XLIFF Files Explained: What Every Translator Should Know

In the ever-expanding world of translation, efficient communication between translators and translation software is paramount.
Lucky Eze
6 min

In the ever-expanding world of translation, efficient communication between translators and translation software is paramount. XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) files have emerged as a standard format for streamlining this process. As a translator, understanding XLIFF files and their significance can significantly enhance your productivity and collaboration with various other translation services install software and tools.

Translation software relies heavily on XLIFF files to facilitate the exchange of information between translators and the translation management software itself. These files serve as a bridge, allowing translators to interact seamlessly with the translation managers' tools and harness the power of machine translation and translation memory.

With XLIFF files, translators can effortlessly import and export content, preserve formatting, and manage linguistic assets efficiently. They provide a structured framework for online content that encapsulates the source and target language segments, contextual information, and metadata, enabling translators to focus on linguistic aspects rather than technical intricacies.

By leveraging XLIFF files, translators can harness the capabilities of translation memory, which stores previously translated segments for future use, optimizing the consistency and productivity of translation solutions. Furthermore, XLIFF files empower translators to collaborate seamlessly with colleagues and clients, with less translation costs and ensuring a smooth workflow throughout the translation process.

In the upcoming sections of this blog post, we will delve deeper into the functionalities and benefits of XLIFF files, exploring how they integrate with translation tools and enhance the translator's experience. Stay tuned to uncover the full potential of XLIFF files and revolutionize your translation endeavors.

Understanding the Role of XLIFF in Translation

Translation software, equipped with powerful features, cat tools, and functionalities, relies on XLIFF files to enable seamless communication between translators and the software. These files are a standardized format for exchanging translation content, ensuring compatibility across different tools, multiple languages, and systems.

One of the key advantages of XLIFF files is their ability to support machine translation. By integrating machine translation engines, translation software can leverage XLIFF files to automate parts of the translation process, significantly increasing efficiency. Translators can use machine translation suggestions as a starting point, refining and adapting them to maintain accuracy and context.

Furthermore, XLIFF files play a crucial role in utilizing translation memory. Translation memory is a linguistic asset that stores previously translated segments for future use. XLIFF files act as a container for these segments or translation memories, allowing translation software to identify and match similar or identical segments during translation. This enhances consistency and accelerates the translation process by reusing existing translations.

Translation tools, equipped with XLIFF support, provide a user-friendly interface for translators to import, export, and manipulate XLIFF files. These tools offer a range of functionalities, such as segmenting the content, preserving formatting, and managing terminology. Translators can focus on the linguistic aspects of translation, while the translation tool takes care of technical aspects, ensuring a smooth workflow.

Collaboration is another area where XLIFF files excel. Translators can easily share XLIFF files with colleagues and clients, enabling seamless collaboration and reducing the chances of errors or inconsistencies. The standardized structure of XLIFF files ensures all parties can work on the same project without compatibility issues.

It is important to note that while XLIFF files greatly facilitate the translation process, they do not replace the expertise and creativity of human translators. Translators play a vital role in adapting and editing translations, refining machine translation suggestions, ensuring cultural accuracy, and maintaining the intended meaning.

XLIFF files are essential for efficient translation workflows. They enable effective communication between translators and translation software, facilitate the integration of machine translation and translation memory, provide a user-friendly interface through translation tools, and promote collaboration among translation teams. As a translator, understanding the role of XLIFF files and their integration with various translation tools and assets will empower you to optimize your workflow, enhance consistency, and deliver high-quality translations.

Exploring the Structure of XLIFF Files

XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) files are based on the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) format, which provides a structured and standardized way of representing data. This structured format enables seamless communication between translators and translation software, ensuring compatibility across different tools and operating systems throughout.

< at the core of an XLIFF file are <xliff> tags, which encapsulate the entire file content. Inside the <xliff> tags, various elements organize the translation data. Let's explore some of these elements:


The <file> element represents a single translation project within the XLIFF file. Translation projects can be segmented into multiple files, each containing a specific set of translation content. The <file> element may contain metadata such as the source language, target language, translation tool information, etc.


The <body> element is where the actual translation units are defined. Each translation unit is represented by the <trans-unit> element, which contains the source and target language segments. The <trans-unit> element also stores additional information like context, metadata, and translation memory references.

<source> and <target>

These elements encapsulate the source and target language segments, respectively. The source segment represents the original text that needs to be translated, while the target segment holds the translated text version.


The <note> element allows translators to provide additional comments or instructions related to a specific translation unit. Translation software often uses this element to display context or provide clarifications to translators.


This element groups related translation units and provides contextual information to translators. It helps translators understand the purpose and usage of specific text segments, enhancing the accuracy and quality of translations.


The <unit> element represents a logical group of translation units. It helps organize and group related content within the XLIFF file.

These are just a few essential elements of an XLIFF file. The structure of an XLIFF file allows translation software tools to import and export content, track translation progress, manage linguistic assets, and ensure consistency throughout the translation process.

Translation agencies and translation software tools often utilize XLIFF files to streamline workflows. XLIFF files serve as a standardized format that can be easily shared between translators and agencies, ensuring seamless collaboration and reducing the chances of compatibility issues. Additionally, translation software tools can process XLIFF files to extract and store translation memory, allowing for the efficient reuse of existing translations across projects.

It is worth noting that the structure of XLIFF files can vary slightly depending on the version of XLIFF being used. Different versions may introduce or modify new elements to enhance functionality and support new features. Translators and users of translation software must stay updated on the latest XLIFF specifications to ensure optimal format utilization.

XLIFF files provide a structured, standardized way to organize translation content. The elements within an XLIFF file, such as <file>, <body>, <trans-unit>, <source>, and <target>, facilitate efficient communication between translators and translation software. By understanding the structure of XLIFF files, translators can effectively work with translation tools, manage translation projects, and collaborate seamlessly with professional translation agencies. Embracing the power of XLIFF files enables translators to optimize their workflow, enhance consistency, and deliver high-quality translations.

Benefits of Using XLIFF Files in Translation

Now, let's delve into the numerous benefits of using XLIFF files in our translation processes. These benefits extend to translators, translation software, content management systems, and the overall localization process.

Seamless Integration with Translation Software

XLIFF files provide a standardized format widely supported by various translation software tools. This seamless integration of file formats allows translators to work efficiently within their preferred translation environment. They can import XLIFF files directly into the best translation software, work on the translation, and export the updated files without losing any formatting or context. This eliminates the need for manual copying and pasting, saving time and reducing the risk of errors.

Enhanced Collaboration

XLIFF files enable smooth collaboration between translators, translation agencies, and clients. Translators can share XLIFF files with colleagues, allowing multiple translators to work on different parts of the same project simultaneously. Translation agencies can easily exchange XLIFF files with their translators, ensuring consistent terminology and reducing the chances of miscommunication. XLIFF files also facilitate communication between freelance translators and clients, as they can include comments and instructions within the files for better understanding and collaboration.

Efficient Translation Memory Management

Translation memory (TM) is a linguistic asset that stores previously translated segments for future use. XLIFF files support the integration of TM into translation software, allowing translators to leverage existing translations and achieve consistency across projects. Translators can easily access the TM references within the XLIFF files, improving productivity and maintaining linguistic accuracy. By reusing translations, translators can significantly reduce turnaround times and costs.

Flexibility in Machine Translation Integration

XLIFF files are compatible with machine translation tools, enabling translators to leverage the benefits of automation.

Translation software can integrate machine translation engines and provide suggestions within the XLIFF files. Translators can then review, edit, and refine these machine-generated translations to ensure linguistic accuracy and cultural appropriateness. This combination of human translation expertise, translation management platform, and machine assistance enhances efficiency and consistency in translation projects.

Streamlined Software Localization

Software localization involves translating software applications into different languages while considering cultural and linguistic nuances. XLIFF files play a crucial role in software localization projects. The structure of XLIFF files allows translators to work on specific segments of the software interface, ensuring accurate translation and adaptation. The context provided within XLIFF files helps translators understand the purpose and usage of each text segment, leading to precise and contextually appropriate translations.

Enhanced Translation Management

Translation management systems (TMS) are software platforms that help streamline the translation process, manage resources, and track project progress. XLIFF files integrate seamlessly with TMS, allowing for effective project management, translation management system, and coordination. TMS can import XLIFF files, distribute translation tasks to translators, and automatically merge the translated segments into the files. This centralized approach simplifies project tracking, improves communication, and ensures consistency throughout translation.

Future-Proof and Vendor-Neutral

XLIFF files provide a future-proof and vendor-neutral solution for translation projects. Being an open standard, XLIFF files can be read and processed by different translation software tools, ensuring compatibility and avoiding vendor lock-in. Translators can confidently work with XLIFF files, knowing they can switch between different good translation software tools or work with various clients without compatibility issues.

Using XLIFF files in translation brings numerous benefits to translators, translation software, translation management systems, and the overall localization process. The seamless integration with translation software, enhanced real-time collaboration tools, efficient translation memory, localization management system, flexibility in machine translation integration, streamlined software localization, and enhanced translation management make XLIFF files an invaluable asset in the translation industry. By embracing the power of XLIFF files, translators can optimize their workflow, increase productivity, and deliver high-quality translations cost-effectively and efficiently.

Best Practices for Translating XLIFF Files

Now that we have explored the significance and structure of XLIFF files, let's delve into some best practices that professional translators can follow when working with these files. These practices will help ensure accuracy, efficiency, quality assurance, and consistency throughout translation.

Use Compatible Translation Software

Select a translation software tool that supports XLIFF files and provides a user-friendly interface for importing, translating, and exporting the files. Familiarize yourself with the features and functionalities of the right translation software to make the most of its capabilities when working with XLIFF files.

Maintain Consistent Terminology

Consistency is crucial in translation projects, and XLIFF files can help achieve it. Use the terminology and terminology management and system features in your translation software to ensure consistent translations across projects. Update and maintain your terminology database to improve accuracy and streamline future translations.

Preserve Formatting and Tags

XLIFF files retain the formatting and tags from the source content, which is essential for maintaining the integrity and layout of the translated text. Observe formatting elements and ensure tags are correctly placed in the target language segment. This will help maintain the intended structure and appearance of the translated content.

Review Context and Contextual Instructions

XLIFF files often include contextual information and instructions to translate text that clients or project managers provide. Review these context elements carefully to understand the purpose and usage of the text segments. Consider any specific instructions regarding style, tone, or formatting. This will ensure that your translations accurately reflect the intended meaning and context.

Collaborate and Seek Clarification

If you encounter any ambiguous or unclear segments within the XLIFF files, don't hesitate to seek clarification from the client or project manager. Effective communication is vital for accurate translations. Engage in collaborative discussions to resolve any doubts or ambiguities, ensuring the best possible translation outcomes.

Take Advantage of Translation Memory

XLIFF files often incorporate translation memory references, which can be leveraged to improve productivity and consistency. Translation software tools can match similar or identical segments to previously translated content, enabling faster and more accurate translations. Review and update the translation memory database regularly for optimal reuse of existing translations.

Follow Localization and Style Guidelines

Adhere to any localization strategy and style guidelines the client or project manager provides. These localization management platform guidelines may include specific instructions for the target audience, preferred terminology, or preferred writing style. Aligning your translations with these guidelines will ensure that the final product meets the client's requirements and expectations.


XLIFF files are a vital asset for translators in the modern translation industry. By understanding the structure, functionalities, and benefits of XLIFF files, translators can optimize their workflow, enhance consistency, and deliver high-quality translations. XLIFF files facilitate seamless communication with translation software, enabling efficient integration of machine translation and translation memory. They support collaboration among translation teams and simplify content exchange between translators, agencies, and clients. Moreover, XLIFF files offer flexibility, compatibility, and future-proofing, ensuring translators can work with different tools and clients without compatibility issues. By following the best translation practices when translating XLIFF files, translators can ensure accuracy, efficiency, and adherence to client requirements. Embracing the power of XLIFF files empowers translators to thrive in the ever-evolving translation landscape.

Collaborative translation is a powerful tool for your business if you’re looking to expand to new global markets. By coordinating a team of professionals who work together in real-time, you can quickly deliver high quality translations that resonate with local audiences.

But what if you don't know how to synchronize a large team's efforts? Or are you‌ struggling to find the right software for a well-coordinated translation process? Well, look no further! In this guide, you'll learn all the know-how's of collaborative translation to bring your brand to global audiences.


  1. What is collaborative translation?
  2. Why seamless translation collaboration is important
  3. Best practices for collaborative translation and global market success

What is collaborative translation?

Collaborative translation is when multiple people simultaneously work together to translate content. A collaborative translation process often makes use of specialized tools and software to make sure the translation is quick, accurate, and consistent.

  • Example: Let's say you're a B2B SaaS company looking to translate your marketing materials into a new language to connect with potential clients abroad. Use collaborative translation to bring together translators, developers, and other specialists to translate content into many languages at once.

Your team can use a collaborative translation platform like Redokun to work on projects simultaneously. A coordinated workflow will make sure that your translations use the same terminology and style, improving the quality of the translated product for your target audiences.

Collaborative Translation vs. Crowdsourcing

People often confuse collaborative translation with crowdsourcing and think the two are the same. However, these approaches to translation are different.

Crowdsourcing is when a large group of people contributes translations, often through an open call or invitation by a company or author. Brands can turn to crowdsourcing, community translation, or volunteer translation when they are looking to reduce costs and accelerate the process, especially for large multi-language projects.

In crowdsourced translations, the contributors can be volunteer translators, subject matter experts, or just anonymous individuals online. In other words, you may not know who's worked on the translation and what their qualifications are. It makes crowdsourcing distinct from collaborative translation, where the team would be an established group of professionals you've selected

Why seamless translation collaboration is important

As a busy B2B/B2C marketing manager or project manager, you might ask yourself: Isn't the "divide and conquer" a better strategy when working on a translation or localization project? It seems logical that each project team member, including translators, designers, and editors, works on their tasks separately and step by step.

However, collaborative translation can help your team reap many benefits compared to a traditional approach to translation projects:

Reasons why seamless translation collaboration is important
  • Produce high-quality translations consistently. When your whole team works on a translation project simultaneously on one platform, it's easier to stay in context and keep track of the translation accuracy for every target language. On top of that, your team can conduct agile QA throughout the project cycle.
  • Faster turnaround times. By working together, your team can complete projects faster and more efficiently. Centralization saves a lot of time at every stage of translation. And since your team can work on more than one translation at a time, you can publish your translated content in several new markets at once.
  • Reduced costs. You get to improve efficiency while working with a smaller team of translators. The smaller and more coordinated the team, the less the risk of costly translation errors. It means reduced translation costs and better project budget compliance.
  • Increased flexibility. Collaborative translation allows your team to produce translations into many languages at once and easily make changes to any project document. You can conveniently engage in a feedback loop and guarantee a continuous localization process.
  • Better communication. Collaborative translation effectively brings all members of your localization team together on one platform. It helps you make sure that everyone is working toward the same goals ‌and simplifies overall localization management.

Six best practices for collaborative translation and global market success

To be great at collaborative translation, you need to approach it strategically. Even if you've never used this approach before, you can follow the six steps below to build an efficient collaborative translation workflow. And if you're already familiar with this method, these practices will help you improve the way you collaborate on any translation projects.

Six best practices for collaborative translation for your global business success

1. Work out a detailed project plan

Before you start working on translations together, you need a clear-cut project plan. You should first identify the following items.

  • Project timeline: Define crucial deadlines, project milestones, and the overall project duration.
  • Translation volume and key deliverables: Calculate the general word count, and determine the workload for every language pair if you translate into multiple languages.
  • Project budget: Keep in mind possible added and hidden translation costs.
  • Project team: Define what kind of specialists you need: translators, editors, proofreaders, etc. Will you need to find external translators? Consider all your HR needs in advance.
  • Your approach to the translation process: How much do you want to rely on machine translation? At what point will you edit translated strings? Answer all these questions before you go on.
  • Quality assurance protocol: Establish an efficient QA procedure for all the language pairs you're working on.

It may sound like a handful but the more detailed the plan, the more streamlined the translations will be down the road. Besides, you can already use Redokun to boost this stage of the localization process!

Redokun is a translation management system you can use to automate, coordinate, and optimize your translation processes from content creation to publication.

Redokun simplifies your project planning. In particular, you can use the tool to:

  • Monitor your ongoing translations easily. Keep track of all of your translation files and projects across multiple languages in one space, and check their progress at a glance.
Redokun Document Detail Page
  • Meet deadlines with digest emails. Redokun will send you daily or weekly email digests to update you on the progress of translations. From there, you can initiate one-click reminders to your translators who are potentially falling behind schedule.
  • Making budget planning easier. Redokun has a transparent, scalable pricing structure that will cover exactly the volume of work your project needs.
Redokun is an easy-to-use tool that requires no onboarding. Your team can start using all the system’s features right away. During your project planning stage, you won’t need to factor in a lengthy training period to introduce team members to the tool.

2. Divide tasks and assign responsibilities the smart way

Good collaboration is impossible without a well-planned distribution and organization of roles and tasks. Ensure that every team member is on the same page and understands their respective responsibilities.

For example, the project managers should divide ‌translation tasks among translation team members according to their language proficiency, area of expertise, or subject matter knowledge.
  • On Redokun, you can invite translators to work on different language pairs and content types depending on their skills. All you need to do is enter the translator's email. The software will send them an email invitation and let you know once they've started translating the file.
  • You can also invite several translators to work on one document.
How to invite translators to Redokun

To maximize the efficiency of project management and task division, establish a clear structure of your workflow. Make sure all your pages, files, and folders are well organized and team members know where to find necessary resources for their respective tasks. A centralized, cloud-based storage for all your documents is a must.

  • Redokun is a cloud-based software that makes file management easy. You can create folders and customize permission settings for multiple users for better organization. No more need to look for spreadsheets and lost documents scattered around different digital locations.
  • Don't forget to make the most of the Reporting Dashboard. It shows you the status of the translation project and helps you see how users distribute tasks (for example, what methods they use to translate different content segments).
Redokun Dashboard with translation statistics

3. Enhance the collaborative translation process with clear communication

It's important to have open communication channels among all team members in your translation project, including internal and external translators. For a successful collaboration effort, you need a shared communication space to:

  • Conduct regular check-ins.
  • Discuss translation options and other aspects of the working process.
  • Update and adjust requirements and guidelines.
  • Maintain feedback loops.
It's up to you to choose between email, messengers, or tools like Google Drive or Slack to keep your collboarative operations flowing. However, using multiple channels for different aspects of the project can get messy. It's harder to manage your team and make sure all collaborators are up to date on the ongoing translation tasks.

You can avoid these potential problems by centralizing all your communications and project management. With translation software like Redokun, you can manage, translate, communicate, and collaborate — all in one place.

  • Translate content in context. Your translators or editors can use page previews in Web Editor to understand the context of the text while working on it.
  • Work together in real-time. Use Redokun as a full-scale collaborative translation platform. It enables real-time cooperation among your team members, improving efficiency and reducing communication errors.
  • Use comments, mentions, and notifications to exchange feedback quickly. Redokun's Web Editor is a convenient place to stay in touch and discuss your translation progress every step of the way.
Collaboration feature in Redokun
  • Create a hybrid workflow. Work with your in-house teams or external translators to suit different localization project formats and scalability needs.

4. Use machine translation and translation memory tools

Computer-assisted translation tools are a great addition to human translation. Machine translation (MT) helps your collaborators speed up the localization process by automating translation. Of course, it doesn't have the quality of a human professional translation — it’s more like a helping hand that's always there to facilitate the translation of complex phrases or new terms.

  • Redokun is integrated with two Machine Translation tools: Google Translate and DeepL. Translation suggestions by these two tools pop up right below where the translator should key in the translation, as shown here.

To enhance collaboration even further, consider using translation memory tools. They ensure consistency and save translation software users a lot of time.

Translation memory (TM) is a translation technology that stores previously translated sentences or phrases as segments and creates a unique database for your localization projects. You can reuse your translation to increase efficiency and consistency in ongoing and future translations.

With Redokun as your collaborative translation platform, you can leverage TM to:

  • Consistently translate any repeated word, phrase, or sentence across different language pairs and documents. It's especially important for translating technical terms, marketing slogans, CTAs, and other catchphrases. Translation memory helps you stay consistent in your marketing messaging.
  • Pre-translate your entire documents. Combine TM matches from your previous translations with Machine Translation to get a fully pre-translated document even before your team gets to work.
  • Manage your translation memory database. Import and customize your TM database to further improve translation quality and consistency.
”The speed of translation is quite impressive in that it doesn’t take [much time], maybe a couple of minutes when you translate from English to eight markets. I think that’s what I’m most impressed by.”

Read more about how Kenni and the marketing team at Rockfon increased their translation productivity by 70% using translation memories and other Redokun features

5. Use glossaries and style guides

Glossaries and style guides are valuable resources your team can use for reliable reference.

A glossary is a list of terms and their corresponding translations that are specific to a company or industry.

A style guide outlines the preferred tone, voice, and style for a company's marketing materials across markets and languages.

Your collaborators can refer to these resources when they’re not sure about a translation. For example is when they're deciding how to translate a company abbreviation, whether to the Oxford comma, or choosing the right tone to address customers, etc. No more ambiguity about linguistic, stylistic, and cultural aspects of your translations.

  • Use Redokun's glossary feature to create a glossary and style guide that outlines rules for spelling, grammar, punctuation, terminology, and tone specific to your project.
Redokun glossary feature preview

6. Continuously review and revise

A key benefit of a collaborative translation platform is the ability to review and revise translations in an agile and efficient manner. By involving multiple specialists in the process of editing and QA, you can guarantee accuracy and consistency in the translated content at every stage of the project.

To implement effective review and revision procedures in your collaborative translation projects, it is important to:

  • Plan for review and revision in advance. Identify who will be responsible, set the timeline, and use specific tools.
  • Consider involving in-country reviewers who are familiar with the local market and culture to ensure that the translations are accurate and appropriate for the target audience.
  • Perform regular QA checks. They should include consistency in terminology and formatting, and verify that the translations are free from grammatical errors and typos.
Pro-tip: Ever experienced the headache of having to update a translation that’s already 70% done when there is a last-minute change to the source document?

With Redokun’s revision feature, you don’t have to spend hours poring over Excel sheets and comparing files to spot the places where new words have been added or sentences have been changed. Just upload the latest document version and the system will identify new text that needs translating — saving your team’s time and effort while keeping previous translations intact.


Collaborative translation is an excellent approach if you want to improve the consistency of your translations, reduce costs, and establish a strong presence in global markets.

The key to seamless collaboration is a combination of careful planning, role distribution, agile QA, and smart use of translation software.

Make Redokun part of your collaborative translation efforts and enhance the pace of your global business growth‌. Start your 14-day free trial today and benefit from a quicker and more streamlined translation workflow.

Till next time,


Lucky Eze
Lucky Ezeihuaku is an SEO expert and specialist Translation content writer with Bureau Works. He has a master’s degree in English and Literature, and has been writing professionally for at least 7 years. He has gone on to specialize in the Translation and Localization niche, churning out multiple quality, informative, and optimized articles for Bureau Works over the past year. He claims writing and developing SEO strategies keeps him going, and he’s also interested in Data Analytics.
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