Supported Hardware

From Plover Wiki

This page lists the machines known to work with Plover. The main 4 choices are:

  1. Dedicated hobbyist machine designed for use with Plover
  2. A stenotype machine
  3. A standard computer keyboard
  4. A video game controller

Dedicated machines designed for use with Plover

Various steno enthusiasts are making and selling machines designed for use with Plover.

Commercially Available Hobbyist Machines

Machines that are or will be available for purchase. As of right now, there are no hobbyist lever machines. Instead, most options opt for keyboard switches, such as Cherry-style (Gateron Clear@35g), Kailh Choc (gChoc at 20g), or Matias (Red at 40g).

Product Name Manufacturer About Price (USD)
Ecosteno
International site
Nolltronics Nolltronics Ecosteno

A machine whose mission is to be the best value option on the market. It has low-profile Kailh Choc switches with 20g actuation force. It features USB-C connectivity and an aluminum backplate with a solid tripod mount.

Stock status (as of June 2024): In stock

$95
Multisteno
International site
Nolltronics Nolltronics Multisteno

The premium version of the Ecosteno, the Multisteno features 42 Kailh Choc (Pro Pink) switches with 20g actuation force, USB-C connectivity, an aluminum backplate, and a solid tripod mount.

Stock status (as of June 2024): In stock

$170
Polyglot StenoKeyboards StenoKeyboards Polyglot

A steno keyboard made for both Steno and Qwerty. More switches enable normal typing in qwerty mode. You can also do things like shift+click in steno mode.

Stock status (as of June 2024): In stock

$125
SOFT/HRUF Splitography Scott Urueta SOFT/HRUF Splitography

Open source hardware. Its keycaps are injection molded and fit on Matias keyboard switches. The name is the steno representation for, and is pronounced as, “soft love”. The SOFT/HRUF uses Matias Red switches (~40g actuation). With third-party springs and removing the switch’s internal leaflet, it is possible to reduce the force required to actuate.

Stock status (as of January 2024): Out of stock (source)

$138
Starboard Stenography Store Starboard

An ergonomic steno keyboard with choc pink keyswitches and can be screwed onto a tripod.

Stock status (as of June 2024): In stock

$90 (+ $10 shipping)
TinyMod Charley Shattuck TinyMod

Open source hardware. A smaller, nonsplit version of the Stenomod that omits the number bar in order to reduce costs and size. The center vowel key is used as a number bar replacement. See Mirabai’s review.

Stock status (as of January 2024): In stock

$140 (stock)
$180 (silent)
The Uni StenoKeyboards The Uni

A split, unibody steno keyboard that comes pre-assembled with Gateron Clears (35g). Embedded steno compatible.

Stock status (as of June 2024): In stock

$100

DIY Machines

Projects to build your own machine.

Product Name About
MechWild BB Steno BB Steno

A barebones keyboard kit from MechWild. Comes with a PCB ($10) and optional microcontroller (+$8) and a few other parts; you supply the switches and keycaps.

Picosteno Picosteno

A full Steno kit from Nolltronics. Starting at $20 for the PCBs and mounting hardware and going up to $61 for everything you need, this is the cheapest board you can make!

Stenokey Stenokey

Stenokey is an open-source do-it-yourself stenographic keyboard project. It is aimed at makers with some electronics experience (soldering) and who own a 3D printer or who have a friend with a 3D printer.

The Uni v2 PCB The Uni v2 PCB

The Uni v2 PCB, instructions in the description. Some prior experience is recommended. Only comes with a PCB and has pre-soldered diodes.

Yet Another Steno Keyboard YASK

YASK is an easy-to-build open-source design for a steno keyboard. Simple, no 3D printing needed, also exists in angled & staggered version. Check out the build instructions

Setting Up a Hobbyist Machine With Plover

Hobbyist machines use serial protocols to talk to Plover. This means you can have a regular keyboard plugged in for normal typing, and a steno machine plugged in at the same time. Plover will only capture the steno machine input. However, the main steno protocols can be a little finicky to set up. Follow one of the two methods below or the video tutorial.

Main method

This method involves determining the serial port for Plover to listen to.

  1. Plover, open Configure → Machine and change the machine to Gemini PR.
  2. With your machine unplugged, press the Scan or Refresh button.
    • Take note of the options that are listed in the Port drop down menu.
      machine tab Gemini PR, refresh, and drop down options highlighted
      Steps 1 and 2.
  3. Plug in your machine.
  4. Press the Scan or Refresh button.
  5. Open the Port drop down menu.
    • If you see your device name show up, select it.
    • If you only see generic names, select the option that was not present in step 2.
      machine tab with drop down menu and COM3 highlighted
      COM3 wasn't present earlier, so it is the steno machine that was just plugged in.
  6. Press Apply and OK
  7. Test that your machine is working
    • Open the paper tape (Tools → Paper tape)
    • Press some keys on your machine
    • Verify that they show up in the paper tape

Trial and error method

Alternatively, after pressing the Scan or Refresh button with your machine plugged in, you can simply try each option in the Port drop down menu. This is useful if there are only a few options to try.

  1. In Plover, open Configure → Machine and change the machine to Gemini PR.
  2. Plug in your machine.
  3. Press the Scan or Refresh button.
  4. Select the first option in the Port drop down menu.
  5. Press Apply and OK
  6. Open the paper tape and press some keys on your machine.
    • If you see output in the paper tape, you are done.
    • If nothing shows up, repeat steps 4 and 5, but with a different option selected in the Port drop down menu.

Serial protocol limitations

If you sleep and wake up your computer, or you unplug and replug your machine, you can try pressing the Reconnect Machine button.

Plover main window with reconnect machine button highlighted
Reconnect machine button.

If that does not work, it is likely that the serial port has changed and you will have to redo the above steps again.

Autoreconnect

On some computers (particularly Linux and macOS), the serial port will generally not change when the steno machine is unplugged and plugged back in. If this is the case, you can set up autoreconnect with plover-auto-reconnect-machine plugin, which can be installed via the plugins manager.

Out-of-production Machines

Models that are no longer made or available for sale.

Product Name Manufacturer About Years
Stenoboard Utopen (Emanuele Caruso) Stenoboard

The Stenoboard was the first open source steno machine on the market, released in 2014 for around $180USD. The Stenoboard’s keys actuate like mouse-clicks instead of a keyboard or lever-machine, which made it very uncomfortable to use.

2014-2017
SOFT/HRUF Scott Urueta Original SOFT/HRUF

The nonsplit version of SOFT/HRUF.

2017-2018, superseded by the Splitography
Stenomod Charley Shattuck Stenomod

Open source hardware. This has light (35g actuation) keys and a split design. See Ted Morin’s review of the Stenomod as well as Martin Körner’s review. The name is supposed to hint at how the machine is “modular” and adaptable.

2017-2018, superseded by the TinyMod
Georgi g Heavy Industries Georgi

Portable, affordable, and light-touch option. Low-profile Kailh Choc switches with 12g-actuation springs swapped in makes this the lightest-touch and lowest-height machine made for Plover so far. The removal of a number bar reduces costs and weight for portability. A third thumb key is to be used as a number bar replacement like the TinyMod. See Martin’s Georgi Stand with Trackball review, Mirabai’s review, Aerick’s Georgi Mount, and Josh’s photos.

2019-2021
Steko Quanic Boards Quanic Boards Steko

A simple, small steno keyboard featuring a RP2040 chip, a USB-C interface, Durock Dolphin silent switches, and 3D Printed PLA keycaps.

2022-2023

Stenotype Machines

Supported protocols

Plover supports several protocols that are in use by various machines:

  • Stentura serial: most machines by Stenograph and many others.
  • Gemini PR serial: typically any recent machine made by the Neutrino Group, such as the Piper, Revolution, or Infinity series.
  • ProCAT: protocol used by all ProCAT machines.
  • TX Bolt: an older protocol supported by some machines as a primary or secondary protocol.
  • Treal: used only by the Treal from Word Technologies.
  • Passport: used only by the Passport Writer from Advantage Software.

This means that, in theory, many machines work with Plover.

Known supported stenotypes

The following machines have been confirmed by users to work with Plover after actually trying it:

Product Name Manufacturer Protocol/Connection Comments
Elan Cybra Student Stenograph Stenograph USB OR TX Bolt (serial)
Flash, Blaze, Impression, and Xpression ProCAT ProCAT (serial, maybe) (For Blaze and other Windows CE-based writers) USB cannot be used with Plover, it is only to transfer files created on the Blaze to your PC or CAT software. USB does not work on Windows 10, only Windows XP (with ActiveSync), and Windows Vista/7/8 with WMDC.exe (Windows Mobile Device Center). Both are abandonware. You need an RJ11 (male) to DB9 (female) to use this writer.
Flash Writer ProCAT TX Bolt Press Mode (far right button), click Setup, then press the Emul button. Display should read Emulate: Baron
Gemini2 Neutrino Group Gemini PR (serial)
Gemini RT Neutrino Group TX Bolt Must start a job on screen or in Infinity2
Lightspeed Stenovations TX Bolt (serial over USB/Bluetooth) Baud rate 9600
Lightspeed Touch Stenovations Gemini PR, TX Bolt (USB only) Must use provided “Lightspeed Zenith” software, not the “Lightspeed” software from the Stenovations website. Protocol can be changed depending on the “Writer Mode” setting in options. Choose “Model II and Model III” at startup.
Infinity Ergonomic Neutrino Group Gemini PR (serial over USB/Bluetooth) Baud rate 115200
Infinity Genesis Neutrino Group Gemini PR (serial)
Passport Advantage Software Passport (USB)
Passport Touch Advantage Software USB, Bluetooth While in “Emulation Mode”: Stentura over Bluetooth or TX Bolt over USB 
Revolution Grand Neutrino Group Gemini PR (serial)
Stentura 400 SRT Stenograph Stentura (serial) Setup Instructions
Stentura 200 SRT Stenograph Stentura (serial) (same instructions as the 400 SRT)
Stentura 500 Stenograph Stentura (serial) (same instructions as the 400 SRT)
Stentura 8000 and 8000LX Stenograph Stentura (serial) (same instructions as the 400 SRT)
Stentura Protégé Stenograph Stentura (serial) OR Stenograph USB Works with the plover-stenograph plugin for USB. For Stentura serial: connect Serial-to-USB cable to serial port of Protégé. Setup Instructions for Serial
Tréal Word technologies Treal (USB)
Wave Stenograph Stentura (serial) OR Stenograph USB Requires Stenograph drivers to do serial on Windows. All platforms can use the plover-stenograph plugin. Make sure “serial protocol” on the Wave is set to “Stentura”.
Luminex II Stenograph Stenograph USB OR Stenograph Wi-Fi All platforms can use the plover-stenograph plugin for USB or Wi-Fi. Make sure the machine is connected to the same local network to use Wi-Fi.

Keyboards

If you don’t have a steno machine, you can use a keyboard that supports N-Key Rollover (NKRO).

What’s NKRO?

NKRO stands for N-Key Rollover. This is a feature of some keyboards whereby you can press as many keys as you want simultaneously, and they will all register. Typical keyboards stop working correctly when you press somewhere between 4 and 7 keys at once. For more information, see the Wikipedia entry about NKRO.

How do I know if my keyboard has NKRO

In general, most keyboards will not be NKRO. “Gaming” and mechanical keyboards are most likely to have NKRO, while budget as well as laptop keyboards are unlikely to have NKRO.

The easiest way to test for NKRO is to visit https://keyboardchecker.com/ and press several keys all at once to see if they register. If your keyboard has NKRO, you will be able to press multiple keys with your palm and they will all light up as green on the website. If your keyboard does not have NKRO, several keys will not light up on the website.

What if my keyboard is not capable of NKRO?

If you don’t have a keyboard that’s capable of NKRO, but still want to give Plover a try, you can arpeggiate/roll the keyboard chords. Have a look at the Beginner’s Guide for more information.

Known supported keyboards

You can search for NKRO keyboards compatible with Plover by including “NKRO” or “anti-ghosting” in your search query. Make sure to check reviews before purchasing as some have been known to falsely advertise NKRO (although, this is a rare occurrence).

The following machines have been confirmed by users to work with Plover after actually trying it:

Product Name Manufacturer Comments Price
Anne Pro II Obinslabs NKRO over USB; 6KRO over bluetooth; Works on Mac $20-100
Aukey KM-G9 Aukey NKRO over USB; May not work on Mac $35-50
I-500 Victop (compact: 87 keys) Eastern times tech NKRO over USB 27 GBP
DareU DK87 (red switch) DareU NKRO over USB (Tested on Linux), however some keys may be stuck after released. Discontinued model. There is a similar model, they may have the glitch mentioned above or not. < $30
TOMOKO (87 key Mechanical Keyboard) TOMOKO NKRO over USB (Works on Mac) $30
K552 Redragon NKRO over USB $35
X51 (Gaming Mechanical Keyboard 87/104) Metoo NKRO over USB $40
ZM-K600S Zalman NKRO over USB $40
K582 Redragon NKRO over USB (Works on Mac. NB: Hitting Fn+WIN removes NKRO) $50
K66 Corsair NKRO over USB $55
K63 Corsair NKRO over USB (Works on Mac!) $80
K68 Corsair NKRO over USB $160-200
K95 Corsair NKRO over USB ~$200
KG901 Marvo NKRO over USB $30-70 AUD
STRAFE Corsair NKRO over USB $80
CM Storm Quickfire TK Cooler Master NKRO over USB (Doesn’t work on Mac) $85
Vengeance K65 Corsair NKRO over USB $90
C413 Carbon Logitech 26KRO $90
Francium Pro Deck NKRO over USB when in “lightning” mode (Fn + F10). Full NKRO works on Windows and Linux, but is rumored NOT to work on Macs (you’d be stuck with 6KRO). $94
Noppoo Choc Noppoo NKRO over USB (works on Mac without adapters) $95
Razer BlackWidow V3 Tenkeyless Razer 14KRO over USB when in “gaming” mode (Fn + F10). Older BlackWidow Tournament Edition 2014 tested. $100
Apex M750 TKL SteelSeries NKRO over USB (Works on Mac, but for some reason if you install the SteelSeries Engine it stops working) $120
G710+ Logitech NKRO over USB $130
Majestouch-2 Filco NKRO over USB $167
Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate Das Keyboard NKRO over USB requires key sequence to enable. See fine print on underside of keyboard $169
Apex M800 SteelSeries NKRO over USB $199
Ergo Pro Matias NKRO over USB $200
Ultimate Hacking Keyboard Ultimate Gadget Labs NKRO over USB $250
Ergodox Ergodox NKRO over USB Parts €160.00 - Assembled €247.00
Ergodox EZ (swappable switches) ZSA Technology Labs, Inc. NKRO over USB EZ Only $270 - All Upgrades $354+
Planck EZ (swappable switches) ZSA Technology Labs, Inc. NKRO over USB Planck only $180 - W/LED Backlighting $195
Model01 Keyboard.io NKRO over USB $329
Vortex Race 3 Vortex Keyboard NKRO over USB (Only 6KRO on Mac. Untested on Linux) $139

Which type of key switch should I choose?

Due to how multiple keys must be pressed simultaneously, there are two properties that are useful to have in a mechanical keyboard switch for steno: a light actuation force on a linear switch.

The light actuation makes it easier on your hands. For a chord like TKPWHRAOEUGD (gliding), you are hitting 8 keys with your left hand. That means that whatever switch force you need to depress one key, you have to push 8-times as much. For a 80cN (~80 grams, ~2.9 oz) switch, that’s 640cN (~640g, ~22.6 oz). For this reason, your wrists will have a much easier time working with your machine if its actuation force is as light as possible.

How many keys are in the average chord?
1: 23
2: 221
3: 1115
4: 3247
5: 6168
6: 7820
7: 7293
8: 5069
9: 2707
10: 1126
11: 331
12: 90
13: 21
14: 3
15: 1

The linearity is recommended because it’s been found that the tactile feedback that one gets from an individual switch is not as useful when you are receiving 4-10 of those feedbacks at once. The brain just doesn’t process all the fingers’ feedback in a useful manner. And since the bump usually requires a small addition to the actuation force, we recommend keeping it linear and simple.

Professional steno machines, historically, always bottomed out (meaning the keys are pressed until they can no longer travel; the bottom.) Newer machines use more complicated mechanisms for detecting key travel, often using magnets and the hall effect to determine where the key is, allowing for customizable actuation points. The typical force required for a modern steno machine is between 10cN and 20cN, with some extremes on either end for personal preference. The travel of a typical lever steno machine is usually between 2mm and 30mm. The lower end is found in machines like the LightSpeed (nonlever), where the higher end is around the maximum that you can configure a lever machine to stroke.

Most of the mechanical switches have a 2mm actuation point and 4mm travel/bottoming out, but some community members have found that “speed switches” with an earlier actuation point (usually 1.1-1.4mm) are better for steno due to their increased sensitivity.

Switch Stat Note Machines
Kailh Choc Pink Pro 20 cN linear The lightest stock option available, though the reduced travel distance makes it feel comparatively heavier All Nolltronics boards and the Starboard use this switch
Kailh Choc Nocturnal 20 cN linear, silent
Gateron Clear / White 35 cN linear A popular stock option available on the market All StenoKeyboards boards and the TinyMod use this switch
Matias Red 35 cN linear Feels heavier than 35 cN switches due to having a “flat” force curve. Matias also has a different stem from Cherry SOFT/HRUF uses this switch
Cherry MX Red 45 cN linear
Kailh Silver 50 cN spring* linear Has an early actuation (1.1mm vs 2mm)
Cherry MX Brown 45 cN bumpy While not ideal compared to other options, this switch is still a better choice than blues, blacks, and other Cherry switches
Kailh Choc Red 50 cN spring* linear The Georgi uses this switch
  • The Kailh silvers and Choc reds use a spring that would cause a 50 cN actuation point at 2mm, but since they actuate earlier (1.1mm), the force required is nearer to 35 cN.

There are other methods to decrease actuation force for even these switches. This includes:

  • Putting SPRiT 15g Choc springs into the Kailh Choc Pink Pro
  • Putting the Gateron Clear’s 35 cN spring into the Kailh Silver for its earlier actuation point.
  • Trimming the springs of a linear switch by several mm to reduce force.
  • Using an aftermarket spring with lower forces, such as a prototype 20 cN spring that isn’t yet released to the wider market.
  • Removing the leaf-spring (not the primary spring) in the Matias Red switch to make the force curve less flat.

Adapt a keyboard for steno use

Most keyboards have the keys in staggered rows, which can make it difficult to press two keys in a column with a single finger. To adapt a keyboard for steno use, you can use:

  • Keytoppers
  • Keycaps

You can also use a keyboard with an ortholinear layout.

Keytoppers

Laser-cut keytoppers are in the shape of the keys on a steno machine. You stick them on top of the relevant keys on the keyboard. You can buy laser-cut keytoppers from the Plover Store. You can also make your own keytoppers out of plastic or even coins.

Keycaps

If you have a mechanical keyboard, it is likely your keys have a Cherry MX stem and will work with custom keycaps. You can replace the existing keycaps on your keyboard with different keycaps, to improve the layout for stenoing.

  • StenoToppers is a 3D printed keycap set designed by Jason Cemra. It aligns the rows, raises the keys, and reduces the keycap tapering, slant and gap. The 3d model (.stl) files are available on Github. If you have access to a 3D printer, you can download .stl files and print them for a negligible cost. Otherwise, you would need to use a 3D printing service.

  • The G20 keycap set from Signature Plastics is a great set for steno, and will fit on an ErgoDox or other mechanical keyboard. The keys have a direction, so for optimal comfort, you should angle the top row of steno (STPH...) down, so that they are close to the bottom row (SKWR...)

  • You can 3D-print a steno-friendly keycap.

Keys that have little space between them are good for steno, because then you can hit two neighboring keys with one finger (which is frequently necessary).

NKRO keyboards with an ortholinear layout

Keyboards with an “ortholinear” layout have the keys in straight columns. This is handy for steno, as it makes it easier to press two keys in a column with a single finger.

The following machines have been confirmed by users to work with Plover after actually trying it:

Product Name Manufacturer Protocol/Connection Comments
ErgoDox ErgodoxEZ, Massdrop, FalbaTech, others USB The ErgoDox is a fairly high-end NKRO keyboard at $200, with an ortholinear layout. It has two separate halves, so you can angle them to suit you. You can order it with the Gateron White keys, which have an extremely light, 35 gram activation force. Read a guide to Starting Stenography with an Ergodox by Paul Fioravanti.
Planck OLKB USB The Planck is a fully programmable NKRO keyboard with an ortholinear layout. It is 40% the size of a standard keyboard. Read a guide to starting stenography with a Planck by DiDoesDigital.
Preonic OLKB USB The Preonic is a fully programmable NKRO keyboard with an ortholinear layout. It is 50% the size of a standard keyboard.
Gherkin USB The Gherkin is a fully programmable NKRO keyboard with an ortholinear layout. It is 30% the size of a standard keyboard.
Iris Keebio USB The Iris is a cheaper and slightly smaller alternative to the ErgoDox. It is a fully programmable split NKRO keyboard with 56 keys. The firmware needs to be edited to enable either NKRO or Gemini PR. Available in PCB and pre-built.

Laptops with NKRO

If you want to always have steno on the go, you might consider finding a notebook with NKRO. Note that not all these machines are equivalent in terms of actuation force or key shape. You might find, for example, that chiclet keys don’t feel as good as the Alienware’s classic keyboard style. It’s always best to try laptop keyboards at a local store, if possible.

Model Screen Size Manufacturer Rollover Price (USD) Weight
Alienware R3/R4 13”, 15”, 17” Dell n-key $1000 to $3000 5.8 to 9.8 lbs
GL553 15” Asus 30-key $1200 5.5 lbs
Razer Blade Stealth 8th Gen 13” Razer 14-key $1200+ 2.98 lbs
Zephyrus GM501 15” Asus 30-key $1500 to $2200 5.5lbs
Omen X 17” HP n-key* $1800 10.7 lbs
P57X 17” Gigabyte 30-key $1800 6.6 + 2.2 (power adaptor) lbs
GL502 15” Asus 30-key $1900 4.9 lbs
Aero 15/15x 15” Gigabyte 80-key* $2000 to $2900 4.6 lbs
Legion Y920 17” Lenovo 100-key* $2200 10.1 lbs
Zephyrus GX501 15” Asus 30-key $2500 4.85lbs
Aorus X5 v8 and X7 v8 15”, 17” Aorus 80-key* $2600, $3000 5.51 lbs, 7.05 lbs
Predator Triton 700 15” Acer n-key (clicky keys) $3000 5.3 lbs

*: Untested for use with Plover

Laptops that don’t actually work with Plover

After testing some of the laptops on the list above, they were found to not live up to their claims.

Model Manufacturer Claimed Rollover Findings
HP Omen 15 and 17 HP “26-key rollover anti-ghosting” Combination “YUHJ” on Qwerty only produces 3 letters
GF62 and GP72 MSI “anti-ghosting for up to 45 keys” 99% of chords were OK, certain combinations wouldn’t work – e.g. QWEAS blocked R. Keyboard also responded abnormally slow when writing chords.

Video Game Controller

It is possible to use a video game controller with Plover by installing the Plover Controller plugin. Please use the built-in Plover plugins manager to install this plugin. This is one of the cheapest options to get you started! If you don't have a USB or bluetooth controller lying around, you can find a used one very cheap, and you can even buy new ones for a great price.

Note: as per the project's README, there may be issues using it with macOS.

Troubleshooting

Most issues can be resolved by following the mapping instructions for the Plover Controller plugin.

Usage

The diagram below shows where all of the corresponding keys are located. This layout closely resembles the standard Ward Stone Ireland stenography layout, so it can be used with a standard theory, like Plover theory or Lapwing theory.

Skipping Joystick Keys with the Reverse Steno Order Method

The diagram also shows how stick movements that move in the opposite direction of steno order will skip the keys in-between. For example, to to write a word starting with "th", such as the word, "this," you would want to select T- and H- without the P- in-between. Moving the left stick clockwise from T- to H- would output TPH-, which is not what we want. To get the output of TH-, you would move counter-clockwise from H- to T-. However, reverse steno order does not always mean counter-clockwise. Another example is the word WHA -> "what,". To output WH- , you would want to move clockwise from H- to W-

Skipping Joystick Keys with the Opposite Direction Overlap Method

There is also a method to skip keys by moving the stick opposite the initial direction over keys you want to exclude.

For example, the word KHRUB -> "club" can be written by moving the left joystick clockwise from H to K, and without releasing, move the stick back to W- to exclude W-. This will output KHR-, and with the addition of U and -B, you get "club".

plover_controller diagram