Typing shorthand on a computer


I see that the idea of creating a font or an input program allowing Gregg to be typed has been floating around for many years. I have dug up quite a few threads on this topic here, most of them quite old and dating back to 2005. Have those discussions ever come to fruition? Where are we at? Have we found any way of digitally constructing an outline from the basic letters?

As I am a beginner, I was thinking I could simply scan all the new outlines I come across in my daily practice, and make a font out of them using FontForge for example, thanks to the glyph/ligature function. That would be for French Gregg though.


But at the same time I see there is an ASCII Gregg project, somthing called Gregory, a Yahoo group called Aggregate… I’m completely lost as to what has been done so far.

If anyone could briefly summarize what we have so that I don’t reinvent the wheel… Thanks!

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  1. I'm not familiar with "Aggregate."

    The original idea for Greggory came from Tyler, one of the previous blog members, He left the blog, and Chance continued the project and renamed it "Gregg Convert." At some point he had some hosting issues with his internet provider, and I haven't hear from him since 2012. You can read this post and this post to give you some idea about Greggory and where the project stands.

    Lastly, there's the text2Gregg project that was created by S. J. Sarman. His email address is on that page.

    If you have any other specific questions, just post them here and I'll try to answer.

  2. Thank you Carlos.

    I have found some posts from Chance dating from May 2013 where he explains he would like to use this project to fund his postgrad studies (if I understood correctly) but nothing after that date. Does this mean the project is effectively dead, and we do not have any access to it?

    I found the Aggregate yahoo group mentionned here.

    Anyway, my specific question was whether I was reinventing the wheel by scanning every French outline I come across to create my own outline database, and then trying to create a font with this database, and whether any step in that process had already been done.

    Thank you!

    1. I'm not sure if "dead" is the correct word; maybe "sound asleep"? So I can't tell you one way or another. I thought he had posted his progress and one could access his work.

      I don't think a French Gregg database has ever been created. (Ce serait super !) There have been attempts to creating a Gregg font, but one of the challenges is that the shape of the characters in Gregg can change with words. For example, the "a" in "dad" looks different from the "a" in "dame" and from the "a" in "dash." So specific joinings would need to be programmed within the font.

      Thanks for the link to the Yahoo group. I'll check it out.

  3. Hello!
    I know that nowadays people are fascinated with computers. And indeed they can do wonderful things.
    Still I want to be the advocate of the wonderful tool, we, all the humans, possesse (more or less): our body.
    Think…a versatile computing brain with limitless capacity storage. A hand that can convey all the nuances and the subtilities of the brain.
    So, maybe, I miss the point but I don’t undersand the need to involve, more than necessary, the machines in shorthand. It’s, in my not-humble opinion, a prominently human activity and we are better at this than any computer.

  4. I keep reading here and elsewhere that the best way to make progress in shorthand is to read well-written shorthand. Yet there is close to nothing written in French, aside from the manuals themselves.

    Being able to type in shorthand would mean being able to produce hundreds if not thousands of pages of shorthand script in a vast array of different topics (from stories to news to science and philosophy!) in a tremendously shorter time than if one had to handwrite those texts, start again every time the rounding and the proportions are off, rewrite them countless times and finally scan them to share them to the world. At the end of the day, this whole process would have been a lot more like calligraphy than shorthand whose primary purpose is speed of execution. This purpose is defeated when the text is not meant to be understood just by you but by as wide an audience as possible.

    I understand where you come from Christine, but in my view it's tantamount to pitting Middle Age scribes against the printing press when Gutenberg invented it. They are not mutually exclusive, and I think what jeopardizes the survival of shorthand the most is its complete lack of visibility. 

    Imagine having a Wikipedia version entirely in shorthand. After all Wikipedia is available in Esperanto and Latin. And I'm convinced this helps spread the reach of those languages, as it would for shorthand.

  5. Wikipedia in Latin and Esperanto? And still there aren’t many people speaking neither Latin nor Esperanto.
    The thing is, without an incentive, people get discouraged: learning is long, a lot of information to process.
    Who needs to know Esperanto or Latin today? Really needs? The appeal is elsewhere.
    For my part, I like trying to master the texts in the manuals because it’s a beautiful writing. They inspire me. Yes it’s close to calligraphy and it’s one of the reasons I like writing it. There’s a plasticity in it and contrary to Asian scripts, latin letters are, sadly, not malleable at all. (I don’t have any proof but I’m sure there’re much more calligraphers around the world than Esperanto or Latin speakers.)
    I don’t think computers can capture the beauty and inspire.
    And there’s the technical problem… In an almost similar way you cannot speak Spanish with just a Spanish dictionary, it’s not possible to replace all French words with their French Gregg counterparts. There is the phrasing (“phraséologie”): forms merge in a way that is rather logical once they are elements in the text.
    Lastly, not all the French words can be found in manuals. There is no dictionary. So a lot of forms need to be forged for the French Gregg shorthand to be used in the 21st century. (It would be nice that all the French Gregg users have the same “corpus”…) How to make new words without mastering first the words that already exist and understand how they have been created?
    So in my opinion, quantity is not foremost and things will be growing steadily (or not growing at all).
    And like Henry David Thoreau said, (yes I like quotes): « Peu importe si le début paraît petit.»

  6. There are certainly a lot more people practicing Latin and Esperanto on a daily basis than people knowing Gregg. And from a purely practical perspective, I could type up 20 pages of Gregg in one day. I don't think anyone here (no offense! I'm just pointing it out) could produce more than a page or two of Gregg that's written accurately enough to be presented for the world to read. And I personally don’t think I will be satisfied with reading one small new text per month, relying for this on other people’s good will. There is of course nothing wrong with a calligraphic approach to Gregg, it is just another approach for another goal.

    I actually wonder about phraséologie, more specifically, if it can give rise to any number of combinations, or if it's possible to limit them to a set of "standard" associations.

    Regarding the absence of some words form manuals/dictionaries, I think it is still possible to have someone with good penmanship write the new words *once* and scan them and use them as many times as one wants.

    1. But isn't the problem about quality? Isn't it better to master few texts than having loads of bad written texts? Once you understand the philosophy/gist behind French Gregg, you can come up with almost all texts. And even if the texts you can find in the manuals are not always very interesting, they are at least very well written and full of French words very common in the langage. Besides I'm not sure a bad written text in French Gregg is readable… and what is the interest in unreadable texts?

      I know they say you can learn by reading a lot… but I'm not sure it's enough. It don't find it very interesting anyway.

      I really don't know how to compute the number of combinations due to phrasing…

      Yes, the new words… Stenography Gregg has made by someone who had the efficiency in mind. It's not a simple application of rules. Hence the existence of brief forms. I think it's by using the forms you realise it's better to write this way, it's simpler and yet the words are recognizable. Even in regular forms some vowel or even consonant are dropped… So it isn't just a matter of being able to write.


  7. I would love to see a Gregg font… I have been wanting to do something like that for Notehand, too, to more easily create new reading materials for my kids (somewhat related, I've been working on a Notehand dictionary off and on for quite some time since one was never published).  I, too, have thought about scanning in outlines so that they could somehow be used in a wordprocessing program, but it would be so tedious.  Thanks for the FontForge idea.  I'll have to look into that when I get a chance.

    Latin was mentioned.  I'm a student of the deadish language, myself, and find value in it and love to see modern literature produced in Latin (Harry Potter, Hobbit, Winnie the Pooh and Dr. Seuss are available in Latin.  Harry Potter was also published in ancient Greek.)  I see value in this.  Who wouldn't love reading Harry Potter in Gregg shorthand?  Or the Bible?

    The Deseret Alphabet folks succeeded in creating several fonts and have produced a library of classics in Deseret (historically there have been far more Gregg writers than Deseret writers!)  Their task was easier, however, since it is a non-cursive shorthand.  Gregg is more like cursive with joined-up strokes within words.  Therein lies the difficulty, all other technical issues aside.

    Carlos is the closest we have to a modern-day shorthand plate writer, and God bless him for all his efforts!  It would be a momentous task to pen an entire work of literature by one person in Gregg.  Just with my couple of brief Notehand contributions here on the blog, I found if my proportions were off, I'd have to cut-and-paste a correction in, or start all over again.  Carlos is better at it, I'm sure, but I'm guessing his monthly contributions do take a lot of time.



  8. My thoughts exactly Washbear, except you have expressed them much better than I did. The idea really isn't to question the fun and the relevance of handwriting shorthand and replace that with digitalized shorthand. It's not either/or (which I feel is what you are opposed to, Christine). The idea is to enrich shorthand ressources, by exponentially multiplying reading material. Nothing more.

    Of course I understand that reading a lot of shorthand is not going to make you proficient in writing, but it will certainly contribute to making you a proficient reader, and that's 50 % of the job as far as I understand. I don't see why one wouldn't be able to read shorthand just as fast as one would longhand within a few months, provided there is enough material to read every day. Which is certainly not the case at the moment, despite Carlos' best efforts. I'm sure Carlos is certainly capable of writing many pages of very legible shorthand in a day, but his skills are not representative of most people here, and he can't do that job alone, not to mention the fact that legible shorthand probably still isn't as perfect as he would like a public text to be (at least I'm guessing), which means it would still be very time-consuming even for an accomplished stenographer.

    1. I don't worry about perfection when I write because shorthand plates in books were not written with the goal of being perfect: we are not perfect and our writing instruments aren’t either. They were written to be legible enough to be transcribed and to have a good writing model for a student to follow. In fact, the teaching of shorthand penmanship was relegated to a second plane starting with the Simplified books, and the goal became to have the student write shorthand as fast as they can, in the less amount of time as possible. Does this trend sound familiar? Quantity over quality.

      I have found mistakes in Gregg Shorthand plates with off proportions and with a less-than uniform application of theoretical principles to outline building. In those cases I could see the benefit of automating parts of the writing process, and it would be definitely a quicker way to "mass produce" shorthand texts. However, I’m not so sure that producing perfect shorthand plates in a computer would improve the learning process that much. In fact, one can argue that by seeing imperfections in the writing it will show you how “real-life” shorthand would look like, and that would be beneficial as to what to expect when writing.

      What is the point of learning pen shorthand in the first place? It's either because you are looking for a way to take notes fast without any technology other than pen or paper, or because you like the artistic aspect of it, or both. Does the computer have a place in the actual process of shorthand note-taking? Should pen and paper be tossed away in favor of a computer? Other than in the reporting profession (legal, congressional reporting, etc.), I’m not so sure. If so, why bother learning pen shorthand? Just click record and you’re all set!

      Writing legible shorthand takes time, yes, but sitting down and writing is part of the fun. If I wouldn't like writing with pen and paper, I wouldn't be writing, trust me. Nor I would be taking time in studying the shorthand models carefully by paying attention to angles, slants, the proportions and spacing of the characters, and other penmanship aspects to improve and become an even better writer. Would I ever get the same satisfaction by typing absolutely perfect shorthand characters on a computer? More than likely not.

      Modern society relies on technology in such a way that most are unable to function without some sort of gadget. “Music” nowadays is mostly produced by computers. Performance “artists” either sound like machines or have their performances “cleaned up” electronically. We over-communicate with devices. You see it at the dinner table — each guest in their own world, texting away in their little machines. The art of conversation is practically lost. Moreover, some cannot take a writing instrument and write a legible sentence, and kids are not taught how to write script anymore. But boy, can they surely type and google stuff! Everything needs to be done fast, and if something takes time to master, it’s not worth pursuing it; instead, let’s program the computer to do the same thing. At this rate, pretty soon, we will be forgetting how to speak and how to think because a machine will do it for us.

      Just my 2 cents.

  9. Boy, do I feel the need to reply to Carlos! Not to the first four paragraphs, because I'm in full agreement with those. But the fifth says an awful lot, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't.

    First take music. My undergraduate degree was in music composition. Moog invented the first,  keyboard synthesizer during that time, and came to my university to demonstrate it. Here's the thing about recorded music: The same recording is listened to over and over again, so any mistakes are heard over and over again. Cleaning it up is possible, while it is of course not possible in a live performance (though live performers try to make things as close to perfect as possible; let's not get into a discussion of what "perfect" means). As for the synthesizers themselves, they bear a relation to pipe organs, whose timbre and dynamics are controlled with stops and pedals rather than produced by feel as they are on violins and the like. Just like pipe organs, they have become accepted ways of producing music. But the other instruments are still with us.

    Next consider dinner table conversations. The cellphone focus is certainly a bad thing for socializing. But it won't leave us unable to speak or to think, because those activities are hard-wired into us as a result of evolution.

    Script hadwriting? Like Carlos, I wish it were still taught.

    The use of computers to speed things up? This is just an extension of the use of other machines to increase our capabilities. It is simply the latest phase of the industrial revolution. Whether it is good or bad is another thing, of course.

    In regard to the production of a type-to-Gregg converter, I feel that making one that works properly must require very sophisticated AI. The work to invent it would, I think, take an egregiously large number of man-hours–enough time to write several books in Gregg by hand. It would therefore take a high capital investment, and would need to return that capital to the investors. Thus it looks to me to be impractical, given the small population of interested Gregg writers. Note, by way of example, that the converters that have been invented so far, including the one currently on the Web, are seriously imperfect.

  10. Yes, our disagreements are relatively minor. As for optimism, I'm perhaps more optimistic about technology, but not so about the human condition in general. As for an automatic type-to-Gregg converter, I'm very pessimistic that a good one can be developed without a huge amount of labor. Therefore I doubt that the project is really practical.

  11. I value the arguments for personal writing as reasons why I am learning Gregg shorthand.

    But, as a student, I welcome any initiative to use computers to advance language education. Were it not for computers I would have never had access to the Anniversary manuals and dictionaries, and all other supportive materials in this endeavor.  As Aymeric said, the Guttenberg effect has been a blessing for so many, and mass production via computers is just an extension of it. 

    Another example, at a lesser scale, is the dictionary online found at 


    It is in essence the same dictionary you find in print, but computerized in such a way that you can search faster and it helps me learn to write shorthand in my blog.  I am thankful to the person who used his computer skills and time to make it a reality and made it accessible to all.

    Tools value and its adoptability may differ from learner to learner, but the more the better as they provide choice and alternative adaptable  resources.   IMO the production of any learning tools should be encouraged.




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