Monday, December 31, 2018

Out with 2018, in with 2019

I spent the last few days on the couch, using Plover to do some transcription work on my Alienware laptop's NKRO keyboard with my feet up while a virtual fire crackled in the background. It was remarkably relaxing! I'm so grateful to have this amazing versatile software at my fingertips, and it's been so cool to see the community really coming into its own this year, especially on the Discord channel. I'm so grateful for all of you and the beautiful geekiness you each bring to our little corner of the ultra-efficient text input world! Looking ahead, I expect great things.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Rokit's Plover Lookup Webapp

Just a quick link today: Rokit's Plover Lookup app allows you to easily search for entries in the Plover dictionary from your browser and add words to a custom list for later reference or practice. Quick and useful! Thanks, Rokit!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Using machine stenography in pen shorthand: Pen Steno

Longtime Plover community member and steno enthusiast Kevin Knox (codepoke) has invented a method to represent machine steno strokes using pen-shorthand-like techniques. As a fan and user of steno, I tried to learn Gregg shorthand and found it frustrating. You need to relearn all sorts of briefs, deal with phonetic conflicts, and just generally speak a whole new language compared to the one we use on our steno machines. Kevin took this frustration and actually did something about it, and I'm very excited to share what he's prepared with The Plover Blog.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Open Source Fellowship + New Version of ROPE

The Recurse Center is offering up to $10,000 coding fellowships in NYC for people working on open source programming projects, and 50% of that money is reserved for women, trans, and nonbinary people of color. If you fit one or more of those categories and feel like applying for a programming retreat, we would be mightily pleased if you consider Plover (or other open source steno-related software such as a steno learning game) as a potential project in your application!

Also, the Anki deck ROPE (Remembering Outlines in Plover Easily) has been updated with several new one-stroke outlines, as well as stories to help you remember how to stroke them. Useful stuff!

Monday, December 3, 2018

New Debugging Release of Dotterel

Nimble, author of Dotterel, the Android steno input app that tends to work a bit more smoothly than Brent's older Steno Keyboard app, has released a version of Dotterel with crash reporting, which is very exciting, because I've been having trouble running it on my Samsung tablet, and I'm hoping that if a handful of people test this app on a variety of hardware and OS versions, Nimble will be able to get enough information to make the app a bit more robust. Running the app on my tablet is part of my master plan to teach steno to my 2-year-old, so I'd be really happy if y'all could give it a try.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Highlights from the 2018 OSP Community Survey

Well, we exceeded last year's survey tally, with 103 responses! Here are a few of the highlights, but please feel free to go check out all the details at the survey site.

Thank you to everyone who responded! I love the friendliness and enthusiasm of this weird little community, and hope very much that we can preserve that as we continue to grow and mature in the future, while bringing the power and fun of steno to ever larger and more diverse groups of people.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Steno With a Screen Reader!

Check out this fantastic video from professional Italian stenographer Daniele, who uses JAWS, a popular proprietary screen reader, alongside Plover:

I've said for years that screen reader users (most of whom, like Daniele, have some degree of vision loss) are ideal candidates for professional stenography, since they tend to have extremely rapid and well-developed auditory processing capabilities. I'm thrilled that there's now one fewer barrier to steno for people who use screen readers. Marvelous work, Daniele!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Plover Learner: A New Steno Learning Blog

I love reading steno learning diaries. Over the years, the open steno community has built up quite a few, including:

Lars's Steno For Programming Diary
Martin's Stenostories
Waleed's Steno Journal

and now the newest example of the genre:

MHC's Plover Learner

I'm really looking forward to seeing how MHC's learning process develops. If you know of any other steno journals, please feel free to send them along! I think they're really helpful and interesting for novices and experienced stenographers alike.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Plover in Peoria!

Check out this great dispatch from Kathryn Dittmeier, the coordinator of the Judicial Reporting Program at Midstate College in Peoria, Illinois:

steno machines and laptops at a table
Thanks to Plover software, a closet full of Stentura 400SRTs, and an investment in tablets from our administration, the Judicial Reporting program at Midstate College was able to bring a hands-on steno exhibit to the Career Spark event at the Peoria Civic Center. Over the course of two days, 4,000 eighth grade students from over 60 area schools poured out of school buses and eagerly explored each of the four large exhibit areas. In the Law, Government, and Public Service zone, students had plenty of interesting things to see with fire trucks, police motorcycles, snowplows, an ambulance, and a utility line setup. But the steno machines really drew the students in with many returning for a second visit before their time in our zone was up. We also looped the Steno Arcade “I’m your Moon” video on a big monitor – a great draw for 14-year-olds!

Because of Plover software, we were able to invest in inexpensive Windows 10 tablets and let the students get their hands on machines to try realtime. There were aha! moments, triumphal shouts of “I got a word!!” and for many, we were able to help them draw a connection between live captions they had seen on sporting games and news in restaurants and the idea of a person on a steno machine generating those. We had a great opportunity to talk to them about careers in official, freelance, CART, and captioning domains, about the huge need for reporters, and about the earning potential one could realize with a two-year degree. Our thanks to Plover for doing just what you set out to do...making steno accessible in an affordable way so people can try it.

I love hearing about high schoolers (and even younger kids) getting to play around with steno machines, and I'm hoping we'll be able to develop even more kid-friendly steno learning video games in the near future. If you use Plover at a career fair or similar event, drop us a line!

Monday, October 29, 2018

3D Printed Stentura Laptop Mount + Custom Word Range Drills

Check out this cool 3D Printed laptop mount for a Stentura 400 SRT by community member repalviglator!

Front view

Side view

Close-up of 3D printed mount

Also, new from Typey Type: Gutenberg sentences using top 100 words and a new "start from word" setting. From Di:

Using a new “Start from word” setting, you can skip ahead to the 20,000th word to try long sentences. Together with “Limit word count”, you can drill ranges like top 1000–2000 words.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Last Call for Survey + Typey Type Dictionaries

Only six more survey responses needed to exceed last year's tally. Come on, steno friends! You can do it!! I'll probably close the survey fairly soon, so please get in a response if you can. It only takes a few minutes. Feel free to share the link to all and sundry!

Also, Typey Type for Stenographers now has downloadable dictionaries for each lesson, especially useful if you use the suggestions window and don't necessarily want to have to wade through misstroke suggestions from the default dictionary. Good stuff!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tiny Steno Board 2 - New DIY Machine

Check out this beautiful DIY steno machine, the Tiny Steno Board 2, by community member SashaK!

Sasha writes:
The idea was stolen from Charley, the internals - from OLKB/Planck project. I stumbled upon an old mechanical machine, so had a chance to compare the Stenograph keyboard feelings you mentioned in some articles with the computer switches. I measured the size of keys and tried to re-created their form. The link to the project is in the Thingiverse article, it is rather primitive - holes laid out, the case is built around them to fit the switches. The controller fits nicely in the empty space under the right palm. Case is connected with stand-offs and screws from both top and down parts.

Component prices (approximate) - one ProMicro chip (10CAD), 23 Matias switches (10CAD), 2xUSB connectors (10CAD), 23 diodes (2CAD), USB cable (5CAD), screws and stand-offs (say 3CAD). PLA plastic - 200 grams, about 5CAD. Some wire, and old micro-USB cable to connect the chip to USB connector. 50CAD in total.

What a beautiful little piece of work! Go read more about it on Thingiverse, or use the detailed schematics there to build your own!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Plover Theory is now The Art of Chording

Ted's work-in-progress textbook, previously known as Plover Theory and hosted on Gitbooks, now has a new title and URL: The Art of Chording, at He's also still taking donations via his Patreon, if you'd like to help speed up the pace of development. It's a fantastic resource, and I encourage steno newbies and veterans alike to check it out. When it's done, I think it will be the definitive textbook on the subject.

In other news, Typey-Type now saves your progress, allowing for automated custom drills, and the 2018 Open Steno Community Survey is still accepting submissions. If you haven't taken it already, please do! Your responses are really valuable in determining where we should focus our efforts going forward.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Plover + MIDI + LEGO!!!

Check out these AMAZING photos from the San Giorgio Brick Expo in Italy last weekend! Professional Italian stenographer and Plover user Sillabix posted these on the Discord yesterday, and I'm utterly in love. You can see a genuine historical Michela piano-style steno keyboard on the left and a gorgeous functional duplicate next to it, rendered out of LEGO and DIY electronics and running Plover, using the Michela protocol plugin. This is seriously one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life, and I'm beyond ecstatic that Plover has played a part in bringing it to life. Let's hear it for Sillabix, who has been doing things with off-the-shelf MIDI (and now LEGO!) components that blow my mind on the regular.

Historical Michela machine next to Plover-connected LEGO replica

Close-up of LEGO piano keys

Keyboard with piano keys removed to show electronic switches underneath

Monday, September 24, 2018

2018 Open Steno Community Survey is Live!

Please take the 2018 survey here, and feel free to forward the link to anyone you know who's part of the Open Steno community in any way! I'm really looking forward to reading all of the responses and posting about the results.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Suggestions for 2018 Community Survey

It's time for our annual Open Steno Community Survey! Last year we got 91 responses, which isn't bad, but considering that the Discord is now up to 952 members, I'm hoping we'll get substantially more responses this year. This morning I solicited suggestions from the Discord on new questions to include this year and got a few good ones, but I thought I'd throw it open to blog readers as well. I'm hoping to have the new survey finalized by next week, so if you've got any ideas, feel free to comment on this post or email me,

Monday, September 10, 2018

More DIY Hardware!

It's been a bumper crop week for Plover-compatible DIY hardware!

First, a nice color-coded mod for a keyboard which claimed to be 19-key rollover, but that unfortunately only included WASD and function keys, so it didn't turn out to be compatible with chording. Still, a great idea by Robo, which will hopefully be implemented on a truly n-key rollover keyboard in the future.

Second, from SashaK, a Stenomod-inspired custom steno keyboard available on Thingiverse!

Next, some beautiful 3D printed keytoppers from verbalshadow, which apparently came out of the printer pretty much ready to mount on a Gherkin. Impressive!

And finally, from ElephantEars, a Palantype (which, if you haven't heard of it, is a mostly UK-based chording input method that uses more keys and is rather more phonetic than steno; Plover has had Palantype support for quite a while now) machine, with custom lighting that not only looks beautiful but also indicates what mode the machine is in.

Brilliant work all round! I can't wait to see more!

Monday, September 3, 2018

DIY Steno Hardware Spotlight: The Specter

User incognition on the Plover Discord completed a DIY steno machine project a while back, and I realized I never wound up featuring it here. Incognition has promised me a guest post with lots of details about the build at some point in the future, but in the mean time, here are a couple of morsels to whet your appetite. Incidentally, if anyone else has ever built a custom board, whether as a commercial prototype or as a one-off for exclusively personal use, I'd love to see it and feature it here! Nothing warms my heart more than a beautiful handmade steno machine.

The parts weren't very expensive. It's a knock-off Arduino, about 32 Gateron switches, custom keycaps and PCB, spray-painted and screwed into a piece of particle board. It took a LOT of time to assemble though, milling the PCB and hand-cutting the keycaps. I milled out one set of each keycap on a CNC machine, then made molds of those. The mold casting process still required me to cut all the keys to the right height by hand, along with an obscene (obsessive-level) amount of sanding and polishing.

What a gorgeous piece of work!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Skell: Drill any word using real sentences

Just a quick one today from niten on the Plover Discord's useful links channel:

Skell, which allows you to enter a word and get a ton of English sentences containing that word. I remember back when I was training for NCRA certification tests I always used to choke on the word "brochure". This would have come in pretty handy! If you want something a little more targeted than Steno Jig's most-common-word sentence drills, give it a try.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Steno Specs in the QMK Docs

Both my dad and my eldest brother are electronic engineers, and my dad taught me to solder when I was a kid, but I haven't tried my hand at it in decades, and these days I'm too intimidated (plus I live in a tiny apartment with a rampaging toddler) to ever seriously consider wiring my own keyboard. Still, it's an appealing thought, and I really enjoy watching the intersection of DIY keyboard makers with steno learners. So I was delighted when Ted posted a link to the QMK docs on the Plover Google Group recently, and they turned out to be far more detailed and helpful than I'd imagined. I knew people had been using QMK, the popular open source firmware used on the majority of user-assembled keyboards, for various steno projects, but I didn't realize that the steno chapter in the official QMK docs were so exhaustive. I guess it's always just a delight to see Open Steno out in the wider world, and I wonder how many people who'd never heard of steno before find themselves idly flipping through the QMK docs and suddenly fall into an unexpected steno adventure. If you're one of them, please do get in touch!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Script Sending with Plover and Vim

I had a big screen gig tonight, and while I'd gotten a script in advance, I knew there would be a lot of ad libbing, so I planned to write it all on my steno machine, with the script displayed on my non-steno-connected second laptop for reference. The only exception was a song in Spanish, which I knew I couldn't fingerspell fast enough; I'd have to send it out line by line from the script. Here's how I did it using Vim:

My computer was in "extend" mode, so captions were displayed on the big screen in one gvim window and the script was on my laptop's monitor in another gvim window.

On the sending computer, I mapped F to ^v$"+y

On the receiving computer, I mapped S to <Esc>A<Enter><Enter><Esc>"+gP<Esc>

I could have made a steno stroke to automatically tab between windows, advance down a line, copy the line to my clipboard, tab back, and paste in, but I was worried about latency/syncing issues and preferred manual control so that I could more easily match the rhythm of the song. There were a few repeated lines and callbacks as well, so I didn't necessarily want to auto-advance each time.

When I heard them start to sing a line, I pressed TP*P on my steno machine to copy the line under the cursor, then TABT to quickly alt-tab to the big screen gvim window, S*P to paste the line in, TABT to alt-tab back, STPH-G to go to the next line, F to grab it again, and repeated the cycle until the song was over.
It worked quite well! I've done this sort of thing before using the qwerty keyboard, but I believe this was the first time I did a long section of scripting without taking my hands off the steno machine. Perhaps this trick is of limited utility if you're not a realtime captioner, but on the off chance that someone might find it useful, I thought I'd post it here.

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Double Feature from Di

Not only has Di updated Typey Type again:
You can learn briefs shown as steno diagrams or as text
Practice writing multi-syllable words with doubled consonant letters
Use a wider layout so you can see what's coming up
A new "Exact spacing" setting to match spaces precisely—ideal for coding as well as prefix and suffix lessons
Accuracy scoring now counts hinted words separately
The "Ignore spaces" settings now considers " the", "the ", and "the" to be the same when reviewing words you've seen and deciding what material to show, making sure you don't see words more than you have to

but she also wrote a fantastic blog post on building a steno-flavored Planck, as someone who hadn't done much hardware work before.

Brilliant stuff as always.

Monday, July 23, 2018

New Version of ROPE

I blogged about the first version of ROPE back in October 2017. Now it's been updated to ROPE version 2.1.

Its creator explains:
ROPE (Remembering Outlines in Plover more Easily) is a guide to learning and recalling Plover outlines for about 4,200 common English words. It does this in two ways: first, it relies on Anki's spaced repetition system to help you solidify the outlines in your memory. Second, it includes mnemonic devices (in the form of stories) for a sizeable chunk of the outlines. These stories, about 1790 in total as of 7/7/2018, serve to connect the outlines to their corresponding word by including words that are similar to the components of the outlines.

ROPE 2.1 also includes a number of added-in outlines (about 785 as of 7/7/2018) that serve as alternatives to the outlines in the standard Plover dictionary. They're meant to let you write words in fewer keypresses and/or strokes, but are completely optional, and standard outlines for every word are provided when available.

If you like Anki-style drilling and original story drills tailor made for steno, go check it out at the Plover Reddit!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

New Bugfix Weekly

A new bugfix weekly has been released, so if you have encountered any of the issues below, you should probably give it a try.

Windows: fix C++ Redistributable DLL error (#957)
Windows: fix emoji output (#942)
Mac: fix portable mode (#932)
Fix issues when output is set to "Spaces After" (#965)
Tooltips added for dictionary status icons (#962)

Main Dictionary updates:
use AOE instead of E for prefix "e" (#951)
update from issue 400 (#960)

Friday, June 29, 2018

Typey Type Top 100 and 1000 Drills, Plus Blur

Typey Type for Stenographers keeps getting better. Now there are drills for the top 100 and top 1000 words, as well as a new custom lesson feature, and a fascinating "blur" feature, which allows you to use a screen reader (I recommend the open source NVDA) to turn the text-based drills into dictation.

Di says:

Using a setting to “blur words”, sighted people can blur the lesson material on Typey type and use a screen reader to announce each word to practice transcription. This reads out each word from the lesson material one at a time only after you’ve successfully typed the previous one. In the future, I’d like to make a feature that reads out words ahead of where you’re at to mimic dictation and real-time captioning tasks where you need to “stay on top of the speaker” and not fall too far behind what they are saying.

For now, blur material offers two particular benefits for sighted stenographers. One benefit is relieving eye strain from staring at one point on the screen for extended periods. The other key benefit is to help sighted stenographers learn to write words based on how they sound instead of how they look or are spelled.

Screen readers have a bit of a learning curve, but honestly I recommend them to any sighted user who wants to gain some proficiency and understanding of what it's like to use a computer without using your eyes. Give it a try and report back on how it worked for you!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Photos from the NYC Mechanical Keyboard Meetup!

The NYC Mechanical Meetup was last week, and there were at least three steno people in attendance: Me, Weiben, and Malcolm, all frequenters of the Plover Discord.

I gave a short talk on steno.

Malcolm showed off his amazing feather-light lubricated steno-layout board.

Weiben and I repped our StenoMod, TinyMod, SOFT/HRUF Splitography, and Infinity Ergonomic machines, giving demos to curious mechanical keyboard aficionados.

And, of course, we saw some extremely attractive qwerty rigs as well! We all had a great time, and I think we managed to win some people over to the steno side!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Modding a MIDI for Michela (Italian Steno Video)

This video is from a few months ago, but I realized I never wound up posting it here! Sillabix, the OSP's resident Italian Steno expert, demonstrates how to modify an affordable MIDI keyboard to make it usable for Michela, the Italian steno system, which conveniently has its own Plover plugin. Video notes are in Italian but translated in the closed captions. The process is seriously cool to watch, and the music is fantastic as well. Check it out!

Friday, June 8, 2018

DIY StenoMod Stand Breakdown

Check out this great post on Martin's StenoBlog about his homemade StenoMod tripod, with lots of pictures and detailed specs to help you build your own!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Waleed's Theory Modifications

Check out the fascinating blog post Waleed wrote about modifications he's made to the default dictionary that ships with Plover from a high level steno theory perspective. Some great stuff here!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Meet the Ultra-Portable, Ultra-Adorable, Ultra-Affordable TinyMod!

The amazing Charley of StenoMod fame has released a new machine: The TinyMod!!! I bought one a few weeks ago and I absolutely love it. Go check it out!
It uses the same switches, keycaps, and processor as the classic and the hinge, but has only 25 keys instead of 34. The whole row of number keys is gone, replaced by one number key between O and E for the thumb to press. It's 7 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches by about one inch tall. Since there are fewer parts and it's easier to make, I'll be charging less. $160 USD plus shipping. For the immediate future I'll be stocking all three, "classic", "hinge", and " TinyMod". The classic and hinge will still be going for $200 USD.

Another Typey Type Update: Steno Revision

Di has updated Typey Type, her steno learning tool, with a nice new feature:

Typey type for stenographers now lets you choose words at the end of a lesson to revise. You can deliberately practice misstroked words as much as you like:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Use Plover + VLC for Timecoded Transcription

I've done my time in the transcription mines, starting in-house at a handful of firms and using proprietary software, then going freelance and mostly using a combination of Vim plus either Winamp or VLC. On the steno side, I first used DigitalCAT, then Eclipse, then Plover, and moved from play/pausing audio with a footpedal to using only steno commands. I still take on transcription from time to time, though I haven't accepted any jobs requiring timecodes in years and years, mostly because it's felt like too much trouble to figure out a good workflow for them. Happily, Ted rides to the rescue with a step-by-step post on how to add timecodes to your text file using Plover's VLC plugin. If you're a transcriptionist or considering dipping a toe into the biz, check it out!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Limited Time Offer: StenoGherkins At Cost!

The amazingly generous Paul, new Open Steno community member, recently made an incredible offer: If you buy the parts for a Gherkin keyboard, he'll assemble it for you, no charge! He enjoys assembling keyboards and wants to help people get low-cost, ultraportable machines, even if they don't have any electronics experience. Of course, this offer is always dependent on his own amount of free time and energy. He can't guarantee it'll be valid forever, so I encourage anyone in need of a StenoGherkin to get while the getting's good!

As he said on the Plover Discord:

If I am putting it together for you I will include the standoffs and screws, I have plenty and won't ask you to buy 50 standoffs and 100 screws when you only need a dozen or so but if you're doing this yourself, you want m2 hardware and standoffs at least 10mm long, 10 is the perfect length in my opinion but you will have to trim down the pins the pro micro is soldered to, like this Not a problem just a caveat.

Keycaps you're on your own for, I can throw in some for a couple bucks just so you have something to use right away but ultimately you will have to source your own and decide what you like (the ones I can include will be DSA profile and could be any color or have any markings on them, whatever I have laying around from grab bags)

G-20 profile caps are very popular for mx style switches and steno, probably the most popular. if you want them, just google 'ortholinear G-20 keycaps' or 'planck G-20 keycaps' these will yield results with only the 1unit caps (almost, the planck sets will usually have a single 2unit cap as well for the space bar on certain planck layouts) which are all you'll need. For this layout, you NEED 25 but you'll probably want 30 so you have a cap for every switch, even if you don't put one on all of them(edited)

Gherkin build materials list:

PCB kit, $20
Pro micro, $8
Diodes, $2.50
Gateron clears, $7.50 for the 30 needed (you can pick any MX style switches you like. MX style is very important to make sure they work with the board. The lightest weight linears possible are what you're looking for. These are only 35 grams of force and would be perfect for most people). I'll update the link if an even better option presents itself.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Typey-Type Update

Typey-Type has been updated with more public domain lessons and the ability to review error strokes after lessons. Thanks to Di for her continuous improvement of this excellent resource.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Passive Haptic Learning for Computer Stenography

Check out this fantastic video by longtime open steno community member Tim! He's been working on research designed to lower the steno learning curve by introducing haptic stimuli into the learning process. The premise seems extremely sound to me, and he's gotten very promising results so far, so I'm really excited to see where this will go.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

More Laptops with NKRO!

The number of NKRO-enabled laptops has been exploding recently! I've got an Alienware 13, and it honestly works pretty well with Plover, but it's a bit on the heavy side. Lead dev Ted has compiled a list of 11 laptops sporting NKRO keyboards, which offers much more choice than we've had up to this point. I'm not currently on the market for a new machine, but when I am I'll definitely be consulting this list, and I'm really happy to see this trend in new high-end and gaming-focused machines. I hope it keeps going!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dotterel: Steno for Android!

Dotterel, a new steno keyboard for Android, was released a few days ago. (GIF above courtesy of lead dev Ted.) We've had StenoIME available for several years, but it hasn't been in development for quite some time, and has always had a number of issues that made it difficult to use. Dotterel, by community member Nimble, has greatly improved on the idea, and I find it to be a lovely swipe-style steno keyboard interface. On my rather small phone, it works best in landscape mode, though on a tablet portrait would probably be just fine. You can swipe, tap, or use a physical keyboard using a USB-on-the-go adapter, and it has quite a bit of clever context sensing that allows for accurate error correction and jumping between text fields without messing up your translation. Feel free to download it and play around with it, and if you have any suggestions on ways it can be improved, contribute to the issues thread on Nimble's Github.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

New Weekly Released!

Our stalwart devs have released a new weekly version of Plover!

Mostly incremental changes to get ready for our next big release, but if any of these issues affect you, feel free to give this new version a try! And, as always, if you encounter anything unexpected, let our devs know on Github and/or in the #devs channel of the Plover Discord.


  • disable serial flow control settings when not applicable (this was known to cause weird issues when changed from default)
  • the paper tape now has improved support for non-Latin keys
  • the log files encoding is now always set to UTF-8 (so Unicode in translations is properly handled)
  • configuration changes by plugins are now fully validated before being applied
  • improve support for installing plugins from source
  • when running from a distribution, Plover can be started with --no-user-plugins to disable user plugins: the distribution default embedded plugins will still be available, so the plugins manager can be used to update/remove a problematic plugin
  • [Linux] fix crash when using a Microsoft keyboard
  • [Linux] fix crash when the window manager does not support the NETWM protocol (with commands like {PLOVER:ADD_TRANSLATION})

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stenograph USB plugin

Diamante and Luminex owners, rejoice! You can now use your writers over USB with Plover. Just install the Plover Stenograph USB plugin, by our fantastic lead dev Ted. It might not work on Stenograph machines that are older than Diamante and Luminex, but still opens up a huge swath of pro steno users who might be curious about Plover. There's also a dictionary import/export plugin for major CAT software, including Eclipse, CaseCATalyst, and DigitalCAT. That one is still in testing, so if you install the plugin via the Plover 4 plugin manager and run into any problems, hop on the Discord and send a note to @marnanel, the developer. Slowly but surely we're building the bridge between the open source and proprietary worlds! It's very exciting. Even if court reporters still want to use their court reporting software for their daily court or deposition work, they can now use Plover for captioning or even just for using their steno machines with their computers for text input, novel writing, chatting with friends, or all the other hundred things that Open Steno fans have been using steno for over the last seven years, but which has been largely inaccessible to professional steno users. Anyone from the pro steno world who's induced by this post to dip a toe into the Plover world, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know what you think!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Guest Post: Mechanical Keyboards UK Meetup!

New Plover user Miles writes in his blog:

I am new to the world of stenography. As a designer, I do not often have to type large volumes of text, so might not be a typical user. However I was so impressed by some of Mirabai's talks online that I decided to build myself a mechanical keyboard in order to learn steno as a hobby. Both learning steno and tinkering with keyboards turn out to be a lot of fun!

A large part of the appeal of mechanical keyboards has been the inventiveness of the devices and the spirit of the community, so when an opportunity arose to meet some of the community and bond over discussions of keycaps and switch stems, I jumped at it. The latest meetup of the MKUK subreddit was held on Saturday 24th February. I expected to enjoy looking at and tapping on many beautiful keyboards, but not display anything of my own. However while discussing the event on the Plover Discord Group, I came up with the idea of setting up a little Plover demo for people to try out at the meetup. As an enthusiastic beginner at stenography, I thought this would be a great way to spread the word about the open steno project and a good icebreaker at an event full of people I'd never met.

The venue was a basement meeting room in a Waterloo hotel, full of keyboards and enthusiasts. The event was buzzing and well attended, and I arrived in good time to get the laptop and keyboard set up and have a good browse around the room. There were also some generous giveaways throughout the session.

Although the idea was for my demo to be self explanatory, there was not quite enough information for a complete novice to try typing with any success, so I spent much of my time at the event standing by my laptop, talking people through the concepts of stenography and showing them how to stroke their first few words. Most had not tried stenography before, although I did meet one lapsed Plover user. The reception was even more enthusiastic than I had hoped, with a lot of interest, especially when I mention the potential typing speeds of 200+ wpm.

I answered many questions about my setup, Plover, and stenography in general, from

How would I type paraphernalia?

for which Plover's "Lookup" function came in very handy, to

is it very bound to the English language?

to which I answered "Yes, but steno theories and keyboards exist for many languages!" (see the Plover Discord Group's multilingual channel for more on this). One of the most interesting questions I got asked was

How did the first (pre-computer) steno machines work?

To answer I fired up the Plover "Paper Tape" and explained that early machines recorded strokes on paper tape that would be later hand translated. Having these features to hand made Plover a joy to demonstrate, and I enjoyed chatting to everyone who took an interest.

I've detailed my setup below for anyone who is interested, along with some thoughts on improving it next time. I had a great time at the meetup, and would love to have a go at demonstrating Plover again in the future, especially if I manage to build up some fluency in stenography. Thanks to all the welcoming folk of r/MechanicalKeyboardsUK and to Mirabai for inviting me to write this post!

Demonstration Setup

  • Macbook Pro, running:

  • Let's Split keyboard:

    • Standard layout with a layer added in QMK for stenography using the TX Bolt keycodes. Using these keycodes instead of letters allows me to still use the qwerty laptop keyboard without switching Plover output on and off.
    • Kailh speed silver switches, light linear switches with a high actuation point.
    • Blank white PBT keycaps (Cherry profile I think).
    • Some handy letter stickers donated by my partner.


There are a few things I would do differently if I were to set up a Plover demo again. Hopefully this will be useful to anyone else who wants to demonstrate Plover in a similar context.

  • A step-by-step guide to making your first word, printed on paper with large text and diagrams. This would help anyone trying out the demo when it is unattended. I think the first chapter of Zack Brown's Learn Plover! would be ideal for this purpose if it could be boiled down to a single sheet of paper.
  • Provide handouts or cards for people to take away with details of Plover and the Open Steno Project.
  • Display names/links for:

    • The Open Steno Project website
    • The Plover Discord Group
    • The Plover subreddit
  • Find time to make a demonstration to a larger group. This was not really suitable for this event, but would be a good way to boost interest.

This post was written (mostly) using Plover at around 8wpm :)

Photos from Miles and the_pokemon_kid

Many thanks to Miles for this fantastic post! I wish I could have been there, and I hope that more Plover users will be able to spread the word at similar mechanical keyboard meetups around the world!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Wanted: Novice Level Steno Hero Songs

Steno Hero, as many of you know, is great fun for stretching your steno skills with some very fast, very challenging music.

But wouldn't it be nice to have some songs that beginning stenographers could play as well?

So Ted has drawn up some guidelines for writing novice level Steno Hero songs, which use simple vocabulary -- mostly small phonetic words and common briefs -- sung at a manageable tempo for people who are first starting out.

He writes:

Here are the top 100 English words:

the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, I, it, for, not, on, with, he, as, you, do, at, this, but, his, by, from, they, we, say, her, she, or, an, will, my, one, all, would, there, their, what, so, up, out, if, about, who, get, which, go, me, when, make, can, like, time, no, just, him, know, take, people, into, year, your, good, some, could, them, see, other, than, then, now, look, only, come, its, over, think, also, back, after, use, two, how, our, work, first, well, way, even, new, want, because, any, these, give, day, most, us

Some other good core words for steno, easily briefable:

always, awful, okay, eazy, water, drop, all right, welcome, love, together, request, familiar, follow, question, ask, continue, nothing, nowhere, nobody, understand, minute, important, today, tomorrow, other, every, everyone, everybody, everything, forever, of course

Meta vocabulary:

keys, chords, board, stroke, steno, hero, Plover

Simple words, in the format CVC, like mom, pop, tough, John, map, etc. should be fine as well.
If you can put words like this together into a few simple rhymes, post 'em here or to the Discord or put them on your blog and link us to them. If a tune comes in your head and you're able to record a demo, all the better. We'd love to hear what you come up with. We have some funds that we might be able to put towards commissioning and recording more polished material, but we're hoping to get some good stuff from the community to start out with.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Quick Comparison: Splitography vs Stenokey

I seem to have had a bit of a block about writing these two reviews, so I'm just gonna give you some bulletpoints.

Stenokey Pros:

* Cheapest steno-layout option assuming you can get free/cheap 3D printing; its inventor/designer has released all the specs and takes no profit from any of it
* Extremely compact and lightweight
* Multiple protocols (though you need a pointy object to press the tiny sunken switch that changes them)
* If parts could be bought in bulk and sold as individual kits through the Plover store (working on it!), it would be even more accessible

Stenokey Cons:

* Requires self-assembly, including soldering; not a project for total beginners
* As of right now, parts need to be sourced in lots of four or more
* Matias switches are stiffer than Gateron clears
* 3D printed keycaps are a little rough and scratchy
* The stem of one of the 3D printed keys broke off after fairly light handling; it seems to be more fragile than my other machines
* It's a bit on the clicky/noisy side


Splitography Pros:

* Beautiful unique design
* Lovely heavy smooth injection molded keycaps; probably its strongest feature, I'd say
* Sold at a very reasonable price ready to use out of the box
* Works as both a regular qwerty keyboard and a steno machine, which you can switch by just pressing certain keys in a particular pattern
* The weight of the keycaps make the stiff Matias switches a little bit easier to press
* A stiff cable connects the two halves, which allows the user to tent the machine at their preferred angle by resting the machine on any appropriately angled object
* The money goes to support Scott, an early and consistent innovator in the field of open steno, who provides friendly and abundant tech support and documentation

Splitography Cons:

* The sharp solder spikes underneath the circuitboard are open and easily reached by curious toddler fingers, which means I need to keep the Splitography out of reach of my steno machine-obsessed kid
* I've had some trouble finding a good case to keep it safe in my bag; it's a somewhat awkward shape


Overall, if you're not experienced at assembling electronics and you've got enough money to buy a Splitography, it's what I would recommend. (Assuming that for economic or aesthetic reasons you've ruled out the Stenomod, which remains my ultimate go-to recommendation, for reasons ranging from the beautiful compact hinged design to the feather-light Gateron keyswitches.) The Stenokey is ingenious, but not quite durable enough to be a daily driver, in my opinion. If you want a DIY project and don't want to spend more than the bare minimum of cash, though, I can definitely recommend the Stenokey as a solid and usable option.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Scott's Splitography Setup Video

This is a great video explanation on how to set up your new SOFT/HRUF Splitography, which I am quite enamored of these days. Nice work, Scott.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

IOU: Two Reviews

They're making steno machines faster than I can blog about them! Scott, inventor of the original SOFT/HRUF (which I bought years ago and recently lent to a friend) and the new SOFT/HRUF Splitography, pictured above, has generously sent me a review machine to play around on. I've already promised you all my StenoKey review (plans to get StenoKey kits in the Plover Store are in the works, by the way), but now there's this gorgeous piece of work to talk about as well! I promise I will get to both, and soon! Hold me to that!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Typey Type for Stenographers

Fantastic new online learning tool by longtime community member Di: Typey Type for Stenographers.
Typey type is a typing app designed specifically to help stenography students learn steno faster. You can learn briefs and improve your stenographic speed and accuracy using tailored education options, including tight feedback loops so you learn to fix misstrokes immediately. You can effortlessly track progress in your brief vocabulary and rapidly increase in steno skill.
It's got a huge amount of practice material, from handpicked steno-specific lists to simple public domain texts. The interface is very sleek and intuitive, and I love all the metrics that help you track your progress. This is such a beautiful piece of work. If you've been feeling overwhelmed at the daunting task of teaching yourself steno, please give it a look. I think it'll be a tremendously useful tool for both beginners and intermediate speedbuilders alike.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Stenokey Post, Part 1!

At long last, part one of a series on the amazing Stenokey.

First, the setup from Stenokey inventor Mike:

Stenokey Project

Stenokey is an open source do it yourself stenographic keyboard project. It is aimed at makers with some electronics experience (soldering) and who own a 3D printer or who have a friend with a 3D printer, though you may be able to complete this project if you know how to use a soldering iron and can find an inexpensive 3D printing service. (My local public library will print objects for the cost of filament, which is extremely inexpensive, though I think that they might balk at printing the entire Stenokey part-set all at once.)

Stenokey connects to any desktop or laptop PC that has a USB port. It is meant to work with the Open Steno Project's Plover software, which runs on Linux, Mac and Windows. It supports NKRO keyboard emulation, as well as the serial Gemini PR, TX Bolt and ProCAT protocols. In theory, the Stenokey should be compatible with commercial steno software that supports those serial protocols.

Stenokey uses the Matias Quiet Linear Switches, which won't stick or stall when keys are pressed off center. Stenokey's smarts come from the Arduino compatible Teensy 2.0. This microcontroller is capable of emulating both an NKRO keyboard and a serial port over USB.

The Stenokey circuit board is based on the simple design principle of putting everything on the same circuit board. The advantages are improved reliability, the elimination of unecessary cables and connectors, simplified assembly, reduced assembly time, reduced part count and lower material cost. Hopefully the low material cost puts this project in the realm of possibility for more people.

Except for the plastic parts the cost of materials comes out to less than USD$50. Of course if you account for shipping and product minimum orders, you'll spend more.


All of the Stenokey design files are available on Github. The circuit boards can be purchased from SeeedStudio. Except for the firmware and electrical schematic, the project is licensed with the CreativeCommons-ShareAlike license. The firmware and schematic are licensed by Emanuele Caruso under the GNU GPL version 3 license. All of the tools used to create the Stenokey project are open source or are freely available so that the design can easily be modified within the constraints of those licenses.

To summarize both the CreativeCommons and GNU licenses, you can of course create copies of this project for your own use. You can republish or create derivative works from this project and even sell them as products, however if you do, you must give credit to the original author(s) and share your own work. Be sure to read the actual licenses for all of the details.


The Stenokey project gained its name when I ran across Jason Cemra's Stenotoppers on Mirabai's Plover blog. I had recently purchased a small 3D printer, so I decided to try printing one of Jason's key caps. It printed amazingly well. Printing that key was the start of the project as one thing lead to another.

I was already familiar with Joshua Lifton's Stenosaurus project from the Plover blog, so I drew up some steno keys based on Joshua's key outlines, (while borrowing some of Jason's 3D design techniques). Those keys also printed well enough. I had drawn the keys in OpenSCAD, so I was quickly able to generate several different variations of keys with various widths and offsets.

Next I bought some of the Matias Quiet Linear key switches. (Those key switches were graciously made available by Matias through Joshua's efforts.) I was able to get my key tops to fit the Matias key switches without much effort (and a fingernail file). I quickly found out that unlike the "other" key switches, the Matias key switches don't stick or stall when you press on a key off center.

I was also familiar with Emanuele Caruso's Stenoboard project. All of his designs for the Stenoboard project are available on line, including the electrical schematics and the firmware. Starting from Joshua Lifton's keyboard layout, I referenced Emanuele's schematics to create the Stenokey circuit board. With the different keyboard layout and schematic, it was also necessary to modify Emanuele's firmware, (which was simple enough to do since he writes excellent code).

In the middle of this I contacted Mirabai, because without her none of this happens. She was highly supportive throughout the project. She agreed to check out the design and eventually I sent her my prototype to test.

Around the time that I contacted Mirabai, I decided that my prototype design was rather naked; too naked to send to someone else. So I designed some more plastic parts to cover the prototype's bare bottom and top. Those covers weren't very professional, so I designed a clamshell case that neatly encloses all of the electronics.

Designing an open source project like this, ordering parts and building a few prototypes are only half of the work. I spent more time cleaning up the files and directories, writing documents and getting everything set up for distribution on Github and SeeedStudio. Hopefully the project will be well received.

The Stenokey project can be accessed via this URL:

Circuit boards can be purchased (minimum order 5) from Seeed Studio via this URL:

In the next post, I'll tell you what I think of the Stenokey, after using it for several weeks and passing it around among a number of both pro and amateur stenographers! Plus: Plans for getting Stenokey kits into the Plover Store!