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Plover is the world’s first free, open-source stenography program. It is available on Windows, Mac and Linux. Real-time machine stenography is a code translation system that lets users enter words and syllables by pressing multiple keys simultaneously in a chord, which is then instantly translated into English text. This makes steno the fastest and most accurate text entry method currently available. In the first semester of steno school, nearly all students learn to exceed 100 words per minute. By comparison, top qwerty typists can do 120 WPM, top Dvorak typists around 140 WPM, and voice writers dictating to voice recognition software around 180 WPM. But experienced stenographers can enter text at up to 300 words per minute (the world record is actually 360, but that’s an outlier). Conceivably, with practice, amateur steno users could reach 160-200 words per minute.

Most likely, you are using a qwerty or dvorak keyboard layout to type everything out character by character. However, Plover—and other steno systems—use keyboard “chords” to type syllables, words, or entire phrases. If you ever practiced piano, it might be helpful to liken them to certain piano pieces common in a pianist’s repertoire. The “typewriter-style” systems (qwerty, dvorak, etc.) are like Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu.

Why was Plover written?

A professional stenographer, forced to buy proprietary (and DRM-riddled) steno software for $4,000 plus an annual $700 upgrade fee after shelling out for a $3,000 steno machine, looked around and saw that most of the people who made their living and their free time putting text up on a screen were crawling along at around 60 words per minute because they were using qwerty instead of steno. She realized that the only way to spread the wonders of high speed efficient text entry to the geeks, hackers, writers, and internet addicts who desperately needed it was to make the software free and the hardware cost less than $60. She found a Python programmer who was also a hardware maven, and they both got down to work. Eleven months later, Plover was ready for prime time.

Why “Plover”?

The short answer is that it’s a two-syllable, six-letter word that can be written in a single stroke on a steno machine. The longer answer is here.

How is Plover different from commercial steno programs?

Well, first off, it’s free. Free to distribute, free to modify. No dongles, no upgrade fees, no constraints. That’s already a $4,000 difference. To the developer’s knowledge, it’s also the only steno software that works on a buffer-based system rather than a timer-based system, and that has direct access to the OS rather than filtering everything into a steno-specific word processor. This means it’s lightweight, powerful, and doesn’t require a 1.5-second wait time between when a stroke is entered and when the translation appears in an external program. In Plover, the translation appears instantly, and the software isn’t cluttered up with file managers, printer handlers, and other court-reporting flimflam that an amateur stenographer will never use. Instead, it’s a direct conduit between the steno keyboard and the OS. Plover, as of version 2.1, can do everything a qwerty keyboard can do – but much, much faster.

One Review

  • user avatar
    My rate:

    I have to say that I am a *HUGE* fan of Plover!

    I am a Mac user, and there is no CAT software available for me and my fellow Mac users without having to run Windows, so when Mirabai told me about Plover, I was very excited — though I have to admit that I was a bit confused about how to use it at first, and I still see questions from new users that also appear to be as confused as I was, so to help those folks out, here’s pretty much what you need to know.

    First, Plover runs in the background; that is, once you add your dictionaries, tell it where to listen for your writer, and verify that it sees your writer, you can pretty much forget it’s there, switch to whatever you want to write something in, and start writing — with your writer, of course.

    Second, you do not have to be online to use Plover. The only time you need to be online would be to download it, or download an update.

    Third, if you are an Eclipse user, then you will have an advantage when it comes to adding translations, because Plover’s dictionary syntax pretty much mirrors that of Ellipse’s dictionary syntax … so if you want your punctuation to stick to the previous word, you have to add something like this:


    Here’s what one of my Q extensions looks like in my Plover dictionary:

    {#Return}{#Tab}Q.{^ ^}What

    While you can add outlines to your Plover dictionary manually, you can also set up a stroke which will open the Add Translation window, within which you can add the appropriate outline and the translation, without having to switch to Plover directly.

    Plover now has “modes,” which basically means you can hit a stroke that will capitalize the first letter of each word, join each word with an underline, remove spaces between words and capitalize each word (that’s called “Camel Case,” which is popular with computer programmers), plus a few others.

    Like regular CAT software, you can see your notes … and recently a feature was added that will allow you to see suggested outlines for words or phrases you have just stroked which you could have stroked in one stroke. For instance, I just had to stroke the word, “admit.” I did that in two strokes … but the Suggestions window showed me that I had an outline that would allow me to stroke that in one stroke: PH*-T.

    Unfortunately, my theory had that as one of the outlines I could use for “Montana,” so when I tried that outline, I actually got “Montana.”

    Needless to say, I deleted that particular outline for “Montana.”

    One of the best things about Plover to me personally — other than that whole “It works on my Mac! !” thing — is that the developers actually listen when I request a feature or report a bug. I’m (fairly) sure that most CAT software companies also listen to their users, but I can actually see what’s going on with whatever I suggest just by going to their Github page:

    Another of those best things is that Plover’s system resource consumption is really low … that is, if you were to bring up whatever program your operating system needs to show you what’s running, you would see that Plover isn’t draining a lot of system memory, nor will it be hogging CPU time.

    Unfortunately, Plover does have a few issues, but those issues are not enough to make me want to stop using it.

    Bottom line, if you don’t have Plover yet, you should remedy that as soon as possible! Once you have it, you should take a look at my “Just The Facts, Ma’am” instructions on how to use it.

    Enjoy …

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