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Alpha Test: Back-Translation of Nemeth, EBAE, and CBC

Overview and Availability

BackNem 2.0, which is a free, open source, software application for back-translating Nemeth and literary braille to print, is now available for alpha testing.

If you would like to help alpha test BackNem 2.0, please send a Nemeth or EBAE braille file to the email address at the bottom of this page.

There is currently no release date for BackNem 2.0 Beta. If you are interested in using BackNem, you can get more information from the address at the bottom of the page.


Click for samples.


BackNem 2.0 is a one-step backtranslator for Nemeth and EBAE electronic braille documents.

BackNem 2.0 handles technical text and mathematics written in Nemeth braille as specified by The Nemeth Braille Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision and literary text written in standard English braille as specified by English Braille American Edition 1994, Revised 2002. Both Nemeth and EBAE documents can optionally include embedded Computer Braille Code (CBC).

BackNem 2.0 backtranslates all Nemeth text, inline linear mathematics, and displayed linear mathematics. It backtranslates Nemeth spatially-arranged (planar) items subject to certain limitations. Please note that BackNem 2.0 automatically distinguishes text (narrative) items from mathematical (notational) items without user intervention.

The BackLit backtranslator incorporated in BackNem 2.0 strives to be an especially accurate backtranslator for EBAE as well as for Nemeth text. Select the link to read more about the special user features in BackLit.

The backtranslation capabilities of BackNem 2.0 are focussed on the backtranslation of the braille cells, not of the braille formatting. Braille files are often "flat files." Converting flat files to tagged XML is a difficult problem. BackNem 2.0 does not attempt to solve this problem but, rather, simply reproduces the braille formatting in the print backtranslation.

Braille Input

BackNem accepts as input any plain electronic braille file including Braille Formatted Files (files typically given a .brf extension) and untranslated braille files exported as plain braille from a BrailleNote or BrailleLite. (Plain braille is sometimes called computer braille but is not the same as CBC.)

Note that braille files generated from commercial transcribing applications such as DBT are sometimes in a proprietary format. If so, the file can be re-opened by the original application and re-saved as a *.brf file.

There are several different possiblities for generating electronic braille files for input to BackNem.

There are no plans to incorporate Optical Braille Recognition (OBR) into BackNem. If you need to back-translate hard copy embossed braille see the information on WInsight.

Print Output

The default output of BackNem is a webpage with text in XHTML and mathematics in MathML. There are additional additional output options when backtranslating EBAE.

You can view or print an XHTML+MathML file directly from any supporting browser without the need for further processing. Click on the link for more information about displaying MathML.

Error Handling

BackNem makes every attempt to localize braille errors and not abort. This is, of course, especially important when dealing with student-generated braille.

Additional Information

Please go to the Table of Contents to locate additional technical information about BackNem 2.0.

Related Software

BackNem 2.0 is not the only Nemeth back-translator currently available. However, as far as I know, BackNem is the only one that generates its output using MathML rather than LaTeX and also the only one that is free.


WInSight from Logical Software Solutions is a forthcoming general purpose Nemeth back-translator that will handle spatial arithmetic in addition to higher-level math. A unique feature of WInsight is the capability for back-translating files produced by scanning embossed paper braille. WInsight incorporates a new process for Optical Braille Recognition (OBR) that can recognize even irregularly aligned braille such as that produced on a Perkins brailler or other mechanical embosser.


Nemetex from AccessiSoft is a newly available backtranslator for Nemeth mathematics. Nemetex is specifically designed for use by students who generate braille on a notetaker, such as a BrailleLite or BrailleNote, which has a built-in backtranslation capability for contracted braille text.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award No. IIS-0312487. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Send questions and test files to info@dotlessbraille.org