Place Notation is a concise and useful way of defining a bell ringing method on a particular number of bells. It defines which "places" are "made" for any change from one row of bells to the next in one "lead" of the method. "Making a place" means that a bell in a particular position in a row stays in the same position for the next row. All other bells in the row change position with their neighbours.
A change labelled "14" means that the 1st and 4th bells stay where they are, and the 2nd and 3rd bells change places, as do 5th and 6th, 7th and 8th, and so on. A change marked "x" or "-" means "All bells change".
|1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8|
|x||x x x x|
|2 1 4 3 6 5 8 7|
|14||| x | x x|
|2 4 1 3 5 6 7 8|
Each change in a segment of place notation is separated from the next by a dot, which is in fact almost always omitted whenever possible without making the notation ambiguous. For example, Julie McDonnell Slow Course Minor:
x . 14 . x . 1236 . 12 . 1256 . 12 . 1236 . x . 14 . x . 12
would usually be written as
x 14 x 1236 . 12 . 1256 . 12 . 1236 x 14 x 12
or in fact more likely as
& x 14 x 1236 . 12 . 1256 , +12
where the "&" means that the following segment of place notation is repeated in reverse except for the last term. The "+" character at the start of a non-repeating section is often omitted as well, provided that the previous segment is ended by a comma. The short notation above is all that is required to describe the method known as Julie McDonnell Slow Course Minor, and should be enough information for anyone wanting to ring it.
Once through the Place Notation is one "lead" of the method. After one lead, the Place Notation starts again from the beginning. The problem for Braiding Rainbows is that the program cannot know in advance on how many "bells" the method is to be rung, because the Zoom level may be changed or the width of the window changed at will by the user. This means that the Place Notation must be generated on the fly by the software as soon as the stage (number of "bells") is known.
Braiding Rainbows uses Place Notation (in a special internal format) to make the patterns that you see on screen. It does this by generating the Place Notation afresh for the chosen method and for the number of colours being used every time one of them is changed.
An excellent and comprehensive introduction to Place Notation should be available to download free of charge from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers at: