The BrailleSense Polaris: Using the Word Processor

The BrailleSense Polaris is a 32 cell braille notetaker with many features, including a fully functional Word Processor that provides access to a variety of file formats such as doc, docx, txt, brl, and brf.  Students can complete writing assignments using the Perkins style keyboard and edit their work using editing commands. If a student has prior experience using Windows keyboard commands, he/she should find it is easy to cut, copy, and paste text using commands similar to those for Windows. For example, instead of using 

Control + C to copy, the Polaris editing command is Enter + C. 

There are different ways to open the Word Processor: I have found it easiest to teach my students to launch the Word Processor from the main program menu using initial letter navigation.  Below are steps to launch the Word Processor.

  • Press F1 to open the main menu.
  • Use initial letter navigation “W”, the scroll keys, or Space + Dot 4 to navigate to the Word Processor in the program menu.
  • When using Space + Dot 4 to navigate, press Enter to launch the Word Processor when the words “Word Processor” appear on the braille display. Pressing “W” from the main menu automatically launches the Word Processor and places you in a new, blank document. 

When the Word Processor is opened, the default file format is docx. I taught my 8thgrade student how to change the file format when first learning to use the Word Processor. However, with my younger student, I have initially focused on teaching the basics of navigating a document, using editing commands, saving and locating documents. 

After a student has opened a blank document, I have him/her write about a topic of interest or their spelling words. Students are taught that they can navigate within the document the same way they can navigate menus by using Space + Dot 1 to go to the previous line and Space + Dot 4 to advance to the next line or the up and down scroll keys. 

Before a student independently edits their work, he/she is taught how to route their cursor. It usually takes several lessons for a student to become comfortable tactually locating the cursor on the refreshable braille display and pushing the correct cursor router key to delete specific letters or symbols. Lessons focus on routing the cursor to the right of the cell you want to delete when using the Backspace key or to the left of the cell where you want to start selecting text. Once a student is proficient at routing their cursor using the cursor router keys located directly above each cell, he/she is taught the following editing commands. 

Copy - Enter + C

Cut – Enter + X

Paste - Enter + V

Select All - Enter + A

Delete – Enter + D

When editing a document in the Word Processor, the user needs to route their cursor to the cell where they want to begin selecting text. Next, the Start Selection editing command Enter + B is used. On the braille display, the beginning of the selection is marked by the cursor’s present position, a blinking full cell on the braille display. The end of the selection is marked by pushing the cursor router key directly above or after the last cell you want to select. Next, the student uses the edit command needed, such as Enter + X to cut. If the speech is turned on, the Polaris announces that text is cut to the clipboard. This information is also displayed on the braille display. The student routes their cursor to the location where he/she would like to paste the selected text from the clipboard and then presses Enter + V to paste. 

During lessons focusing on the Polaris Word Processor, I also teach commands to save the document, rename the document using save as, and closing the document. After a student creates one document, he/she is taught how to locate and open the document in the File Manager. 

The following commands are taught. 

Close the document and the Word Processes - Space + Z 

Save As -  Space + S (save the document using a different name)

Save - Enter + S 

With Polaris firmware updates, it has been a little confusing for students to close documents as Space + Q no longer works. When a document is open, the user needs to press Space + Z to close the document. The Polaris will ask if you want to save the document. Navigate between yes, no, and cancel options by using the scroll keys or Space + Dot 4 and Space + Dot 1. Press Enter to activate your selection. 

When saving a new document, I teach students to use Save As - Space + S. The Polaris will ask if you want to save the document as the default name “noname.” To change the document name, the user writes the new name and presses Enter to save it. Unless specified, the document is saved automatically to the documents folder in the flash disk, the internal storage system of the Polaris. Use Save – Enter +S to save the current document. The F3 key, which functions as Tab key can be used to change the document name, file format, or location where the file is saved. 

One feature of the Word Processor that I have found useful for academic braille students is the Check Spelling command Enter + K. When the command is used, the spell checker is launched and begins to search for spelling errors in the document. My eighth grade student has found this Check Spelling command helpful to locate spelling errors in a word processing document she misses when using a screen reader on her laptop or her iPad. 

Learning to use all the functions of a braille notetaker can be overwhelming, including just the Word Processor. As the TVI, I have found the more the student and I practice, the easier it is. My students remember different key commands when they use them on a regular basis to complete meaningful learning tasks provided by myself and their regular education teachers. 

I look forward to teaching two of my students this coming school year how to utilize the BrailleSense Polaris braille notetaker as a standalone device, as well as a braille display with an iOS device or a Windows computer/laptop with JAWS. 

For additional information about using the Word Processor, please see the BrailleSense Polaris User Manual and release notes at

This is one of a series of blog posts about the Polaris. Please look for future posts in this series which may include the following topics.

  • Pros and Cons of the Polaris and Polaris Mini for Students
  • Using Google Drive and Docs
  • Downloading, Reading, and Navigating Digital Accessible Books using the Polaris
  • Using the Polaris with Voiceover and JAWS and the Terminal Clipboard 

Photograph of the Polaris braille notetaker with it’s carrying case. The text “HIMS” is written on the top of the case.

Additional BrailleSense Polaris Posts in this Series

The BrailleSense Polaris: Google Apps - Uploading & Downloading Documents

The BrailleSense Polaris: Terminal Clipboard


Posted by trish strombeckSep 17, 2018


This blog is very helpful for me. My name is Trish . I am a TVI and my high school student has a Polaris. We have been working on using the word processor. All what you have wrote is very helpful. Today, we had trouble printing from the Polaris. Do you find that this is an issue? It appeared to be printing in computer braille, even though she wrote it in contracted braille. Any tips? Thank you so much! Also, have you found the text support helpful from Braille Sense?

Posted by R SaladinoSep 26, 2018

Hi Trish,  I am not familiar with how a user prints/embosses from the Polaris. I will have to look into it.  In regard to HIMS tech support for the Polaris, I think they can be helpful depending on the question.  Tech support has been helpful with basic troubleshooting when I can't figure it out myself or find the information in the manual.  When it comes to Android Apps, I personally don't think tech support is helpful. I have figured out everything on my own over time. I have also found issues with the device and informed the manufacture. I have found that I often know more than tech support related to Android Apps and using Google Apps with my students.  I'll let you know if I learn more about printing and it showing up in a different code.  R Saladino

Posted by Neal MckenzieSep 26, 2018

Hey Trish, are you talking about embossing directly from the Braille Sense Polaris or printing? I have found with my students that embossing is a lot easier then printing. My students simply plugs into our Tiger embosser we have on site and can emboss straight from the word processor, it comes out in grade 2 double sided. You might want to check you input language and sny embosser setting on the Polaris. Wireless printing and even usb printing takes a lot more steps as the suggested route is going through the hammermill app on the google side. With a couple of lessons it actually becomes easy to navigate through but still kind of a pain. We have been working lately on getting Nemeth produced in a document on the polaris to translate and print via usb. The results have not been that promising but I expect you would get better results printing witrelessly.  

Posted by Neal MckenzieSep 26, 2018

Awesome article, I am glad someone is taking this on as there are very few videos and how to for the Polaris. 

Posted by Trish Dec 06, 2018

So we never figured out how to print her work by connecting to an ink printer. She has since figured out how to email documents and then I can print them from her.
We have been exploring the word processor and its functions. We haven't figured out where the spacing function is, where she can edit her document to double spacing. Has anyone figured this out?

Thanks for everyone's responses!

Posted by Enrique Dec 12, 2018

The use of an app is helpful when printing. I have used the Hammermill app or Printshare app (purchase required). I have also used the manufactures app (Espson has a good one, HP not so good) .You must go to the android settings and adjust the printer settings to use the app. We just installed the latest firmware, but prior to that we had to navigate the app in order to print. I was told that after the firmware update we should be able to print from the Document. I hope this helps with the printing issues.

Posted by R SaladinoDec 17, 2018

Hi Trish,  Sorry for the delay to reply regarding how to double space in the Word Processor.  When a document is open in the Word Processor, navigated to Print Document Layout using Backspace+T. To navigate to Line Spacing, use Space+Dot 4. At the bottom of the list of options is Line Spacing.  Type in 200 for double spacing in the print layout. The default is set to 108. 100 should equal single spacing, 200 should equal double spacing, and 300 should equal double spacing.  Below is a list of commands from the Polaris User Guide to navigate to the Layout Menu.  5.6 Layout Menu 1) Font: (F) "Enter-backspace-F". Opens the font settings dialog. Acts on selected text. 2) Print Document Layout: (T) "Backspace-T". Determines the format of the pages of a printed document. 3) Print Paragraph Layout: (C) "Backspace-2-3-4-6". Determines the print format and style of the current paragraph. You can also press Space+H to open the help menu in the Word Processor. iI lists differnt help options for the application that is open. The last option is Layout Help. If you select it, you will see the shortcut to open Layout Help which is Backspace+T.   

Posted by Diane BraunerFeb 15, 2019

How can my student connect the BrailleSense Polaris to a laptop in order to use the laptop as a visual display? My student and I have TeamViewer downloaded on our laptops. I have been able to connect the Polaris with my laptop in order to use the laptop as a visual display using BlueTooth but I am struggling to get the Polaris to connect with my student's laptop so he use it as a visual display. Any help would be greatly appreciated.