Importing Files to DBT

"Importing" means taking a file that is not native to DBT and bringing it into DBT for editing and producing braille. There are many different types of files that DBT can import, a subject covered by the first section of this topic.

If you want to import files into DBT for languages other than English, there are few alternatives beyond using Microsoft Word or Open Office, especially if the document is not written in a Roman script. Script issues are discussed in the second section of this topic, about languages and script issues.

Image of "Select Document File" dialog

The image above shows the File Open dialog, presented here primarily to call attention to the pull-down menu near the bottom where you select the types of files to display. Setting that menu to All Files (*.*) allows you to see the broadest selection of file types in any given directory.

If you select a non-native file, DBT presents the File Import dialog. You can see what that dialog looks like in the File: Open topic.

File Types DBT Can Import

This section deals with the different file types and formats that DBT can import. This may embrace many languages besides English. However, this section does not discuss problems in different script systems (for that, see the following section).

Files from Microsoft Word (97 and Above)

The current DBT can open and import Word files from Word 97, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, and Office 365. DBT can accept both .doc and .docx files.

Duxbury DBT has supported Word 97 and Word 2003 files for a very long time. From DBT version 11.1 (2011), DBT has supported importing Microsoft Word 2007/2010 files. More recent versions of DBT import Word 2013/2016 files and Office 365. If you have an older version of Duxbury DBT, you may need to update to import these important file types.

For those preparing files for book production starting from Word, a template for MS Word comes with DBT to reduce the work of braille production by mapping styles from Word to DBT, thereby reducing the amount of extra editing required. Click here for details on the latest "BANA" Word Template. (This is called a "BANA" Word template, which suggests it should be used in North America alone, but it is also used elsewhere.)

Note: Occasionally a Word .doc file imports into DBT but appears as a blank document. If that occurs, return to Word, re-save the .doc file as a .docx file and import it once again.

Open Office Files

Open Office is an open source alternative to using Microsoft Office. Open Office uses a similar file format to Word 2007/2010. If you have Duxbury DBT 11.1 or newer, you can import Open Office files.

MathType Files

MathType is a relatively low-cost program which, among its many capabilities, enables mathematical equations to be inserted into Microsoft Word documents. It is produced by Design Science, Inc. Word documents containing MathType equations can be opened in DBT, and translated into mathematical braille.

Scientific Notebook Files

Note: the maker of this program, MacKichan Software, has gone out of business.

Scientific Notebook, is software which produces LaTeX files. LaTeX files can be imported into DBT both for the text and the mathematical equations. Duxbury Systems supports Scientific Notebook 5.5. The later version, Scientific Notebook 6.0, is not compatible with DBT.

Generic Text Files

DBT imports many different standard text (.txt) files.

Modern text files mostly use the "Unicode" character set, but older files may use one of many "Code Pages" to represent their text. If you find yourself facing unreadable text, selecting the correct Code Page should help. See DBT Code Pages for Text Files.

RTF Files Require a Work-Around

DBT does not directly import MS Word Rich Text Format (.rtf) files. Many third party programs produce .rtf files but call them "Word Documents". Some versions of Adobe Acrobat offer to export "Word files". Some OCR software offers to produce "Word documents". In both cases, the result may actually be an .rtf file.

To import an RTF file into DBT, first import the file into Microsoft Word, then Save As a native Word file (.doc, or preferably .docx).

Note: By default, Word offers to save such files back into the RTF format. You need to explicitly select the .docx or .doc file type. Then you can import the actual Word format file into DBT.

If you attempt to import an RTF file into DBT, DBT posts an error message, identifying that this is an RTF file.


DAISY files (Digital Accessible Information SYstem) are XML files designed for access by the disabled. While useful for braille production, DAISY files often lack much of the encoding needed for quality braille. While DBT can import these files, be aware that some of them are extremely large.

NIMAS files are specialized DAISY files which meet national instructional materials standards. These files are often massive, and they can require careful treatment to prepare them for braille. Duxbury Systems has created a program called NimPro, which greatly facilitates the import of DAISY and NIMAS files to DBT. This program will soon handle EPUB 3 files as well. Please, see our Web Site for more information.

HTML (Web) Files

DBT has the ability to import simple HTML files from the web. If the direct file import is not successful, import the HTML file into Microsoft Word, then export it (Save As) as a native Word file.

Note: By default, Word offers to save such files back into the Web Page format. You need to explicitly select the .docx or .doc file type.

Braille Formatted Files

Braille Formatted Files are not all alike, thus, they cannot all be imported the same way. The primary variations to consider are BRF files that were encoded according to UEB (Unified English Braille) versus those encoded in Pre-UEB. Further, the manner of import depends on whether you intend the file only for embossing, or you need to edit the text. Click here for a detailed discussion on importing braille formatted files.

Note: DBT (from 12.3 onwards) has the ability to import BRF files that contain UEB with Nemeth code. To import such a file, you need to attach a 4-cell braille header to the BRF file prior to importing it. That braille header is: _%_: ( i.e., dots 4-5-6, 1-4-6, 4-5-6, 1-5-6; in ASCII braille this is the sequence: _%_: ).

MegaDots Files

Note: MegaDots was last offered in 2015 and support was retired in 2016.

If you have files from Duxbury MegaDots, getting quality braille files from MegaDots into Duxbury DBT is quite easy. MegaDots 2.5 can export a file from MegaDots using the MegaDots file type MS Word/BANA Template.

This file can then be imported into DBT using the DBT template English - American - BANA. Nearly all of the subtle formatting placed in the MegaDots file carries over into the DBT file, so it is worthwhile to follow these steps exactly.

WordPerfect Files (*.wp, *.wpd, *.wp5, *.wp6)

While WordPerfect is not a leading product anymore, at one time it was the premier word processor. DBT still provides the ability to import files from WordPerfect 3.x, 5.x, and 6.x.

EPUB Files

EPUB (ePub) is an electronic-book file format recognizable by the ".epub" file extension. EPUB is supported by many e-readers, and compatible software is available for most smart phones, tablets, and computers.

As of version 3.0, the Duxbury NimPro program will read EPUB 3 format and facilitate its import into DBT.

The web service at allows you to select an EPUB file on your computer, upload it, and then download a Word .docx file with the same content. This is a third party solution, and Duxbury is not responsible for this website, if you use it, proceed with care.

Work-Around for PDF Files

The web service at allows you to select a PDF file, upload it, and then download a Word .docx file with the same content. Once again, Duxbury is not responsible for this website. If you use it, proceed with care.

Language and Script Issues for Importing Files

Note that your choices for importing non-English documents are basically limited to using documents from either Microsoft Word or Open Office, especially for languages that use non-Roman script systems.

Unicode Font Support

DBT supports Unicode fonts. Microsoft Word works with both Unicode and non-Unicode fonts. In the past, languages like Lao, Tibetan, or Oriya were impossible to support without specialized add-ons to Microsoft Word. It is now possible to buy a computer, obtain a word processor (Open Office or Microsoft Word), and immediately set to work writing in many alternate script languages without first having to obtain a special font. As an added bonus, this means that screen readers and other accessibility software have more opportunity to handle your language.

At this point, DBT imports or handles about 75 ranges of Unicode characters.

Supporting non-Unicode Fonts

For some nations, relative isolation and the cost barriers to better solutions caused widespread use of non-Unicode fonts. Thus to provide braille for these users, Duxbury Systems had to support the dominant font system in use. DBT has some support for the Akadem font for Cyrillic text, the Saysettha font for Lao text, and the SutonnyMJ font used in Bangladesh for Bengali text.

This work is exacting and quite complex, so Duxbury supports non-Unicode fonts only when there are no other alternatives.

Arabic and Hebrew Characters

Both Arabic and Hebrew inkprint are written from right to left. Arabic and Hebrew braille are written from left to right. While DBT displays all inkprint text from right to left, do not attempt to edit the text in DBT. Instead, clipboard the entire line into Word, edit it in Word, and then paste the whole line back into DBT. See also the note below about Script and Font Issues.

Han or Chinese Characters

DBT does not directly display Han characters. Instead DBT displays an appropriate substitute based on the current language the Han characters represent:

Table of Substitutions
Language DBT Characters
Mandarin (Mainland) Pinyin romanization with accent
marks for the tones
Mandarin (Taiwan) Zhuyin romanization
Cantonese Jyutping romanization with superscript
numbers for the tones
Japanese Unicode U+30xx characters
Korean Unicode U+11xx characters

In the Global Settings, Word Import Menu, you have the option to set the choice of how Chinese characters are imported. However, selecting the template for your document now automatically sets this for you, which is both more convenient and more flexible if you work in several of these languages.

Hangul or Korean Characters

Hangul script composes 2 or 3 characters into a single symbol. When DBT imports a file, the process is reversed. DBT breaks down a single Hangul character into its component parts.

In technical terms, all Hangul characters from U+AC00 through U+D7AF are redirected into Hangul Jamo characters, U+11xx. The result can be difficult to read for those who are used to reading the conventional inkprint. For these languages, it is best to do all the editing in Microsoft Word, then to import into DBT, using DBT as the translation engine and for output.

Script and Font Issues on Older Microsoft Windows Systems

Many language scripts are difficult to support on Microsoft OS's prior to Windows 10, and using earlier versions of Windows is not recommended.

Many scripts, among them: Mandarin, Cantonese, Ethiopic, Khmer, Lao, Oriya, Sinhala, and Tibetan, are best viewed on a Windows 10 (or later) machine.

Myanmar (Burmese) script support requires at least Windows 8 or Windows 10.