Monday, May 16, 2022

Steno Jig Enhancements

The inimitable Josh Grams, creator of Steno Jig, pointed me to a cool fork of his project by new Plover user BiffBish.

It features:

A WPM graph after you finish a drill, the ability to turn off the timer (some people find it distracting), and the option to have hints only when you misstroke.

I love when people iterate on an already excellent thing. Looking forward to seeing what comes next!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Jarren Learns Steno Part 2

Jarren has released the second video in his steno learning series, and he seems to be getting the hang of it! I particularly enjoyed the part where he tried to draw a picture of the steno keyboard layout from memory.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Please enjoy this fabulous guest post by Open Steno community member Calvin on a recent video on steno that's been making the rounds!


Hello everybody!

Recently Half as Interesting put out a YouTube video about stenography:

The video is a little tongue in cheek, but overall gives a pretty solid overview of the very basics of how machine stenography works. If the video awakened your inner speed demon and you'd like to know more about steno, then I think you have come to the right place! Plover is a piece of open-source software that translates stenographic strokes into text in real time. With Plover, you can learn and write steno with a cheap keyboard, an inexpensive hobbyist machine, or even use traditional professional hardware.

* What is Plover and Stenography?

Plover is a program that can temporarily make your keyboard act like a stenographer's machine! Instead of typing individual characters by pressing keys one at a time, you'll write by pressing multiple keys down at once, forming a "chord". (Like on a piano!) Once you lift your fingers, Plover pulls from a "dictionary file" in which you store steno strokes and their respective translations. Plover translates this "stroke" instantly to output whatever word or phrase corresponds to the keys you pressed. The keys in steno are set up in a certain order:

a layout schematic of the steno keyboard

And if you're using a QWERTY keyboard with Plover, the steno layout will map to your keyboard like this:

a layout of the steno keyboard mapped to the keys of the qwerty layout

The idea is roughly that the left hand side of the keyboard forms consonants, the bottom middle forms vowels, and the right hand side also forms consonants. When steno is at its most basic and phonetic, reading a chord from left to right yields a syllable for the word you're trying to write. A simple example might be pressing the "KAT" keys all at once to write the word "cat". Some words may take multiple strokes to write (one for each syllable), but common words and phrases often have one-stroke "briefs", which are just faster ways of writing complex words. These briefs can be arbitrary, and you can make your own, but there's usually some mnemonic behind them! For instance, I might simply press the "S" and "G" keys to write "something".

You'll also notice that there isn't a key for every sound. That's okay, though! We get around that by combining multiple keys to form all of the different sounds. For instance, pressing the "TK" keys on the left forms a "D" sound, so pressing "TKAD" would write "dad". This might seem like a lot to memorize, but I think you get used to it pretty quickly! There's even some nice charts that give you a quick overview of what these combinations are.

If all this is interesting to you, here are some other videos to give you an introduction to steno and Plover:
* What can I use stenography for?

Anything! Plover pretends to be a keyboard, so it can send any combinations of key presses to programs on your computer based on the chords you press. Plover has a dictionary that defines what keyboard presses a sequence of strokes corresponds to, and you can customize your entries to send any keyboard shortcuts and words you want. You can kind of think of it as a souped-up system for keyboard macros.

* Is this worth learning?

It can take a while to learn, but the basics are easy. Really high speeds take more time to achieve. But I think if this has at all piqued your interest, it’s worth a try. Learning steno can be a lot of fun, and depending on how fast you type and how much you practice, you might surpass your old typing speed within a few months. Based on a previous community survey, 62% of Plover users surpass their QWERTY speed within a year, and a third of users surpass their QWERTY speed within three months. Beyond the potential speed benefits, steno is also a pretty comfortable and ergonomic way to write. It’s also intrinsically satisfying. If you like to solve puzzles, for example, finding the most efficient way to write a long word or useful phrase may appeal to you.

* Do I need special hardware to get started?

You technically do not need any hardware to get started, but I recommend having at least an NKRO (N-key rollover) keyboard. A popular cheap option would be the K552 Redragon. Most keyboards can only detect a limited number of keys being held down at once due to hardware limitations, but NKRO keyboards can detect any number of keys being pressed at once -- which is important for stenography because you hold multiple keys to make a chord. You can still start learning without an NKRO keyboard, though. Don’t let it deter you, but you'll probably want to upgrade eventually.

If you don't have an NKRO keyboard, some people just kind of roll through the keys in a chord so that they don't press all of the keys at once. This is called "arpeggiating." Plover also has a mode that makes this a little easier. You can find out more about NKRO here.

* How can you get started?

I'd recommend reading through the Art of Chording and/or Learn Plover. Both of these books will give you a good start to the theory of how stenography works, and both books include some exercises to help you get a feel for it along the way.

Beyond that, there are a few practice resources that you might find helpful:
I'd probably start with the steno specific ones like Typey Type or Steno Jig!

* Special Hardware?

If you're thinking about getting more serious after learning a bit of steno, quite a few people make hobbyist machines that will be more ergonomic for steno. There's a list of some of these machines here. These machines not only have a more appropriate form factor, but they often have keys that are easier to press, which can be really helpful when you have to push down 10 keys at once :).

* Where can we find you?

A lot of Plover users hang out in the Plover Discord. We're generally a friendly bunch.

* Anything I should know about the HAI video?

Not much! Overall it's a pretty good overview, but steno is a big topic and you can only explain so much in 5 minutes. I think it's important to mention that stenographers don't just do court reporting. Some stenographers provide captions for live events in real time. Beyond that, I think it's worth addressing the cheeky joke at the end about replacing court reporters with audio recordings. It's a common thought, but in practice, court requires a clean transcript for judicial review or appeals. Experienced court reporters even provide "realtime", meaning their steno translations display for someone in the room to follow along with -- a bit like captioning. Court reporters serve an important role in ensuring the accuracy and integrity of these transcripts. It'd actually be pretty hard to monitor an audio recording of a session in court to make sure it's intelligible in real time, and it would be inefficient to write up a transcript after the fact with an offline recording.

Monday, April 25, 2022

StenoCycle Prototype Video

This video of a new steno learning game has been out for a few months already, but I wanted to link it here, because I think it's the start of something pretty cool. Longtime Open Steno legend Joshua of StenoJig fame is developing it. It's got some Frogger vibes, some Excitebike vibes, and some steno-specific game mechanics all its own. I can't wait to see how it grows and changes! I think it's got real potential.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Amazing Longform Steno Coding Demo

This incredible two-hour video of longtime Ploverer Paul using steno to code in Rails came out in February, but somehow I hadn't posted it here yet. It really is a tour de force. If you've ever wondered whether or how steno can be a viable code input method, just watch it! Absolutely magnificent stuff.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Another Great Uni Newbie Video

I really will write my review at some point, but to be honest, I think these videos of people new to steno trying it out are probably a lot more helpful to other newbies than my own perspective would be! I absolutely love this video. It goes through the nuts and bolts of setting up the Uni from scratch and then shows the user's realtime experience with a StenoJig lesson. It's so clear and informative! I can't wait to see the next videos in the series!

Monday, April 4, 2022

Uni Tripod Hack

In which Peter from Steno Keyboards discusses Aerick's excellent discovery that a Uni fits into a standard off-the-shelf tripod mount for a phone! Brilliant!

Monday, March 28, 2022

Fun Uni Unboxing Video

I still haven't done my Uni review. Mea culpa! But to tide you over, here's a mechanical keyboard guy trading under the name of KeebNews, with no prior steno experience, talking about his first impressions of the Uni. It really is a lovely little unit, with great package design and an elegant, clean aesthetic. Incidentally, the first batch of Unis is all sold out, but the next batch is available for preorder if you're so inclined.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Switch and Click on Steno

A really fun perspective on steno by Switch and Click, a mechanical keyboard hobbyist. This video was uploaded last November and already has over 440,000 views! A non-steno friend forwarded it to me, and I had a huge grin on my face through the whole thing.

Monday, March 14, 2022

FuzzyTek's Homemade Keyboard

FuzzyTek, a hardware hobbyist from the UK, just designed and built a custom steno keyboard and made a charming explainer video demonstrating the basics of steno (with a little help from Aerick), plus some video of the board in action. It's so neat! Highly recommended.

Monday, March 7, 2022

20 Gram Springs for Uni

Punting the Uni review for another week, sorry, but I wanted to link to the Stenokeyboards Shop and its 20-gram springs, which are newly in stock, complete with a helpful video illustrating how to swap them out with the Uni's stock springs. I was particularly excited when this stretch goal was reached in the campaign, so I'm delighted to see them available, and will almost certainly be ordering a set for myself.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Nolltronics Restock

Review of the newly released Uni by Steno Keyboards is coming soon! But in the mean time, the already (very favorably) reviewed EcoSteno by Nolltronics is gonna be back in stock soon.

Information on ordering the EcoSteno can be found here, along with some updates about the current status of the machine.

I feel so lucky to be living in a world with so many low cost, high quality hobbyist steno machines in it!

Monday, February 21, 2022

New Gutenberg Sentences in Stenojig!

The marvelous Josh writes: "I grabbed a new selection of 400 Project Gutenberg books and extracted nearly 200k shortish sentences (12 words or less) with unrestricted vocabulary: ask for top "0" words on the Gutenberg sentence form to use them."

Go check out the new sentences!

Monday, February 14, 2022

Asterisk Keycaps for Sale

These have been available for quite a while, it turns out, but I only just found out about them: A keytopper with the distinctive Plover steno key and asterisk icon. They're 3D printed by Ewen, a longtime OSP community member, who suggests "Set up a dedicated Steno Key on e.g. a Planck, or just have a cool steno-themed key on your regular keyboard!" They look really nice and would suit a hybrid qwerty/steno rig really well. Great conversation piece, too!

Monday, February 7, 2022

New Open Steno Community Wiki

There's a new Open Steno Wiki on Miraheze, though with the following disclaimer: "This wiki is a work in progress and is not yet ready to replace the GitHub wiki."

The community members who set it up explained that they chose Miraheze for the following reasons:
  • We can easily export the data
  • We can easily import it somewhere else if we decide this isn't the right place (lots of converters to e.g. markdown exist)
  • It's free and open source (no need to fiddle around with hosting when we are experimenting)

Why not a GitHub-backed markdown wiki (not completely ruled out for the future)?
  • PRs can take a while (could be solved by more people with PR approval permission and/or automating approvals)
  • Many people are not familiar with GitHub who would be more familiar with wikis
  • Going through "official open steno" limits the kind of content that is appropriate
  • Would need to decide what technology to use, who would implement it, etc. which would take a while

Why not the existing GitHub wiki?
  • SEO is terrible
  • No easy way to search page contents
  • Attached to the Plover GitHub rather than open steno as a whole

The old Wiki has definitely gotten a bit old and musty, so I'm excited to see this new one spring up, and I'm looking forward to watching it take shape!

Friday, January 28, 2022


As you're probably aware, Wordle is an extremely popular and trendy word game and novel clones keep popping up. Not to let steno be left behind, Plover Discord community member Abby#5422 has created WORD/*L.

A new puzzle every day, you need to enter valid strokes from Plover's dictionary that have 4 or 5 keys in them (because hyphen is included). Then, the app will tell you whether the letter used in the chord is in the solution and whether it's in the right place. The hint keyboard below doesn't differentiate between letters that appear on both sides of the board, so that adds a little challenge.


A lovely game of WORD/*L

I (Ted) will certainly be adding this special version of Wordle to my morning coffee routine. Thank you Abby! Try to solve today's puzzle.