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Chapter 17: British Braille


The MegaDots program is capable of producing braille to British as well as to North American standards. MegaDots was updated to follow the 2004 British Braille rule changes.

At present the bulk of the MegaDots documentation is biased towards the North American user. The purpose of this chapter is to assist the British user in making the best use of their MegaDots software.

When you install MegaDots 2.5 specifying localization for the United Kingdom, MegaDots sets your translation preferences for U.K. use. It sets the default style sheet to BRITUP, and it sets the MegaDots rules file called UKTRANS to be run automatically by default as the first step of translation into braille. when a file is translated into braille. Some users may be annoyed by the time MegaDots takes to run this rules file during translation into braille, but the extra time is part of the translation process. While the use of UKTRANS could be stopped by changing the New Document, Translation Preferences, we urge users not to do this. In many circumstances this will mess up your file. As an example, UKTRANS is needed for getting the new British end emphasis indicators.

The Simple Switch

MegaDots uses the style sheet to select between British and North American braille. Select from the BRITUP, BRITISH, and AUSSIE style sheets in the Style Sheet Selection Screen in the Document Menu. This changes the translation and format to British standards. At least two menus in MegaDots are different if the BRITUP or BRITISH style sheet is selected. Changing the style sheet also changes the vocabulary list in the spell checker. For example, "colour" is an accepted spelling only when you have selected BRITUP or BRITISH as the style sheet.

Where you see the phrase "these differences are handled automatically", it is assumed that you have selected from the BRITUP, BRITISH, and AUSSIE style sheets if British braille is desired. While the BRITISH style sheet suppresses capitalization, the BRITUP and AUSSIE style sheets do not. Usually the BRITUP style sheet is used in Britain and South Africa. The AUSSIE style sheet is a legacy style sheet for the pre-UEBC Australian braille rules.

The MegaDots installer asks a question about localization. The default style sheet for North America is LITERARY, the default style sheet for the United Kingdom is BRITUP, and the default style sheet for Australia is AUSSIE.

Use of Capitalization

Before 1999, braille produced in the U.K. followed rules for uncapitalized braille. Following the 2004 British Braille rules, a document can be produced using either capitalized braille or uncapitalized braille. In MegaDots, use the BRITUP style sheet to produce braille following the 2004 rules for capitalized British braille or the BRITISH style sheet to produce braille following the 2004 rules for uncapitalized British braille. However, when using the BRITISH style sheet, you can require a capitalization indicator by using the require dot 6 Control-R D command.

When you translate into braille with the BRITISH style sheet, MegaDots still remembers where the capitalization is and preserves it when you translate back to inkprint. When your document is already in braille and you switch the style sheet between BRITISH and BRITUP (or a North American style sheet), the capitalization indicators appear or disappear. However, if you do data entry directly in braille without capitalization indicators, back translating to inkprint gives all lower case.

MegaDots 2.5 supports capitalized passages. There are things you can do to control capitalized passages. If you want to terminate a capitalized passage, insert a Require table item break (pressing Control-R T) before a space. If you want a capitalized passage in headings to span across a carriage return, place a space before the carriage return, without a preceding table item break.


MegaDots handles virtually all Roman numerals, abbreviations and acronyms without any user intervention. If an acronym appears in capitalized letters in print, with the British style sheet, MegaDots uses the letter sign instead of capitalization indicators, to follow rules for uncapitalized British braille. On the other hand, with the BRITUP style sheet MegaDots uses two capitalization indicators and no letter sign, or a letter sign if the acronym appears within a capitalized passage.


North American braille uses the dots 4-6 for a decimal point, and the dropped a for the comma separating groups of digits. British braille uses dot 2 for the decimal point and the dot 3 for the comma separating groups of digits. MegaDots handles these differences automatically.

In many situations, the British use the number sign for punctuation between digits (the colon separating hours and minutes, the hyphens inside of telephone numbers, etc.). For example 8:30 a.m. is done as #h#cj a4m4 in Britain. This is supported as best we can. MegaDots uses the context to decide when to substitute the number sign for the existing punctuation separating groups of digits.

In certain circumstances, a space between digits in British braille becomes a number sign. Again, MegaDots uses a variety of schemes to do this correctly. If you want to force a space between digits, type 2 spaces in the original inkprint. For example, type 12 <space> <space> 14 instead of a single space.


British braille often inserts additional punctuation (comma, semicolon, colon, or a period) to make the braille easier to read. In North America, braille follows the print copy. MegaDots does not automatically insert punctuation into braille. This needs to be done manually.

In British braille, the double quote is used for outer quotes, and the single quote for inner quotes. This means that in some documents, it is necessary to reverse the quotations. To accomplish this, there is a rules file called REVQUOTES.MDR. To invoke this rules file, press Alt-F9 REVQUOTES <Enter>.

Translation Differences

In North America, subtle syllable differences suppress the use of contractions. For example the word "edition" does not use the ed contraction. In Britain, there is a greater emphasis on saving space, so the ed sign is used in the word edition. We have identified a significant number of words which are contracted differently in British braille. The translator has been modified to handle these words appropriately.

British Preliminary Pages with prelim-b.meg

Load MegaDots with the supplied file prelim-b.meg. Page through this file. The main body pages are commentary on creating preliminary pages with MegaDots. Print out this file, or make a braille copy.

With the print out in hand, examine the file in detail. Page through it in WYSIWYG mode and in show markup mode. Now create your own preliminary pages. See how they work in inkprint and in braille. prelim-b.meg is a road map to creating British preliminary pages.

British Page Layout

In Britain, the braille page number is an Arabic number without a prefix, starting with title page, in the upper right hand corner. The page number is not restarted at the beginning of main body pages (as is the case in North America).

In Britain, the print page indicator is in the upper left hand corner. Do not use a letter prefix as is used in North America.

Print page transitions are shown by centered dot 5, dropped c, page number, as in "3#aij for the start of print page 190. The indicators for the print page transition can be on the very top or very bottom of a braille page.

Page Information Lines (PIL)

MegaDots Automates the Page Information Line

The top line in British Braille is called the "page information line". It shows the chapter title as a running head along with the print page number and the braille page number. The page information line shows the status of the very bottom of a page. If there are multiple chapter transitions in one braille page, the page information line shows the last one.

A rich system for making good page information lines is now in place. There are several ways MegaDots automates page information lines. MegaDots uses the same system for specifying the start of a print page that is used for North American Textbook format. Type Control-Enter to mark the start of a new inkprint page.

In a glossary or other place where guide words are used, MegaDots just uses the Heading level 1 plus the first 3 uncontracted letters of each guide word separated by a hyphen. If the first three letters are the same, MegaDots automatically uses more letters until there is a difference. See "Guide Words" in the MegaDots Reference Manual (F12).

In ordinary text, MegaDots uses Heading levels 1 and 2, and the title of a book, if necessary, to make the PIL. The title of a book is the first heading or centered text in the book.

Each PIL must have a text item. The PIL also contains all available sequential numbers from any numbered subdivisions for Heading level 1 and/or Heading level 2. The text and numbers always go in the order they occur in the text. Also, if two numbers are next to each other, the second number sign comes right after the previous number's last digit.

MegaDots knows a book is divided into parts or units when Heading level 1's always break a page. If this happens, MegaDots grabs the part/unit number from the Heading level 1's and the chapter number from the Heading level 2's. It also needs some sort of text for the info line. For example, in "Chapter XIV: The Pecans were Rotten" the text is everything after the colon. MegaDots's preference is to get the text from the previous Heading level 2 but if that heading is something like "Chapter 3" there is no text, so it will go to the previous Heading level 1 for the text. If that heading doesn't have text either, MegaDots uses the title of the book.

Otherwise, the book is not divided into parts or units. In this case, MegaDots will not make use of Heading level 2. Otherwise, everything is similar to the previous scenario.

Sometimes a Page Information Line cannot fit. MegaDots shorts the text part of it one word at a time until both it and the numbers can fit. If MegaDots does this, it adds braille ellipses to the end of the text part of the page info line.

Manual Control of the Page Information Line

You can have full manual control of the page information lines in any document. To do this, use the Header style and put in exactly the text you want in between the page numbers. To turn off manual control at a specific point in your document and have MegaDots automate the page information lines from that point on, put a blank Header there. To actually create a blank page information line, make a Header paragraph with the Control-B blank character in it. To have the PIL set for the first line, make sure the PIL text is the first line of the text, using the Header style.

However, it is a lot of work to manually set the PIL each time the Part, Unit, Chapter or Section number changes. MegaDots offers a second form of manual control which makes use of its automated capabilities.

There are two styles in the Alt-R Running group for British: Short heading 1 and Short heading 2. MegaDots interprets paragraphs with these styles as a Heading level 1 or Heading level 2, without them showing up in the actual body of the document. They only affect the Page Information Line. For example, if there is a problem with a certain Heading level 2 being too long for the PIL, and you don't like the way MegaDots abbreviates it, make a paragraph right before the Heading level 2 with your version of that heading. Use the style Short heading 2, and be sure to include any chapter or section number that was in the original heading. Essentially, this allows you to rewrite your headings for use in the PIL.

To make a shorter or different title than what shows up in the title page or top of the document, use Short heading 1 as the first paragraph. Thus, the title "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" could remain, but the info line could reflect "The Adventures of H. Finn".

Usually MegaDots picks out numbers even if they are Roman numerals or are spelled out. In some situations, MegaDots may not pick up chapter or section numbers (for example, they could be written in French). You can use the Short heading 1 and Short heading 2 system to rewrite the headings with a more computer-digestible enumeration scheme.

Title Page

In North America, the title page is "stretched" so that line 1 and the last line have text. It does not have a page number in literary format.

In Britain, the title page has a page number. The text starts in line 3, and no effort is made to fill the entire page. To create a British title page, start by issuing the Title page command Control-Ins B P T. End each line with a carriage return. To create a blank line, press another carriage return. To create a line of 12 colons, type Control-Ins L G. At the end of the title page, use the Control-Ins B P command to start another kind of preliminary page. Notice that MegaDots also supports the Title Extension page. Do not press additional carriage returns. MegaDots automatically places the Title Extension at the bottom of the page.

The best way to understand how to produce a British document in MegaDots is through example. Look at the file prelim-b.meg to examine the preliminary pages.

Table of Contents

In North America, a volume of braille has a single table of contents. This shows braille page numbers in Literary format or print page numbers in textbook format. Dot 5 is used for guide dots.

In Britain, in a multi-volume book, volume one has two tables of contents: a General contents which shows the inkprint table of contents with inkprint page numbers, and a Volume contents which covers the material in the current volume (perhaps at a greater depth than is shown in the inkprint) with braille page numbers. The General contents uses dot 3 for the guide dots; the Volume contents uses the hyphen as the guide dots. In a single-volume book, there is a single combined table of contents which shows both print page numbers and braille page numbers.

At present, the automatic table of contents generator can produce either the Volume contents or the Combined contents. You need to produce the General contents yourself. Since the General contents is similar to the inkprint table of contents, this is not difficult.

To start off a General contents, use Control-Ins B P G <Enter>. MegaDots then fills in some standard boilerplate text to make it easier to create your table of contents. In fact, you can also create the other types of contents manually, as long as you select "Volume contents" or "Combo contents" after pressing Control-Ins B P.

For items in the table of contents that are before or after the Main Body of text, such as the dedication or index, use the style Prefatory item. Apply the usual hierarchy commands if there are multiple levels.

Use the MegaDots style "Contents" for most of the table of contents entries. Use the MegaDots hierarchy commands to set the appropriate hierarchy level. The runover level is automatically 2 cells beyond the deepest indent. In a multi-volume book, the runovers in the volume contents reflect the deepest indent in the entire book. MegaDots creates an inkprint-only "runover control" paragraph so you can artificially set the deepest indent, thus controlling the runover (if necessary).


British braille uses several kinds of separating lines not used in North America. The following lines are available:

MegaDots is programmed to allow the General Line or the Minor line to be automatically placed before any heading level. See the discussion of Headings below.

To insert a special line manually at any point, type Control-Ins L. You are faced with the following menu choices:


We need to acknowledge some language differences. What the North Americans call "Minor Headings" the British call "Side Headings".

According to the RNIB Braillists' Manual (section 12), the following types of headings are available:

The UKTRANS rules file treats a paragraph in the style Heading level 5 as an italicized side heading of type (e) above. If you are producing a document where you are using Heading level 5 for a different kind of heading, then we recommend that you use your own modified copy of UKTRANS with a different name, such as MYUK. The special transformation rules for handling italicized side headings are found in sections 1a and 2b of the file UKTRANS.MDR. If you are using a heading level other than 5 for italicized side headings, then change "level 5" in these two sections of UKTRANS.MDR to the appropriate "level #" for your use in these sections of MYUK.MDR. If you are not using italicized headings at all, then you can place %% (two percent signs) at the start of each paragraph in these sections to disable them.

To simplify headings in British braille, MegaDots has a feature called "Auto Heading Setup". Choose this feature from the Heading Setup screen of the Document Menu. Just answer 3 simple questions about your document and MegaDots will choose the most appropriate headings (as devised by RNIB).

If you want to, you can format all your headings manually in the Heading Setup screens. You need to specify the style and the variations (if any) for each level of heading. Of course, you have to decide which kind of heading in which order to use in your document.

Special note: Sometimes in British braille you want the print page indicator to stay on the same braille page as the heading. This occurs when a type of heading generally starts a new inkprint page, but not necessarily a new braille page. For this type of heading, in the Heading setup settings, put a W in the Above Braille Heading setting for that level of heading. The W stands for "With ppi".


Extracts are what North Americans call Quotations. If the extract is just ordinary text paragraphs, you can use the Quotation style. British braille format allows for more complex extracts. For example, a larger extract may contain headings or poetry. For these complex extracts, enter them using the appropriate styles (Body text, headings, poetry, etc.). When the whole extract is in MegaDots, mark it as a block. Type Control-Z B and then select a left margin of 4.

There is another way to show an extract in British braille. Use a blank line at the beginning (just press <Enter> twice instead of once), and insert a Minor Line at the end. To insert a Minor Line, type Control-Insert L M.

Interpoint Pages

In North America, blank pages are used to make sure that tables of contents, main body pages, and other major divisions start on odd numbered pages (i.e. on front sheets, not on backs). This distinction is not made in British braille. MegaDots does not skip interpoint pages in British braille.

Style Differences

There are many styles in MegaDots which format differently between British and North American modes. This is part of the beauty of MegaDots: a substantial portion of the formatting differences between North American and British braille is accomplished by the style sheet structure of MegaDots. To get more information about these differences, see Supplement 6, or press F1 when selecting styles from one of the selection lists.


There are subtle differences in the handling of tables. Read Chapter 11: Tables and Columned Material in MegaDots, to learn about entering tables. One difference is the handling of column headings. In British and Australian tables, use Control-Ins L G after column headings if you want them underlined with dot 2-5's.

Computer Braille Code

Computer Braille Code is the way of representing computer program dialog or computer programs in braille. There is a North American Computer Braille Code and a British Computer Braille Code. Ordinarily, MegaDots uses the North American Computer Braille Code for all style sheets except for BRITISH. BRITISH and BRITUP (designed for the U.K.) uses the British Computer Braille Code. AUSSIE (designed for Australia and South Africa) uses the American Computer Braille Code.

If you want to change systems, use the CBC translation alternative option in the Translation Setup Screen in the Document Menu. Press F2 for a list of choices.

Braille Import Issues

When a British braille ready file is imported into MegaDots, a fair amount of work is required to clean it up. First correct the paragraph breaks. Scan through the MegaDots file and repair any errors in laying out the paragraphs. MegaDots looks for British print page indicators to decide if a braille file is a British file. If you are importing a file without print page indicators, the you will find massive problems with carriage return placement. If you anticipate importing files like this, contact MegaDots technical support so we can work out a solution before you do any unnecessary work.

There is no capitalization when you back translate. You can use the supplied rules file CAPFIX to correct most capitalization. Type Alt-F9 CAPFIX.MDR <Enter> to run this rules file on your inkprint file which is in all lower case. Then you can use the spell checker to help put more capital letters back where they belong.

MegaDots cannot read British numbers correctly from braille entered directly. You will need to fix the comma separating groups of digits and the decimal point in a back translated file.

If you consistently run into problems back translating British braille, please bring these to our attention. We want MegaDots to be an efficient tool.

Keyboard Differences

For the most part, MegaDots does a fine job of working with a U.K. keyboard. One known difference is that you must type Alt-Grave (to the left of the '1') instead of Alt-Backslash to get an accented grave letter. Also, use Alt-Colon for umlaut (diaeresis) letters instead of Alt-Quote.

Switching Modes

Changing a British Document into a North American Document

Translate the document into inkprint. Never convert a braille document. From the Document Menu, select the LITERARY or TEXTBK97 style sheet.

Next use the Auto Heading Setup to redo the headings.

Fix up the title page and table of contents for North American usage.

Run the document through the spell checker. This will help to eliminate British spelling.

Go through your document in WYSIWYG. Look for unusual lines in the file.

Changing a North American Document into a British Document

Translate the document into inkprint. Never convert a braille document. From the Document Menu, select from the BRITISH, AUSSIE or BRITUP style sheets.

Next use the Auto Heading Setup to redo the headings.

Fix up the title page and table of contents for British usage.

Format Control of End Notes Pages

MegaDots has a feature called the Whole Paragraph Note (WPN). A WPN is an entire paragraph of any style you wish marked as a footnote. This entire paragraph then joins the End Notes pages. You can add headings, running heads, anything you want to the End Notes Pages.

There is a big catch. You need to be very precise in your cursor movements, or the WPN will not "take" or work. An extra space or misplaced cursor will cause MegaDots to not recognize the paragraph as a WPN.

You need to be in show markup to create a WPN. Use Alt-up or down arrow to get to the precise start of a paragraph, then Control-X to mark a block, Alt-down, then left arrow, then Control-F N. Notice that the cursor should be exactly on a carriage return when you give the Control-F N command.

If for some reason your paragraph does not "take" as a WPN, go back to show markup, remove the note markup, and repeat the process to create the WPN.

Controlling the Opening Heading of a Notes Page

The default heading for the End Notes page is "Notes". You can change this if you wish. Before the first note in the text, create a WPN in the style Heading Level 1. The text of that heading will become the heading of the Notes page. In British braille, this opening heading will be the Page Information Line for the rest of the End Notes pages, subject to the rules for the manipulation of Page Information Lines in MegaDots.

Inserting a Print Page Indicator in a Notes Page

If you want a PPI in the footnote, you can put it in at the appropriate position. If you want to start off with a PPI, put it before the reference indicator.

Putting in an End of Volume Indicator

When you have an End Notes page at the end of a volume, you need an end of volume indicator or end of whole book indicator to go to the very end. Go into show markup. Press Control-End to go to the end of the document. Then use the appropriate command. Use Control-INS L V for end of volume or Control-INS L W for end of whole book.

Controlling the opening PPI of a Notes Page

If you create a WPN of Heading level 1 and put a PPI at the beginning of it, in British, then there will not be a dot 5 dropped c print page indicator on the Notes Page. It is part of the Page Information Line, but not part of the text.

If you do want it in the text, put the PPI at the beginning of the first note that it is before instead of the "Notes" heading. If you have an additional WPN heading after the "Notes" heading, such as "Chapter 1", put the PPI at the beginning of that. Either way, this will put the PPI on line 4 after the line 3 "Notes" heading.

What to Do If you have Several References to the Same Footnote Number

If you have several references to the same note, do the first one normally with an explicit number; later reference just with the number.

Lets say your document has several references to footnote 5. For the first reference, use an explicit number. In this example, use 5 as the reference indicator (rather than #, which in MegaDots means automatically go to the next number). For later references just place the number in note markup. Do not enclose any other text besides the numeric reference indicator.

Troubleshooting Tips Specifically for British Users

In MegaDots version 2.3 we introduced the automatic use of the UKTRANS rules file whenever you translate into braille. That extra process can cause some extra opportunities for difficulties to arise. Here are some tips for avoiding these difficulties.

If possible, avoid translating your document back and forth repeatedly between print and braille. When you have done some editing in print and want to see how your document looks in braille, save your document in print before translating to braille. If you want to edit the document in print again, reopen the document from the saved copy, rather than translating from braille back to print. Using the macro called TRANS automates that process.

Using the Create contents command performs a translation of your document internally, which includes using the UKTRANS rules file. That can create instability and cause MegaDots to crash. To avoid that, we recommend that before using Create contents, you remove the UKTRANS setting for Finetune rules file in Document menu - Translation setup, and instead use the UKTRANS rules file manually. Don't save the file after using Create contents. Instead, copy the table of contents into the MegaDots clipboard and reopen the previously saved file. Paste in the table of contents and resave the file.

The UKTRANS rules file makes the necessary adjustment for the new end italic indicator in a heading set for italics only if the heading is set in the Heading level 5 style. If you have set a different level of heading for the italic setting, use a modified version of UKTRANS where all the references to "Heading level 5" have been changed to the appropriate substitute.

Beginner Braille and translation into British braille both use the mechanism of a Finetune rules file. Since you can specify only one Finetune rules file for a document, you can't create a British Beginner Braille rules file automatically. However, here's what we recommend. Use the Beginner Braille menu to create a rules file. After that, open that Beginner Braille rules file in the MegaDots editor. Then paste the contents of the UKTRANS rules file at the beginning of your Beginner Braille rules file and save it under a modified name. To do that, you can use the Insert document (Control-F3) command with the file uktrans.mdr.