Sunday, December 19, 2010

Plover Speaks!

I finally uploaded a video of what Plover looks like when plugged into a text-to-speech engine. If you remember, the first part of my What Is Steno Good For series was called How to Speak with Your Fingers, and was about how steno can be used as a conversational tool for people who don't use their voices to speak. Plover's now at a point where that's not only possible, but ludicrously easy. All I did was to launch Plover, open a terminal window in Ubuntu, type eSpeak, press enter, and start writing. Whenever I wanted to send a line, I pressed R-R on my steno machine, which my steno dictionary has defined as "press return". That's all there was to it.

Recently, I was quite moved by Roger Ebert's blog post Trying to Get a Word in Edgewise, about the frustration he's experienced since he lost the use of his voice, and by my friend (and early Plover supporter) Mel's response to it. I was already in the middle of planning this video before the blog post went up, but after it was posted, one of Mr. Ebert's fans randomly came upon Plover and recommended it to him. The next morning I was thrilled to discover that Mr. Ebert had actually commented on the relevant article. I panicked a bit, because I didn't yet have anything to show him and no time to make the video until the weekend. Now it's finally up, though, and I can prove that Plover isn't just a pipe dream; it actually works. I know that Mr. Ebert uses a Mac, and that Plover is currently only working on Linux, but cross-platform support is high on our to-do list. I think this video speaks for me better than any blog post ever could, so I'll just leave it there.

(One more minor thing: YouTube lists the running time at 5 minutes, but the actual video is only about 2 minutes long. No idea why those extra three minutes of frozen screen were tacked on there, but just ignore them.)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Plover 2.1 is Live!

Download Plover 2.1 here.

Incredibly exciting news! The new version of Plover has been released, and it now supports command strokes. This means you can use your steno machine to do anything you can do from your qwerty keyboard -- alt-tab, navigation, formatting, you name it. I'm going to try to make a screencast this week showing me using Plover with Vim, which has been a dream of mine since I first started thinking about Plover. Unfortunately Vim commands don't currently work with the SideWinder X4 (though we'll hopefully be fixing that soon), but the Gemini PR version works flawlessly with every program I could think to throw at it. The SideWinder should work fine with most other programs; it only has trouble with one-key alphanumeric command strokes. Next on the development list: Adding and editing dictionary definitions from the steno machine while using Plover.

Many thanks as always to Josh, our dauntless programmer. I've also updated the Donate button both here on the blog and on the FAQ page. For some reason it stopped working, but it's fixed now. Sorry for anyone who tried to donate and wasn't able to. If you'd like to give it another try, it shouldn't give you any more trouble. Please feel free to send questions, comments, bug reports, and feature requests to I'm also hard at work on the next installment of Steno 101, so this blog should be seeing quite a bit more activity than it did over November, which was mostly consumed by NatCapVidMo.

I can hardly believe that my desire for a free, open source steno keyboard emulator that works on affordable hardware has actually come true. There's more to come, but this is a huge milestone, and I'm completely ecstatic.