Thanks for checking out Art of Chording. This book's goal is to enable anyone to learn stenography (or steno, for short.)


Stenography is the fastest way to write on a computer. Court reporters have used machine stenography since the early 1900s to create written records of human speech in real-time.

A steno machine can completely replace keyboard usage.

This book is part of the Open Steno Project, which seeks to get stenography into everyone's hands.


Plover is an open source application that lets you control your computer with a steno machine.

It also lets you use an NKRO (n-key rollover) keyboard instead of a "real" steno machine.

Hundreds of people have taught themselves stenography with Plover. You don't need to reach 225 words per minute (WPM); the certified court reporter speed in the United States; to get a speed and ergonomics boost over a conventional keyboard.

Plover comes with a built-in theory crafted by Mirabai Knight, the inventor of Plover.

Steno Theories

A steno theory is a set of rules that determine how you use the steno keyboard to form sounds and words.

To draw from an analogy by Stanley Sakai, a self-taught professional captioner: steno theories are like different martial arts. While most martial arts have a similar goal, i.e. defeat your opponent, they vary in their approach. There are broad categories like striking or grappling. Where a karate fighter would use striking moves like punches and kicks, a judo fighter would grapple and roll, bringing things to the ground. The methods are very different, but the goal is the same.

Just the same, steno theories all have the goal of using the steno machine to produce text. The approaches they take to reach that goal vary.

The base layout is consistent, but some theories are more memorization-heavy and others are more stroke-heavy.

As a result, you end up with three broad categories: stroke-intensive, memory-intensive, and a mix between the two.

The commercial Phoenix Theory holds tight to phonetic rules and therefore is easier to learn, but a little more stroke-intensive.

Commercial Magnum Steno or Stanley's Personal Dictionary are harder to learn, but produce more text for less movement, at the cost of mental effort.

Finally, Commercial StenEd Theory strikes a middle-ground where the base theory is phonetic, but the most common words and phrases are available in shortcut form for speed's sake.

Plover Theory

Plover Theory is what this textbook teaches.

It has its roots in StenEd, but leans slightly more to the memory-intensive side. The biggest difference between Plover and the commercial theories is that it's 100% free and doesn't require purchasing learning materials or the dictionary itself. The first time you open Plover, the dictionary is already loaded. Plain and simple.

Steno Dictionaries

A steno dictionary is a file that contains the mappings between keystrokes on the steno layout and the text that's produced. Plover's theory is stored in a dictionary file and it can be moved to other software should you decide to try other software in the future.

In addition to a theory dictionary, stenographers are always defining their own personal dictionary. Everybody's mind works differently and sometimes you'll have a mnemonic or perspective that suits you better than what the theory you're using provides.

With Plover's dictionary, you can also suggest changes and improvements.

Deciding which theory to learn

Most theories are still quite similar at the core. Many students find it easy enough to switch to a different theory even after a year of learning. Don't waste precious time and effort trying to choose a theory; just start learning stenography and you'll organically find what does and doesn't work for you. Some Plover learners have switched theories, but most are happy to stick with the default.

Why this book

I'm a self-taught hobbyist stenographer. I learned everything I know from the Internet and the Open Steno community, including websites like QWERTYSteno, Learn Plover!, and many other learning resources. However, the lessons I found online felt dense and lacked real-world utility for me. I read through Learn Plover! three or four times, trying to grasp every subtle line, but while it teaches core theory very well, it just dumps on a bunch of briefs for common words, punctuation, and affixes as an afterthought. You don't end up writing coherent sentences in Learn Plover! until the end of the book. In this book, you are writing sentences as soon as you learn your first set of keys.

My goal is to make a textbook that can be read cover to cover, with or without steno hardware or Plover running, that teaches you everything from where the keys are on the steno keyboard, to basic theory and word forming, to real-world briefs, to advanced techniques to help you squeeze the most out of stenography.

The book is incomplete; I'm writing it and reworking it all the time. I'm not a writer; I'm a software developer, so feedback and corrections are appreciated, though I might not get back to you as I'm reworking the format of the lessons over and over again. You can mail me at

I'm writing this entire book exclusively using stenography.

All the best,

Ted Morin

Last Updated: 9/30/2018, 4:16:16 PM