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What is XLIFF in Localization?

The XML Localization Interchange File Format (XLIFF) is a standard format used in the localization industry for exchanging localization data between different tools and systems. It provides a standardized way to package and exchange translatable content, including text strings, formatting, metadata, and context information. It makes it easier for translators and localization teams to work with the content.

XLIFF is based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language), a widely used markup language for structuring and representing data. XLIFF files typically have a .xliff or .xlf file extension.

Here are some key features and components of XLIFF:

  1. Segmentation: XLIFF breaks down the translatable content into smaller segments, such as paragraphs, sentences, or individual strings. These segments are assigned unique identifiers, which helps in managing translations efficiently.
  2. Translatable Units: XLIFF defines an <trans-unit> element representing each translatable unit or segment. It includes the source text and can optionally include the target text, translation status, and other metadata.
  3. Localization Context: XLIFF supports including additional information about the localization context, such as the source file, location within the file, character counts, formatting information, and notes. This context helps translators understand the intended meaning and context of the content.
  4. Translation Memory Integration: XLIFF can be used in conjunction with translation memory tools, which store previously translated segments for reuse. Translation memory integration allows translators to leverage existing translations, improving consistency and efficiency.
  5. Extensibility: XLIFF is designed to be extensible, allowing the inclusion of custom elements and attributes to accommodate specific requirements or additional metadata.

XLIFF plays a significant role in the localization process, facilitating the exchange of content between various localization tools and systems. It enables seamless collaboration between content creators, translators, and localization teams, streamlining the translation and localization workflow.

Using XLIFF can help overcome some common challenges in localization, such as maintaining consistency, reducing duplication of effort, and ensuring translation accuracy. By separating translatable content from the application’s source code and storing it in a standardized format like XLIFF, organizations can efficiently manage translations, collaborate with localization vendors, and integrate with translation management systems.

Many localization tools, translation management systems, and content management systems support XLIFF as a standard format for importing and exporting localization data. Companies like Adobe, SDL, and memoQ are examples of companies that offer localization tools and solutions that support XLIFF for seamless content exchange in the localization process.

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