Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Introducing the Ploverpad!

The brilliant minds behind The Plover Wiki have struck again. If you or someone you know has been intrigued by steno but is intimidated by the prospect of installing Ubuntu and downloading a full-fledged keyboard emulator like Plover, what would you say to a taste of steno that you can experience using only your browser and an ordinary qwerty keyboard? Check it out!

Click here to try out the Ploverpad!

As in the old-timey versions of Plover (remember back that far?), punctuation is currently displaying with Eclipse syntax instead of gluing and capping and all that meta stuff. Oh, and it only translates one-stroke words. But I was playing with it this evening, and I was really kind of surprised by how much I could write by restricting myself only to words that could be written in one stroke, plus prefix and suffix strokes. If you know a bit of steno, give it a try and see how long a sentence you can come up with using only one-stroke words. Post them to comments, if you like. I'd love to see what y'all come up with.

Even if you don't know steno, the Ploverpad can be really useful to help you learn the keyboard. Print out a copy of the Steno Keychart and walk yourself through the alphabet. You'll see that the keys on the Ploverpad will light up according to the colors on the chart. Seriously, how cool is that? It's also useful to see how close to n-key rollover your ordinary computer keyboard is; you'll see that certain words will work properly, even if they take three or four keystrokes, but other words involving the same number of keystrokes won't register.

I think the Ploverpad will be invaluable for beginning steno students, people shopping for n-key rollover keyboards, and people who want to practice their steno when they're on computers that might not have Linux installed. But most of all I think it's a fantastic way to demonstrate what steno looks like in a simple, visually striking way with very little technical hassle required. Notice that you can also drag, drop, and resize all of the windows, so if you want to focus on steno keystrokes you can make the keyboard big, and then if you want to switch your focus to translation, you can increase the size of the output window and pour out one-stroke steno to your heart's content. John and Jay, who wrote the Ploverpad, will be adding features as they go along, so stay tuned! But it's already an amazing piece of work. Please feel free share the link around all over the place. Now anyone who wants to try their hand at steno can give it a shot by just clicking on a link. Our most seductive recruitment tool yet!


Anonymous said...

Very cool! Can't get a G with my keyboard, though.

Mirabai Knight said...

Sorry to hear that. What keyboard are you using? I've been able to reliably get Gs with the Sidewinder X4 and the Filco Majestouch

Anonymous said...

Hi Mirabai,
What is it like using the Filco Majestouch for typing on Plover, when compared to the sidewinder x4? I have noticed that pressing multiple keys at once on the sidewinder requires noticeably more force than just one, because pressing a key off-centre is difficult on a non-mechanical keyboard. I was wondering what this is like on a majestouch, being a mechanical keyboard. Of course it wouldn't compare to a real steno machine though, or does it? I have heard that mechanical key are easier to press on an angle. Is that true?

Mirabai Knight said...

Yeah, the Majestouch takes more pressure and a harder stroke than the Sidewinder, but on the other hand the keys are higher and more distinct from each other, so I find it somewhat easier to write on than the Sidewinder. Mostly, of course, I just love how compact it is. Neither of them are going to be as smooth, fast, accurate, or ergonomic as an actual steno machine, but they're definitely tolerable starter machines!

leeo said...

I compusted something very similar using Windows and C# -- interestingly, I used the exact key assignments you did, but with this important exception: The left hand vowell keys A and O I mapped to qwerty keys v and b, where you chose c and v.

I think the thumb more naturally rests over v and b. --Leeo

mirnhoj said...

you should post your c# code for the community. i know that a windows port is in the blueprints and i think that it would be easier to implement in c# than in python. plus i know another coder who is interested in doing some c# code for plover. we've just been pretty busy, though. so perhaps posting your c# code would be the kickstart some people need to hack away at a c# implementation. ;-)

Mirabai Knight said...

Yeah, Leeo. Mind posting your code? I can upload it to if you don't have server space.