Thursday, June 12, 2008

Adventures in Using Free Tools to Convert DAISY Files from MS Word

One goal this morning was to present you with a free DAISY player I found called AMIS that will allow you to open DAISY books. The player has a newer Beta test that is not available yet, so I downloaded the older stable player. It works fine and I would suggest it as a free reader tool. My second goal was to show you how to use the new MS Word add-in to convert text from Word into a DAISY file and play on this free reader. What looked to be an easy voyage into modern technological advancement, turned into a maze of frustration and a dead end (kind of), but I am not giving up. You might enjoy reading my little story and it could save you some of my grief...and add humor to your day!

I spent 2 and a half hours this morning fiddling with software to use the new tools to convert Word documents to DAISY format. I had a little glitch getting the Save as DAISY to show up in my Word 07 program, but when I went to options/add-ins and selected the DAISY add-in then it was on my File menu. It converted the Word document into an XML format, which is basically a document that opens in a web browser. From there, I can use a Natural Reader or Click Speak to read it, but I could have done that without transferring to a DAISY XML format. The AMIS reader couldn't find or open the DAISY XML file, so I realized I would have to convert the file further to get the player to recognize my converted Word document.
I went on the DAISY Consortium website and found under the MS Word Add-in link, that DAISY Consortium has "DAISY Pipeline" which further converts DAISY XML to a full DAISY dtb (digital talking book) file and/or a full DAISY formatted file. Here is what they say on their Daisy Pipeline main page:
"A new release of the DAISY Pipeline is available as of May 7, 2007. This new release features support for the Microsoft "Save As DAISY XML" transformer, several usability improvements including a new Windows installer, partial Hindi localization, as well as performance enhancements and the inclusion of a validator for OPS/EPUB files, the file format based on the open standard developed by the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). This release of the Pipeline also includes beta versions of several new, pivotal transformers which support the migration of content from one DAISY Standard to another."

So I downloaded the Daisy Pipeline as a run/install. When it went to open it said it needed Java Runtime Environment (jre) or a Java Development Kit (jdk) to run. I went to Sun Systems and found that the Java apps couldn't download without the Sun System Dowload manager. So before I could download a Java tool to run the DAISY Pipeline so I can explore converting the DAISY XML that I converted with the download of the MS Word add-in I downloaded at 7 a.m. (It was now 8:30 a.m.) I have to download the Sun Systems Download Manger. Are you getting the picture?
I downloaded the download manager, then went to the Java application I could use, and they said that it is experiencing the end of life (eol) support at Sun Systems. There is a new Java 6 that can be downloaded (but it looked like you had to buy it.) With some more hunting, I did find the JRE to download. Success!
Okay, now BACK to trying to open DAISY Pipeline. I opened Pipeline and got a configuration error - it tried to open but couldn't quite get there. There was a update bugs and fixes on the DAISY Consortium for the Pipeline, but when it downloaded, it was in a zip file with TONS of read me files, Web docs and extensions, etc. I went BACK to DAISY and read the accompanying installer instructions and found that you need to have the Pipeline application OPEN, search for the updates from inside and the program actually installs them for you. That didn't help me because I couldn't open it in the first place.
I went to send a note to the consortium asking their help. That is where I was when I decided I had better put this off for another day and write up something different for you. Then I thought, why not share? If you are a techno-geek you might find some humor here. You also might have an idea how to get around my mistakes. So...there you go.
My summary of the experience? We are getting there - but it is NOT a simple task to just get all these tools to work together. I am confident We will have this figured out and in an easy to follow tutorial soon. Until then, if you have any pieces to the puzzle that are FREE...let us know.
There are some great tools that are for purchase that would save this grief, but it is always a fun challenge trying to make the free stuff work together.
All the best to you!


Brian Wojcik said...

Thank you SO MUCH for your post! I have been looking at these tools and have been following their development but it was great to hear about the experience from a person who has actually used them. Much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Dear Lon,

As a member of the Pipeline development team I'd like to thank you for your patience and the report of your installation experience, even if it was quite a frustrating time (wink).

I'm a bit surprise it didn't went well since we didn't receive feedback on installation-time issues so far. But let me try to clarify some points and I hope it will help you setting up a clean and working Pipeline install!

The reason of your problems might be that you installed the Java runtime *after* the Pipeline, which is not the natural order. The "download" section of the Pipeline site should surely make it clearer, but the information is already written in the FAQ and in the intallation user guide.

Anyway, the latest version of the Java Runtime Envrionment is available free of charge at
Once you have Java installed, try to re-install a fresh copy of the Pipeline using the provided installer (you may want to unsinstall the previous one first, using the Add/Remove section of the Windows Control Panel or directly with the uninstaller in the Pipeline directory).

If it doesn't solve your problem, or if you want to send me further details on the configuration error you received, please send me an email at romain_deltour (at)

Although the Pipeline is primarily used as an in-house production tool, we do try to provide the smoothest user experience. We'll try to improve the installer in a future version so that it detects and downlads the JRE if required, stay tuned!

Hope this helps,
Romain Deltour.

Lon said...

Thanks for both comments. Brian, I am trying to be a Guinea Pig here and see if I can get everything working. If I can it will be exciting to share it step by step in a tutorial for others. I hope I can do that soon...
AND...Romain, THANK YOU so much for sharing on the Pipeline installation tips. Actually, I did uninstall Pipeline and reinstall after I found the Java, but my problem might be not having the current Java - so I will try again next week and "play" a while again. I am sure with your help, we can get this figured out and successful.
Thanks again!

T-bird Anni said...

Okay, I installed Pipeline and.... can someone translate the manual into something less geeky and more idiot's guide??? I'm trying to convert my college text books to daisy so I can listen to them in comfort away from my PC but so far I'm just staring at the "help" file and wondering what language it's in

Lon said...

Hi T Bird Annie,
Try reading the response from Romain from DAISY Consortium. I posted it here:
If this doesn't make sense, email me at and I will email you some detailed directions. I will help you get started on your project...