Sao Mai Braille User Guide
Sao Mai Braille (SMB) is a rich text editing and Braille translation software, developed by Sao Mai Center for the Blind. We hope that this additional tool will help blind individuals/organizations for/of visually impaired people produce Braille materials quickly and less costly. It supports to translate and format into Braille for more than 60 languages and is highly customizable.
Sao Mai Braille (SMB) is a free rich text editing and Braille translation software for Windows, developed by Sao Mai Center for the Blind. We hope that this additional tool will help blind individuals/organizations for/of visually impaired people produce Braille materials quickly and less costly.
- Editing and translating rich text into Braille.
- 6-key input method with FDSJKL and VCXM,.
- Supporting to translate into Braille with more than 100 tables with LibLouis library.
- Working and translating into Braille correctly with print document types such as Microsoft Word, TXT, RTF and HTML. Supporting to open and save Braille document types into rich-text with .smb extension, Portable Embosser File .pef, Braille-Ready File .brf, unformatted Braille .brl, and Spanish Braille .bra.
- Allowing to translate document written in multiple languages by their correct Braille translation table.
- Inputting and translating math equations into Braille UEB standard (basic).
- Inserting, editing and converting images into Braille tactile graphic (basic).
- Translating music scores into Braille (currently, supported MusicXML standard).
- Highly customizing translation options to process Braille formats with built-in styles set.
- Multi-lingual user interface.
- Accessible with screen readers such as Jaws and NVDA.
SMB doesn’t require any special system requirements. However, if working with big file size like 50Mb and above, it’s recommended to have at least 4Gb of RAM.
Follow setup instructions to complete the installation. By default, SMB is installed on your system drive -> Program Files (X86)\SaoMai\SMB. And configuration files are saved in %appdata%\SaoMai\SMB
User interface and Menus
Main window of SMB includes the following controls:
- Title bar: showing name of application.
- Menu bar: main menu items, press alt key to open.
- Tool bar: frequently-used editing features. Press ctrl+shift+s: open apply style; ctrl+shift+f: open apply font dialogue.
- Editing area: multi-document editing window. Press Ctrl+tab or ctrl+shift+tab to move between opened documents. Ctrl+F4 to close current document.
- Status bar: showing related information about the current opened document such as line number, column, page etc. In options dialogue, it will show the help text for control with focus.
SMB has following main menus:
- File: New file/Open/Save/Export, Page setup/Print preview/Print, document property.
- Edit: functions relating to text editing such as copy, cut, paste, paste special, find, replace, go to, clear format, remove hyperlink, remove page break, character case, and split document.
- View: change to different view modes, access header and footer.
- Insert: page number, page count, page break, horizontal bar, file, symbols etc.
- Format: options and settings for font, styles, paragraph, bullet and numbering list, increase/decrease, text/background color, and line spacing.
- Table: all functions relating to create/delete/manage and format tables.
- Tools: Braille translation related options and installing add-ons.
- Help: user guide and other info about the program.
Document editing and formatting
Sao Mai Braille has two native filetypes, 1) .SMD extension is for print document and 2) .SMB is for Braille rich-text document.
“Print document” term means to talk about the document not translated into Braille yet. While, “Braille document” means document already translated into Braille.
From print or Braille document window, use save or save as from File menu to save the document into different supported print/Braille formats. Other than native Braille rich-text format with .smb file extension, it currently supports to save in:
- Braille-Ready File with .brf file extension: plain formatted Braille with header , footer, Braille paper settings with correct line breaks and page breaks.
- Unformatted Braille with .brl: plain Braille without header, footer and page breaks. It’s suitable for reading on Braille display.
- Portable Embosser Format with .pef: save Braille content in XML-based file. Read more about PEF at: http://braillespecs.github.io/pef/pef-specification.html
- Spanish Braille with .bra: it’s same as BRF filetype but without adding page break character.
In native print, Braille or PEF document window, can go to File menu, choose Property and provide meta data for the document.
Press ctrl+n to create new print document, ctrl+shift+n to new Braille document.
By default, 6-key Braille input method with fds-jkl (dots 123-456) will be turned on in Braille document editing window.
SMB has print and Braille styles. Print style is applied for print document. While, Braille style is applied when text is translated into Braille. Please note, Braille style should have the same name as the print one in order to have SMB correctly apply translation rules. Please refer to Styles page section for more information on how to define translation rules for equivalent Braille styles.
To add a print style, go to menu Format and choose Styles (ctrl+alt+shift+s). Then, choose Add button and follow its instructions.
To apply style for a paragraph or selected text, press ctrl+shift+s or click on the Styles button on the tool bar.
Press F2 to cycle through header and footer, where can insert other document info such as page number, page count, date and time etc. Press Esc to go back to document. Like in main document editing window, can use text commands in header and footer areas, such as left/right/center alignments. To choose available options for inserted object, press alt+enter on the selected object like “page number” to choose different type of page number.
Apply heading styles level 1 through 6
Increase indent/list level
Decrease indent/level list
Say format info
Table navigation keystrokes
First table cell
Last table cell
First column cell
Last column cell
First row cell
Last row cell
Read current cell/object
Read current column
Read current row
Say table info
Math and picture
Braille translation features for math and tactile graphic are temporarily disabled for SMB major version 21. However, editing math and picture feature in print document is still enabled.
New Braille translation features for math and tactile graphic are going to be implemented toward major version 22.
Since version 21, SMB has new Braille music translation engine named “SM Music Braille”, which currently supports to translate score written in MusicXML standard into Braille. Most of mainstream music notation softwares like Musescore, Sibelius, finale etc., can export score into MusicXML file. There are many resources of MusicXML scores available on the internet like from www.musescore.com
SMMusicBraille engine is mainly developed based on the Music Braille Code documentation (MBC). However, it has variety of options to flexibly apply for New International Manual of Braille Music Notation (NIM) and for country-specific settings.
Same as other document types, in order to have a high-quality Braille score, the original print score should be well notated and exported into high-quality MusicXML format by notation software. You can read published document from DAISY Music Braille project about Tips For Engravers To Produce Braille Transcription-Friendly Scores.
To prepare for Braille translation, from the print document window, go to Insert menu, choose Music score and browse for the MusicXML file. Multiple MusicXML files can be inserted into one print document.
By default, each score and a score part will be placed on a new Braille page.
Score info dialogue
Beside a variety of music Braille translation options from the Options dialogue, this dialogue is used to let transcribers edit some basic score information and provide custom Braille signs for part and staff names. Same as other document types, the better music score is notated and prepared, the higher quality of Braille output you get.
After inserting scores into print document, go to Tools menu, and choose Score info. A dialogue is opened with following options:
- Score list: all inserted scores are listed in this field. Choose one and press Tab to customize its information.
- Tab edit controls, including title, subtitle, composer, arranger, lyricist and copyright, are to edit general information for the selected score.
- Part(s): list all parts in the score. By default, all parts are checked to be translated into Braille. Use arrow keys to choose one and then, press tab to edit info specifically for that part. Press Space key to uncheck a part to exclude it from being translated into Braille.
- Check all and Uncheck all buttons are used to quickly select or exclude all parts from being translated into Braille.
- Select part edit field shows summary about parts selected to be translated for reference.
- After selecting a part from the list, there will have three pages to edit and provide custom Braille signs for that part. They are Part(s), Staff(s) and Instrument(s) pages.
- Part(s) page: to change general information for selected part.
- Instrument type: specify an instrument type for that part. This would help application apply correct Braille options for that kind of instrument. If not provided, the application will detect instrument type automatically.
- Part name: modify the part name in the original score. This part name is usually shown at the beginning of a part when translating with part-by-part option. While, it is shown in the instrument list as translating with full score.
- Part abbreviation: modify the part abbreviation of original score. This is mostly used when translating with full score option. It is shown in the instrument list and in Braille score to indicator the start of that part.
- Braille part name: provide custom Braille part name. If not provided, the application will use the original part name field. Use 6-key Braille input to enter the name.
- Braille part abbreviation: provide custom Braille part abbreviation. If not provided, application will use the abbreviation defined in the Instruments.xml settings file. If not found in that file, it will automatically base on the original part abbreviation to generate one.
- Staff(s) page: provide custom Braille name for each staff in a part. For instance, a part for string instrument type has multiple staves. Each staff is assigned for one player. So, beside the part abbreviation, each staff should be named to differentiate between different players.
- Staff list: it lists staff changes in selected part. Use arrow key to choose and then, tab for further modifications.
- Braille staff name: use 6-key Braille input to provide custom Braille staff name. For instance, with Piano right hand staff can be changed from ⠨⠜ to ⠏⠗ etc. If not provided, application will automatically apply default settings from Instruments.xml file.
- Interval direction: set the direction to write intervals and voices from low to high pitch or in reverse. If not specified, application will apply settings from Instruments.xml file.
- Instrument(s) page: list instrument changes in that part. For instance, Clarinet plays from bar 1 to 4, then Saxophone plays from bar 5 onwards. This page is used to provide custom Braille name and abbreviation for those instruments.
- Changed instruments: use arrow key to choose an instrument change if having.
- Instrument info: show the original name and abbreviation of that changed instrument.
- Braille instrument name: use 6-key Braille input to enter custom Braille instrument name.
- Braille instrument abbreviation: use 6-key Braille input to enter custom Braille instrument abbreviation.
After editing, choose Save button. Go back to part list, select other and continue to modify.
Splitting and transcribing print document into Braille
This simple tool is used to split one long print document into multiple volumes. It’s useful to make multiple Braille volumes.
From print document, go to Edit menu, choose Split document. The tool will base on document heading to cut into multiple files.
On the left, is the Document structure tree view, which lists document headings hierarchically. And on the right, lists splitted volumes. Press F6 to quickly switch between these two panes. Or, use Tab, shift+tab to move between controls.
For example, you have one long document containing the 1) Preface pages, 2) three chapters and 3) index pages. The preface and index pages will be put at the beginning and end of each volume. While, each chapter will be in one separate volume file. Do the following steps:
- From Split document window, choose New first page button, then in Document structure pane, choose Preface and press Enter to add as first page.
- Choose New volume button, from Document structure, choose Chapter 1 and press Enter to add that section to the new volume as a starting point. Then, choose New volume again to create volume 2, then choose Chapter 2 from the Document structure and press Enter. Repeat same steps for volume 3.
- Choose Add last page button, then choose Index pages heading from the Document structure and press Enter.
You can double-check by pressing F6 to switch to Splitted volumes. If you are satisfied, choose Ok button. The tool will create and open three new volume files. Use ctrl+tab to move between opened document windows.
Please note, splitted documents are not saved yet. So, review, make any changes and save each document. Or, can translate each document into Braille directly.
Translating into Braille
From print document, just press ctrl+t to translate into SMB’s rich-text Braille, where you can freely edit, apply Braille styles or make any corrections.
Please note, due to screen readers not supported SMB’s rich-text control yet, you might not see Braille spacing is not shown correctly on Braille display. To quickly view its final output in BRF or BRL, from Braille document window, go to View menu -> choose View as BRF or BRL. Now, the formatting and spacing are shown correctly on the Braille display. Press Esc to close the view.
Or, you can view it correctly after saving it into BRF, BRL, BRA or PEF filetype.
Below are some notes about how SMB handling translation tables:
- Default Braille table: the default one used to translate print document into Braille if the document is not specified with another table. For example, from print document, if you don’t apply any specific translation tables, it will translate with default Braille table when pressing ctrl+t.
- No translation: to force SMB not translate selected text into Braille. In some cases, in your print document has a paragraph already translated into Braille, so you just want to ignore it and translate the rest into Braille. Then, that Braille paragraph should be selected and apply with “No translation” table from Tools menu -> Translation tables.
- Applying multiple translation tables in one document: just select the text that you want to be translated with a specific table, go to Tools menu -> Translation tables and choose.
Applying desired translation table is workable for any selected elements of print document, including text, math equations, graphics and music scores.
Please refer to Translation Tables page options to know more on how to manage Braille tables. By default, from Tools menu -> Translation tables, it lists few of them such as for English and Vietnamese languages.
And you can find many other translation settings in Options dialogue under Tools menu.
SMB Options Dialogue
Open this dialogue from Tools menu, where can find most of related settings of SMB’s Braille translation.
- Braille dot pattern is to define dots in numbers. SMB uses the same concept of dot pattern definition as LibLouis. For instance, dot pattern 456-345, will have US ascii Braille as: “_>”, and Unicode Braille as: “⠇⠜”.
General page options
- UI language: choose language for the application user interface. The “More” button next to it is to check for new language updates from Sao Mai’s web server.
- 6-key input mode: choose Off to input in QWERTY method; choose FDS-JKL or VCX-M,. to input with 6-key Braille method with the dots in order of 123-456. This is only active in Braille document window.
- Date time format: specify how SMB will format the date. For instance, yyyy/mm/dd for 2018/05/31.
- Braille paper width (CPL): set number of Characters Per Line for Braille paper size.
- Braille paper height (LPP): set number of lines per page for Braille paper size.
- Hyphen: define the line continuation dot indicator. If specified, SMB will cut word at the end of the line, add this Braille sign and continue to write the word remaining on the next line. If not specified, SMB will go to next line without cutting words. UEB line continuation indicator is defined with dot 5.
- Check for update when starting: choose to let SMB automatically check for new update every time it runs. You can manually check by going to Help menu.
- Print header footer on odd page: check to translate header and footer on odd pages.
- Print header footer on even page: choose to translate header and footer on even pages.
- Ignore page breaks: check to skip page breaks and continue to translate text on the same Braille page. Uncheck to follow the page breaks as in print document.
- Add print page number in TOC: place the page number of print document in front of Braille page number when translating table of content.
Translation table page options
- Braille output: choose between Ascii or Unicode Braille encoding. By default, ascii Braille will use North American standard. The “Display Braille code” combobox control next to this will let you choose preferred standard.
- Default Braille table: name and file of the default Braille translation table.. The “Browse” button next to it is to change to new default Braille table.
- Translation tables list: use arrow keys to move and space key to select/unselect. Then, press alt+s to save. If selected and saved, the table will be shown in Tools menu -> Translation tables. Press alt+r to remove table from the list. Press alt+a to add new table defined from the “LanguageTables.ini” file. Next tab controls are customized options for selected table from the list.
- Name: Name and file of the translation table. “Browse” button next to it is to change to another table file for selected table from the list.
- Beginning symbol: Braille dot pattern to mark as open indicator for the text translated with this Braille table.
- Ending symbol: Braille dot pattern to mark as close indicator for the text translated with this Braille table.
- Color: choose color in which will be displayed for the print text applied with this translation table. This would be helpful for sighted transcribers quickly review if print contents are applied with correct translation tables.
- Save button: choose save when making any changes before click on Ok button.
- Add button: to add new translation table from “LanguageTables.ini” file.
- Remove button: remove current selected table from the list.
Styles page options
This page is divided into three group options, 1) Text styles (alt+e), 2) Table styles (alt+t) and 3) Font attributes (alt+f).
Text styles are used to format and structure in print document. Some of frequently-used styles are headings, bullet/numbering list, title, subtitle, normal etc.
From here, you can customize rules for SMB to translate content with specific style into Braille. Select a style from the list, define translation rules, then choose Save button (alt+s) to save the selected style. Repeat the same steps to customize for other styles.
- Text styles list: choose a style to customize. This list will show all built-in, custom and available detected styles of current opened print document. Next tab controls are to define translation rules for selected style from this list.
- First line indent: set number of spaces from the left margin for the first line of a paragraph.
- List indent: number of additional spaces from the left margin for higher level list item, compared and counted by the list level 1. Please note, this rule is only applied for bullet and numbering list style.
- Left margin: number of spaces from the left margin for the remaining lines of the paragraph. Please note, this doesn’t infect the indentation which is set for First line rule.
- Right indent: number of spaces from the right margin to the text of a paragraph.
- Blank line before: number of blank lines inserted right before the paragraph with style.
- Blank line after: number of blank lines inserted right after the paragraph.
- Beginning symbol: define Braille dot pattern to mark as open indicator at the beginning of the text with style.
- Ending symbol: define Braille dot pattern to mark as close indicator at the end of the text.
- Save button: save changes for selected style from the list.
- Remove button: remove current selected style from the list.
Note: Braille table style feature is being redesigned to be more flexible to different Braille code standards. So, information below is mostly for reference.
Currently, SMB supports to convert into two Braille table styles, the listed and row-column styles. The listed one will convert table row by row and place the three dots 5 to separate between columns. While the row and column style will try to keep its appearance same as table in print document with adding of row and column separator signs.
- Left right margin: number of blank cells from the left/right margin to table text (applied for row and column table style).
- Top bottom margin: number of blank rows from the top/bottom margin to the first line text in the table (applied for row and column table style).
- Row separator symbol: specify Braille dot pattern to separate between table rows. Leave blank will not add the separator line (applied for row and column style only).
- Column separator symbol: specify Braille dot pattern to separate between table columns. Leave blank will not add the separator column (applied for row and column style only
- Convert table to text: check this to translate table in print documents into Braille listed style. Uncheck to convert into row and column styles with previous settings for table translation options.
SMB supports to translate three font attributes/typeforms, bold, italic and underline. According to UEB rules, there are three level indicators: for letter, word and passage. Text with three words and more are considered as a passage. Place the indicator before the text with font attributes and ending indicator for only the passage. Choose an attribute from the list, move on to customize its settings, then go back to the list and choose another attribute to customize if preferred. When completed, choose Ok to save and exit the Options dialogue.
- Font styles list: choose font attribute to customize.
- Show symbol: choose “Hide” to not detect and indicate font attribute for any text with font attribute. “Only normal” is to indicate for text with normal style. “Normal, headings” is to indicate for both text with normal and heading styles.
- Letter: Braille dot pattern to indicate letters with the font attribute.
- Word: Braille dot pattern to indicate words with the font attribute.
- Phrase: Braille dot pattern to indicate the beginning of a passage with the font attribute.
- Ending symbol: Braille dot pattern to indicate the ending of a passage with the font attribute.
SM Music Braille translation engine is developed based mainly on Music Braille Code (MBC) and the New International Manual of Braille Music Notation (NIM). So, for more details, please check those materials.
This user guide just describes shortly about main features’ options.
Music Braille settings are saved in profile with .prf file extension. In each music Braille option page, there are buttons:
- Use default profile: use the default profile file for transcribing scores into Braille, which comes with SMB.
- Load profile: choose saved profile file to use for transcribing music Braille.
- Save profile: after making changes in Music Braille pages, click this button to save as a new profile. Otherwise, if click Ok, it will save in currently loaded profile.
- Default format: support bar-over-bar, line-over-line and section-by-section formatting method. It will have different Braille layout for each format type. Some specific options will appear depending on format type you choose. For instance, section-by-section will have option to set how many measures per section.
- Measure numbering: numbering the first measure of every parallel. Available for bar-over-bar and line-over-line. Option name with “auto” means that the engine will number in order from one to higher. While “print score” options, engine will respect measure numbering of the score.
- Translate mode: translate part by part as single part mode; or, orchestra/chamber types as full score.
- Number of measures: auto will use same calculation as bar-over-bar for line-over-line, and four measure per section for section-by-section. Otherwise, you can specify exactly how many measures should be on one section.
- Place title page at: when translating multiple-part score with single-part transcription mode, this will write title page info at the beginning of each part. Title page contains song info such as song title, subtitle, composer, arranger, part name etc.
- Write additional lyrics: whether to write all lyrics together with notes, or just lyric 1 and additional ones will be written at the end of part/score.
- Write chord symbols: whether to write chord symbols in line with notes, or on separate line right below note line.
- Always mark octave at first measure note: force to state octave sign before first note of a measure.
- Restate key sign: to restate key signature at beginning of every new parallel on each staff. This option is mostly used in full score translation mode.
- Insert blank line between sections: separate parallels/sections with one blank line.
- Each part on new page: whether to continue write new part on current Braille page or force to a new one.
- Each score on new page: whether to continue write new score on current Braille page or force to a new one.
- Move unfitted parallel to new page: when there’s not enough space to write whole parallel/section, it will move it to new Braille page.
- Break to new sections: list of checkbox options to set condition when the engine should break passage to new parallel/section.
This page is divided into subgroup options:
- Show/hide sign: a checkbox list containing options to toggle whether to translate Braille signs for different music elements. For instance, if uncheck articulation, articulation elements like staccato, accent will be not translated into Braille.
- Slur and tie:
- Only tie for both slur and tie: when both slur and tie are presented at the same location, check this option to use only tie sign.
- Use long slur bracket: if checked, slur bracket with dots 56-12 and 45-23 is used for long passage. Otherwise, note slur with dots 14-14 is used.
- Grace slur with dots 56-14: if checked, it uses dots 56-14 for graced notes with slur. Otherwise, normal note slur is used.
- State tied-into tie: if checked, dot pattern 46-56-14 is stated before the note with tie without starting note. If not checked, it’s ignored.
- State l.v tie: if checked, dot pattern 56-14 is stated after the note with tie without ending note. If not checked, it treats as normal tie.
- Restate slur and tie: this is to restate slur and tie before first note of a parallel line if that note is slur stop and/or tie stop.
- Slur position in chord: some countries prefer placing slur sign right after written note of a chord to placing after the last interval sign.
- Multiple voices: handling multiple voices on multiple staves.
- In-accord mode: Choose “Full” to use full in-accord only; “Partial” for both full and partial in-accord; or “Partial and stem” for the application of all modes (stem signs + partial and full in-accords). The engine will base on the print score to decide when and what are applicable for stem signs or partial in-accord.
- Apply partial in-accord for whole-beat range: whether to use partial in-accord method when beats are in even range (2, 2 or 3 beats range), not (1,5 or 2,5 etc.).
- Show hand sign when changing staff: whether to show left/right hand when a voice changes from treble to bass staff or vice versa.
- Add supplement accidental in other voices: restate accidental with cautionary dot 5 to make clearer of the accidental case in measure with multiple voices.
- Offset handling: calculate offset and apply stem sign for direction and chord symbol. In some cases, direction and chord are with offset to specify playing time not exactly as the time of played note. So, stem sign will demonstrate these duration offset values.
- Depth of stem: the deeper value is checked, the more detailed is presented with stem signs.
- Apply stem for direction: the engine always checks for offset value and move the direction to right position in Braille score. This option is just for whether to present stem sign or not.
- Apply stem for chord symbol: the engine always checks for offset value and move the chord symbol to right position in Braille score. This option is just for whether to present stem sign or not.
- Doublings: a checkbox option list to choose to apply doubling for different music elements. It supports doubling for following Braille music signs: tuplet, slur and chord tie, articulations, graces and cue, noteheads, trill, tremolos, up and down bows, strings, arpeggiates and intervals.
- Note grouping: there are two note grouping types (regular and irregular). Regular type is to write first group note in correct shape and the rest in 8th note shape. Irregular bases on irregular rhythm to mark with Braille music comma.
- Mode: “off” to ignore note grouping; “regular” to apply only regular method; “Irregular” to apply only music comma for irregular beamings; and “Both” to apply in combination of both regular and irregular ones.
- Treat no-time signature as: when a score has no time signature, this option will tell the engine to process that score as irregular, beat-type=Quarter note or beat-type=8th note.
- Interval direction: “Default” will automatically write intervals for chord based on treble and bass staves. “Up” will write all intervals from low to high pitch. And “Down” is from high to low pitch.
- Repetition: set options for repetition cases.
- Measure repetition: “Off” to not apply full measure repeat. “Single voice”, only apply for measure with one voice per staff. And “Multiple voices”, apply measure repetition for both single and multiple voices.
- Partial measure: set beat depth for the engine to check for repetition within a measure. Choose “Off” to ignore partial measure repetition.
- Partial for undividable time: check beat by beat or all possible repeated beat ranges from longest to shortest based on minimum beat depth set in partial measure repetition option.
- Level of partial: this option works conditionally with the beat depth option. Level 1 will not have two adjacent partial repetitions with different durations. Level 2 can have two adjacent repetitions with different durations and so on.
- Apply in-tuplet: whether to check and apply repetition within a tuplet.
This page is to manage options for different music text categories defined in wordsDictionary.xml file. And it will apply translation settings for each category. Current supported categories are tempo, dynamics, hairpins, repetition and common text.
- Process dictionary:
- Off: translate all text in line with notes.
- Default text: detect and apply translation settings for each default text category.
- Default and custom text: the custom text option is as experimental. It will detect and apply translation settings for custom text definitions before the default text.
Support and Feedback
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