2002 Conference Proceedings

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Presenter: Jerry Whittaker
6210 Constance Cir NW
Canton, Ohio 44718

Author: Jerry Whittaker

Keystrokes and More Keystrokes... Mouse Clicks and More Mouse Clicks

Despite its popularity, The Duxbury Braille Translator (DBT) carries with it a user "wish list" of features and enhancements that have not materialized. While DBT can produce almost any Braille copy, it imposes a heavy burden on the user in terms of keystrokes or mouse clicks and frequently requires intimate knowledge of its internal codes in order to achieve the users intended output.

Let take a look at a few examples:

1. To produce a lower case letter "o" with a dieresis the user must enter from 12 to 16 keystrokes in order to invoke the character selection table, scroll through its contents and make the selection. Using a mouse to do the same operation takes at least 5 clicks and a scroll operation. Needless to say, the user must be paying strict attention to the screen in order to make this selection.

2. Users frequently want to see how something will look in Braille when their text is translated. Assuming a document of some length, finding the text becomes difficult because after translation the cursor in the Braille document is placed at the top. The user must scroll down looking for the place they want to see or must enter a search for unique or nearly unique word that might locate them close to the translated text they wish to view.

The solution to the first example can be to memorize or use a cheat sheet of the alt-number-pad codes to produce the letters using 5 keystrokes or to change to some alternate keyboard layout that has been memorized to input it directly. The most simple solution, however, is to use a macro program to generate the desired character using a shortcut keys. Shortcut keys are non-meaningful character combinations that trigger their own replacement a character or string of characters.

The solution to the second example is more obscure. Thankfully, DBT has a number of facilities that can be utilized to provide a solution. Through a cleaver combination of the entry of non-meaningful DBT codes along with search and replace operations the cursor location in the translated document can be precisely located at the same point that the cursor was located in the print document. While doing this by hand would be tedium beyond human endurance, a macro, which enters keystrokes at maximum machine speed, can do the task in less than a couple of seconds (depending on file size).

Macros provide a solution to a number of the items on the Duxbury "user wish list" including the proper entry of a variety of print page reference number formats; foreign language, mathematics and other characters not available on the keyboard; the saving of documents at regular time intervals (in case that power goes out); the rapid entry of spelling word lists in both grade two and grade one, and many others.

Why Things Don't Look the Same on the Print Document as They Do In Braille?

Users of Windows have become accustomed to what is known as a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface. DBT ships with two templates called "Standard Format" and "Textbook Format". For the most part, these templates are the same with the exception of the placement of the Braille page number. Neither of these templates provide much in the way of giving the user any indication of what physical structure of Braille output will be.

Within each of the DBT templates are a number of styles. Styles control how the translated Braille output will appear. Each of the styles contains one or more of the basic controlling elements in DBT called codes. Users are given full access and documentation to use the codes in creating styles and saving them as templates. Interestingly, the codes can be arranged in a way that not only controls the structure of the Braille output but also controls the structure of the print on the screen so that there can be a nearly one-to-one correspondence in the structure... in essence a WYSIWYG interface.

Learning the codes used to control DBT's output is a non-trivial task and one that few users have even examined much less mastered.

The Macro package and the WYSIWYG template are planned to be available by this presentation at CSUN's 17th Annual international Conference "Technology and Persons with Disabilities, March 18-23, 2002.

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