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BRLTTY is a background process (daemon) providing access to the Linux/Unix
console (when in text mode) for a blind person using a refreshable braille

Version 3.7.2, December 2005

Copyright (C) 1995-2005 by The BRLTTY Team - All Rights Reserved.

Web Page:

BRLTTY is free software. It comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.

BRLTTY is placed under the terms of the GNU General Public License [GPL] as
published by the Free Software Foundation; see the file COPYING for details.
Version 2 (or any later version) of the GPL may be used when redistributing
and/or modifying this software. This statement applies to all the files
contained within this directory structure except for those explicitly listed in
the next paragraph as a special exception has been made regarding those files
which are part of the client side of BRLTTY's API.

A special exception has been made for those files which are part of the client
side of BRLTTY's API, BrlAPI. They are placed under the terms of the GNU Lesser
General Public License [LGPL] as published by the Free Software Foundation; see
the file COPYING-API for details. Version 2.1 (or any later version) of the
LGPL may be used when redistributing and/or modifying these files. The files
covered by this special exception are:


This software is maintained by: Dave Mielke

The members of The BRLTTY Team are:

Dave Mielke
Nicolas Pitre
St├ęphane Doyon


Contacting Us

We recommend that you contact us via BRLTTY's mailing list. You can post to the
list by sending an e-mail to . To subscribe, go to the list's
Information Page at [].

If you have any interest in BRLTTY, please drop us a note. We're interested in
knowing who BRLTTY's users are. Even if all goes well and you have no problems
with this package, please let us know you're there, and tell us which brand of
display you use. If you have problems, we'll be happy to help. All your
comments, suggestions, criticisms, questions, and contributions are welcome!

We offer a special invitation to the developers of braille displays. It's our
goal to support as many models as possible within the Linux/Unix environment.
While we always do as much as we can toward this end, we'd be even more
effective with your help. The most important thing we need is the details
regarding the communication protocol(s) of your braille display(s). If you
prefer to contact us privately for this sort of thing then we invite you to
send e-mail to any member(s) of The BRLTTY Team (see above).


Introduction for Those New to Refreshable Braille

There are two common ways in which blind people access computers.

The first, and more widely known, is synthesized speech. While having many
advantages, e.g. speed for reading plain text, speech does have its drawbacks.
Speech output generally gives little information about formatting, making
tables, spreadsheets, etc. difficult to use. It can also be difficult to use
speech output with particularly technical material containing lots of symbols
(though many determined people do use it for such things).

The other solution, which attempts to answer some of these problems, is Braille
output. A soft (or refreshable) Braille display typically consists of a single
line of 20, 40 or 80 characters, each made up of a matrix of four rows and two
columns of dots. Each dot is individually driven by a separate motor, making
the whole assembly extremely expensive.

A soft Braille display is connected to the PC by a serial, parallel, or USB
port. Software on the PC drives the display, reproducing a rectangle of the
screen image (which we shall call the window) in Braille. Buttons on the
Braille display itself are used to send signals back to the software,
instructing it to move the window around the screen, or to perform some other
specialized function.

Using a soft Braille display with a 40- or 80-character line, it is quite easy
for a blind user to appreciate the format of information on the screen, as well
as to read and edit on-line Braille documents (a concept not widely enough


Introduction to BRLTTY

While soft Braille displays have been used for many years under MS-DOS, and are
now being used under Windows, it seems that they haven't been used on Unix
consoles too much. This could well be because blind people have been able to
access Unix systems through accessible terminals. With the advent of PC-based
Unix systems, e.g. Linux, the need has become evident.

BRLTTY attempts to fill this gap. It runs as a background process, possibly
started at boot-time, and allows a refreshable Braille user to access text mode
applications directly from a Unix console. Since BRLTTY runs as a background
process, it gives the user complete freedom of choice regarding applications
and development tools.



* Full implementation of the usual screen review facilities.
* Choice between `block', `underline', or `no' cursor.
* Optional `underline' to indicate specially highlighted text.
* Optional use of `blinking' (rates individually settable) for cursor, special highlighting underline,
and/or capital letters.
* Screen freezing for leisurely review.
* `Intelligent' cursor routing, allowing easy fetching of cursor within text
editors, web browsers, etc., without moving ones hands from the Braille
* A cut & paste function which is particularly useful for copying long file
names, copying text between virtual terminals, entering complicated
commands, etc.
* Table driven in-line contracted braille (English and French provided).
* Support for multiple braille codes.
* Ability to identify an unknown character.
* Ability to inspect character highlighting.
* An on-line help facility.
* A preferences menu.
* Basic speech support.
* Modular design allowing relatively easy addition of drivers for other
Braille displays, or even (hopefully) porting to other Unix-like platforms.
* An application programming interface.


Currently Supported Hardware

BRLTTY has been tested on:

* a variety of Intel-based PCs (desktops, servers, laptops, PDAs)
* an Alpha workstation
* a StrongARM based Netwinder
* several Linux kernels (1.2.13 and beyond)
* all major Linux distributions (including Red Hat, Debian, Slackware, SuSE)
* Solaris/Sparc (release 7 and beyond)
* Solaris/Intel (release 9 and beyond)
* OpenBSD/Intel (release 3.4 and beyond)
* FreeBSD/Intel (release 5.1 and beyond)
* NetBSD/Intel (release 1.6 and beyond)
* Windows 95/98/XP

The following braille displays are supported:

- Albatross [46/80]
- Alva [ABT(3nn), Delphi(4nn), Satellite(5nn)]
- Baum [Inka, Vario/RBT, SuperVario/Brailliant, PocketVario]
- BrailleLite [18/40/M20/M40]
- BrailleNote [18/32]
- BrlAPI
- CombiBraille [25/45/85]
- EcoBraille [20/40/80]
- EuroBraille [AzerBraille, Clio, Iris, NoteBraille, Scriba]
- FreedomScientific [Focus 44/70/84, PacMate 20/40/80]
- HandyTech [Modular 20/40/80, Braille Wave 40, Braille Star 40/80,
Bookworm, Braillino 20]
- Libbraille
- LogText [32]
- MDV [MB208/MB408L/MB408S (protocol 5)]
- MiniBraille [20]
- MultiBraille [MB125CR/MB145CR/MB185CR]
- Papenmeier [Tiny, Compact, 2D Lite/Screen, EL2D 40/66/80, EL 40/80,
EL 40 P, Elba 20/32, IB 80, II EL 40/66/80 S]
- TSI [Navigator 20/40/80, PowerBraille 40/65/80]
- TTY [terminfo]
- VideoBraille [40]
- Virtual [TCP/Unix, client/server]
- VisioBraille [20/40]
- Voyager [44/70]
- XWindow [X11, Windows]

The following speech synthesizers are supported:

- Alva [Delphi(4nn)]
- BrailleLite
- CombiBraille
- ExternalSpeech [runs /usr/local/bin/externalspeech]
- Festival [text to speech engine]
- FestivalLite [text to speech engine]
- GenericSay [pipes to /usr/local/bin/say]
- Mikropuhe [text to speech engine]
- Swift [text to speech engine]
- Theta [text to speech engine]
- ViaVoice [text to speech engine]

The ability to add a new Braille display depends on the level of cooperation
from its manufacturer in providing programming information.


Layout of the Archive

BRLTTY is distributed as a single GNU compressed tar file named


where `' is the release number. When the archive is unpacked, there
should be a subdirectory called `DOCS' which contains all of the general BRLTTY
documentation including the manual in various formats, and the list of
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

The source files for the main, device-independent core of BRLTTY are in the
top-level directory. There is one subdirectory for each Braille display type,
containing display-specific source files and documentation.

Finally, some Braille definition tables, along with tools to manipulate them,
are available in the `BrailleTables' subdirectory.


Building the Package

Building BRLTTY is a three step process. The first is to invoke `./configure'
to prepare the build environment for your operating system, and to customize it
for your particular requirement. The second is to invoke `make' to compile and
link BRLTTY and its drivers. The third is to invoke `make install' to copy all
the needed files into their proper locations.

make install

Before configuring BRLTTY, you may wish to check out what choices you have
regarding its customization. Invoking `./configure --help' will show you what
options are available. Although the defaults are adequate for most environments
and requirements, and although many things can be specified at run-time, there
are a couple of configuration options worth mentioning here. To build BRLTTY
with a specific driver built-in (usually only necessary when preparing BRLTTY
for use on a boot disk), use the `--with-braille-driver=' option. To set the
default device to the one which your display is usually connected to, use the
`--with-braille-device=' option.

For information specific to a particular driver, please see the `README' file
in the corresponding subdirectory. Finally, see the `Documents' subdirectory
for the manual as well as a few other interesting literary creations.


RedHat Package Manager

BRLTTY is also distributed in the RPM (RedHat Package Manager) format. The
following files are available:


To build and install BRLTTY from scratch:

Download the .src.rpm file.
Install the source with: rpm -ivh brltty--.src.rpm
Build and install it with: rpm -bi brltty--

If your system is an x86 then you don't need to be concerned with building
BRLTTY since we provide prebuilt binaries for these platforms. Just do:

Download the .i386.rpm file.
Install or upgrade it with: rpm -Uvh brltty--.i386.rpm


Executing BRLTTY

If you compiled BRLTTY with a braille driver built-in, simply invoking `brltty'
should start it with all defaults. Alternatively, you might need to specify a
Braille driver with the `-b' option. `brltty -h' displays a brief summary of
all available options.

You may use a configuration file for most options as well. See the example
configuration file `brltty.conf' in the `DOCS' subdirectory.

And don't forget to review the notes for your Braille display. See the `README'
file in its driver's subdirectory.