This is my list of go-to translation tools:
NJStar Communicator which allows me to type in kana or kanji from my keyboard
Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC Server, Translate Words Page, which allows me to type (or cut and paste) kanji directly into the box and get definitions. (Beware, though – this ONLY translates kanji well. It is seriously less good at hiragana and doesn’t account for most alternate forms of words.)
Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC Server, Multiradical Kanji Lookup. Since I don’t have a kanji dictionary at work, this page is invaluable. It allows me to find kanji I don’t already know, just by clicking on the radicals that make up the character.
And while I’m on the subject, I also frequently use Jeffrey’s Japanese-English Dictionary Server. This is a romaji translator, i.e., you put in the romaji spelling of a Japanese word (or an English one) and get the equivalent in the other language. My recommendation is to set the Japanese text image color to “black” and don’t use the in-line function. If you play around with this site, you’ll see what I mean.
When I’m at home, I use the NTC’s New Japanese-English Character Dictionary for kanji lookup. It’s pretty nifty, once you get used to it, I think.
Sanseido’s Concise Japanese-English Dictionary. This book is worth its weight in gold, I swear. Not only does it include common usage of any word, but frequently has idioms and slang, as well. I strongly recommend this book, especially if you’re reading manga that has unusual, or technical, terminology.
Anyway – there’s my “secrets” to translation, in case you ever wondered. ^_^