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Obtaining Plain Braille Files

Although the braille portions of all ASCII Braille electronic braille files can be viewed with a text editor, braille files in proprietary formats, including Duxbury's .dxb files, contain binary header information that looks like garbage. The easiest files for sighted viewing and for automated backtranslation are the the standard, non-proprietary braille files known as braille formatted files. These are files with the filename extension .brf. Braille formatted files are simply plain text files with hard returns and hard page ejects.

If you already have a braille formatted file and want to view it in a text editor, click here for instructions. If you need to know how to obtain a .brf file to start with, the various possibilities are described below.

Direct entry of ASCII Braille

The most straightforward way of generating a braille file if you know ASCII Braille is simply to directly enter the braille characters using a standard computer keyboard. You can use any text editor or word processor; just be sure to save the file as a plain text (.txt) file.

Obtaining plain braille files from braille-using students

You can turn embossed paper braille into electronic braille or have a student save a notetaker file.

Turning embossed paper braille into electronic braille

There are two software packages that use Optical Braille Recognition (OBR) to turn an embossed braille page into an electronic braille file by scanning it with an ordinary scanner.

NeoVision OBR was the first OBR software but is still quite expensive and may give poor results for irregularly embossed braille. You can read more about NeoVision OBR here.

If you are dealing with embossed paper braille where the lines aren't perfectly straight or aren't all parallel as can easily happen when the braille is produced "by hand" using a Perkins brailler or other mechanical embosser, read about the OBR capabilities in the forthcoming WInSight Nemeth backtranslator.

Exporting electronic braille from a braille notetaker

If your student is using a BrailleLite, BrailleNote or similar notetaker, the braille is automatically produced as computer braille, which is similar to ASCII Braille. The student will need to save the file as "plain braille" by selecting the proper option on the "Save As" menu. Make sure the student doesn't accidentally back-translate the file to print as they normally would before printing it out or emailing it. Back-translation doesn't work for files containing mathematics.

Once the file has been saved it can be transferred to a personal computer that is cabled to the notetaker, sent as an email attachment, or saved on external memory and then read into a computer.

2. Outputting plain braille files from braille software

You can generate braille files using direct entry in Perky Duck or transcribing software. You can also save a braille file that has been transcribed automatically from print.

2.1 Saving a .brf file from Duxbury's Perky Duck

This discussion assumes you are already familiar with Perky Duck.

Perky Duck has an option to save a braille file as "formatted braille(*.brf)" but you cannot open the file again with Perky Duck. The best thing to do if you want to continue editing the file is to first save it as "DBT braille(*.dxb)" and then re-open the file and save it a second time by doing another "Save as" to save it as a .brf file. That way you won't be taking any chances on not being able to continue working on the file.

2.2 Saving a .brf file from Duxbury's DBT or from Braille2000

This discussion assumes you are already familiar with using transcribing software to transcribe a print input file to braille or for direct entry of braille.

Duxbury's DBT and Braille2000 both have options to save a braille file as a Braille Formatted File and also to open such a file. With Braille2000 choose the "Duxbury (brf)" with Save As.

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Send questions and test files to info@dotlessbraille.org