XBRL can be applied to a broad range of different reporting domains, with very different requirements. The way that different environments need to present data, forms and reports is one such area with significant variances. For this reason there are several alternative XBRL standards that support various alternative presentation approaches.

Many aspects of XBRL are focused on company financial reports. Provided that the principles and rules defined in the relevant accounting standard are followed, preparers are often given considerable flexibility and control over exactly what data is reported and how it is presented. This makes it very difficult to impose a "one-size-fits-all" approach to the presentation of reports, and attempts to do so can be a barrier to adoption as preparers feel that they lose control. XBRL therefore provides way to prepare and present financial statements and other highly tailored reports.

Conversely, XBRL can also be applied to reporting environments where the data points that must be reported are completely prescribed, and it is desirable to have a single, standard presentation that is used consistently across all reports.

XBRL supports a number of different approaches to enable these differing presentation requirements.

Inline XBRL

In a domain where preparers have historically had complete control over the presentation of their reports, any approach which attempts to construct a rendering based on taxonomy meta-data is unlikely to yield a completely satisfactory result.

The Inline XBRL specification is an extension to XBRL which takes a different approach: Rather than attempting to reconstruct a rendering from XBRL data, Inline XBRL allows XBRL data to be embedded into an HTML presentation of a report in a manner that allows it to be linked to the presented figures, and readily extracted into a standard XBRL instance document.

This approach yields a single document which allows the preparer's preferred presentation to be be viewed directly by humans (in a normal web browser), or consumed by software for automated analysis of the XBRL data.

Tools that support the Inline XBRL specification can provide a more interactive experience, allowing users to navigate from figures in the presentation to alternative views and analysis of the XBRL data. Inline XBRL (often called iXBRL) will typically be used for the collection of financial statements and in situations where the author of a report has significant flexibility in the content and format of the report, including by securities regulators and exchanges, companies registrars and tax authorities. It can also be used to publish aggregate information in one place both as XBRL and in a chosen human readable format.

Tabular reporting

Where reporting requirements are more tightly prescribed, the Table Linkbase specification can be used to define tables of facts in an XBRL taxonomy which can be used to create a common presentation for all XBRL reports.

The Table Linkbase assembles collections of data points (XBRL Facts identified by a combination of an XBRL concept and any number of other dimensions) into one or more tables. These tables are particularly flexible, as they can be used not only to drive a presentation of an existing XBRL report, but also to provide a data collection interface for the generation of new reports (in effect, sophisticated multi-dimensional forms). Combined with taxonomy-defined validation, the Table Linkbase makes XBRL a very powerful mechanism for defining reporting requirements.

The Table Linkbase approach will generally be used by prudential regulators, government agencies, supply chains and inside complex enterprises in situations where there are significant constraints imposed on report authors in terms of the content and presentation of a report.

Taxonomy-driven presentation

In the absence of a Table Linkbase, it is still possible to provide an effective presentation based on the meta-data contained within the taxonomy. Although the presentation relationships in taxonomies are primarily for the organisation of the concepts within the taxonomy, they can also be used to drive the rendering of data within an instance document, particular when combined with dimensional information in the taxonomy.