[guispeak] Announcing WinBT 2.0 - a free, open source Windows braille translator

  • From: Jamal Mazrui <empower@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: programmingblind <programmingblind@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, Program-l <program-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, guispeak@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, "'Uaccess-L'" <uaccess-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2011 20:33:39 -0400

Now available at

WinBT 2.0 is an updated distribution of the NFBTrans braille translator (BT), and the associated WinTrans graphical user interface (GUI). The original programmers are no longer active in the project, and the wintrans-bt.org web site is discontinued. Maintenance of NFBTrans has been led by Steve Jacobson as Vice President of the NFB in Computer Science. He recruited additional programmers, and improved the default configuration settings of NFBTrans.

The original author of WinTrans chose not to reveal his or her identity, using the name "Anonymous John" instead. Since several years had elapsed since then (2003), we tried to find the author in case he or she now wished to be publicly acknowledged. Ultimately, we found him via Tom Dimeo, who had introduced WinTrans to the world in a podcast of the Main Menu program by ACB Radio (an audio tutorial included in this distribution). The two of them communicated about this new effort, and George McCoy has now authorized us to disclose that he is the one who authored WinTrans.

Recent discussion about improving NFBTrans has occurred on the email list called "ProgrammingBlind," to which one can subscribe through the web site

The NFBTrans code was ported and recompiled by Tyler Littlefield, using Microsoft Visual C++ 2008, a free Express Edition of which is available at

The new build resulted in a 32-bit rather than 16-bit executable, thus allowing it to run under 64-bit Windows, which, unlike prior Windows versions, does not run 16-bit programs. The Visual Studio solution file, NFBTrans.sln, contains compiler configuration information that allows a developer to easily recompile the C code. Anyone who finds ways of improving the code, configuration settings, or documentation is encouraged to contribute such improvements back to the community.

The WinTrans source code, WinTrans.bas, was recompiled by Jamal Mazrui using PowerBASIC 10.0, a commercial compiler available at

He also improved the WinTrans installer using Inno Setup 5, which is freely available at

The script file, wbtsetup.iss, gives InnoSetup instructions for building the installer, wbtsetup.exe. It creates a desktop shortcut for launching the WinBT dialog, with an optional hotkey assignment, Alt+Control+B (for braille translator). The installer also creates a WinBT program group in the Windows Start/Programs menu with options for launching the program, reading the documentation, playing an audio tutorial, or uninstalling the program. By default, the documentation is opened at the end of the installation process, and the audio tutorial may optionally be played then as well. The program may also be launched by entering "WinBT" in the Windows Start/Run dialog (capitalization does not matter).

The original distribution files for NFBTrans and WinTrans, nfbtr774.zip and winbt.zip (renamed from winbt.exe), are included in the WinBT program directory. Also included there is the first public release of the WinTrans 1.0 source code in the PowerBASIC language, contained in WinTrans.zip. By default, the program directory is located at

The WinBT installer, wbtsetup.exe, may be downloaded at

A zip archive containing the same files is available at

This documentation is also available online at

The updated distribution can give a new life to WinTrans and NFBTrans. The installer makes the braille translator friendly to install, use, and learn. The documentation gives developers information about recompiling the source code, thus opening a possible path to improvements contributed by the open source community. The original WinTrans and NFBTrans archives are also included, so that anyone can start from there instead if preferred.

WinBT 2.0 has resulted from constructive collaboration among various parties for the common good of blind people. Although imperfections undoubtedly remain, there is clear progress that is worth sharing. We hope these contributions extend the value of NFBTrans and related technologies to users of electronic braille!

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