Learning Plover

August 16, 2014 - 2 minute read -
steno typing
Since I last posted, I've taken a good, long look at Plover. Plover is open-source software that lets anyone stenotype. I won't spend a long time talking about what stenography is, as that has been done countless times before.

A great place to get an introduction to steno is at Plover's own homes:

- The Open Steno Project
- Plover blog
- Learn Plover

If you've heard of steno before, or you just read any of those links, you know how powerful it is. You need look no further than the court reporters, transcribing in realtime, faster than any regular typist could hope to.

I've been trying to learn the art since my last post here. At first, learning was very, very slow. There are plenty of conventions, and "intuitive" is not the first nor the last term I'd use to describe them. For example, some sounds (steno is mostly phonetic, so I'll say sounds instead of letters) are made by chording keys. Notable examples: TP maps to F, TPH maps to N, and PH maps to M. All together, while not immediately intuitive, muscle memory kicks in and suddenly the entire system is second nature.

I was doubtful as to whether I'd ever improve, as after learning most of the chords, I was typing sentences at about 5WPM and when I came across longer words, I had to finger spell them. Finger spelling is just a tad painful because every letter takes at least two keys to hit, with the largest being Z. To just type Z takes a total of 6 keys being hit simultaneously. Thank goodness that once you actually start typing properly, the number of keys stops mattering.

There was a point a few weeks ago where suddenly steno started feeling much better to me. Though I'm still pathetically slow compared to my Norman speed, I've noticed how laborious typing on a regular keyboard is! You have to do a lot of work to spell correctly, hit keys in the right order, and fix mistakes with the backspace key. With steno, you mostly have one stroke per word, and the "backspace"-style key undoes the entire stroke. It's much friendlier on the brain to type in chords.

So right now I'm averaging about 40WPM on TypeRacer. Let's see how long it takes me to catch up to my Norman speed.

Oh, also I'm waiting for the Stenosaurus to come out, as the Ergodox has heavy key switches that don't exactly lend themselves to chording.

By the way, I typed out this post with Plover, so obviously it's working :)