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Plover Quickstart Guide

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Plover Quickstart Guide


Steno is a phonetic-mnemonic text entry system that uses a lexicon called a "steno dictionary" to translate input from a chording keyboard (which allows between 1 and 23 keys to be pressed simultaneously) into English words and phrases. Each stenographer uses their own customized dictionary, consisting of an upper and lowercase alphabet, phonetic mappings of common English words, and "arbitrary" definitions (also called "brief forms"), which don't correspond directly to phonetic mappings, but which are memorable enough for the stenographer to be able to recall them when they want to write a particular word or phrase. Included in these arbitrary definitions are special entries such as punctuation, OS command strokes, and metacommands controlling spacing and capitalization.

Basic Principles

  • As soon as a key is pressed, the steno machine starts collecting keys into a chord. As soon as all keys on the keyboard are released, the steno machine sends out that entire chord as a stroke. So if you keep at least one key pressed while pressing and releasing other keys, the stroke (consisting of all keys pressed during the interval) won't be sent until the final key is released.
  • The steno machine has no spacebar. Plover keeps a 10-stroke buffer of all strokes you enter and matches the longest possible stroke combination in the dictionary. After each translation it inserts a space by default, though this can be changed using metacommands. If it sends a translation and then the next stroke matches a longer translation, it sends delete tokens corresponding to the amount of characters it needs to get rid of, then redraws the new translation. (See this comparison table between QWERTY and Steno for other differences)

For example:

KAPB is translated "can". Adding TKA to form longest match KAPB/TKA deletes "can" and retranslates to "Canada".

  • Upper and lower S- (left hand S) are identical to each other. Upper and lower * (asterisk) are identical to each other. You can press one or both, but the keystroke will only be registered once. These are the only keys that work this way. S- should not be confused with -S (right hand S).

Written Steno

  • Steno keys are written in capital letters, always in the same order: STKPWHRAO*EUFRPBLGTSDZ. A single stroke can contain any number of keys within that sequence.
  • A hyphen in a stroke represents the imaginary center point of the keyboard and is used to distinguish between letters that appear on both the left and right sides. For example, R- signifies left hand R, while -R signifies right hand R. When vowels or the asterisk appear in the word, they represent the center point instead, so the hyphen isn't needed. For example, STR- (written entirely with the left hand) is the brief for "center", while ST-R (the S and T written with the left hand but the R written with the right hand) is the brief for "sister".
  • A slash is used to delineate separate steno strokes within a single definition.

Newbie Kludges

  • Spelling out words letter by letter is more cumbersome in steno than on a qwerty keyboard, but it's mostly used as a stopgap measure to compensate for words that either aren't in the dictionary or which the stenographer doesn't remember how to write. Beginners might find it useful to be able to spell out non-phonetic words, which they'll gradually replace with more efficient single-stroke chords as they become more familiar with steno theory and the contents of the dictionary.
  • Lowercase alphabet is written with the "left hand alphabet" (see steno alphabet chart) plus the asterisk key.
  • Uppercase alphabet is written the same way as lowercase, plus the right-hand P.
  • Alphabet strokes and numbers will stick to each other, but if they're next to a non-alphabet stroke or number, the default space will be inserted as usual.

Useful command and punctuation strokes. Keep in mind that any definition in the dictionary can be redefined by the stenographer at will. These are the defaults in the dictionary that comes with Plover.

See more at the Plover Cheat Sheet

. - FPLT or TP-PL
? - STPH or H-F
: - KHR-PB
/ - OEU
= - KWA*LS
$ - TK-PL
[asterisk] - STA*R
~ - T*LD
- - H-PB
-- - TK-RB
[backspace] - PW-FP
[tab] - TA*B
[enter] - R-R
[up arrow] - STPH-P
[down arrow] - STPH-G
[left arrow] - STPH-R
[right arrow] - STPH-B
[insert space] - S-P
[delete default space before next word] - TK-LS