Stenography and Plover

The process of writing shorthand is called stenography. Using a stenotype machine, you can type over 100 or even 200 words per minute. For a real overview, see the Open steno project.

Plover is the world's first free, open-source stenography program, which translates chorded key strokes into meaningful words.

Try steno online.

Interactive Typing Drills

Practice typing using QWERTY or Plover (using your own dictionaries) with interactive drills made from the Learn Plover book:

Plover, Learn! Interactive Drills

Why Learn Stenography?

See also: How to Speak with Your Fingers (Plover Blog).

Stenography for Coders

Stenography is an efficient method for editing text.

See also: Vim and Plover

Stenography for RSI

There are many ergonomic benefits to using stenography to write. Note: the Stenoboard uses keys rather than levers, which may reduce some of the ergonomic benefits of traditional stenotype machines.

Start Learning Stenography

  1. Buy a stenoboard:
    • Set it up
    • Note: Stenosaurus — great, though I'm sure it will be — does not exist yet. My wild, uninformed guess is that it's months or years away.
  2. Download Plover:
  3. Configure Plover.
  4. Important: the * button is, essentially, Backspace.
  5. Start reading Learn Plover:
  6. Overview the reference info available.
  7. After reading Learn Plover, read Learn More Plover.
  8. Make it easy to learn new briefs and look up briefs:
  9. Practice drills (this is my update of Lars's interactive Plover, Learn!).
  10. Practice particularly tricky briefs.
  11. Practice sentences.
  12. Practice more sentences.
  13. Practice paragraphs.
  14. Practice with games.
  15. Explore the practice section of the wiki.
  16. Compete on TypeRacer.
  17. Join the active discussion group on Google Groups.
  18. Ask questions and post about your progress at the Aviary.
  19. Follow Mirabai or Plover, and Ted on Twitter.

Plover Versions

The first full release in 2 years, Plover 3 holds many feature updates and bug fixes. Celebrate! \o/

The last official Plover version was released almost 2 years ago. There have been many excellent forks since then with varying features and support for new features from the main project. Try looking at these:

Dictionary Management

Note: some of the following strokes only work with particular versions of Plover.

Workarounds and Hacks

Dictionaries & Briefs

Forming Briefs

Your purpose in studying stenography will shape how you approach briefs as there are trade-offs to each approach. As a live captioner, accurately recording the speaker's words as well as other sounds may be important. As a writer, recording your thoughts as fast as you can think them may be important. If you have an injury, reducing strokes may be important.

Tips for creating briefs

Understanding briefs

Understanding prefixes

Let’s examine the word “dispense”, stroked TKEUS/PEPBS. As a word starting with “dis-”, you might think to use the prefix stroke: TKEUS/PEPBS instead.

For this reason, in the default Plover dictionary you won’t find many strokes beginning with TKEUZ/. If you wanted to write “disable”, you could use TKEUS/, but these translations are usually included to handle misstrokes, and to avoid the confusion of remembering whether a word should be stroked using TKEUS or TKEUZ.

For the same reason, you’ll find SUB strokes for many words starting with “sub” in the default Plover dictionary. Some of those are misstrokes for the prefix SAUB and subsequent root word, while others are words starting with “sub” that only form sensible words with “sub” included.

So, remember you can form words using prefixes that may not need their own dictionary entries, and not all words starting with common beginnings are actually using prefixes.

Steno Machine Options

Finger Positioning and Posture

Use the finger tips rather than finger pads, with your fingers curled. See also: Key demo for finger placement.

Straighten out free, idle fingers during a stroke. This may help you avoid mashing extra keys accidentally. As a paraphrased example from the Plover Google Group, imagine the word "vicious", which is stroked SREURBS. Flatten and lift your ring finger to avoid pressing -L or -G during the stroke. Watch this video for a demonstration.

QWERTY Keys and Layout

Vim and Plover

Additional Notes on Learn Plover

Learn More Plover

Your First Briefs


History of the #{FLUSH} command

Q: What is the meaning of the FLUSH definition TPHR-RB and THR-RB? Is it a command stroke for Plover?

A: Great question. That stroke is actually a big reason why Plover exists, though fortunately it's not a stroke that we need to implement in Plover, and it can safely be taken out of the Plover dictionary. Basically, all proprietary steno software uses a time-based buffer, which means that the strokes aren't released to the OS until a specified amount of time has passed. You can change the length of this buffer manually, but if you set it any shorter than 1.5 seconds or so, you're at risk of seeing split strokes -- like KAT/HROG being translated as "cat log" instead of "catalogue". So I have to keep my stroke timer set to 1.5 seconds, but because my CART clients don't like having to wait 1.5 seconds to see each stroke displayed, I have to manually flush the buffer by invoking the {FLUSH} definition every time there's the slightest pause in the flow of speech. According to my steno software's dictionary editor, I've used the {FLUSH} stroke about 100,000 times. That's 100,000 wasted keystrokes. It's maddening. One of the biggest advantages Plover has over all the $4,000 software out there is that it uses a length-based buffer rather than a time-based one, so the translations are released to the OS immediately, instead of after an arbitrary delay. It's also the reason Plover can actually interact with the OS in a meaningful way, beyond just text entry. 1.5 seconds may not seem like much, but imagine having to wait 1.5 seconds after delivering any command, from Enter to Backspace to Alt-Tab (most proprietary software can't even send Alt-Tab as a command, but never mind...); it's horrendously frustrating and completely unworkable. The time-based buffer has kept all proprietary steno software subfunctional for decades. Plover's the only steno program I've ever seen that doesn't have this problem. The difference is nothing short of staggering.

Redo with Space. Redo without Space.

  • Type very nearly and get first "very" followed by "venereal"? Happened to me. If you have a stroke defined as {*?} it will delete the stroke, insert a space, and repeat the stroke, so you actually get out "very nearly".
  • Have you tried three times to get "everyone" but you only found three different ways to get "every one"? If you don't want to resort to spelling, a stroke defined as {*!} will just remove the space. It works for any words, so you can turn "folks pizza" into "folkspizza".


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