on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)

By G.D. Warner

Crimson and Plover Mr. Ploverman

The Quest for Free Steno Software


Have you heard?

Yes, that's right ... there's some new steno software in town.

Even better, it not only runs on Windows, but also Linux and the Mac ...!

"How much?"

What's that? "How much," did you say?

How about free?


Hmmm! You appear to have fainted! Sorry about that!

Well. In this article, I will tell you what Plover is, where to get it, and how to make it do cool stuff for you.

Did I mention that whole "It's Free!!" thing?



Plover on Mac:  Running

Plover on Mac: Running

But First . . .

... Let me explain that funky title I have up there.

If you have been around long enough, you've probably heard the song, "Crimson and Clover," right? I mean, "Clover," "Plover," it looks like they'd rhyme, right?

Well, not so much.

Turns out 'Plover' rhymes with 'lover' ... so the only way to keep that great title up the was to cheat and strike it out, and substitute the "Mr. Loverman" reference in there.

So, to sum up, "Plover" rhymes with "lover." Got it? Good! :o)

Also, when you see a crocodile on TV, have you ever noticed those little birds that land in their mouths? That's a Plover.

risk assessment

Crocodile Risk Assessment

Interestingly enough, if you look closely at the outstretched wing of the Plover mascot, you might notice something ... interesting.

Plover Mascot

Plover Mascot

Hint: Think steno.

Downloading and Installation

Yes, that's right; before you can do anything with Plover, you have to download and install it ... and you can do that right here:


This page will automatically select the appropriate tab depending on which operating system you're running on your computer. For instance, when I go to the aforementioned site on my Mac, this is what I see:

Plover Download: Mac

Plover Download: Mac

This is what the Windows page looks like:

Plover Download:  Windows

Plover Download: Windows

... and here's what the Linux tab looks like:

Plover Download:  Linux

Plover Download: Linux

Not to be all controversial here, but take a look at this one:

Win/Mac Cars

Win/Mac Cars

With that in mind, here's the Mac installer and the voluminous instructions that go with it:

Mac Plover Installation

Mac Plover Installation

What you are seeing in that picture is an opened "disk image," which has the Plover application and a shortcut to the Mac's application folder ... and to install Plover, all you'd have to do would be to drag that red P to that shortcut to the Mac's Applications folder, which would then copy the program to the actual folder on the hard drive.

Don't forget to unmount the disk image and delete the Plover.dmg file in your Downloads folder ...!

As you can see in the picture of the Windows installer a couple pictures back, installation of the Windows version is similar to the Mac's installation, except you have to move Plover from your Downloads folder to the C:/Windows/Programs folder yourself, as opposed to dragging it to a ready-made shortcut.

One drawback to this method of installing Plover for me when I installed it under Windows 7 is it didn't show up when I clicked the Start button and looked in the "All Programs" folder. I then had to search for it using the little search box in the Start menu, but it took a few modifications of the search term before the program showed up in the search window (I just searched for "Plover" vice "Plover.exe", which is why I kept getting all of these image files in the search results from all of the screenshots I had taken) ... nor did it seem to like the fact that I moved Plover into the Programs folder.

To get around that problem, once I found Plover where I'd moved it after installation, I used the old "right-click-and-drag" trick I talked about in "Got Fear?" and put a shortcut on the desktop.

Then I remembered the taskbar and deleted the shortcut on the desktop and put a shortcut in the taskbar instead (when running, right-click Plover in the taskbar and select "Pin to Taskbar").

Not to worry, though; I'm sure there's a Windows installer in the works.

I think.

Linux Installation

Chances are good that if you're running Linux, you already know enough to install Plover from the instructions on the Download page, so feel free to scroll down a bit! :o)

Sometime back, I bought myself what I like to call a "Stunt Mac," which is basically an older MacBook Pro that I plan to use for the rewrite of "Sex and Power III" ... and in order to do that, I plan to test all of the methods one can use to run Windows on their Mac; hence the need for a "Stunt Mac."

To that end, I used the Stunt Mac and installed VirtualBox ... and in that install of VirtualBox, I installed Super OS.

On a side note, I wanted to link you directly to the site of the man behind Super OS, one Joaquim Salvador, but unfortunately, his website is now down, and no one has heard from him for at least a year now (there were some complaints of health issues in his last blog entry a couple years back); fortunately, the "SuperOS" link up there will allow you to download a DVD disk image (.iso) that you can use to make your own (bootable!) Super OS DVD ... but I digress.

It took a while (did you see those instructions?!?), but I finally got it installed and running:

Plover on Super OS

Plover on Super OS

Like that desktop picture? So do I! Unfortunately, I neglected to save that picture before deleting the SuperOS installation ... but thanks to Google's Image Search, I was able to find it ... and you can get it here:


Okay, confession time: I am not a Linux guru.

Yes, I did take a class a few years back, but I'm no guru. This basically means that in Linux, I know enough to shoot myself in the foot ... but I'm not the one to ask questions about what to do when things go wrong.

In other words, I can get by.


All that to say, I had to have the instructions open while I was installing Plover on my Super OS-running Stunt Mac:

Ubuntu Install

Ubuntu Install on my Stunt Mac

Yeah, sure, I could have just copied and pasted the commands into the terminal, but I decided to just type them in. Thankfully, the font used on the web page was pretty readable!

Once I got Plover installed, I then had to install the driver for my (really, *really*) cheap USB-Serial adapter (it only cost eight bucks!), which came with a CD that was the size of a Eisenhower silver dollar, which would screw up my Mac's "SuperDrive" really badly if I were stupid enough to put it in there.

Fortunately, I didn't do that.

What I ended up having to do was to find out how to install a universal driver for the adapter; Google to the rescue!

Plover USB-Serial Adapter Installation

Plover USB-Serial Adapter Installation

I guess it's probably hard to see, but what you should be seeing is the Terminal app running on top of the instructions I found that showed me how to install the driver.

Eventually, I got it all installed ... but for some reason, I couldn't find the program, so I had to search for it:

Ubuntu Plover Installed

... and it worked!

After a good stiff double-click, that is.

... and now, to test it!

It's Alive! Mu-hu-hu-ha-ha-ha!!

"It's Alive! Mu-hu-hu-ha-ha-ha!!"

And here's the confirmation/test from my Windows 7 install a month or so later:

Win Plover: Alive!

Windows Plover: "It's A -- Mu-hu-hu-ha-ha-ha!!"

I'm (fairly) sure you're wondering where the Mac confirmation picture is ... and if you are, well, I'm writing this article using Plover!

Mac Plover in Action

Mac Plover in Action


(*ahem!*) Excuse me.

Writer Setup

Now that you have installed Plover, the next thing you want to do would be to tell it which writer you have, and where to listen for it, COM port-wise. To do that, you'll need to get to the Configuration window, and you do that by clicking the "Configure" button on the Plover program window:

Plover on Mac:  Running

Plover on Mac: Running

When you do that, you should see something like this:

Windows Plover Configure

Windows Plover Configure

Note the checked box there on the left, near "Automatically Start."

If you have that box checked, you can just start writing when you start Plover! If you don't have that box checked, you'll have to start Plover manually by clicking the P icon on the running program.

I don't recall having done this on my Mac, but while I was testing the Windows install, it soon became apparent that that checkbox needed to be checked!

Do you see the "extra" configure button to the right of the window? Hope so, because you're going to have to click the button to the left of it. That's where you should see a list of the writers supported in Plover:

Windows Plover Steno Machine Select List

Windows Plover Steno Machine Select List

... and you can find a more up-to-date list here.

If you don't have one of the writers listed, use the "TX Bolt" option. For my fellow ProCAT Flash users, you'll have to adjust your writer to emulate the Baron Transcriptor X protocol. Same thing for you folks using a ProCAT Stylus ... and (most likely) the ProCAT Impression.

Not to worry; there's a plan underway to add the Flash protocol to Plover, so check this list every time you upgrade your copy of Plover!

Once you've told Plover about your writer, you'll also have to tell it where to listen for your writer, and you can do that by clicking the aforementioned configure button (yes, the one to the right of where you selected your writer). That should give you a window similar to this one:

Plover Serial Ports

Plover Serial Ports (Mac version)

Here's my Windows Plover install's list of serial ports:

Windows Plover:  COM Ports

Windows Plover: COM Ports

Note that I did not change anything in this window, beyond selecting the only available COM port ... right after I installed the driver for one of my USB-Serial adapters.

Now, then ... let's talk dictionaries.


Plover actually comes with a built-in dictionary, so those of you who are planning on learning steno without having learned another theory, you can skip this part.

Well, maybe just skim it.

For those of you who did learn another theory, you've got some work to do, if you haven't done so already.

Yes, that's right ... you're going to need to export your dictionary (or dictionaries) from your CAT of choice in .rtf format.

If you've read my article, "Got Fear?", then you're probably already familiar with the apfeaeiip principle; if not, then you should know that apfeaeiip is an acronym which stands for "A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place.

What that means -- or should mean -- for you is that you should create a folder inside your My Documents folder and save those .rtf dictionaries in that folder ... and because you're familiar with Murphy's Law (also known in some circles as "The Law of Perversity" (see number 26), you should have another folder on your system with those dictionaries in it, as well as on another computer or at least a flash drive.

Or both.

Once that dictionary has been exported and placed in the appropriate folder that you made earlier, you now have to tell Plover where your dictionaries are ... and you can do that by pressing the main "Configure" button. Doing so will give you a window similar to this one:

Win Plover: Default Dictionary

Windows Default Dictionary

If you look closely at the picture above, you might notice that there's already a dictionary listed; this is Plover's default dictionary. Like I said earlier, if you plan on using whatever theory you learned, you'll have to remove this dictionary ... and to do that, just click that red minus sign there, and the dictionary will not be used anymore.

Once you've done that, click the "Add Dictionary" button, and navigate to where you exported those .rtf dictionaries that you should have made before, and select your theory dictionary. You can add any other dictionaries below that one.

But first ...

... I wanted to talk at you to you a little bit about dictionary management.

Back when I was in theory (Phoenix), Carol Jochim, the woman that wrote Phoenix Theory, used to always recommend that we avoid adding entries into our theory dictionaries, just in case a future update might create a surprise conflict ... which is why I came up with the way I manage my dictionaries, which the curious can read about in "Dictionaries 'r' Us."

Long story short, my theory dictionary doesn't get touched, but my "Glenz_Fast" dictionary is the one that gets all the changes.

All that to say that any dictionary that you want to hold your changes in should go below your theory dictionary.

Some time back, Heskey, the main programmer behind Plover, posted in the Plover Google group an empty dictionary ... and you can find it in this thread (this one's in .json format), or you could download this (zipped) one in .json format, or this one, in .rtf format.

Once you've got everything set up the way you want it, click that big "Save" button, open, say, a Facebook page, find something you want to comment on, fire up your writer, and ... start writing!

Did it work? If so, you know what to do ...

Yes, that's right -- throw your head back and laugh like a mad scientist!! Mu-hu-hu-ha-ha-ha!!

You, as a Mad Scientist

You, as a Mad Scientist

Pretty cool, huh? Feel free to add in a Steve Urkel-esque snort, if you like! I won't tell.

Dictionary Manipulation

The ability to add stuff to Plover's dictionary is a new feature ... and let me tell you, I've been adding stuff to my Plover dictionary from my writer like a ... like a ... like a mad scientist! (*strikes mad scientist pose*) Mu-hu-hu-ha-ha-ha!!

In order to do that, you first have to add three strokes to one of your dictionaries:

(1) A stroke you use in your CAT software to add stuff to your dictionaries;

(2) A stroke that emulates the tab keystroke;

(3) Another stroke that emulates a "return" stroke

For number one, I'm using a modified stroke from digitalCAT's Command Editor for "Quick Dictionary Entry," PHA*EU-BGD ("Make Dictionary;" get it?):

digitalCAT's Quick Dictionary Entry Command

digitalCAT's Quick Dictionary Entry Command

For the tab stroke, I'm using the stroke from the StenoKeys dictionary: TAE-B.

And finally, for the return stroke, I'm using yet another stroke from the StenoKeys dictionary: R-RPB.

Of course, feel free to use whatever works best for you, which is, of course, the way it should be; after all, this is your dictionary, here.

So here's how you add stuff to the dictionary by hand:

First, switch over to Plover.

Now, click the "Configure" button.

Next, click the "Dictionary" tab. This should give you this window:

Windows Plover Dictionary Tab

Windows Plover Dictionary Tab

Hopefully you noticed that my dictionaries are loaded already in the above picture, so your window will be different.

Next, click that "Add Translation" button. When you do, you should see this window:

Add Translation Window

Add Translation Window

Stroke your Add Dictionary entry, then fill in the rest so that it looks like this:

Adding the Make Dictionary entry

Adding the Make Dictionary Entry

This should be more readable:

Steno Outline (PHA*EU-BGD) goes in the first window ... and this goes in the second: {PLOVER:ADD_TRANSLATION}

Okay, now go ahead and add the rest of the three I wrote about earlier:

Steno Outline (TAE-B) goes in the first window ... and this goes in the second: {#Tab}

Steno Outline (R-RPB) goes in the first window ... and this goes in the second: {#Return}

Now for the fun part -- testing your "Make Dictionary" entry!

Switch to another application, then go ahead and hit the stroke you entered to add a new stroke to your dictionary; it may take a couple seconds, but you should see the "Add Dictionary" window appear, at which point you can add some of these:

Steno Translation What it Does
KP*-PB {^ ^}{-|} KP*-PB is cap next with a space.
KP-PB {^^}{-|} KP-PB is cap next without a space.
FPLT {^.}{-|} A period, a space, and a Cap Next.
*E-FBG {#Escape} This is the Esscape key.
STKPWHR {#Return}{#Tab}Q.{^ ^}{-|} The Q. symbol, for a document that's already set up as double-spaced.
FRPBLGTS {#Return}{#Tab}A.{^ ^}{-|} The A. symbol, for a document that's already set up as double-spaced.
STKPWHR-FRPBLGTS {#Return}{#Tab}THE COURT{:}{^ ^}{-|} One for the Court.
PBA*EU-FL {^}{#Return}THE BALIFF{:}{^ ^}{-|} One for the Baliff.
TKPW-FRPBLGTS {#Return}{#Tab}MR. GONE{:}{^ ^}{-|} A generic speaker ID from my last transcription job.


Punctuation outlines have been modified since the document I found them in was created. Hopefully I'll remember and fix those outlines before the next update.

Should you change your mind about adding whatever outline you had planned to add, you'll need a stroke for the "Escape" function. I'm using *E-FBG for mine. If you don't like that one, feel free to come up with one on your own, and add it like so:

Steno Outline (*E-FBG) goes in the first window ... and this goes in the second: {#Escape}

"Hey, What about --"

Now, I'm pretty sure that my fellow court reporting students are really interested in just one thing ... how to make Plover work with their Q&A.


Well, thanks to the efforts of a reporter I found on the Plover Google Group who was kind enough to share her outlines with me, I think I may have found a solution to that particular problem ... so fire up your copy of Plover, then copy one of these:

{#Return}{#Tab}Q.{^ ^}{-|}

{#Return}{#Tab}A.{^ ^}{-|}

Once you've done that, hit your "Make Dictionary" stroke, hit the appropriate steno stroke, then tab over to the other field, and paste what I had you copy into it.

"Dagnab it! The window closed when I tried to add the steno!"

Yes, that's one thing I forgot to mention! If that happens to you, the fix is (relatively) easy: either add or leave off one of the keys in your steno outline.

That should keep the window from vanishing on you.

At this point, you should go ahead and replace any missing notes from your steno outline, then tab over to the other field, and paste that stuff I had you copy into it, then stroke your "enter" stroke ... and test it.

Note: These definitions were made assuming that you are writing into a document that's double-spaced.

It should go without saying that you should do the same thing with the other definition, so I won't tell you to go ahead and copy that second definition and repeat the above instructions so you can have the Answer bank working as well.

You're welcome.

"Hey, what about --"

Speaker IDs?

"Yeah! And bylines!"

Good question! Just copy the appropriate outline below:

{#Return}{#Tab}Q{.}{#Tab}BY MR. MARTIN{:}{^ ^}{-|}

{#Return}{#Tab}MR{.}MARTIN{:}{^ ^}{-|}

... and repeat the previous instructions.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should modify those definitions for your own speakers, so I won't say it.

... and again, you're welcome!

(To be continued ...)