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← Steno! by Emile Swarts

This lightning talk was presented at VimLondon, October 2013. More details on Lanyrd:

A chorded keyboard layout that you can use in Vim. Plover makes this accessible to the world with an open source adaptation.

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Showing Revision 1 created 11/21/2013 by Mirabai Knight.

  1. DREW: You ready?
  2. Okay.
  3. EMILE: So hi, everyone.
  4. I just wanted to know --
  5. has anyone used steno?
  6. Steno keyboarding?
  7. No one?
  8. By show of hands?
  9. Except for Drew?
  10. No one?
  11. Okay, well, that's awesome, because...
  12. Prepare to be amazed.
  13. Maybe the best thing that you never tried.
  14. Could be.
  15. So what is steno?
  16. It's a specialized,
  17. chorded keyboard layout.
  18. Non-alphanumeric
    meaning that not all the letters of the alphabet
  19. can be found on the keyboard,
  20. and you actually get them
    by pressing different chords.
  21. It also works with phonetics,
  22. so as opposed to
    typing out individual letters,
  23. like you do with a typewriter-style keyboard,
  24. you do words.
  25. So you can see how this already benefits things.
  26. It's almost like object-oriented programming
    to procedural programming,
  27. is one way you can think of it.
  28. It's typed using a stenotype,
  29. and back in the day,
    they used to look like that thing,
  30. where you put your code
    on a piece of paper,
  31. so not very good for us.
  32. This machine must be about...
  33. More than 100 years old.
  34. Nowadays, they look like that.
  35. So if you wanted to plug it into USB,
  36. you would need something like that.
  37. And then why should you care about this?
  38. Us all being developers,
    and especially liking Vim,
  39. we do a lot of typing,
  40. and the thing about qwerty,
    or even Colemak or Dvorak,
  41. is that you'll get RSI.
  42. If you work for eight hours straight,
  43. just constantly typing,
  44. you will get RSI.
  45. And this is one of the things
  46. that is solved.
  47. So that's a huge win,
    and I'm sure we all always look out for that.
  48. Significantly faster than qwerty.
  49. So we speak at about 180 words per minute,
  50. and the top speed for qwerty
    is about 160, without, you know,
  51. Guinness Book of World Record exceptions.
  52. So it's much faster.
  53. And I think the record for steno
    is at about 360 right now.
  54. People reach 300 words per minute,
  55. and they say in six months,
    you'll be on 160 words per minute.
  56. So it's way faster than qwerty.
  57. Fluency and efficiency of text entry,
  58. which is something we all know about,
    using Vim.
  59. It's just that --
    the rhythm that you have while working.
  60. And you'll get more of this
    when you focus on words,
  61. and not just letters,
    typing in individual letters.
  62. It's an emergent technology,
    even though it's been around for hundreds of years.
  63. In the context of us using it,
    us developers using it,
  64. it's quite an emergent technology,
    so that's quite exciting.
  65. If you wanted to use this,
    obviously you need a modern stenotype
  66. with a USB cable,
    that would plug in, like we saw previously.
  67. So there are a few problems with that.
  68. They're really expensive.
  69. Bloated proprietary software.
  70. And highly monopolized market.
  71. So that's the problem, right?
  72. But then, luckily for us,
    along comes Plover.
  73. And they solve this problem
    by producing
  74. free, Open Source stenographic software.
  75. So in your face, big companies!
  76. You know?
  77. This means that the cost goes down
    from about £3,000 to about £40.
  78. So that's what they give us.
  79. You can use a keyboard like that.
  80. That's the Microsoft SideWinder X4,
    which is the cheapest keyboard
  81. that you can buy to use steno.
  82. You can get these laser-cut keys
    to make it even more like a steno machine,
  83. which you actually put on your keyboard,
    and it looks like that.
  84. You get the 22 keys.
  85. And as you can see,
    it's not the weird qwerty matrix.
  86. It actually has the keys above each other,
    the way it should be.
  87. So which keyboards can you use?
  88. You need n-key rollover,
    which means you have to press
  89. at least 10 keys at the same time,
    to produce these words.
  90. And there's a list of the keyboards that you can use,
  91. if you wanted to do steno.
  92. So you can look at this afterwards,
    and even have prices.
  93. You can see it's pretty cheap.
  94. So then I felt like I had to say
    something about steno in Vim.
  95. These go together really well,
    and anything you can do
  96. on a qwerty keyboard,
    you can do on a steno keyboard.
  97. That's really important to keep in mind
    when you're learning it,
  98. so there's nothing you can't do with steno.
  99. It's a perfect match.
  100. And thanks.
  101. I'm Emile,
    and that was it about steno.
  102. (applause)
  103. >> Yeah?
  104. >> Like, aren't chorded keys
    worse for RSI?
  105. >> Sorry?
  106. >> Aren't chorded keys
    worse for RSI?
  107. >> Well, yeah,
    if we think about emacs,
  108. then I know that is a popular argument with emacs.
  109. But this is a non-typewriter-style keyboard,
  110. so it's more like a piano,
    if you look at the keys.
  111. And the way it's been engineered is --
  112. mainly people with disabilities,
    who really can't type that fast.
  113. So it's definitely with, like,
    trying to prevent RSI.
  114. But I know that
    that is a popular argument in emacs.
  115. And I'm not, like --
    I haven't used steno that much,
  116. but I know that people say
    that it's way less RSI
  117. than typewriter-style keyboards.
  118. >> Thank you.
  119. >> Can I ask another question?
  120. Do you switch between steno and qwerty?
  121. >> So this is quite a beautiful thing,
  122. that I use Colemak,
  123. and when I switched to Colemak from qwerty,
    I lost qwerty,
  124. and that really sucked,
    because I couldn't use anyone else's keyboard.
  125. But steno is so different,
    that it wouldn't interfere
  126. with your Colemak or qwerty or whatever you use,
  127. and you can still maintain both,
  128. because they're just such different machines.
  129. Yeah.
  130. DREW: I actually have a Filco Majestouch keyboard.
  131. So if anyone wants to try it out,
    I've got it set up here.