All You Need to Know About XLIFF Files and How to Translate Them
All You Need to Know About XLIFF Files and How to Translate Them

If you’re looking to localize your software to different languages, you may have run across the term ‘XLIFF file’. XLIFF (short for XML Localization Interchange File Format) is a translation industry standard for exchanging localized strings between applications. Compared to other translation files like JSON and YAML, XLIFF is very easy to use and convenient:

  • All language versions (original and translations) are saved in one file.
  • No need to worry about which parts of the file need to be translated.
  • Files are easy to edit and process, as they are XML-based.
  • The translator or machine translation tool can’t mess up your formatting.
  • You can focus on the content instead of worrying about things like the graphic layout.

At first glance, the XLIFF file structure looks a little complicated, but it’s actually a lot simpler than it looks. In this article, we’ll help you get your head around what XLIFF files are, how they work, and how to translate them. We’ll also share some XLIFF tips and tricks to help you streamline your translation process.

What is an XLIFF and how does it work?

As we’ve mentioned, XLIFF stands for XML Localization Interchange File Format. An incredibly useful format for translation, XLIFF is widely used and supported by the majority of translation tools, as it holds all of the content that needs to be localized along with the content in the translated languages.

An XLIFF file looks like a piece of code that breaks down source content into various segments stored in tags, as seen below:

What is an XLIFF and how does it work?

To translate an XLIFF file, you need to locate and extract the source text, translate the text with machine translation or your chosen vendors, and import each translation back to the original file. This completed file is then used to display the translated content for each of the target languages you need.

How to translate an XLIFF file with Smartcat

CAT tools like Smartcat have dedicated support for the XLIFF file structure, which means no more struggling with extraction and formatting! Instead, you upload your XLIFF file into the system and get the translation as an XLIFF file.

Let’s guide you through the process:

  1. Export the XLIFF file from your e-learning course or other source.
  2. Sign in to your Smartcat account and create a new project.
  3. Choose ‘Translation.Fast.’ for machine translation.
  4. Select the source and target languages, and upload the files you want to translate into the system.
  5. Hit the ‘Get result’ button.
  6. Wait while the system extracts the text from your XLIFF file and translates it. This should take less than a minute.
  7. When the translation is complete, press the ‘Download completed files’ button to download the translated XLIFF files to your computer.

If you need post-editing there are a few more steps:

  1. Enter the project you created, click ‘View Tasks’, and select the language you’d like to edit.
  2. In the window that opens, you’ll see your XLIFF translation units split into sentences. You can change segments partly or completely.
  3. When you’ve finished editing, make sure you confirm the translation by ticking the corresponding box in each segment.
    Hit the ‘Done’ button to accept all changes and finalize editing the document.

Last but not least, assigning a professional to edit your text:
11. Go to the ‘Overview’ tab and hit ‘Add post-editing’ button.
12. Check out the recommended suppliers (if needed), their ratings and rates, and choose the one that best fits your needs.

Benefits of using CAT tools to translate XLIFF files

There are actually more ways to translate XLIFF files, like manually editing the source file or sending it to a human translator. All have their benefits but CAT tools definitely stand out when it comes to both simplicity and saving time.

Below you’ll find the advantages of using a CAT tool over other means of translation:

  • Automatic separation of translatable text from the text layout. Regardless of the type of translation you choose, the CAT system will automatically separate translatable text from the text layout to make the translation process easier. This saves you time as you to don’t have to separate the text manually.
  • The source text is broken down into smaller, translatable segments. The CAT tool will also break down your source text into smaller, translatable segments, such as sentences, paragraphs, or phrases. These are easier to parse through, and help you identify and reuse previously translated segments which are similar or perhaps even identical..
  • Ability to use approved segments only. Sometimes segments don’t need to be translated, so you can configure your CAT tool to replace the original text with approved segments only in the final XLIFF file and use the source text as fallback if ithere is no translation or if the included translation hasn’t been approved.
  • Automatic merging of translations. The CAT system will automatically merge your translation(s) back into the XLIFF file, so all you have to do is upload the file wherever you need it. It’s as easy as that.

We wish you luck with the translation of your XLIFF files. Translating and localizing your software is a huge step towards expanding your services to a global market, and it’s no small feat. Smartcat is here as a valuable resource whether you’re looking to employ translation vendors and freelancers or simply use our user-friendly CAT tool.