This is one of the 52 terms in The Language of Localization published by XML Press in 2017 and the contributor for this term is David Filip.

What is it?

XML Localization Interchange File Format. The only open standard bitext format. This is how computer-aided translation (CAT) tools can be interoperable.

Why is it important?

XLIFF is important because managing bitext is the core process of localization. XLIFF keeps source and target aligned throughout all transformations in the roundtrip through the localization process, which should be standards-based, not proprietary.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Professional, industry-scale localization and translation services must use bitext, which keeps the segments (typically sentences) and logical units (typically paragraphs) in the source language aligned with those in the target language.

While the industry has been using proprietary bitext formats, proprietary formats cause lack of interoperability and vendor lock-in. Because XLIFF is an open standard bitext format, it prevents this problem.

Imagine a professional reviewer doing quality assurance (QA) for a translation without having access to the source. Even if the source can be located, the reviewer would still need to manually parse and re-parse the unaligned and disconnected source and target. Clearly, this is not scalable.

XLIFF 2 Core is designed to facilitate the round trip from extracting source content to merging target content back into the environment. XLIFF modules provide interoperable metadata, enhancing specialized collaboration and automation, including terminology or translation memory (TM) matches.

XLIFF 2.0 replaced XLIFF 1.2 in 2014. Albeit widely adopted, XLIFF 1.2 was both too big (many features, yet no modularity) and terrifyingly slim (lack of specificity), which allowed for mutually incompatible implementations.

XLIFF 2.1 will supersede XLIFF 2.0 in 2017. It adds advanced validation capability and an internationalization tag set (ITS) module that brings full native support for ITS 2.0. Advanced validation capability from 2.1 can be used to validate both XLIFF 2.1 and XLIFF 2.0 documents more comprehensively. XLIFF 2.1 is backward compatible with XLIFF 2.0, thanks to the modular architecture of XLIFF 2.