TBX overview

Note: This site is currently under development (August 2014).

TBX, or TermBase eXchange, is the international standard for representing and exchanging terminological data. It defines a family of related formats that share a common structure and draw on a common set of “data categories” (field names) for representing information about terms, the domain/subject field-specific concepts they refer to, and the relationships between these concepts.  Each member of the family is called a dialect of TBX.  See the TBX Dialects tab for more information.

The main purpose of TBX is to facilitate the independence of valuable terminological data from any particular software application used to access, display, update, or otherwise process it. This separation between data and software provides multiple benefits to authoring and translation activities, including protection, consistency, and interoperability.

TBX was developed by the now-defunct Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) and was co-published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2008 as ISO 30042:2008. The LISA version is available at no charge here (TTT.org) or here (GALA website) and the ISO version is available for sale via the ISO website.


Scenarios in which TBX may be used include the following:
  1. Software Change. And organization decides to switch to a different terminology management software system. If the new software supports TBX import using the same dialect of TBX as the existing termbase, the transition will be substantially facilitated. A TBX archive thus provides protection of the terminological data assets, which are typically worth much more than the software that manages them.
  2. Authoring. An organization maintains a monolingual termbase for authoring, with a TBX import/export feature. The organization also uses controlled language authoring software that supports the same dialect of TBX as the organization’s termbase. Terminology can be transferred to the authoring software via TBX in order to encourage consistency with the terminology in the termbase.
  3. In-house Translation. A large organization has departments for document authoring and document translation. They use multiple software applications for authoring, translation, and quality assurance that all support the same dialect of TBX. Interoperability among the applications is enhanced by exchanging terminological data via TBX.
  4. Outsourced Translation. An organization outsources translation work to a Language Service Provider (LSP), which outsources most of the actual translation to freelance translators. Terminology from the organization’s termbase is sent to the LSP using TBX and then passed on to the freelance translators, also using TBX. By using tools that support the same dialect of TBX, terminology can be imported into the tools used by the freelance translators and used for automatic terminology lookup, thus making it easier to maintain consistent use of terminology across the work of multiple translators.
  5. Data Mining. An organization is generally satisfied with its terminology management system, but need to analyze information in the termbase and produce reports that are not within the capabilities of the terminology management software. The information in the termbase can be exported to TBX and then manipulated outside the terminology management software using custom applications that analyze the data, mining it for particular information, and then produce custom reports. The custom software can be written using variety of programming languages and standard XML processing libraries.