[tex4ht] Could LaTeX Be Used to Format Braille Documents?

William F Hammond hammond at csc.albany.edu
Wed Oct 26 02:12:08 CEST 2011

Susan Jolly writes:

> I am the person who originally interested Eitan Gurari in working with
> braille.  He had at the time of his unfortunate passing apparently
> gotten quite far in building some sort of braille capability on top of
> LaTeX. However, it has turned out not to be possible to recover that
> work.

I know nothing about Braille.

But let me observe that Eitan Gurari's tex4ht translates
well-constructed LaTeX documents to HTML.  If there are standard
HTML-to-Braille translators, then combining one of those with tex4ht
would provide a translator from LaTeX to Braille.

Of course, Eitan must have pointed this out to you, so what Eitan
must have been up to would have been adding something more to that.
But what?

May I assume that your question about possible use of LaTeX is in
the context of NEW documents written with an eye toward translation
to Braille and possibly other formats such as HTML and PDF?

There are a number of good open source frameworks for constructing
translation tools between formats.  The notion of 'LaTeX profile'
about which I spoke at TUG 2010 may be relevant to what you want.

> One major requirement for braille formatting that LaTeX cannot to my
> knowledge handle is the option to include body text in headers and
> footers along with information such as page numbers.

I don't understand what you are describing when you speak of
including "body text" in headers and footers.

> [You can download an example of a properly formatted braille file by
> downloading the brf format copy of the currrent Braille Forum magazine
> via the link on the left side of this page: http://www.acb.org/node/627
> The braille characters are represented via an ASCII transliteration so
> if you display the file in a simple text editor it will be
> semi-readable.]

What is the relation between the .brf file and the .txt file (obtained
from the .zip file)?  Can the .brf file be re-constructed from the
.txt file?  If so, with what software?

> Several years ago I discussed this unusual formatting requirement with
> Karl Berry and he kindly explained why it would not be feasible to
> implement it into LaTeX and his explanation made sense to me.  My
> guess is that Eitan had not tried to address this requirement.

The notion of 'LaTeX profile' envisions removing limitations in the
use of the LaTeX engine for tasks other than print typesetting by
using other engines as well, as appropriate.

> ... although if this is handled without the need to repaginate the
> entire document then it is obviously simpler than the problem of
> including body text in headers and footers.

I don't quite understand what you are saying here, and not knowing
Braille, I don't understand its pagination standards.  That said, I
think it reasonable to expect that it would be possible beginning with
a (generalized) LaTeX source for (a) pagination to be automatic, (b)
page references based on symbolic label tags to work automatically,
and (c) cross-references based on symbolic tags to work automatically.

Of course, this would take work.  Do you have workers?

                                    -- Bill

William F. Hammond         Emeritus, Dept. of Mathematics & Statistics
hammond at albany.edu                            The University at Albany
http://www.albany.edu/~hammond/                    Albany, NY (U.S.A.)

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