The Importance of XLIFF Files in Translation & Localization

Pollion Team

The XLIFF (XML Localization Interchange File Format) is an XML-based file format used in the translation industry. The format was created to bring more standardization to the localization process. 

With XLIFF files, translators no longer need to edit code around their translations. Instead, this file format allows them to focus on their translations. 

The capabilities that XLIFF files bring to the translation industry are enormous, making translation work much faster and easier than ever. 

What is an XLIFF File?

Based on the XML file format, XLIFF files were designed in 2002 to create a systematic method for localizing data. All that means is that the files make a translator’s/translation team’s job much more manageable. But how do they work? 

Here’s a simplified explanation of how XLIFF files work. These files have a header and body text, where the header contains data that may include reference materials, contact information, project timeline, and more. The body of XLIFF files is the part that’s translated and localized.

In other words, XLIFF files store everything for a translation project in one file. For instance, if a translation agency needs to translate from an Urdu source file into English (or multiple languages), the file contains all the information for these translations. With all the data in one file, tracking a project, keeping translations organized, and more is much easier. In this way, XLIFF files make a translator’s job much easier than in the past. 

For these reasons, XLIFF files have become a standard in the translation industry, translating work more efficient by boosting productivity. 

XLIFF and CAT Tools

CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools are essential tools for translators. The tools are specialized software that helps human translators with their work. CAT tools use a combination of memory and algorithms to manage large volumes of text. They also ensure consistency in terminology within the translated content. 

Luckily, CAT tools support XLIFF files. What does that mean for translators? Their work just got easier! They no longer have to contest with extracting and formatting. They must upload their XLIFF file into the CAT system, producing the translation as an XLIFF file. 

When used together, CAT tools and XLIFF files increase effectiveness, productivity, maintain consistency, save time, and decrease translation costs for translation agencies and their clients. 

Related Post: The Best Tools for Translation: CAT Tools for Translators and Their Teams

How to Translate an XLIFF File for Free

If you’d like to translate an XLIFF file for free, here are some options to choose from. 

1. Localazy

Localazy is a free XLIFF file tool that works to translate your content. It contains advanced features that make your work easy. They offer a free plan that includes localization features and all the tools you need to localize your app or content. 

The site offers guidance on using Localazy, including how to open XLIFF files, translate this file format and even convert XLIFF files. 

If you’re looking for a free, easy XLIFF file tool, this one may be right for you. 

2. XLIFF Editor

XLIFF Editor is a free, open-source translation tool that uses XLIFF. This tool works with documents and software. Its features include the following: 

  • Sentence segmentation
  • Tag protection 
  • Interactive Translation Memory
  • File format based on XLIFF standard
  • Platform independent
  • Open source (with a GPL License)

XLIFF Editor protects tags and only allows the content to be changed. Moreover, this tool is best for the basic translation of documents. And it’s not guaranteed to work with XLIFFS “in the wild.” 

One more note: this tool’s author stopped development as they didn’t have enough time to devote to the project. In addition, it only works with Windows OS. 

3. PoEditor

PoEditor is the next tool on our list of free XLIFF file tools. You can use this tool for free, up to 1,000 strings per month. If you need to work with more strings, choosing one of the tool’s paid options will be necessary. 

With PoEditor, you can work with XLIFF files to simplify your work. PoEditor is a helpful tool that makes it easy to develop a smooth, flexible workflow for your whole team. It offers the following features: 

  • Multiple translation options
  • Glossary and automated QA checks
  • Real-time, online translation editor
  • Tags, comments, screenshots, use with your entire team
  • Integrated with GIT hosting services
  • Several ways to recover strings
  • Slack and Microsoft Teams integration 
  • REST API and Swagger specs

PoEditor also gives you several different options for doing your translations, including: 

  • You can assign project contributors
  • Blending human and machine translation 
  • The use of crowdsourced translation projects

These three XLIFF file tools are free to use and are available online. These tools are best for individuals and small businesses looking for a free way to translate a few documents. If you have a larger translation project, it’s best to seek out the assistance of a professional translation agency, such as Pollion

CAT tools, such a SmartCat, provide dedicated support for XLIFF files. That means there’s no need to work with extraction and formatting issues. With CAT tools, it’s easy to upload the XLIFF file and let the SmartCAT tools translate the file. It’s that easy!

The Role of XLIFF in the Future of Translation 

XLIFF files will continue to be a popular translation tool well into the future. Why do we say this? One of the best features of XLIFF files is their interoperability with other translation tools, such as CAT. When used together, XLIFF and CAT tools make translation and localization projects easy to produce and track, and they boost productivity. These tools also reduce the cost of translation work for translation companies and their clients.

In addition, the flexibility offered by XLIFF means the translator can choose the tools they prefer to work with. Here, a crucial step is needed—it’s essential to ask a professional translator to check the final output and adjust the translation if needed. With all new technologies, the role of the translator and translation agency is still very important in the translation and localization industry. 


The XLIFF file format exchanges localization data between team members on a translation project. One of the main benefits of this file format is that translators can focus on the text without worrying about text layout. Moreover, the XLIFF files format is a standard supported by a wide range of localization tools and includes all the information about your translation project in one file. 

Translators find XLIFF files to be easy and fast to use. Translation agencies find that XLIFF files improve productivity and reduce costs simultaneously. The files also offer interoperability as they can be used with other translation tools. For these reasons, XLIFF files will continue to be an essential tool for translation and localization well into the future. 

Tags: XLIFF Files