This Practice Profile document explains the key features available in the
Taxonomy Packages Specification for defining a standard format to easily access
all parts and files of taxonomy. It is primarily targeted towards audience
seeking a basic understanding of this technical specification. This document is
not intended to explain technical implementations of the Taxonomy Packages
Specification. The features explained here are based on Taxonomy Packages 1.0,
Recommendation 19 April 2016.
This Practice Profile discusses Why the Taxonomy Packages is required, What features it offers, How it's beneficial and Where it's implemented.
WHY (it's needed)
Taxonomies usually consist of multiple files (e.g., .xsd & .xml) distributed
across different folder hierarchies, modularized as per the requirement and
interlinked in a complex way. A separate, supplementary document often
accompanies the taxonomy file to give an overview of the taxonomy. Taxonomy
Packages addresses the need to standardize this supplementary document and
makes it easily consumable by software applications as well. Taxonomy files
are often published at various Internet locations; this typically requires the
user to be connected to the internet when working with the taxonomy; work is
disrupted when an online connection is unavailable. Taxonomy Packages offer
a mechanism to work with offline copies of taxonomies and eliminate this
dependency on a live connection.
WHAT (it offers)
This section lists features of the Taxonomy Packages Specification (the
specification) that helps address the need set out in Section 1.
Taxonomy packages structure
The specification stipulates a standard structure for the taxonomy archive file
called "Taxonomy Package" in ZIP format. This Taxonomy Package file could be
used for distributing the taxonomy as archive files. This allows taxonomy
users to easily locate and identify files required for understanding the
taxonomy. Moreover, taxonomy explorer software can read the content from this
file and propose a list of defined subsets of the taxonomy [entry points] to
The physical taxonomy structure often contains multiple folders and files.
Overall taxonomy details cannot be accurately predicted from the network of
taxonomy files. Taxonomy Packages offers standardised syntax to describe
taxonomy metadata (e.g., name, publisher) as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Taxonomy package meta data
The specification also provides an option to refer to a Versioning Report. A
Versioning Report records the differences between current and previous versions
of the taxonomy. This feature assumes importance because a Versioning Report
would typically not be part of the taxonomy network, hence it may not be easily
located by users. The specification also has a provision to indicate previous
superseded taxonomies. This may be particularly helpful if a user wants to
refer to an older version of taxonomy.
Entry point listing
XBRL taxonomy typically includes a complex network of .xml files. Unless an
explicit mention of taxonomy entry points
is available, it would be
challenging to locate them. Technically, this is because entry points are
through any .xsd file with no specific distinction; however, all .xsd files are
not entry points. Taxonomy Packages specification provides a feature to list
all of the taxonomy entry points. Each entry point is defined by a name,
description, version and its uniform resource locator (URL) on the Internet, as
shown in Figure 2. This feature helps taxonomy explorer software to
automatically identify the list of files that are valid entry points.
Figure 2: Entry point information
Figure 3 shows the conventional way of selecting an entry point
from the list of taxonomy .xsd files. The majority of the files shown in the
drop-down are not entry points. Selection of the correct entry point requires
prior understanding of taxonomy structure.
Figure 3: Selecting entry points from a file browser
Figure 4 shows selection of an entry point using the
Taxonomy Packages feature. Files available for selection are narrowed down to
valid entry points, provided with details like name, version and URL. Selection
in this case becomes more user friendly and less technical.
Figure 4: Selecting entry points using a taxonomy package
Working offline with a taxonomy
Taxonomy files are typically hosted on publicly available web-servers and
require an Internet connection to access them. The Taxonomy Packages
Specification provides a work-around by redirecting the Internet path to a
relative local path. This feature, referred to as "remapping," contains all the
information necessary to set up an offline copy of the taxonomy and supports
software applications to locate the taxonomy files locally instead of
accessing them from an active online location. Before the introduction of this
specification, the mechanism for working with an offline copy of the taxonomy
existed, but it was implemented in a non-standard fashion across different XBRL
applications. This specification provides a standardized method for working
offline with taxonomy. The remapping feature conforms to a restricted subset of
the XML Catalog specification.
Figure 5 and Figure 6 show examples of customized configuration adopted by different
application to enable working offline with taxonomy. In tools that support the
Taxonomy Packages Specification, no such manual configuration is be required.
Figure 5: A sample manual configuration of absolute URI of taxonomy files to local system path.
Figure 6: A sample repository for internet files used in a taxonomy tool. The repository has to be updated if one wishes to work offline with the taxonomy.
Taxonomy and entry point metadata, such as name, description and publisher
details, can be represented in multiple languages. This feature can be used to
provide translation of information in different languages.
HOW (it benefits)
The Taxonomy Packages Specification enhances the ease of working with a taxonomy. Following are a few benefits of using this specification:
- Helps users understand taxonomy metadata
- Makes it easier to locate older Taxonomies and version reports
- Provides automatic identification of entry points, thereby enhancing the user experience
- Provides ability to work offline with a copy of a taxonomy
- Utilizes a standard archive format for taxonomy distribution
- Leverages Multiple Language descriptions
WHERE (it's applied)
The Taxonomy Packages Specification has been used in different taxonomy implementations. The following is a list of some taxonomies that have implemented the specification:
This document was produced by the Implementation Guidance Task Force.
Published on: 2017-11-22.