors will be able to do the same.


This is not an ad for any site or tool! But in Google Translator Toolkit, you can upload your file (editable file like *.doc/ *.txt) and translate it in synchronized paragraphs User interface, and then download it and revise (for the linking words and the smoothness of the speech ) ...and you are done!

The good things about this tool are:

  • machine translation as a prior help
  • help of normal Google translate for difficult words.
  • synchronized texts and paragraphs (as well as you can resize the paragraphs)

Professional editors for translators like memoq have this feature.

However, there is a good free solution as well, using vim if you are not scared of the command line.

  1. Install a vim editor. Mac OS X has it pre-installed, for windows you need to download it for free.
  2. Learn some vim basics (how to open a file, save, quit the editor etc), it's boring but you will not regret it.
  3. Open the files you want by opening english.txt, then typing :vsp french.txt or just vim -O english.txt french.txt
  4. You will see both files opened split-screen, you can switch between windows by ctrl+w and ← or ctrl+w and →
  5. type in :set scrollbind in the english.txt file
  6. switch to french.txt by ctrl+w and →
  7. type in :set scrollbind in the french.txt file

Now both files are scrolled simultaneously.

You can adjust the width of the windows by ctrl + < or ctrl + >


Sublime Text offers multi columns layouts and is a very lightweight text editor.

It doesn't have vertical scroll locking, but it does provide a mini-map of the entire document so you can see exactly which part of the document is currently on screen.


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