2002 Conference Proceedings

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Mats Blomqvist
Lulea University of Technology
Email: mats.blomquist@sm.luth.se 

Per Burman
Index Braille AB, PO Box 155
Email: per.burman@indexbraille.se 

Paul Blenkhorn
Department of Computation, UMIST, PO Box 88
Email: plb@co.umist.ac.uk


With WinBraille, a free program from Index Braille, Sweden, it is possible to emboss directly from a word-processor like Microsoft Word on any of Index Braille's embossers, and on-the-fly contract the document into grade 2 Braille. WinBraille contains: Windows drivers for Index Braille embossers; emboss-direct macros for well known Windows programs like Microsoft Word; a built-in editor for viewing and editing the text in prior to embossing; and a translation engine for Braille contraction translations.

Keywords: Braille, Grade 1, Grade 2, Microsoft Word, WinBraille, Windows


WinBraille has, in a short time, become extremely popular due to its ability both to easily emboss from any Windows application, and due to the fact it is a free program, downloadable from Index Braille's home page (http://www.indexbraille.com).

There are three main approaches to the problem of embossing Braille.
- Use a stand-alone product with advanced word-processing features [1, 2].
- Use an ordinary word processor, like Microsoft Word, save the document and invoke a separate program to produce contracted Braille [3].
- Use macros within the word processor to perform the task [4].

All three methods can be used with the WinBraille system [5]. In addition, WinBraille can work in the background and automatically process print requests from the application and be used as an advanced stand-alone Braille editor.

To achieve this, WinBraille is built as a combination of a standard Windows application and Windows drivers. When you install WinBraille, at least two drivers are installed, one (or more) printer driver(s) for the selected Index Braille Embosser(s), and a dedicated WinBraille driver which is connected to the WinBraille application. When you "print on WinBraille" from a Windows application, the WinBraille driver invokes the WinBraille application. The application contracts the text and embosses the Braille document on the selected embosser. The process can be performed totally automatically in the background, or intervened by the user so the Braille document can be edited in prior to embossing.


WinBraille has a user friendly "What You See Is What You Get" interface. WinBraille is for the novice as well as for the advanced user. Most users use WinBraille in the automatic mode, where WinBraille works hidden in the background. In this mode, you emboss from the application as easily as you print the document on the standard printer, except that the document will first be contracted and formatted according to predefined formatting rules. The "Edit document first" mode lets the advanced users to take full advantage of all WinBraille's features, allowing them to edit the document or change the formatting behaviour before sending the result to the embosser.

The latest version can inherit style features from Word documents, and format the Braille document appropriately according to the style information. Braille formatting not valid in the Word document can be applied to individual styles, as for example different alignment than in the Word document, separators above or beneath the paragraph, or individual contraction rules for each style. This leads to the possibility to use different grades of contractions for, say, headings, body text, and a list of email addresses. The separator can be used to underline headings, or separate chapters.

Special formatting rules can be applied to tables and numbered or bulleted lists. These rules are fully changeable by the user. Tables and lists in a Word document are recognised and formatted accordingly.

Markers where page brakes occur in the original document can be inserted in the Braille document. The appearance of these markers can be changed by the user. All formatting settings, style information, type of contraction rules, and embosser settings are stored in a profile.


A profile contains more information than just the embosser settings. The profile tells WinBraille how to format the Braille page, which contractions rules to use, and relevant style information. The profile also contains WinBraille settings like operating mode or whether document windows should be maximized.

When you print a document on an ordinary printer, you normally just select the printer in a "Print" dialogue box. Since embossing Braille involves other tasks, like Braille contraction and specific Braille formatting, WinBraille lets you choose a profile together with the embosser. With the companion emboss macros, you can directly select a profile when you emboss the document. If you print from a Windows application with the standard "Print" option, a default profile will be selected. In WinBraille, any available profile can be selected as default.


A number of tools comes with WinBraille.
- With the Index Braille Rule File Editor, it is possible to create own personal contraction rules either for an existing language or to create a new one.
- The Hammer program is used to adjust the hammer and anvil force in the embosser.
- With "Install More Printers" you can, as the name indicates, install another Index Braille embosser.
- Download Firmware helps to upgrade the firmware program in the embosser.
- Use IndexSetup to maintain WinBraille profiles and contraction rules or customize WinBraille or an Index embosser.


User demands will lead the future development of WinBraille. WinBraille will grow in the direction pointed out by user feedback. Possible features for the future are, graphics, mathematics, stronger foreign language support, table of contents, index, Moon. The priority will be given from the user input.


Most of these references are references to commercially available Braille editors and/or translation programs. Further information can be found at the respective company's home page.
1. Duxbury Braille Translator, Duxbury Systems Inc., 270 Littleton Rd., Unit 6, Westford, MA 01886-3523 USA, http://www.duxburysystems.com/, visited Sept. 30, 2001
2. Monty, Quantum Technology, PO Box 5028, Cheltenham East Victoria, 3192, Australia, http://www.quantech.com.au/, visited Sept. 30, 2001
3. NFBTrans, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230 USA, http://www.nfb.org/, visited Sept. 30, 2001
4. P. Blenkhorn, G. Evans, "Automated Braille Production from Word-Processed Documents", IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, vol 9, No. 1, pp 121-129, March 2001
5. WinBraille, Index Braille AB, BOX 155, S-954 23 Gammelstad, Sweden, http://www.indexbraille.com/, visited Sept. 30, 2001

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