Dot to Dot Users' Manual

(for v0.8)

Dot to Dot is a simple braille editor for the Macintosh. It is intended to be used by trained braille transcribers. It is freeware for anyone who works to help the blind and physically handicapped.

See the "About Dot to Dot" page for infomation on requirements, limitations, and getting the most current version.

This manual is for version is 0.8. I'm still planning to add some features to Dot to Dot, but this version has been tested quite a bit and is pretty stable.

Please direct any feedback to the programmer, James Jennings (


What kind of keyboard do I need?

You need a keyboard that can "see" six key-downs at once.

To find out if your keyboard can see six key-downs at once, open the Key Caps desk accessory and hold down the A, S, D, L, semicolon, and quote keys simultaneously. If all six keys are highlighted in Key Caps, you're in!

If this test fails, or if the six keys are not in a convenient arrangment on your keyboard, you can hunt around for a set of six keys that works for you. If you can find a set of six keys (and for many keyboards you won't) you can customize Dot to Dot with ResEdit.

How do I install Dot to Dot?

Drag the font suitcase called "Dot to Dot Fonts" onto your System Folder. Your Mac will ask you if you want to put this into your fonts folder. Click Yes.

Note that Dot to Dot also uses the Times font for its rulers. It probably was installed with your system so there is nothing you need to do.

You can now launch (double-click on) Dot to Dot and start brailling.

How do I create and save a braille document?

Dot to Dot works just like most Macintosh text editors. You can create a new document by selecting New (Command-N) from the File menu. You can save your changes by selecting Save (Command-S) or Save As... You can open a previously saved document by selecting Open... (Command-O) or by double-clicking on the file's icon in the Finder. You can throw away any changes since the last time you saved a document by choosing Revert from the File menu.

How do I type in braille?

Launch Dot to Dot and open a new document. Place your fingers on the braille keys as if the keys were on a manual brailler.

A "braille key" is one of the six keys of your keyboard which Dot to Dot interprets as a dot in a braille character. Together, these keys should behave like a Perkins manual brailler.

[Perkins Brailler diagram]

(The above description assumes an Apple Extended or Apple Design keyboard. It's possible your keyboard is wired differently, or that you would find a different set of keys more comfortable. In either case you will have to experiment a little and perhaps customize Dot to Dot's braille keys.)

Carefully press all six keys at once, and then release them. You should see a single, six-dot braille character. If you don't, you may have the wrong kind of keyboard. See What kind of keyboard do I need?

Note that the character doesn't show up on the screen until you release the keys. (Actually, it shows up when the first key to be released is released.) Try pressing different combinations of the braille keys and note how each braille key gives you one of the six dots. If you are a trained braillist, you should find that the braille keys behave exactly as you would expect.

(A hidden feature: If you turn on the caps lock, the braille keys are "turned off" and you can then type normally. This isn't very useful for a trained braillist, but other people might find it useful.)

How do I find my place?

Dot to Dot has several features that tell you where you are in the document: the vertical ruler, the horizontal rulers, and the page number box. All of these features are actively updated as you scroll.

[Sample Document Window]

The rulers along the top and bottom edges allow you to easily see how many cells (characters) there are till the end of the line. As you type, you will hear a bell when you are a few cells from the end of a line. (You can set how many cells by selecting Preferences... from the File menu.) If you type past the end of a line, you will hear an "alert sound," reminding you that you need to go back and break the line (type a return). (You can choose which sound is your alert sound with the Macintosh system's Sound control panel.)

The ruler along the left-hand edge of the window tells you which line of the page you are on. There are 25 lines per braille page. If you are on the last line of a braille page and you type a return, you will hear the New Page Sound, which is a fast, five note, xylophone sound.

The page number box in the lower left-hand corner tells you which page or pages are currently visible in the window. The break between two pages shows up as a gray line drawn between the last line of one page and the first line of the next.

How can I use a different braille font?

Normally, Dot to Dot uses the font "Braille D2D" for displaying and printing all braille text. If you have a different font that you would rather use, you can select Preferences... from the File menu, and then choose your font from the popup menus.

For more information, see "In what ways can I customize Dot to Dot?"

How do I move the right-hand margin?

Hold down the option key and move the mouse pointer over the margin line until the pointer turns into a "line dragger" cursor. Then press the mouse button and drag the line to its new position.

You can also set the margin position for all new documents (the ones you make by selecting New from the File menu). See "In what ways can I customize Dot to Dot?"

How do I place a running head at the top of each page?

Many braille documents use a running head on the first line of every page. You might want to use running heads like this:

Note that if you put a page number in your running head, you will need to change it by hand on each page. Dot to Dot will not update it for you. (Note that version 0.9 allows you to renumber all of your pages when you're done brailing.)

How can I reserve space for page numbers?

A braille page can have page numbers at the end of either the first line or both the first and last lines depending on the format being used. Dot to Dot can draw a short vertical gray line where the page numbers should go on each page. As you type, a bell will ring as you get close to these lines, reminding you to not type over the space reserved for page numbers.

[Window with Labeled Page Number Marks]

To choose the position of these gray lines, or to turn them on and off, select Page Numbers... from the Edit menu, and fill in the dialog.

[Page Number Dialog]

Shortcut: Hold down the option key and move the mouse pointer over the page number mark until the pointer changes into a "line dragger" cursor. Then press the mouse button and drag the mark to its new position. The Page Number Mark has to already be turned on in the Page Number Dialog for this to work. You can also move the right margin this way, so don't drag the wrong line by mistake.

You can also set the page number marks for all new documents (the ones you make by selecting New from the File menu). See "In what ways can I customize Dot to Dot?"

Tip: A fast way to move to the correct cell in which to type a page number is to select Space to Page Number (Command-]) from the Edit menu.

How do I center a line?

First, select the lines you want to center. (You don't have to select complete lines. If you only want to center one line, just put the selection point anywhere in that line. If you're centering more than one line, just start the selection somewhere in the first line you want centered, and end the selection somewhere in the last line you want centered.)

Then, select Center from the Edit menu. Dot to Dot will then add just enough spaces to the beginning of each selected line to properly center the text.

How can I quickly type commonly used words and phrases?

Dot to Dot alows you to store commonly used words or phrases in a glossary. Once entered, the word or phrase can be "typed" by selecting a menu item or by typing a user-specified keyboard shortcut.

A glossary is really a special kind of document. It has its own window and can be saved to a file. It takes a lot of steps to make a glossary, but once made, it can save you a lot of time.

How do I use the glossary feature?

To use a glossary you will generally do the following:

In more detail:

How do I create or open a glossary window?

[Sample Glossary Window]

Since a glossary is really a special kind of document, it has all the usual document-like commands like New, Save, and so on. The tricky part is, some of those commands are on the File menu (because they are just like any other document's commands) and some of them are on the Glossary menu (because they are a little different.)

You create a new glossary by selecting New from the Glossary menu. You open an old glossary by selecting Open from the Glossary menu, or by double-clicking on the glossary document's icon in the Finder.

You save changes to a glossary by selecting Save (Command-S) or Save As... from the File menu. You can discard changes by selecting Revert from the File menu.

To get rid of a glossary window, you can either select Close (Command-W) from the Glossary menu or click in the window's close box.

Selecting a glossary from the Bring to Front sub-menu of the Glossary menu will bring that glossary window to the front.

How do I make or edit entries in the glossary?

Add new entries to a glossary by:

Any of these will give you a glossary entry dialog where you specify the entry's Name, Text, and Keyboard Shortcut.

Change an old entry by selecting the entry to change in the glossary window and then:

When you make a new entry or edit an old entry, you will see the Glossary Entry dialog.

[Glossary Entry Dialog]

This dialog has three things to enter:

When you click on the OK button of the glossary entry dialog, Dot to Dot will check to make sure that the keyboard shortcut you have chosen isn't already in use. If it is in use, it will tell you and give you a chance to change it. Note that since all of Dot to Dot's reserved shortcuts are "simple" (they only have the Command key), the easiest way to avoid conflicts is to always add a Shift, Option, or Control key.

To remove an entry from a glossary, select the entry in the glossary window and then press the Delete key.

How do I paste glossary entries into a braille document?

There are four ways.

  1. Type the entry's keyboard shortcut. (If you defined one.)
  2. Select the entry from the Glossary menu.
  3. Select the entry in the Glossary Window, and then select Paste Entry from the Glossary menu.
  4. Select the entry in the Glossary Window, and then click the Paste button at the bottom of the window.

How do I change the order of the glossary entries?

You can move a glossary entry by placing the mouse over it, holding the mouse button down, and dragging the entry to a new position. If you have two glossaries open at once, you can also drag entries between the glossaries.

How do I use several glossaries at once?

There is nothing to stop you from having several glossary documents open at the same time. This only question is, which one is active? Which glossary entries show up in the Glossary menu? When you type a keyboard shortcut, which glossary will get it?

The rule is this: A glossary becomes active when its window comes to the front. It does not become inactive when it goes behind a braille document window. It only becomes inactive when another glossary becomes active, or when you Close the glossary to remove it from memory.

You can make any open glossary active by selecting its name from the Bring to Front sub-menu of the Glossary menu.

How do I use Find and Replace?

Typical use of Find and Replace goes like this.

  1. Select Find... (Command-F) from the Search menu to bring up the Find and Replace Dialog.
    [Find and Replace Dialog]
  2. In the Find and Replace Dialog, fill in the text to "Search For", and the text to "Replace [it] With". Type the text in braille just like you type in the braille document window.
  3. Click the Find button. The dialog will close, and Dot to Dot will find the text and highlight it.
  4. Once you've checked to be sure that this is in fact the text you want to replace, select Replace (Command-R) from the Search menu.

There are several useful variations.

How can I check for end-of-line problems?

Because braille embossers expect lines to have no more than a certain number of characters (40 to 42 depending on the embosser), Dot to Dot has two items for cleaning up a document. They are both under the Special menu

The first is Remove Extra Spaces. This will remove any trailing spaces from the end of each line in the entire document.

The second is Check for Long Lines. This searches the document for lines that have too many characters. In particular, if you forgot to type a return at the end of a line causing two lines to act as one, this command will find it. If it finds something, it highlights it and allows you to fix it. You should check-and-fix over and over again until the document is clean. If you Remove Extra Spaces first, you will probably have fewer long lines to fix.

How do I print a document for proofreading?

You should be able to print simulated braille (braille printed with ink rather than with bumps on the paper) on an ordinary printer just as you would print any other Macintosh document. Select Print... (Command-P) from the File menu, fill in the print dialog, and click OK.

How do I make a page of simulated braille fit on a single piece of paper?

You can adjust the size of the font that Dot to Dot prints with so that the braille will fit on a page by selecting Preferences... from the File menu. To the right of the "Printing Font:" popup menu is a place to enter the font's "Size:". On an Apple LaserWriter II I have found the following sizes to work pretty well.

Line LengthFont Size
38 Cells 18
40 Cells 17
42 Cells 16

You can also choose a different "Printing Font:" if you don't want to use the one that came with Dot to Dot.

These settings are stored in a preferences file in the System Folder so that Dot to Dot will remember them from one session to the next.

How do I print a document as real braille?

To print real braille, you will need a special kind of printer called an embosser. I probably haven't tried the model of embosser that you have myself, so you should take the following instructions with a grain of salt. On the other hand, most embossers should use the same settings.

There are three parts to this.

How do I connect an embosser to my Macintosh?

First connect the embosser to one of the Mac's serial ports (the Modem Port or the Printer Port) with a serial cable. I'm told that an "Imagewriter I cable" will work with most embossers (a DB-25 connector on one end, and a Mini-8 connector on the other.) Talk to the embosser's manufacturer or reseller to be sure.

How do I configure Dot to Dot to talk to the embosser?

Keep in mind that I have only tried Dot to Dot with a few of the embossers on the market. I've tried to make this step flexible and generic, but it still might not work with your embosser. If you have a problem, please write to me so I can try to fix it.

First, select Embosser Setup... from the File menu. You should get an "Embosser Setup" dialog box.

[Embosser Setup Dialog Box]

Second, select the "Embosser's Port" from the popup menu. This is the serial port you plugged the embosser into. Most older Macs will have two choices, "Modem Port" and "Serial Port", although some PowerBook Duos will only have one choice, and some internal modems will show up as a third choice. (Most modern Macs don't have a serial port at all, in which case you can't use an embosser anyway.)

Third, select the "Port Properties". This is just like configuring a modem. You don't have to understand what these settings mean, only find a combination that works. I believe that "Baud Rate: 9600", "Parity: None", "Data Bits: 8", and "Stop Bits: 1" will work with nearly any embosser. If you find that the embosser is printing garbage, look in the embosser's manual for some better settings.

Fourth, select an item from the "End Lines With:" popup menu. "CRLF" will work in most cases, but if your embosser prints an extra blank line after every line, try changing this to "CR".

Fifth, select an item from the "End Pages With:" popup menu. I recommend "Form Feed", which will send a command to the embosser which, on most embossers, will advance the paper to the top of the next page.

Lastly, select an item from the "End Last Page of a Copy With:" popup menu. "Nothing" should work in most cases. If your embosser doesn't understand Form Feed commands, and you want to emboss more than one copy at a time, then you should choose "Extra Lines" so that Dot to Dot will fill out the last page with blank lines in order to start the next copy on the top of the next page.

When you've done all that, click the "OK" button.

These settings are stored in a preferences file in the System Folder so that Dot to Dot will remember them from one session to the next.

How do I emboss a document?

This is just like printing. Select Emboss... from the File menu. Fill in the number of copies, the first and last pages to emboss, and click the "Emboss" button.

[Emboss Dialog Box]

In what ways can I customize Dot to Dot?

There are a number of ways you can change the way Dot to Dot works for you. Start by selecting Preferences... from the File menu.

[Preferences Dialog Box]

Here is what each of these items can do for you.

Display Font and Size: This controls the font used for displaying braille everywhere in Dot to Dot. Dot to Dot comes with its own braille font, but if you'd like to use a different font, or just change the size of the font, choose it here.

Printing Font and Size: This controls the font used for printing simulated braille. You might want to change the size of the font so that an entire braille page will fit on a printed page. See "How do I make a page of simulated braille fit on a single piece of paper?"

Bell Position: Dot to Dot will ring a bell when you get close to the end of a line. This setting controls how close to the end of the line the bell is.

New Documents Have: Whenever you create a new document by selecting New from the File menu, it will be created with certain properties. You can control those properites here. They are:

These settings are stored in a preferences file in the System Folder so that Dot to Dot will remember them from one session to the next.

How do I save Dot to Dot files on a PC disk?

If your embosser is connected to a PC compatible, you will want to save your Dot to Dot files on a PC disk so you can transfer them from the PC.

This involves just a few steps.

  1. Convert Dot to Dot's Macintosh text file to a PC text file. There are lots of utilities available for doing this. I use a freeware utility called CRLF.
  2. Give the converted file an "eight-dot-three" file name. E.g.: Make the name eight letters or less and add ".TXT" to the end. (The people you will give the files to might want a different three letter extension. Please ask them.)
  3. Copy the converted file to the PC disk. Under System 7.5 or later this is as easy as dragging the file onto the disk. Under earlier systems, you may have to get PC ExChange or, as a last resort, use Apple File Exchange which came with earlier versions of the system software.

If necessary, System 7.5, PC ExChange, and Apple File Exchange can also format a PC disk for you.

How can I import a Dot to Dot file into the Duxbury Braille Translation program?

The following is based on version 10 of the DBT Demo. It isn't as clean as I'd like, but it works pretty well. I recommend looking over the file after it has been imported in order to fix some of the little glitches. It's possible that the settings I recommend here aren't the best for your purposes, but this is a good place to start.

In the version of DBT which I have, when there is more than one space in a row, the extra spaces show up as little boxes. This is the Mac's way of saying that these are unprintable characters. (They have an ASCII value of 0x1E, which doesn't seem to mean anything.) It doesn't seem to bother DBT any, it seems to treat them just like spaces. It just looks bad.

DBT also tends to discard blank lines. You can work around this by first converting the file to a DOS text file (see "How do I save Dot to Dot files on a PC disk?") or by manually putting the lines back in after the file has been imported.

I'm pretty sure that these are bugs in the Macintosh version of DBT, and I've already told Duxbury Systems about them.

How can I customize the braille keys?

It's possible to change which keys are used for the six "braille keys". It requires some rather specialized knowledge about your keyboard. You will need:

Once you have all of that, do the following:

  1. Make a copy of Dot to Dot. (Always a good idea before using ResEdit.)
  2. Open the copy of Dot to Dot with ResEdit. (E.g.: Drag Dot to Dot onto ResEdit in the Finder.)
  3. Open the 'brKy' resource. (Double click on the icon which is labeled 'brKy'.)
  4. Open resource number 128. (Double click on the line with ID number 128.) Note that there is also a resource 129 which you can look at for an example of an alternate version of 128.
  5. Fill in the character and the key code for each of the six braille dots. Ignore the entry for the space character. It doesn't do anything and might disappear in a future release.
  6. Save your changes. (Choose Save from the File menu.)
  7. Quit ResEdit. (Choose Quit from the File menu.)

It is also possible to customize the mapping from the braille key combinations to actual characters by editing the 'Br2A' resource. At the moment I don't see why this should be necessary. If you want to attempt this, please contact me first.


Dot to Dot is copyright © 1996-2001 by James Jennings. All rights reserved. Dot to Dot uses the Mercutio MDEF from Digital Alchemy, Copyright © Ramon M. Felciano 1992-1998, All Rights Reserved. Dot to Dot (version 0.9 and later) uses the WASTE text engine v1.3 © 1993-1998 by Marco Piovanelli.

Dot to Dot is freeware for anyone who works to help the blind and physically handicapped.

James Jennings <>

Last modified on July 31, 2002.