Sao Mai Braille User Guide


Sao Mai Braille (SMB) is a rich text editing and Braille translation software, developed by Sao Mai Center for the Blind. We hope that this additional tool will help blind individuals/organizations for/of visually impaired people produce Braille materials quickly and less costly. In order to support our free activities at Sao Mai and add more features/improvements for the software, we charge for each single user license at a very affordable price of 50USD. Sao Mai Center is a non-profit organization based in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Read more about us at:
SMB main features:

  • Editing and translating rich text into Braille.
  • 6-key input method with FDSJKL and VCXM,.
  • Supporting to translate into Braille for more than 60 languages with the LibLouis library.
  • Working and translating into Braille correctly with popular document formats such as Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx).
  • Allowing to translate document written in multiple languages by their correct Braille translation table.
  • Highly customizing translation options to process Braille formats with built-in styles set.
  • Friendly and multi-lingual user interface.

Installation and Registration


SMB uses very limited computer resource and have no special system requirements. It has been tested on Windows 7, 8 and 10 for both 32-bit and 64-bit. However, SMB is expected to run without any problems on older Windows like XP or Vista. SMB requires administration right during the installation progress. Download link and more information about SMB can be viewed at: Steps to install SMB are simple and similar to many other Windows applications, run the setup file and follow the instructions.


The software will expire after 30 days. Users can experiment full features during this 30-day demo period. In order to continue using it after that, users have to register. Price for one single user license (per computer) is 50USD. For non-profit organizations serving the blind with limited budget can contact us for our license donations. All incomes from our charged services and products are contributed back to Sao Mai free support activities for visually impaired people.
To register, go to menu Help, choose Register, copy your code and email to us. Please include your payment info, your registration name and the code. Email us at: For payment methods, you can either use bank transfer or well-known secured PayPal which supports visa/credit cards. Information about payment methods can be viewed at:
If you have any further questions or order placement requests, please email us at:

User interface and Menus

User Interface

Main window of SMB includes the following controls:

  • Title bar: showing name of application.
  • Menu bar: main menu items, press alt key to open.
  • Tool bar: frequently-used editing features. Press ctrl+shift+s: open apply style; ctrl+shift+f: open font dialogue; ctrl+shift+p: open font size.
  • Editing area: text editing window.
  • Status bar: showing related information about the current opened document such as line number, column, page etc.

SMB has following main menus:

  • File: New file/Open/Save/Export, Page setup/Print preview/Print.
  • Edit: functions relating to text editing such as copy/cut/paste/paste special, find/replace/go to, clear format/remove hyperlink/remove page break.
  • Insert: page number, page count, page break, horizontal bar, file, symbols etc.
  • Format: options and settings for font, styles, paragraph, bullet and numbering list, increase/decrease, text/background color, line spacing and character case.
  • Table: all functions relating to create/delete/manage and format tables.
  • Tools: SMB options for general and Braille translation.
  • Help: user guide and register the software.

Editing and Formatting

Text editing

SMB is not designed to be a professional text editor like Microsoft Word. It’s a rich text editor, quite similar to WordPad on Windows. However, its functions can meet most of text editing needs for Braille production. In addition, it’s intentionally designed to handle Braille production. SMB saves print document in .smd file extension and Braille document into .brf. This user guide doesn’t mention how to edit text as this feature of SMB works almost same as other word processors like Microsoft Word or WordPad. So please check other resource for this topic.

Formatting Document

Print document term is used to talk about text which is not translated into Braille. Braille document is the text translated into Braille by SMB.
SMB can show and translate print document with content applied standard formatting styles such as title, subtitle, headings, bullet/numbering list, table, table of content, hyperlink with link title, bookmark, left/right/center alignment and font attributes such as bold, italic and underline. So, print document needs to apply with proper styles in order to help SMB translate correctly. Users can also add custom styles but might need to define the Braille translation rules for those styles before translating into Braille. Some of Word templates can be found on our website at:
We can divide styles in SMB into two types, one for print document and one for Braille document. Print styles are used to apply into print document in order to format the text. While with Braille document, those styles are defined with rules how to convert into Braille. When opening a print document, SMB will show built-in styles and custom styles of that print document under the Text styles section in Options dialogue. From here, users can define rules how to translate into Braille for custom styles. For instance, first-line indentation, left margin for remaining lines, blank lines inserted before/after, beginning/ending indicator signs.
To add a print style, go to menu Format and choose Styles (ctrl+alt+shift+s). Then, choose Add button and follow its instructions. Please note, to apply style for a paragraph or selected text, press ctrl+shift+s or click on the Styles button on the tool bar. Below are built-in styles of SMB:

  • Normal: default style for normal paragraph, translated into Braille with first-line indented 2 cells.
  • Heading 1-6: heading level 1 text will be indented 2 cells in Braille; heading 2 with 4 cells; heading 3 with 6 cells and vice versa.
  • Title: indented 2 cells.
  • Subtitle: indented 4 cells.
  • Hyperlink: able to detect and translate hyperlinks with link title, translating the link title and then write its address.
  • Transcriber note: used by Braille transcribers to note points for readers. Its content will be indented 6 cells on the first line and 4 cells on the remaining. It also places the beginning and ending indicator sign.
  • Bullet and numbering list: List level 1 items will be indented 0 cells on the first line and 2 cells on the remaining; list level 2 item indented 2 cells on the first line and 4 on the remaining etc. The indentation of a list item will be based on its level and value of the first-level list definition.
  • Table: currently, SMB supports to translate into Braille with two Braille table styles, the listed and row-column styles. For listed one, it will separate columns with dots 5. For row and column style, it will try to show the table same as it’s displayed in print document. For this style, users can define row/column separator signs in the Options dialogue. Both table styles are placed beginning and ending indicator signs right before and after the table.
  • Level ##-##: ## is the number from 01 to 11. The first number is the cell position of text to be written on the first line and the second number is the cell position of the text of remaining lines to be written. For instance, Level 03-07 means content applied this style will have the first line indented 2 cells (position at cell 3); while remaining lines indented 6 cells (position at cell 7).
  • Bold: letter indicator: dots 45-23. Word indicator: 45-2. Beginning -passage indicator: 45-2356 and ending-passage indicator: 45-3.
  • Italic: Letter indicator: 46-23. Word indicator: 46-2. Beginning-passage indicator: 46-2356 and ending-passage indicator: 46-3.
  • Underline: Letter indicator: 456-23. Word indicator: 456-2. Beginning-passage indicator: 456-2356 and ending-passage indicator: 456-3.

Braille translation rules for these built-in styles are created based on the UEB (Unified English Braille).

Translating and Embossing

SMB is packaged with more than 60 language translation tables in LibLouis library. If you want to translate a document written in more than one languages with the relative language translation tables, in print document, select the text in that language, go to menu Tools -> Translation table and choose the right language style for it. Repeat the same steps for other text with languages other than the default one. Please read Language Style options for instructions to add/edit/remove and manage language translation tables with language style.
SMB will translate correctly if the print document is well formatted and has no spelling errors. If using Microsoft Word, it’s good to do the accessibility check and fix all warnings + errors. In Word, go to menu Review -> Check accessibility. Page numbers are placed on either header or footer of both print and Braille document. In order to add page number, in the print document, open menu File -> Page setup, then choose Header and Footer tab. In the first edit field, type the content that you want to show on the header section (top line of a page). To insert page number, type in “&p”. Next fields let you choose if you want to print header on the first page, choose font for header text (only apply for print document) and position (left/center/right). The same steps apply for adding content on the footer. Some special characters can be used in header and footer are: &p for page number, &P for total number of pages, &d for current date, &t for current time. To insert multiple-line text on header and footer, use “\n” as the return character (same as enter when editing text).
Choose the Braille paper size before translating into Braille if you want to emboss Braille document later on. Go to menu Tools -> Options, find and specify the correct values for two fields 1) CPL (characters per line) and 2) LPP (lines per page), then choose Ok to save it. Please note, characters per line and lines per page set in SMB must be less than or equal to the values set on your embosser.
When you are done with all formatting and translation options, just press ctrl+t to translate the print document into Braille.
Steps to emboss Braille document are same as printing the print document. In Braille document, press ctrl+p, choose the embosser and other printing options like page range, then choose print. Please consult the manual of your embosser to set it up correctly.

SMB Options

To open SMB options dialogue, go to menu Tools and choose Options. This dialogue can divide into five sections: General (alt+g), Table styles (alt+t), Font styles (alt+f), Text styles (alt+e) and Language styles (alt+l). Use the access keys above to quickly jump to different sections or use tab and shift+tab to move forward/backward between fields. When a field gets focus, its help text will be shown on the status bar located on the bottom line of dialogue screen.
Note, in edit fields to define Braille signs, use Braille ascii codes to type in. For instance, dots 1 will have the Braille ascii code as a, dots 12 as b, dots 4 as @, dots 2356 as 7 etc. Check on our website for a list of Braille ascii code.

General Options

  • UI language: choose language for the application user interface.
  • Date time format: specify how SMB will format the date. For instance, yyyy/mm/dd for 2018/05/31.
  • CPL: Characters Per Line for the Braille paper size. LPP: Lines Per Page for the Braille paper size.
  • 6-key mode: choose Off to input in QWERTY mode; choose FDSJKL or VCXM,. to input with 6-key method with the dots in order of 123456. This is only active in Braille document window.
  • Odd page: check to translate header and footer on odd pages.
  • Even page: choose to translate header and footer on even pages.
  • Ignore page breaks: check to skip page breaks and continue to translate text on the same Braille page. Uncheck to follow the page breaks as in print document.
  • Add print page number in TOC: place the page number of print document in front of Braille page number when translating table of content.
  • Hyphen: define the line continuation indicator. If specified, SMB will cut word at the end of the line, add this Braille sign and continue to write the word remaining on the next line. If not specified, SMB will go to next line without cutting words. UEB line continuation indicator is defined with dot 5 (“).

Table Styles

Currently, SMB supports to convert into two Braille table styles, the listed and row-column styles. The listed one will convert table row by row and place the three dots 5 to separate between columns. While the row and column style will try to keep its appearance same as table in print document with adding of row and column separator signs.

  • Left right margin: number of blank cells from the left/right margin to table text (applied for row and column table style).
  • Top bottom margin: number of blank rows from the top/bottom margin to the first line text in the table (applied for row and column table style).
  • Row separator symbol: specify Braille ascii symbol to separate between table rows. Leave blank will not add the separator line (applied for row and column style only).
  • Column separator symbol: specify Braille ascii symbol to separate between table columns. Leave blank will not add the separator column (applied for row and column style only
  • Convert table to text: check this to translate table in print documents into Braille listed style. Uncheck to convert into row and column styles with previous settings for table translation options.

Font Styles

SMB supports to translate three font attributes/typeforms, bold, italic and underline. According to UEB rules, there are three level indicators: for letter, word and passage. Text with three words and more are considered as a passage. Place the indicator before the text with font attributes and ending indicator for only the passage. Choose an attribute from the list, move on to customize its settings, then go back to the list and choose another attribute to customize if preferred. When completed, choose Ok to save and exit the Options dialogue.

  • Font styles list: choose font attribute to customize.
  • Show symbol: choose “Hide” to not detect and indicate font attribute for any text styles. “Only normal” is applied for text with normal style. “Normal, headings” is for both text with normal and heading styles.
  • Letter: Braille ascii code to indicate letters with this attribute.
  • Word: Braille ascii code to indicate words with this attribute.
  • Phrase: Braille ascii code to indicate the beginning of a passage with this attribute.
  • Ending symbol: Braille ascii code to indicate the ending of a passage with this attribute.

Text Styles

Text styles are used to format and structure in print document. Some of frequently-used styles are headings, bullet/numbering list, title, subtitle, normal etc. From Text styles section in Options dialogue, you can customize rules for SMB to translate content with specific style into Braille. Select a style from the list, move on to customize, then choose Save button (alt+s) to save the selected style. Repeat the same steps to customize for other styles if preferred. Read more about styles in Editing and Formatting Document section.

  • Text styles list: choose a style to customize. This list will show all built-in styles, custom and current opened document styles.
  • Name: read-only field. To change style name, go to menu Format -> Styles and manage from there. Please note, be careful when changing built-in style name, it might cause SMB not to be able to detect and translate into Braille correctly.
  • Left margin: blank cells from the left margin to text with selected style (maximum 10).
  • First line indent: blank cells for the first line of the text with selected style. Its value will be counted by the value of the left margin field. This field accepts negative value. For instance, you want first line indented 2 blank cells and remaining lines indented 4 blank cells. So, from the Left margin field, specify 4, then in First line Indent, specify -2.
  • Blank line before: number of blank lines inserted right before the text with current style.
  • Blank line after: number of blank lines inserted right after the text with current style.
  • Beginning symbol: Braille ascii codes to indicate the beginning of text with current style.
  • Ending symbol: Braille ascii codes to indicate the ending of text with current style.
  • Save button: save current selected style from the list.
  • Remove button: remove current selected style from the list.

Language Styles Options

SMB is packaged with more than 60 language translation tables. Vietnamese, Khmer and Burmese tables are created and maintained by Sao Mai; while others are contributions from LibLouis community. Term “Main Braille table” is used to mention about the default Braille translation table while “Braille table” refers to added one. Normally, SMB will use main table to translate if without applying any language style. If you want to translate the print document into other languages than the default one, simply choose the text, then go to menu Tools -> Translation tables and choose the right one.

By default, SMB adds only English and Vietnamese language styles in the Translation table menu. Below you will find steps how to choose main Braille translation
table and add/remove language styles. Please read the Translating and Embossing section for important notes when translating the document into Braille.

  • Main Braille table: path to the default Braille translation table file.
  • Table selection button: choose this button to choose new default Braille table. A table selection dialogue will appear to let you choose language name and its uncontracted/contracted table.
  • Language style list: choose a language style to customize.
  • Name: Name of the language style.
  • Path to the Braille table belonging to current language style.
  • Table selection button: activate this button to select new translation table for current language style.
  • Beginning symbol: Braille ascii codes to indicate the beginning of text with current language style.
  • Ending symbol: Braille ascii codes to indicate the ending of text with current language style.
  • Choose color for current selected language style. Note, the text will be showed in chosen color and it only applies for print document.
  • Add button: choose this button to add another language style and all steps are same as customizing an existing one.
  • Save button: save changes for current selected style (alt+s).
  • Remove button: remove current selected language style from the list.

When done, choose Ok to save and exit the Options dialogue; or, choose Cancel to discard changes.

Support and Feedback

Users can connect with us via following channels for support request and feedback:
Sao Mai Center for the Blind

Mailing list to discuss about Sao Mai Braille: send a blank email to subscribe at:; then check your email box and just click reply to confirm your subscription. More instructions on how to send emails to the group/unsubscribe can be found in our further email instructions while subscribing.

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