Friday, August 16, 2013

Introducing QwertySteno

When I started The Plover Project with a dream of bringing steno to the masses, I knew it would require three elements in order to work:

* Free software
* Low-cost hardware
* Free, fun, and painless steno instruction

Plover itself is now very nearly complete. It's cross platform, has full control over the operating system, and allows for just-in-time dictionary entries -- my trifecta of must-have features. The hardware is looking pretty good at this point; the Sidewinder X4 has proven to be a great entry-level machine, especially with the laser-cut keytoppers pasted on. Within the year, the Stenosaurus will hopefully swoop in and accommodate all the people who aren't quite satisfied with the Sidewinder and want to upgrade to a purpose-built machine for just a little more cash.

The third part of the puzzle is finally falling into place as well. The textbook-style steno tutorial I've been working on with the tech writer I mentioned some weeks back is almost complete, and when it's done we're hoping to release it in both free ebook and print-on-demand paper book form. Along with Fly, 100 Most Common Words, and StenoTyper, StenoTutor has proven to be a great drilling tool, and in the near future Emanuele hopes to add high score tables to it as well, so Plover newbies from around the world can compete with each other on speed and accuracy while learning those crucial first thousand words. Hover Plover is still just a glint on the horizon, though I've been fleshing out the specs of what I want it to look like when we're ready to start looking for art and development resources. There are other steno tutorials and interactive tools in the incubation period as we speak. And now we have yet another fantastic entry into the field.

QwertySteno is a brilliant new browser-based tutorial and practice tool that walks you through the steno keyboard from the very beginning, giving you instruction and instant feedback starting from the key layout and going through chords to simple phonetic words and briefs. It's a perfect resource for a steno newbie who's starting from scratch, and I'm thrilled to bits with it. Many, many thanks to Mike for putting it together!

Mike says: "The purpose of the website is to introduce new people to steno, teach them some basics and most importantly give our community some practice drills to accelerate our learning! The main feature of the site is the practice exercises which have been designed so we can practice in a focused and measurable way and speed up our learning curve! There are a number of features in the pipeline for a future release including some games but in the meantime, give it a go and let me know what you think."

As all these tools continue to develop, I think they'll come to complement each other. People can start with one and use the other ones to supplement their practice material, or they can hop from one to the other until they find one that works best for them. When Hover Plover is developed, they'll be able to use it for the twitchy, addictive rush of speed building, but still have all these other tools and tutorials on hand to fill out their theory and brief-building principles. Meanwhile, QwertySteno is definitely in front of the pack as far as comprehensive information and instant feedback interactivity is concerned. I can't recommend it highly enough! But if you want to build a steno tutorial or drilling resource of your own, please don't think that QwertySteno's got a monopoly. There's plenty of room for more.


Mcglk said...

So, I'm curious about your experience with the Stenosaurus, because I'd be willing to part with the cash once all the bugs are worked out.

Specifically, my concern about the Stenosaurus is that the keys are flush (or nearly so) to the case rather than raised above it, and the case appears to have some height. Did either of these impair your stenography? How far down do the keys go?

Mirabai Knight said...

I'll be trying out the physical prototype on Thursday. I'll let you know! (':

Unknown said...

I've just started running through the QwertySteno lessons and it is great to have the theory and practice in one place! I have noticed a bit of a bug though - in the second lesson final s does not seem to be recognized in Firefox so I can't type "stars" for example. Seems to work fine in IE though.