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Chapter 7: File Import

What a Long Strange Trip it has Been

MegaDots was first sold in 1992. Over the years, the computer environment and the uses of the program have changed. Nowhere are these changes more apparent than with file import. At one point, WordStar and the WordPerfect were the primary mainstream products. MegaDots once used a licensed product for file import and export. For legal and contract reasons, we could not continue this relationship. MegaDots 2.5 now contains a modified copy of DBT within it, and uses the file importing muscle of DBT 11.1; thus MegaDots can read Word 2003, Word 2007, and Word 2010 files, and can read the formatting instructions of Susan Christensen's Word Templates. MegaDots 2.5 can use your installed copy of Microsoft Word to offer a number of file export choices as well.

While MegaDots 2.5 does not have any software licensed from another source, it does contain traces of its colorful past. The file import software is loaded with features that once made a lot of sense. This chapter will omit discussions of these old relics. if you are curious, please locate an older copy of MegaDots.

File Name Problems

MegaDots is an MS-DOS program. It prefers the 8 character file names with 3 character file extensions. MegaDots does not change how it imports a file based on the file extension or any part of a file name. You could rename a Word 2010 file maps.txt, and MegaDots will still import it. The only exception to this is that you can set up different File import preferences for different file extensions.

Please create a single directory at the root level of your computer for the sole purpose of submitting Word files to MegaDots. Copy your files into this "loading zone" directory. Change the name of your Word files so there are 8 or fewer characters in the file name. Use underbars rather than spaces in the file name. Limit the length of the file extension to 3 characters. Once you do this, you will find it much easier to import files into MegaDots.

Be aware that by changing the file extension, you have made it impossible for the file to be loaded back into Word. However, neither DBT nor MegaDots pays any attention to the extension to decide the file type.

Yes, we are aware that we could have given other advice. You can actually load the docx file directly into MegaDots (as long as you import something like TR*.D*), but the file name gets scrambled inside MegaDots. This is the basis of our recommendation to copy to a new directory and new name before importing into MegaDots.

File Types MegaDots Cannot Import

File Types MegaDots Can Import

The Main File Import Engine

The main file import engine in MegaDots is borrowed from Duxbury DBT. It can import Microsoft Word files (2003, 2007, 2010), Open Office files, WordPerfect files, and Duxbury DBT .dxp inkprint files (including Duxbury math files). In the list of file importers, it is listed as "DBT assisted import: Word, DBT, WP". The numeric code for this importer is 6300.

When you import these files with voice, you will hear "importing ASCII line file". This is normal, the last stage of these file imports uses an older import technique.

One difficulty is that this engine cannot read RTF files. Some OCR programs save their output as "Word" files, with the .doc file extension; but they really are RTF files. The only solution is to load these files into Word, and then re-save as true Word files.

Registry Issues

The DBT assisted importer uses information from the Registry to make the same decisions that DBT makes during file importation. MegaDots does not offer a user interface to change these settings: they are fixed from the installation program. If you do want to change them, use Regedit (with care, of course). Look at HKEY_CURRENT_USER, Software, Duxbury Systems Inc., Duxbury Import Engine 2.5.

MS Word/BANA Template

The Susan Christensen Word Template allows you to control braille format from a Word file. If you are interested in concentrating on using Word for braille formatting, then look up the MS Word/BANA Template in the Reference Manual. Since MegaDots can export to MS Word/BANA Template files, you can now create files for use in DBT. MegaDots can create these files from both inkprint and braille. Importing a MegaDots-created Word file containing braille into DBT requires DBT 11.1 SR3 or later.

Another way you can control format is to add MegaDots markup directly in a Microsoft Word file. For example, # ["Ei"]# means start italic markup, and # ["\Ei"]# means end italic markup (to do this for real, you need to eliminate the space between the pound sign and the open bracket). If you export a MegaDots file with markup, you can figure out how to encode anything you want in a Word file. If you want to, you can combine the Word Template commands with the direct MegaDots markup.

Files from OCR Systems

If your file comes from an OCR program, it may contain lots of plain vanilla formatting. When it comes into MegaDots, just about every paragraph will be marked as "Body text" by the MegaDots importer. If you are working on a novel, in which just about every paragraph is in fact "Body text", this is not a problem. But if you need a mixture of styles: lists, body text, headings, etc., you may want better results. If you import asking for the file type "DBT assisted import: OCR to Textfile", then MegaDots will probably do a better job of importing.

To recap: if you import without any specification, then it will import as "DBT assisted import: "DBT, Word, WP". This works, but the resulting file requires too much manual work to make useable. To reduce the work, add " -?" (space, hyphen, question) to the file name, and choose "DBT assisted import: OCR to Textfile" to get a file requiring less formatting work. The numeric code of this importer is 5000. It may be best to do a trial import into MegaDots using both "DBT assisted import" options and see which one works the best for you.

What Kind of File Did I Import into MegaDots?

What if you forget what kind of document was imported to create your MegaDots file? Once importation is over, press Alt-I. The file type of the original is listed at the top of the screen under "Source:". Press Escape to return to the Editor.

Fine-Tuning with the Interpret Format Screen

A major feature in MegaDots is the Interpret Format Screen. To use it, press Alt-I. This screen contains all the important information that the importer gathered about your document. The first section of the screen shows general information. The second section shows the heading levels used, and how many of each are in the document. The last section of the screen shows a list of the most common MegaDots styles, along with the number of times each occurs. The Alt-Up and Alt-Down arrow keys jump quickly between these major sections.

This screen is an excellent way to quickly check which styles MegaDots chose for your document. However, the real power of the Interpret Format Screen is that you can change the general options, disallow specific heading levels or styles, and re-import with those settings. You can even make style and/or hierarchy changes to specific paragraphs, or ask that all instances of one style be replaced with another.

Once you press F10, the document is re-imported and all of your requests are honored. At this point, you may accept the re-imported document, or continue fine-tuning it. What follows is a very general breakdown of this screen. For detailed information on each field, use the F1 Help key on that field within MegaDots.

Setting Importer Preferences

All importer preferences exist under Preferences - File import. From this screen it is possible to set options for general documents, or documents with specific file extensions (for example, all .TXT documents).

To set the default options, select "Default". You can also make new settings for a specific file type, such as WordPerfect documents. To do this, type <Insert>, followed by the file extension (such as .HTM or .DOC), followed by <Enter>. The import options screen is nearly identical to the Interpret Format screen. Styles, heading levels and import items can be Allowed or Disallowed. Source, Style selection and Optical scanner cleanup can be set.

There are two new options not in the Interpret Format screen: Auto style sheet and Auto report. Set "Auto style sheet? Yes" if you want MegaDots to decide what style sheet to use on a document by document basis. For North American users, this allows MegaDots to select Literary if there are no inkprint page indicators, and Textbk97 (or a later Textbk) if there are. Set "Auto style sheet? No" if you always want to use the style sheet listed under Preferences - New document - Style sheet. Note to British users: documents are usually in the BRITUP style sheet.

Make "Auto report? Yes" if you want the Interpret Format screen to automatically come up each time you import a document of this type. Even if you set this to "No", Alt-I will still bring up Interpret Format manually.

Issues for Importing Special Documents

File Formats Used in the Blindness and Transcriber Community

Braille Ready Files

Braille ready files (PokaDot and .BRF files) are files directly encoded for braille output. The idea is to just directly copy the file to an embosser to get braille output.

There are two ways of importing braille ready files into MegaDots: interpreted and non-interpreted. An interpreted file means that MegaDots attempts to build a natural MegaDots file, which can be back translated, edited, re-translated, and expressed in a variety of translation and format modes.

A non-interpreted file is one that rigidly contains the layout of the source file. There is no opportunity to make more than a microscopic change to these files. The idea is to import a file expressly to drive an embosser with these exact characters.

To import a braille ready file in interpreted mode, just import it.

To import a braille ready file in non-interpreted mode, at the Enter filename prompt, after the filename add space followed by -spa before pressing Enter (or import normally and then use Interpret format to change Style selection to S). Also set the style sheet to NONUMS, to suppress page numbering (since the page numbers are already of the text in the brf file). If you do this, the file can be brailled, but it cannot be edited without messing up the format. Any editing throws off all page numbers after that point.

Microbraille files need to be converted into standard braille ready files before they can be imported as "Spacing Same Braille". See microcon in the F12 Reference Manual for the details.

If MegaDots Cannot Recognize the Document Type

It is possible for the automatic document recognition system in MegaDots to not work properly. If MegaDots does not recognize the correct format or won't load a document it ought to, then you can manually set the type of file you are importing. Add space -? after the filename when importing. MegaDots will let you choose the file type from the list of available import file types (see the MegaDots Command Summary).

If you don't know the file type, or can't find it on the list, try picking Unknown File With Text. This is a general file type to use as a last chance. It works with a variety of file types, such as Pagemaker, some types of help screens, even computer program .EXE's. Basically, it strips out all of the garbage codes and keeps only the text. Its success may vary greatly from file to file, but it can be a useful last resort for getting the text out of a file.