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[Groff] Re: Formatting braille

From: Susan Jolly
Subject: [Groff] Re: Formatting braille
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2006 15:59:19 -0700


-----Original Message-----
From: Susan Jolly [mailto:address@hidden 
Sent: Monday, November 13, 2006 2:01 PM
To: 'address@hidden'
Subject: RE: [Groff] Formatting braille

Hi Ted and Werner,

Thanks to Tend and Werner for the good questions and useful information.

>Or do you mean that some of the ASCII punctuation
>characters get mapped to special Braille signs used for completely
>different purposes?
Yes, exactly.  This is only a problem would be if one were using a parser
which assumes that the ASCII punctuation marks represent punctuation.
Braille is a context-dependent grammar so the same braille cell or its ASCII
transliteration has different semantics in different contexts so some other
transliteration wouldn't avoid the problem.

Let me clarify that I am assuming the existence of a text file produced by a
pre-processor (or a human) where the ASCII characters represent braille
cells.  I'm not interested in extending groff to work as a braille
translator as there are easier solutions for that.  The question is whether
marking up an ASCII braille file with groff markup would be an effective way
to format braille. I was thinking it might because I believe the first
"roffs" were designed for formatting line printer output, etc. similar where
the "fonts" were monospace.

(I've already looked into using either LaTeX or CSS+XHTML and both are
awkward for this purpose.) 

A formatted ASCII file is the standard format for electronic distribution of
braille and can be accepted by the drivers for either braille embossers or
braille displays so this isn't an issue. ("Braille display" refers to the
"linear panel at the bottom edge out of which little rods" appear.  BTW, a
single braille line of 40 cells costs about US$5000!)  A sighted person can
view the page images by displaying an ASCII braille file using a free
braille font which is mapped to the ASCII transliteration so the formatting
can be verified even if one can't read braille.

Commercial braille transcribing software typically translates and formats
simultaneously.  However, some of the harder formatting jobs like tables or
poems still require too much user processing. Meanwhile, there is interest
in developing Open Source solutions.

You can see examples of translated, formatted braille files by downloading a
Braille Translation of an issue of the Braille Forum magazine.  These are
plain text files with the extension .brf and can be opened in any text
editor.  You will need to use a monospace font to view the formatting

Ted clarified that I was misunderstanding "device-independent." That was
very helpful. One problem with the way electronic braille (such as the
examples mentioned in the previous paragraph) is currently distributed is
that it has been formatted for a particular page size and so it is not
useful if the end user's braille embosser or display doesn't support that
page size.  If I'm understanding properly, a groff-based solution would be
to distribute braille in a new format that includes groff markup and the end
user could run it through groff to format it for whatever page size they

I will try to develop a sample document but first I need to learn to use
groff for print files.  

Thanks again,

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