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Term of the Week: Interoperability

What is it?

The ability of different systems to exchange and make use of information (e.g., each other’s data formats) and to work together, often in real time.

Why is it important?

Localization is a complex process that requires many different components to interact smoothly. When selecting tools, make sure that interoperability is included as a feature.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this?

Each step in the localization process requires extracting or importing content from one application into another. When localization vendors analyze a client’s files, part of their analysis involves determining how easily the content transfers from the source application into the translation tool and back. When clients want to change vendors, they need to be able to export their translation memories (TM) from one tool and import them into another. Problems with either export or import can quickly break the localization budget.

Therefore, each tool in the localization solution must not only be the best one for the job, it must also work seamlessly with all the other tools to ensure that employees are at their most productive and that the business enjoys maximum return on investment (ROI). Interoperability is what allows these tools to work together.

In the past, interoperability mostly focused on file formats, such as TMX or XLIFF [XLIFF spec], but as most software moves into the cloud, a new challenge is to ensure that cloud services work together seamlessly (or at all) through their APIs.

Failing to prioritize interoperability could leave your business with a set of siloed systems and a lot of wasteful and repetitive manual work to operate the localization process end-to-end.


  • [TMX] TMX on Wikipedia : Overview of TMX, the industry’s most influential standard for the exchange of translation memories.
  • [XLIFF spec] XLIFF specification : The specification of XLIFF, an indispensable file format for the exchange of bilingual content.

About Gábor Ugray

Photo of Gábor Ugray

Gábor Ugray is co-founder of memoQ, the company behind the eponymous collaborative translation tool. He is now memoQ’s Head of Innovation, and when he's not busy building MVPs, he blogs at and tweets as @twilliability.

Term: Interoperability



Twitter: @twilliability