Stenomod, an affordable steno machine, reviewed

Warning: this article may be hard to understand if you are:
  • A steno nerd but don't know about mechanical keyboards
  • A mechanical keyboard nerd but don't know about steno
  • Not a nerd
But it's okay! If you have difficulty understanding, comment below and I shall edit the article with the necessary resources to help make things clear. Where possible I've included links to external sites that I think may be helpful in understanding my thoughts.

Today I'm writing to talk about a new steno machine. It's not a Stenograph, or a ProCAT, or an Infinity. In fact, it's not an "anything", it's a homemade writer made by Plover's community member Charley Shattuck. Charley has been making custom steno machines at home for a couple years now, seeking a cheaper solution than what exists on the market. Traditional steno machines have a lot of issues for the casual learner who isn't trying to become a reporter: they are expensive, bulky, need to be powered, and are simply hard to find. The Stenomod is Charley's solution to that problem. It's low cost (relatively), portable, and powered over USB. It's not meant to replace a traditional writer, per se, but rather offer a machine to people who would like to try stenography without taking out a loan. At $200USD, it's shockingly affordable and I'd like to talk about it today after using it for a month, from the perspective of someone who has played with fancy machines.

First look after unboxing!

I started steno on a mechanical keyboard, the ErgoDox, then moved on to a Word Technologies Tréal TR, then an Infinity Ergonomic, and I've played with an older LightSpeed. I've also tried the Stenoboard, another low-cost steno machine. I also refer to the SOFT/HRUF, but unfortunately I don't own one! I'll offer my thoughts on the Stenomod in comparison with the others in a few categories. Since I'm writing about the Stenomod, I will compare it to other machines, but might skip ones that I don't think are relevant for the comparison. I'm looking at: writing, portability, price, aesthetic, customizability, and noise.



The first thing I'm sure many of you will be thinking: does it feel/write like a real steno machine? Well, not really. It's more like a really, really light keyboard than a lever-based steno machine. That's not to say it's a bad thing! It's 35g to actuate a key, which is heavy compared to a lever machine, but it's comparable to the Tréal (technically twice as heavy, but it doesn't feel that way). The nice thing about keys, as opposed to levers, is how easy it is to hit the number bar, as the keys are all the same size. I find that on lever machines the number bar is too far away and too shallow, and sometimes the vowels feel too deep. The Stenomod has uniform travel across all its keys.

The layout is split, meaning that your hands are not absolutely stuck together. I find the split layout much more comfortable than a narrow layout like the Treal and LightSpeed. I've mainly used the Stenomod on the wooden deck, because it's convenient to throw the one piece into my bag and sit it on my lap. Taking the machine off the wood (or cutting the wood in half) would let you spread out your hands even further, similar to an ErgoDox.

I don't find that the Stenomod greatly affects my speed while writing. I can write just as fast on it as I can on my other machines. Contrast this with the Stenoboard, which I find myself to be slower on.

The only thing I would change (or at the very least experiment with) would be to try and move the vowel keys further away from the consonants. Right now they are quite close and it took me a little to get used to it.

The Stenomod fits splendidly on my Macbook Pro 13"



Lever machines are almost never portable, with exception to something like the Luminex, which is relatively portable. My portable machines would be the ErgoDox, Stenoboard, Tréal, LightSpeed, and Stenomod. The ErgoDox and Stenoboard are both split, so traveling with it always carries certain difficulty. The ErgoDox has a lot of extra keys because it's a keyboard, so it's much heavier and space-consuming. The Stenoboard is tiny, yet thick, meaning it also takes up bag space. The Tréal is very nice, but the cable is not removable and I worry about it getting bent. The Tréal is also quite thick compared to the Stenomod, about 3 inches instead of 1 and a half. The other thing I really like about the Stenomod's form factor is how I can rest it on my lap and write as long as it's on the wooden deck. I find it easier to sit casually with the Stenomod than the LightSpeed. It may be because the LightSpeed requires great accuracy whereas the Stenomod has leeway for me to accidentally tap another key without actuating it, or to rest my hands in the home position.

Me squinting into the sun while stenoing on the 'mod in the local arboretum.



The Stenomod's $200 price tag puts it among the cheapest options available. It's similarly priced to the Stenoboard, and is only beaten by the SOFT/HRUF, which is at about half the cost. The "real" machines are out of the question, price-wise. The Tréal is the next cheapest machine, four times as expensive at $800. And from there it gets really crazy, where the Infinity, LightSpeed, Luminex, or any other modern steno machine will easily run you $3,000 or more. I can confidently say that you do not get 15 times the performance out of a real steno machine compared to a home-brew one like the Stenomod.



The Stenomod is raw. It comes on a deck of wood, it has exposed circuit boards, and a nice ribbon cable running between the two halves. It looks a little unfinished, but I'll tell you that it is very noticeable. I get comments all the time from people asking how it works, what it is, more so than I did with my Tréal, which looks like a special keyboard. There's something appealing about the raw exposed technology look of the Stenomod, and it's truly grown on me.

I'm working on making a 3D-printed case for the Stenomod, which I'm sure will change the aesthetic. Mirabai Knight had some concern about bringing the exposed PCB of the Stenomod on the NYC subway due to the city's "see something, say something" campaign. People are more alert there than in Ottawa where I get friendly passersby asking what the heck I'm typing on.



The Stenomod deserves its own category for customizability. You can do a lot to this machine. The deck, the piece of wood that the machine lies on, can be removed and you have a split keyboard. Charley sends two lengths of the ribbon cable with the machine, so you can separate the halves a few feet if you want. The key switches are Gaterons, meaning they have Cherry stems, which you can buy custom key caps for. Right now, I'm experimenting with 3D-printing key caps for it. I could paint the deck, cut it in half, make a custom case, or do anything to make it look how I want. Because the USB cable is removable, I've changed it to a color I like. You could replace the included red and black G20 key caps with another color from Signature Plastics.

Even the firmware is customizable. As part of a separate project, we created a custom firmware for the Stenomod where you can use different chorded modes (think fingerspelling without letting go of the asterisk), or chord repeat (like repeated arrow key movements). In some ways, I feel cheated with my expensive steno machines as I cannot customize them nearly as much as the Stenomod.

This is what comes in the box. A 'mod with short ribbon cable, a USB cable, a foot long ribbon cable, and 8 rubber feet. The feet let my machine sit over the laptop keys without moving or depressing them.



The Stenomod is a keyboard, not a lever-based steno machine, so it is naturally relatively loud. It's like any other mechanical keyboard, like the ErgoDox or the SOFT/HRUF, and can be heard well enough in a quiet room. It doesn't click, unlike the Stenoboard, which sounds like harmonious mouse clicking. Here the Tréal, Infinity, and LightSpeed all win over the 'mod. However, for a normal office where someone might use a normal keyboard, the Stenomod is perfectly adequate. I just wouldn't bring it to court or a very quiet lecture.



Compared with the other offerings that are similarly priced, I'd say the Stenomod is a great choice. The SOFT/HRUF would be my second choice, though I haven't tried one in person. A couple things give me pause for the SOFT/HRUF: the keys are 100% flat, meaning you might lose your place; the switches are slightly heavier than the Stenomod's; and the thumb key placement doesn't look comfortable to me. The Stenoboard, unfortunately, I found unusable for any appreciable length of time or speed because of the low travel.

Of course, the Stenomod is not meant to replace the fancy steno machines that stenographers already have, but one should not ignore it simply because it's not meant to be a court reporting machine. It could be useful for practicing on the go, or as a portable backup machine in a pinch.

Before I received it, I thought the Stenomod would be a fun toy that I could recommend to steno students and hobbyists. However, I find its form factor so convenient that I end up bringing it with me most places. It's quick to setup, easy to throw into my bag, and fun to show off. I would recommend a Stenomod to anyone learning steno who wants a machine to improve on without breaking the bank.

You can buy one from the Stenomod Blogspot website.

As a disclaimer, Charley sent me one of the first Stenomods for free to test out. He didn't request a review; I wrote this because I wanted to share my thoughts on the machine. In return for the free machine, I've been helping out with graphic design as well as the key cap and case models I've been experimenting with.

Pushbullet notifications in Windows 10's Action Center

Pushbullet is a notification service with cross-device support for a range of devices. It uses push notifications to push different content between all your devices. I use it to mirror my notifications from my Android phone to my computer, which lets me open Gmail notifications as well as most message notifications on my phone.
Pushbullet works with Firefox, Chrome, and has a native Windows application. There are solutions for OS X and iPhone users, but I won’t be covering that in this post as I’m talking about Windows 10. Firefox notifications are, unfortunately, quite ugly on Windows 10, where a nice notification tray named “Action Center” now lives.
Luckily there’s an add-on for Firefox that makes all of its notifications go through the Action Center instead of Firefox’s own renderer: Toast notification alerter add-on for Windows 8. Just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?

Steno-writing URLs in browser address bars

A big challenge while using steno and browsing the web is the address bar not cooperating when you type in steno. The scenario typically goes like this:
  • Enter “you” into address bar.
  • Address bar autocompletes to “”
  • Instead of hitting return, you’re already typing “tube”
  • Because “you” was lowercase, Plover attempts to backspace to replace the “you” with “YouTube”, but one of the backspaces is used on removing the autofill, so the output is “yYouTube” and now you have a useless query.


The fix for this is a simple one. In Firefox, in the address bar, go to about:config, then filter for the results and find browser.urlbar.autoFill and set that value to false by double clicking it. Now you can see that you no longer have the problem of the bar autofilling while you are typing words, but you still get suggestions that you can navigate to when you need them.

Internet Explorer

Go to “Internet Options” > “Advanced” > Uncheck “Use inline AutoComplete in the Internet Explorer Address Bar…”


It’s not really possible in Chrome, unfortunately. You can disable search suggestions and activate “prevent inline autocomplete”, but Chrome will always search through and autocomplete your history.

Microsoft Edge

There is no way to disable this behavior in Microsoft Edge at the moment.

Chocolatey Versus Ninite -- A User's Perspective

I’m going to talk about the differences between Ninite and chocolatey, and which I’ve settled on for everyday use. The best way to do so, I think, is to talk about each and what they are good for, then compare them.


I’m a long time user of Ninite, a sublime program that lets you download and install a lot of great software without any risk of toolbars or your homepage getting reset. It’s dead simple: you go to the website, you are presented with a list of great software, you check boxes on the software that you want to install, click download, and the program runs and you are done within minutes.
Ninite has to be my most recommended piece of software because it’s just so simple, and it’s just so useful. I can’t use it for commercial use, so I tell customers at my IT job about it and that they can use it at home. Makes them happy, makes me happy. If you haven’t used Ninite before or didn’t know about it, it’s great for three things for the average user:
  1. Ninite is good for a new computer.
    Ninite is great for when you need to setup a new computer. Browsers, media players, anti-virus and anti-malware, system utilities, and more, without the need to download more than one file yourself.
  2. Ninite is good for updating software.
    Ninite doesn’t just install software, it also updates it. Basically, if you have software that is outdated, Ninite will update it. If something on its list is not installed, it will be installed. If you have something that is already up to date, it will be skipped. I used to run a Ninite install on start up. Kept stuff up to date!
  3. Ninite is good for discovering software.
    Ninite doesn’t have a huge catalogue of items, but the items that it does are good. Ninite will not include malicious software and usually only has useful software. If you are not super knowledgeable about all the cool and hip software out there, well, maybe Ninite is. Look at their site, read through the list of software, and you might find something cool. Plus, it’s easy to install!


Chocolatey is a command-line tool that aims to be the “app-get” or “yum” of Windows. I’d say it’s going pretty well, and now with Windows 10, OneGet comes with chocolatey support through a plugin. Chocolatey isn’t quite on the same level as Ninite, as they are very different programs. Chocolatey has a lot of different features. For one, you install chocolatey. It’s a program and you install it through the command-line. You can use the choco list command to search through chocolatey’s repositories for programs. There are a lot of them. The list is by no means complete — there’s a lot of Windows software out there, but because chocolatey’s repositories are open for contribution, many people add software.
That being said, just because there’s a lot of software, doesn’t mean that there’s a lot of good software on the repositories. The repository maintainers obviously can’t discriminate on what constitutes good software versus bad software, that would be pretty bad. The other thing that comes up is that software is also moderated manually by the chocolatey team, which slows down updates, supposing that the software even gets updated. That’s the other caveat: there are hundreds of software entries in the repository that remain outdated — for many, many months. However, chocolatey is great for a few things:
  1. Chocolatey is good for getting lots of software.
    Chocolatey does have a pretty huge catalogue of software to choose from, and if they don’t have the piece of software that you want, you can always contribute it. If a package is outdated, you can contact the maintainers, or you can try to update it yourself. They have a lot of different options, rarer software and also lots of development tools.
  2. Chocolatey is good for updating software.
    Hey, this is the same point as Ninite! Except updating is very much built into chocolatey. You just use the command cup all and chocolatey magically goes through all your installed software and updates it. You do need to install the software through chocolatey first, but luckily if you have a program installed, you can just install through chocolatey and usually that will work without much issue. Exceptions come from software that is installed in non-standard places, like eclipse or PHP.
  3. Chocolatey is good for uninstalling software.
    Chocolatey has the ability to uninstall software, which quite differentiates it from Ninite. You can list what programs you’ve installed with chocolatey, you can uninstall, and you can update.


In using both programs, I’ve found that each one has their uses. First of all, Ninite has much more appeal to many more people, mainly because of its simple interface. It’s a website, there are pictures, and there’s almost no user interaction. Chocolatey, on the other hand, requires installation through an elevated command prompt. For usability, Ninite wins, easily.
But there’s more to it than usability for people who live in the command prompt anyway. Chocolatey still isn’t ideal. Things get outdated, sometimes the software you want isn’t there, but for a lot of things, it’s pretty great. If you are doing development, you often don’t need the latest version, or you might need a specific version. Chocolatey allows you to install a particular version so long as it’s listed in the previous versions on the chocolatey website.
All that being said, chocolatey really redeems itself when you run cup all -y and it just updates all of the software you installed. For heavy computer users, it’s a great choice and brings one of Linux’s best features a little closer to your home.
Ultimately, your needs will determine what you end up doing. Honest, you might end up using both: Ninite to get started, chocolatey for long term use. If you are used to package managers like the ones in Ubuntu or Debian, then you might be used to outdated software. In that case, enjoy chocolatey and the convenience of not visiting random websites all day. If you just want good software fast, I hope that Ninite serves you well and long.

I love local multiplayer games and I'm not afraid to admit it

Picture a little house in the nineties with three or four little tots all gathered around a CRT television screen. We’re playing together, and that’s all that we’re doing. We’re either taking turns, we’re all playing on the same screen, or we’re having a split screen experience. “No screen peaking!”, a cry heard every few minutes as someone losing starts to blame the theoretical chance of cheating by his fellow gamers. It sounds very close to the modern call against aim bots and hackers. It’s a different culture, though, because back then you felt a little bit jealous and you could jokingly push your friend over to tell them to bugger off. Now, though, it’s just some hacker and you need to kick him or just leave the game. There’s no love for that person, there’s no interaction — they know what they are doing and they know how bad it is. They don’t care. They’re just there to ruin your day. They’re bullies. And frankly, a lot of people on the internet are bullies, and not even because they mean to be. Games now encourage you to be online, to top the leader boards. And if you own a game, you can sink hours and hours into it and become so good that you are unreasonably good compared to any of your friends. And that happens.
Often people will form friends within the games — other people who are very good — and play with them. That’s all right. I’m not here to completely bash online gaming. I am here, though, to say that modern online gaming is not for me. I used to do that. I used to play online games and MMOs and get good and join guilds and all that jazz. However, then I became very busy and started to enjoy being productive in hobbies and learning more than I enjoyed winning games. Then I found that online play in most games was actually an experience that made me disappointed. I not only felt unproductive due to the fact that I was playing video games, but now I also felt as if I wasn’t very good at them because when I went online, I’d get absolutely destroyed by people who were amazing.
All right, all right, I know that I can set up online matches with other unexperienced players in my Steam friends list or try a ranking system. And I do that. I really loved my time playing “Divinity: Original Sin”. I played through with a friend, but playing so far away from each other still feels wrong. Maybe it’s because I had the experience as a child and I’m just a nostalgia chaser, but I think that there’s something more to it. I think that there is a sense of community and intimacy when playing locally that doesn’t exist when you are playing online. There’s something to be said for not needing to wear a headset — to not need to leave the PC AFK while you go make a coffee. To be able to take a break, go for a walk, or any sort of activity. When playing Divinity, we actually did meet up and play on LAN, simply because it’s a better experience. I’m not sure that people realize that they are missing out.
Now, I’m going to say it once more before I continue my thought process: I’m not against online gaming nowadays. It’s all right. CS:GO needs a hardcore crowd. It’s not fun otherwise. MMOs will always be about grinding and wasting time. Dota does work better as a purely online game and its ranking system is great. There’s no shortage of examples of perfectly fine online experiences, however, there are many more examples of online games than local multiplayer games on the PC and even the current generation consoles. I think this is because the value of local multiplayer is not enough well known. To summarize: I’m not against online gaming, but I’m much more in favor of local multiplayer, especially for more casual gameplay.
Let’s talk about local multiplayer. It was very popular before networking existed in consoles, which makes good sense. Think back to NES through PS2 and GameCube, all the way up to when it changed with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Now the consoles started to emulate the way that PCs worked, where networking was not only an option, but practically integral to owning and using your system. There’s free online content, there’s an indie market with cool affordable games, and all your friends are accessible from a convenient friends list. The Wii of the same generation wasn’t quite there with the networking, especially because of those weird friend codes and lack of dedicated servers provided by Nintendo. In any case, it marked a new generation of games, and it became more and more common for developers to prioritize network play over local play. Local play increases load on the system, because may have to render multiple viewpoints, have a larger area in memory, and your interface becomes divided so it may be a design difficulty. Since this generation, the number of local multiplayer games has only decreased on consoles, as network play is more and more ubiquitous and local play is rare and novelty.
And what about PC? Not even an option. For a long time, any mention of local play on PC was just met with “how can two people use the same keyboard?” Furthermore, PCs have been on the network and the Internet at large for much longer than any console can claim. Quake is a great example of how the PC gaming community has been for a long time. Lots of servers, lots of customization, lots of mods, and lots of controls that you can do anything with. I would not criticize the PC of yesterday for not having multiplayer — it just didn’t make sense at the time.
That time has passed, though. Now we’re now, and guess what? Controllers are everywhere. They work on… everything. The Xbox 360’s controllers worked on Windows PCs early on and received huge adoption from developers, big and small. Steam introduced Big Picture and started to cater to users that are sitting on their couch. PCs are becoming a potential console replacement, for real this time. I know that many will argue that you only need a keyboard and mouse, but I want to relax. I want to sit on the couch and chill back and play games one can on a console. There’s no reason that I computer can’t do that! It’s powerful enough, it has enough games, and you can hook it up to a big enough “monitor” (television). So yes, for some games a keyboard and mouse is great, but for others, a controller is best. I want the option to use both with my machine.
Despite controllers being everywhere and the hardware being powerful enough and Steam Big Picture mode existing, for some reason developers are still holding back split screen when they make a PC version of a game. Why? What’s wrong with you? If you are porting over all the other code, it can’t be that hard to port over the rest of it for multiplayer. They seem to think that all PC players are the same and they miss out on the most potentially powerful platform. It maddens me every time another game is announced where only the console version has local multiplayer. It often makes no sense. Think “Diablo 3”, or more recently “Star Wars: Battlefront” which was announced with splitscreen on console, but not on PC. How stupid. How tired. It’s such an omission that neglects the technology at hand, and I’m very done with it. I wish I could boycott this kind of behavior, but I don’t know how our than to buy every local multiplayer game that I can. It’s just so annoying that if I wanted that experience, I would likely need to downgrade my system power to one of the current generation consoles instead of my plenty powerful gaming PC, which I’m sure will get higher frame rates with longer draw distances than the console counterparts.
Complaining about the lack of local multiplayer games is only half the battle, though. The other side is rewarding the good local multiplayer and local co-op games out there. Because there are a lot of them, especially in the indie scene. One of the reasons that I’m writing this now is because of how much fun I’ve had playing Rocket League in the past couple weeks. Rocket League is not a tiny indie game with 2D pixel graphics, it’s by a big company that has worked on lots of high profile games, and I think that it’s a perfect example of what the gaming scene has to work towards. Rocket League mixes a good deal of local and online play in a perfectly satisfying way. Released on PlayStation 4 and PC at the same time, the game has dedicated servers with cross-platform play, and up to four person split screen on both platforms. Wow! That’s amazing — the experience is seamless. I can team up with my friends on the couch and get real challenges from online players, or we can just train locally with or against each other. The whole implementation is excellent, and it makes the contrast between Rocket League and other large popular games even more clear.
Other games on Steam that are excellent for local play include (in alphabetical order):
  • Awesomenauts
  • Contagion
  • Crawl
  • Crypt of the NecroDancer
  • Distance
  • Duck Game
  • Dungeon Defenders
  • Fight the Dragon
  • Gang Beasts
  • Gauntlet
  • Goat Simulator
  • Hero Siege
  • ibb & obb
  • Left 4 Dead 2 (unofficial mod support)
  • Legend of Dungeon
  • LEGO franchise games
  • Lethal League
  • Magicka and Magicka 2
  • Megabyte Punch
  • Mercenary Kings
  • Portal 2
  • Project Zomboid
  • Rayman Legends and Origins
  • Risk of Rain
  • Road Redemption
  • Rocket League
  • Screencheat
  • Skullgirls
  • Son of Nor
  • Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
  • SpeedRunners
  • Spelunky
  • Thief Town
  • TowerFall Ascension
  • Trine Series
  • Warlocks vs Shadows
I’ve bought these and many more local games. Some are serious, many silly. Some cooperative, some competitive, some both. These ones are all pretty good, though they cover a wide range of genres, so you might want to check reviews before buying any of them.
I’m really hopeful for the future of local-play games. Steam OS is going to hopefully level the interfaces of consoles and PCs for most large games, and it’s likely that PC is always going to have a slightly larger indie market than the consoles (if anything, I imagine that the most the consoles could ever have would be equivalent.) I’m excited for the games, I’m excited for the technology (what sort of local play will VR games bring?) The world is going to get better for people who want to play with other people, and not just with the Internet. See you on the couch!

Ideas for a Steno Version of Scrabble

I’ve had this idea that I’m sure someone else has had before — steno scrabble.
Very simple — you play a standard dictionary, such as the Plover dictionary, and you play with raw steno as your scrabble pieces. Then, you score points according to their letter value in Scrabble.
Taken from “”:
  • A is worth 1
  • B is worth 3
  • C is worth 3
  • D is worth 2
  • E is worth 1
  • F is worth 4
  • G is worth 2
  • H is worth 4
  • I is worth 1
  • J is worth 8
  • K is worth 5
  • L is worth 1
  • M is worth 3
  • N is worth 1
  • O is worth 1
  • P is worth 3
  • Q is worth 10
  • R is worth 1
  • S is worth 1
  • T is worth 1
  • U is worth 1
  • V is worth 4
  • W is worth 4
  • X is worth 8
  • Y is worth 4
  • Z is worth 10
So if a player plays PHRAR, they get particular as a word, which is worth 3 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 3 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 13 points. Another player might play an “L” off that, and get particularly which is worth 18 points. I’m thinking that there should be no distinction between letters on both sides, and I’m not too sure how you would handle double or triple letter scores, because you don’t have the same concept of “letters”.
I’ve yet to determine the number of each letter in the game, or what you would get for spelling SKRABL, but there’s potential, is there not? This would be a fun game to show off your default dictionary knowledge and also as a learning tool for theory. Not to mention an awesome game to play because onlookers would be completely confused! Just wait until someone scores STPRAPBLG…
STKPWHRAOEUFRPBLGTSDZ...*? Eliminating doubles, you end up with blocks of STKPWHRAOEUFBLGDZ*. I guess you could use the asterisk at any point in the word. Like you could turn continue into Tennessee by adding an asterisk to the end of TPB. You could also play with the steno order… You could use TPR as from or for, and it would only become official once someone adds a vowel or other distinguishing letter. You score the highest of the ambiguous options.
Of course, you would only be able to score single stroke words, but I think that that’s fine, because fitting double strokes on the board could be very difficult, and the / key would be hard to use. That being said, maybe blanks could double as / for exceptional cases.
Well, this game’s not going to develop itself, what do you guys think?

Getting Faster

Things are going well in the Plover world for me, even though it has been about 6 months since my last update in November. My speed has improved drastically, after a long stall. What had happened was that, as I was typing in TypeRacer, I got too much into the habit of simply drilling a single quote to gain speed, and as such, I really sucked when I came across the word that I didn’t know, and I’d get stuck on it.
The problem with getting stuck on a word is that in any real case where I actually need to type, I probably don’t have thirty seconds to try out different strokes for a word and then give up and finger spell it. What ended up happening was the fault of my co-workers: they wanted to play TypeRacer with me. And so we did, and so I lost my ability to drill quotes over and over. I got much better at just “dealing” with the more difficult quotes. And, consequently, it made it seem like my speed had stagnated, at around sixty or eighty words per minute. It wasn’t great, but I still had faith in Plover and stenography, simply because that pie in the sky of 200 words per minute is still there.
When I came back to school this summer and no longer had co-workers, I started to drill again. I also took the time to practice on, a site that affords the user many different types of drills. Using that site, I was able to learn many multi-word combinations, such as “such as”, “you should”, “all of a sudden”, “as far as”, and many more. These common phrases are very usable in everyday typing, and they take away one of the (“one of the” is a single stroke) slowest parts of typing: having to make multiple strokes. So I went back to TypeRacer to drill out quotes. This time, because I was so used to dealing with all these random quotes, my speed vastly improved. I was now typing some quotes at 120 words per minute, and I was doing so consistently, which a big deal to me.
Now, it was becoming the case where typing in steno was actually preferable to just typing in Norman. I was working on an assignment, and I got tired of stenoing because I found that moving around a document with Plover to be a difficult task. However, after about ten minutes of typing in Norman, my fingers hurt, and they hurt significantly! I went back to stenography, and while the speed for me is not particularly faster than normal typing, its comfort is unmatched. At my speed, my fingers are only going down about one or two times a second, and I don’t make silly typo’s nearly as much, and I don’t need to think about spelling. It’s a sublime way to type, very surreal after typing a normal keyboard for my entire life. I understand why Mirabai Knight decided to bring this technology to the open-source community, and I’m ever thankful.
The next real challenge for me is figuring out how to code with steno. I am better now at navigating documents, mainly by remapping the arrow keys in Plover from a “WADS” layout to a “WASD” layout like I’m used to, and adding shortcuts for “page up”, “page down”, “home”, and “end”. I also added briefs to handle Markdown syntax, such as opening and closing emphasis asterisks.
The main problem I’m facing now is that stenoing is so addictive that I’m running out of things and places to type! I have been overwhelming my friends in IM, writing rants on Facebook, and talking way too long in all my emails. I guess this is the life of a stenographer, being able to type so fast means that you don’t leave anything out!