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What are BRF files and how to use them

Published the 07/01/2020 09:00 

BRF files (Braille Ready Format) are ASCII text files representing finished Braille pages, line by line and page by page, using the North American ASCII-Braille convention to represent Braille cells. These files are the finished result of older versions of Braille transcription Software.

Being a simple Ascii text, one might think that importing and reusing BRF files is also very simple. In truth it is not, because the BRF contains text formatted and coded according to Braille conventions. To reuse a BRF file you would need a deep retransformation into normal characters. From a BRF you can never get the source document from which it was generated. At most you can (not always completely) get the simple text. In essence, the BRF is as rigid as it is not very useful when you want to get the original file from it or you want to readjust it to another layout. The BRF is always a lossy format, i.e. a format with loss of information, text formatting information that it can no longer have, not even by reengineering the rigid use of space within it.

So why are BRF files still used?

Basically for their simplicity, because there is no need for any programming effort to use them. In practice, their presence is due to their spread, especially in the USA. This is the only advantage, because for everything else the BRF files would be stored in the Braille Computer theca.

Biblos opens the BRF files?

Yes, in Biblos there is a filter to open BRF files. Biblos presents the content of the BRF files as Braille text, so it does not interpret the content, but shows the Braille cells on the screen as if it were read in Braille. In addition, Biblos tries to have the text lines flow back into the window, trying to merge the Braille lines of the document where they are needed.

The contents of BRF files can thus be read on screen using a Braille display and a screen reader such as Jaws or NVDA, but cannot be read by speech synthesis, except cell by cell reading. Furthermore, the content can be printed in Braille, using the layout according to your own Braille settings, and not the one set by the BRF.

Does Biblos save BRF files?

Yes, Biblos has so far allowed you to save BRF files using a command in the Braille preview. This feature has been deliberately put in the background, with the hope that in recent years BRFs could be replaced by a more reusable format. As far as the Braille printing of Biblos and the community that uses it is concerned, it makes no sense to use and share BRF files, because Biblos has a more readable and reusable format for any other purpose.

From version 5.34 Biblos has a command in the File menu of each document window: Export as BRF... This simplified window makes it very easy to create BRF files immediately, without having to switch from the Braille printing functionalities, which are still the core of the system.

The "Export as BRF" command was inserted after the requests of some Biblos users from different parts of the world, people who still feel the need to have a complete and free Software for the creation of quality BRF files.

For further support you can subscribe the Biblos Group on Facebook.