Welcome!

XML Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Jason Bloomberg, ITinvolve Blog

Related Topics: XML

XML: Article

What Is XLIFF and Why Should I Use It?

A brief overview of the XML Localization Interchange File Format (XLIFF)

Much time, energy, and commitment are required to develop and sell successful software products and Web-based services. Most products of this type are initially developed for a specific language and locale (e.g., U.S. English). To maximize return on investment, products can be customized so they may be available to the largest possible market - the global market. This customization process is known as localization.

Localization includes not only translation of the displayed text, but also adaptation of a product to comply with a country's cultural and legal practices. Examples of cultural conventions include date/time formats, postal address formats, font sizes, appropriateness of colors, numeric or currency formats and symbols, culturally appropriate icons or graphics, etc. The diversity of software platforms and technologies means that tools and technologies that support localization are also diverse and are frequently incompatible with each other. Industry standards drive process and technology efficiencies, and OASIS XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) has emerged as a standard interchange file format for localization-related data and metadata. This article will introduce the process of localization and summarize the challenges and issues facing those who localize. It will illustrate how XLIFF addresses many of the challenges and issues with descriptions of its architecture, provide examples of how to use it in real life, and discuss how it was developed and where it goes from here.

Localization: A Brief Overview
Having a product available in a different language increases the potential market into which it can be sold. Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle earn more than 60 percent of their sales from international markets. IBM recently reported that 70 percent of Web users speak a primary language other English. Within the United States, 18 percent of the population speak a language other than English at home. The Canadian Translation Bureau has reported that Canada represents 4 to 8 percent of the global translation services market with only 0.5 percent of the world's population.

The software localization industry was born in the mid 1980s as a result of the personal computer revolution. Early projects were very engineering intensive. Software developers would usually throw the final version of the application over the proverbial wall and expect the localization team to do the rest. The user interface and functional code were in the same file, which meant that functionality problems would often be introduced during the translation process. Before translation could begin, a software engineer would first need to change the character set code pages to ensure that software could be translated into the target language. Separating code from the UI required significant software development and localization resources. Physically and logically partitioning the UI data into separate resource containers reduced the severity and frequency of functionality defects introduced by the localization process.

The introduction of the Unicode character set standard and the growing emphasis on internationalization as a standard component of the software engineering practice was a very significant benefit to reducing the time and cost of localization. Internationalization is the process of developing software in such a way that it can run in different international environments without adapting or recompiling the code. Unicode introduced a common character set code page, and it is one of the corner-stones of software internationalization. The World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) specifications and guidelines have addressed localization issues such as the separation of code and UI, character set issues, and date and time formatting. Cultural and economic factors are motivating many organizations to design and adapt their products for delivery to the global markets.

Today global markets are not content to wait months or even weeks for locally adapted software to be made available to them, so localization must now be done in parallel with the core product development. "Throwing software over the wall" to be localized after a product is sold is no longer an option.

The Internet introduces new challenges into the localization process by enabling more complex distribution models. Products and content are rolled out simultaneously throughout the global markets. The proliferation of diverse architectural frameworks and technologies upon which Internet and e-business applications are built has resulted in different degrees of complexity in both the core development and in localization.

Throughout its history, the localization industry addressed these business challenges through improvements in tools and processes delivered by competing vendors. Their solutions addressed specific technical or process requirements, but were rarely interoperable, which often resulted in vendor lock-in. With XLIFF, the localization industry got together to find a solution to some of the challenges that the industry is now facing.

Localization Challenges Addressed by XLIFF
XLIFF has already provided solutions to difficult localization challenges, including the following.

Challenge: Many different file formats to localize - The typical localization project is composed of data stored within many unique resource formats. Building tools to support the localization of these formats is costly and inefficient.

Solution: Transform or extract all localizable resources, regardless of native format, into XLIFF containers. For example, before XLIFF existed, one major database and enterprise software vendor localized 32 unique resource formats. Some of the formats were proprietary, others were legacy, but most were industry standards (i.e., Java List Resource and Property Resource Bundles, Windows RC Data, .html, .jsp, and various XML). Additionally, each new release introduced additional resource formats, usually XML-based, but each required extensive retooling of the localization tools, which lead to quality problems and scheduling delays. To reduce the retooling work and its consequences, the core development teams were given the responsibility of extracting or transforming the new resource formats to XLIFF before handing off for translation. Three years and three major releases later, the number of unique resource formats supported by the localization tools was reduced from 32 to a much more manageable 17. Additionally, by adopting XLIFF, the tools development team was able to shift resources that had been dedicated to retooling onto building new cost-saving enhancements such as XLIFF's built-in suggested translations features. Listing 1 is an example of a Java properties file and its XLIFF representation.

Challenge: Lack of version management metadata in native resource containers - Localization projects often run concurrently with core development projects, which means that resource files will be made of up of multiple versions or milestones. Version management at the segment level (a segment is the smallest discrete unit of translatable text) is a very useful feature if your goal is to maximize the reuse of previous translations. Web content is often dynamic, and multilingual content must be kept in sync in order to maintain quality. Few if any native resource containers provide a means of tracking the version of the content.

Solution: XLIFF provides metadata structures for tracking versions of source and translated content.

Challenge: Lack of workflow metadata in native resources - During the localization process, data passes through many different hands. Data to be localized is typically externalized by software publishers and handed off to a localization service provider, who in turn may hand it over to translation subcontractors. At each stage of the process, the types of data required are unique to the particular phase (source/target text, Translation Memory, Machine Translation, Termbase, etc.). Introducing automation into a development process saves money and resources and improves quality by ensuring the reproducibility of the process. Native resource files don't usually contain mechanisms for tracking the stage of the process at which changes were introduced to the localization process.

More Stories By Peter Reynolds

Peter Reynolds is manager of the software development team at the Dublin, Ireland office of Bowne Global Solutions (BGS), the leading provider of localization and translation solution. Peter and his team are responsible for developing some of the software that BGS use to run their business, including Elcano, the online translation service, and myInfoShare, the online project collaboration workspace. Peter has been working on XLIFF since its inception and is a founder member and secretary of the OASIS XLIFF Technical Committee. He also chairs the OASIS Translation Web Services Technical Committee.

More Stories By Tony Jewtushenko

Tony Jewtushenko is the founding and present chair of the XLIFF TC as well as the director of R&D for Product Innovator (www.productinnovator.com), a Dublin, Ireland-based consultancy that provides product management, process improvement, localization, and internationalization services to software companies.
During his 23-year career, Tony was a key contributor to dozens of releases of successful commercial software products, including Lotus 1-2-3 and Notes, Oracle JDeveloper, and iDS. His multinational work and life experience spans USA, Europe, Middle East, and Asia.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver ...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.