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Chapter 4: Styles and Other Fundamental Concepts

What are styles?

Each paragraph in a MegaDots document has exactly one style. A style is a label which designates all aspects of both the inkprint and braille formats for the entire paragraph. The style remains the same throughout a paragraph.

Most word processors do not require the use of styles. Instead, the user issues detailed formatting commands, such as "center this text", or "use the Helvetica font". This approach lets you fashion your inkprint how you want it to look. There is a rich variety of inkprint formats. For example, a top level inkprint heading may be boldface or normal, centered or left justified. In contrast, braille has very strict formatting.

An increasing trend in word processing is to use styles. Styles create consistently formatted text. MegaDots uses one style for each paragraph because in braille, each paragraph's format is patterned after a clear and distinct model. For example, a braille Heading level 1 is always centered, has a blank line above it, and can never be on the last line of the page.

Styles take care of the details of braille format. Once they are applied, MegaDots also creates consistent, well-formatted print and large print.

Using Styles

You can label a paragraph with a style from anywhere within the paragraph. Label several paragraphs at once by highlighting them with Control-X. Then press Alt-A to pick the style you want from a list of all available MegaDots styles. To get a description of a style, press F1 (help) on that style in the list. Each style on the list has an intuitive name that describes how the paragraph is used. For example, the most commonly used styles in MegaDots are Heading level 1, Body text and List.

To learn the basics of using these styles, we'll format a recipe for apple cake. Press F3 to open a document. MegaDots asks you what document you are going to open. Type C:\mega25\practice.meg <Enter> to load the file called practice.meg from the MegaDots directory.

Now we're in the Editor, at the beginning of the document where it says "Stina's apple cake". If you're not in Format Markup now, press Alt-W to toggle it on. It's easier to check and set styles when you're in Format Markup, because the end of each paragraph is clearly marked. Also, if you use voice, when you move to a paragraph with a different style, the new style is voiced.

Look on the Status Line or press Control-W G to find out what style the paragraph "Stina's apple cake" is. Right now it is Left flush, and we want to change it to Heading level 1.

Press Alt-A to pick the style. The first style on the list is Heading level 1. To accept this, press <Enter>. You are returned to the Editor where you see that "Stina's apple cake" is now centered with a blank line below it. If you look at the Status Line or press Control-W G, you will find the style is now Heading level 1. This is correct, so we'll move on to the list of ingredients.

Notice that each ingredient is its own paragraph, now labelled Left flush. The correct style for this list of ingredients is List. Press Alt-Down Arrow (move by paragraph) to move to the first item of the ingredients list. Now press Control-X to begin highlighting. Highlight down to the last ingredient. Don't go past the last ingredient's end of paragraph mark, or you'll effect the next paragraph as well. Press Alt-A to pick a style. Now type LI to move to the List style quickly and press <Enter> to select it.

The list is now formatted correctly. Paragraphs with more than one line have become outdented. This means that subsequent lines after the first are moved over to show they are part of the same paragraph.

In addition, MegaDots puts a blank line to show transition before the first item of a list and after the last. This brings up an important point. The styles automatically put blank lines where they belong. There are very few occasions in MegaDots where it is appropriate to enter blank lines by creating empty paragraphs. One occasion to create an empty paragraph is if there are two lists in a row, and the second one has no heading. Insert an extra <Enter> where the blank line should be. Be careful when you put empty paragraphs in your document; you do not want braille with extra blank lines.

Style Groups Make it Easier

Because the list of all styles is quite long, pressing Alt-A is a cumbersome way to select a style. MegaDots provides an easier way by dividing styles into eight logical categories, called style groups.

Most of the styles you will use are in the Body group (Alt-B). In our practice document practice.meg, the baking instructions need to be changed to Body text. Highlight all the instructions and press Alt-B <Enter> to select Body text from the Body group.

When you choose Styles from the Main Menu, you get the alphabetical list of style groups:

Some of the style groups are self explanatory if you explore them. To learn more about a style group, press F1 on that selection in the menu. In addition, you can press F1 to learn about an individual style when you are in a list of styles.

Hierarchical Styles

Some styles have sub-levels to a main level, or hierarchies. Some important examples are Outline, Poetry and Index. We'll enter a practice outline to learn how to set the levels. Start a new paragraph, and press Alt-B O to set the style to Outline.

Right now, if you query MegaDots for the style name, it reports Outline +1, because everything is on the main level. For this main level, type "I. The reasons I like Apple Cake" <Enter>.

Now you're ready to enter the second level of the outline. Press Alt-Right Arrow. Each successive Alt-Right Arrow moves us down another level to Outline +2, Outline +3, etc. Alt-Left Arrow moves us back up a level. Move to Outline +2 now, and type "A. It's so tasty" <Enter>.

Finally, let's enter a third level. This time we'll enter the text before setting the level. Type "1. Appley yummy" <Enter> "2. Sweet to my tummy". Now highlight the two items with Control-X and press Alt-3 to jump straight to the third level. Pressing Alt-digit in this fashion is a shortcut that moves right to the level you want. You now have an outline with three levels.

Importing a Document

When you import a document, MegaDots guesses what the style of each paragraph should be, and sometimes guesses incorrectly. Blank lines in the original document help MegaDots guess the styles but are removed in the conversion to MegaDots. When paragraphs are labelled with the correct styles, blank lines are put in appropriate places.

After you import a document, press Alt-I to learn more about the styles that MegaDots has assigned. You can use this screen as a means of just learning about your file, or you can use it to further manipulate the file. You can disallow the use of certain styles and then ask MegaDots to re-import the file.

From the Editor, you can spot incorrect styles by paging through and checking out any strangely formatted paragraphs. The Status Line always shows the style of the current paragraph. If you are using voice or refreshable braille, you can also review the current style by pressing Control-W G (Where Am I - Paragraph).

The most convenient way to check styles for voice users is to simply go into Format Markup view by pressing Alt-W. This enables MegaDots to voice style changes between paragraphs.

If you are using refreshable braille, checking styles is made easier by a markup view called Style Changes in Text. Normally, pressing Alt-W simply brings up Format Markup, but in refreshable braille, Style Changes is the default markup mode. It shows style transitions as commands right inside the text. Other users can access this feature from the Zippy menu by pressing Control-Z M S. Wherever there is a change of styles in the text, an extra line is shown on the screen which tells what the next style is. For example, when a Heading level 1 goes to Body text, there is an extra line in between the two paragraphs that says "Style = Body text". This prevents users from having to constantly review the Status line or press Control-W G.

You can also browse through all the styles used in your document with Control-J G. The browsing feature is quite powerful. When you are in this screen, you can actually use the same Alt commands to change styles and hierarchy levels as in the Editor. In addition, pressing Tab makes the current paragraph have the same style as the previous paragraph. To view only headings, press the space bar. This shows a basic outline of your document. Press space bar to move back to all paragraphs. From either view, you can press Enter to move to that paragraph in the document, or Escape to move back where you started.

Using a Different Style Sheet

A style sheet is a collection of styles and rules for page layout designed to create a particular kind of document. You can create different types of documents by just changing the style sheet. Each style sheet instructs MegaDots to format the text in inkprint and braille a little differently.

Style sheet selection is in the Document menu. Here are the style sheets that are currently shipped with MegaDots:

Most work in North America requires LITERARY or TEXTBK. Virtually everything in the United Kingdom uses BRITUP. When writing a braille letter, you may consider using NONUMS if braille page numbers are not needed.

All of the style sheets include a standard set of styles. You can change what each heading level means with Headings setup under the Document menu. This is explained more in Chapter 6: Tutorial.

You can also change the meanings of other styles and create new style sheets with the Style Sheet Editor, as explained in Supplement 4. However, MegaDots' styles have been planned very carefully, and there is usually no reason to change them.