Here are some comments on your comments:
Samuel Murray wrote:
Initially I thought that XLIFF was a free-for-all format in which the exporter-to-xlf decided what the format would be (within certain broad limits), but I've recently discovered that the creators certain l10n formats can officially degree an XLIFF flavour to be used for their format.
XLIFF is a well defined format. There are different tools for converting documents to XLIFF and there are differences on the conversion process, but in all cases the output of the process must be a valid XLIFF file.
It does not matter if there are differences in XLIFF files generated from the same source by two different tools. What is really important is that all the information that needs translation gets extracted and that the final XLIFF file is valid.
XLIFF files can be validated against the XLIFF Schema using and XML editor, so it is easy to tell if an XLIFF file is correct or not.
You may have several tools that can export HTML to XLIFF and back, but actually there is an official flavour of XLIFF for HTML, and if your tool follows it, then your XLIFF file should be editable by any XLIFF program that supports the HTML flavour.
The conversion guidelines for HTML published by the XLIFF TC at OASIS provide different options for converting HTML to XLIFF.
There isn't just one way to convert HTML to XLIFF.
If you open your HTML xlf file in an editor that thinks PO xlf is the default format (or only format), and you edit it and it saves the file, then your original tool won't be able to parse the XLIFF file because it is essentially in a different format.
If that happens, it means that you are using a tool that doesn't really support XLIFF.
If you need to work with XLIFF files, select a tool that can handle the format.
If you use a good XLIFF editor, you don't need to worry. Translate and provide a valid XLIFF file to the agency. The agency should be able to generate the final documents from your XLIFF if they use good tools too.
Now I understand why l10n vendors are not rushing to export to XLIFF, because XLIFF can be easily broken and rendered useless for the original exporting program.
This statement is incorrect. XLIFF files are as fragile as other files.
If you edit an RTF file using a plain text editor like Notepad, you may damage the RTF file easily. This does not mean that using tagged RTF files for holding translations is incorrect due to the fragility of the RTF format.
The best XLIFF editor, therefore, seems to be the vendor's own editor, or a plain XML editor, unless you have great faith in your XLIFF editor not to screw things up.
This statement is incorrect.
There are several tools that can handle XLIFF files adequately. As a result, there is real interoperability.
You simply have to be careful when selecting the tools to use with XLIFF files.
Some details to consider when selecting an XLIFF editor:
* Version of XLIFF supported . Current version of XLIFF is 1.2 and almost all editors that work with XLIFF 1.1 can edit XLIFF 1.2.
* Ability to use the TM matches present in the XLIFF file. Some tools are unable to use matches stored in <alt-trans> elements.
* Ability to work with fresh XLIFF files. When a document is converted to XLIFF, the XLIFF file does not contain <target> elements. Those elements are normally added at translation time, but some tools don't know how to do it.
[Edited at 2007-08-31 08:02]