Duxbury or Perky Duck - Help me design some Braille software

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

What are Duxbury and Perky Duck? What do they do? Do they run on Mac OS? If not, is there any equivalent software that does run on Mac OS?

Details: I'm in the process of learning Braille through a Hadley course. I'm also a retired computer programmer. In correspondence with the Braille course instructor, I mentioned I was going to write a piece of software that translated between Braille and text. Me and my big mouth, right? Now, the instructor has mentioned to me that many of Hadley's students would like something like Duxbury or Perky Duck on their Mac, and maybe I could write my software to fill that need. So I'm posting here to find out more about what I just got myself into. Or, ideally, maybe someone here will post about some software that does pretty much the same thing?

My instructor specifically mentioned 6-key entry for the Braille codes as a requirement. I would assume that means something like using the num pad 7 4 1 8 5 2 keys for Braille dots 1-6.

Help a Braille newbie out! Thanks! And, in return, if my software ever amounts to anything, I pledge to make it available for free or super-cheap on the app store or downloadable from somewhere public. And I'll blog about it here at AppleVis.com, too. Just don't hold your breath. It could take me a while to put this together.

Forum: 

The things I know of

Duxbury has recently releast a Mac version. I was one of the beta test participants. It had some issues with Voiceover but worked well enough to do the job until the final version was released. The cursor navigation was completely broken. I’ve been using the last beta. It also costs $595. I recently downloaded Braille Blaster, free from APH, but haven’t had much luck with it so far. It’s primary purpose is textbook creation from a specialized format, but it will take in text files that you can then apply formatting to. It crashed for me the first time I tried to use it and I haven’t had time to try it again. Others may be able to provide more data. All that to say, if a capable braille translator for the Mac was to come along, I might gladly pay for it, my lost $600 notwithstanding.

Thanks for the info

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

The info regarding Duxbury DBT for Mac is very helpful, and I'll pass that on to my Hadley instructor. Thanks!

I'm still planning to put some software together - I think it will help galvanize the rules of UEB in my head if I write a piece of computer software that follows those rules.

Are there any app developers around who might be able to comment on how my software might drive a Braille printer? I'm no where near writing that kind of code yet, but it would be valuable to plan in advance.

Thanks again for the info.

Old school ...

I used to be a Braille transcriber for RNIB, pre Duxbury and pre-Perky Duck days (who dreamt up that name?!!!) We learnt to 'chord' Braille using six keys on a computer keyboard in software called ChiWriter. But it wasn't the number keys, that woudl be too cramped for your hands - we used SDF&JKL across the middle of the keyboard. This replicated the layout of a Perkins brailler.

F&J are dots 1&4 (the top row of dots = your index fingers)
D&K are dots 2&5 (the middle row of dots = your second fingers)
S&L are dots 3&6 (the bottom row of dots = your ring fingers)

So to get a letter D in Braille (dots 1-4-5) you'd press down on F-J-K on the keyboard at the same time.

I have no idea whether Perky Duck works the same way (I'm not curious enough to download it in Windows to try) but I'd be surprised if they've changed the basic premise.

Hope that helps!

Thanks

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Thanks! My Braille instructor just told me about this recently.

Braille writer

Braille writer is accessible with VoiceOver. The student version is free on the app store. It's output is not accessible - it is simulated braille.
What I would like is the following a piece of software that is not too heavy on the pocket
* that can translate text files to braille and vice versa - doesn't have to be anything fancy just .txt to .brf
* I would like it to have the ability to cut/copy/paste in to other apps
* And to do 6 key entry as described above and as in Braille writer apps.

Just a pipe dream very late on the thread but is it possible?

TXT to BRF

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

I agree it would be nice to have a tool that converts between text and Braille file formats. I don't think this would be terribly difficult for a programmer that already knows the rules of UEB contracted Braille.

Doesn't have to be UEB

I personally think there are two things involved here. Yes, you need UEB but there is a lot of braille around that is not UEB yet. It is perhaps more important to have an understanding of Computer Braille and that is relatively easy - it is grade I old US Braille so no contractions and there are various other marks to get the punctuation and so on.

Agreed

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Agreed, UEB isn't required, though from what I've learned so far, its rules are more strict and leave less to interpretation or context.

I'm currently in the Hadley Braille Lit 4 class, UEB contractions, and I'm using the new Perkey Duck on MacOS for writing assignments. I'd love to put together a Braille translator like you describe, but I'm retired and starting to doubt my programming abilities. It's doable, but it's a serious project. Text to Braille would be pretty straightforward, I'd think. Braille to text is more challenging, but still entirely possible. I understand Duxbury and some other companies make software that does all this, but it's expensive stuff. My Hadley Braille instructor says they use such software to create the course curriculum workbooks. I agree with you such translation software would be nice to have for free or low-cost.

Hi, I transcribe all the

Hi, I transcribe all the textbooks for my 12 year old daughter. I use Braille 2000 at this point and would LOVE to have a program for the MAC. The interface between a Mac and a PC seems to be a big problem. I have ' that turn into ) or a @ sign is inserted before each '. At time when you hit a backspace, the entire line of text disappears or when you insert a letter, the next letter disappears... I have struggled for 5 years with transcribing programs, and would welcome a user friendly program for my mac. Let me know, if you are still working on the program and if I could help.

Paul have you looked at the liblouis translation library?

Take a look at
http://liblouis.org
Assuming this runs on the Mac with out to much effort you could focus time on creating a good interface to allow translation instead of coding a translator by hand. It's C so in theory should be cross platform. As a programmer I've been burnt far to many times by code that was supposed to be cross platform but is not to just assume it will work.

Braille Translator on iOS

I would also love to be able to transcribe from Braille to text, and vice-versa, on my iPhone. I am wondering if you could also develop an iOS app that can do the same thing? And, maybe it can use the LibLouis Braille library that is already mentioned, which is open-source. Also, the app could be made open-source, so that (1) it would be free to download, and (2) could be maintained by the community of blind Braille readers / proofreaders / transcribers that want to see new features, and developers that can work with you to make it possible.
There is already a free program for the Windows PC, called BrailleBlaster, made from the American Printing House for the Blind, so I'm pretty sure a free app for the iPhone and iPad of this nature isn't a bad idea, either. This is just my two cents.

Braille Blaster

The BrailleBlaster program from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is free and has a Windows version as well as a Mac version. It is also based on the Liblouis project.

For more info see:
https://www.aph.org/brailleblaster/

Also, just FYI, I believe that most braille writing interfaces that make use of a QWERTY keyboard use the F, D, and F keys for dots 1, 2, and 3, respectively and the J, K, and L keys for dots 4, 5, and 6. This is a similar layout to what a standard braille keyboard would be.

Hope that helps.

--Pete

Thanks for the info

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

You've all given me some interesting leads to follow.

I did make one simple tool to help with text-to-Braille. It's a command-line BASH shell script that takes text as input. The idea is to tag text in the output that is a candidate for a Braille contraction, but it has several issues. The rules for when to use certain contractions don't lend themselves to programmatic implementation. Take the dot 456 H wordsign for "had". It should never be used for a long A, only for a short A. So, unless the software knows English pronunciation, it is impossible to implement correctly. The bridging rule for compound words is another example where the software would need a firm grasp on the English language. And for these reasons and others, my little tool is mostly useless.

An open source library seems like a great place to start. Now, if I still remember how to program. LOL.

Can't Open Braille Blaster.app

Well, this is the message I get when I try to open it. I may be doing robobraille or another online braille translator for awhile yet.