Getting Started

Skills, supplies, and equipment needed to begin court reporting with StarTran Online

Do You Have What it Takes to Learn Court Reporting?

People of every kind of personality, age, cultural background, and lifestyle succeed at court reporting. But they all share certain qualities without which it can’t be done. Are you someone who can learn court reporting and enter a realtime writing career?

Firstly, you must be a high school graduate and over 18 at the time you are licensed. If you can jump that first hurdle, now there are a few more intangible qualities that will help you get where you want to go. The first is variously known as dedication, determination, perseverance or sticktoitiveness which is grounded in a good self-concept and positive attitude. In other words, at times you’ll need to keep focused and practicing, even when you don’t see the progress right away. Thousands of people have done it, and so can you!

Your machine is an important piece of equipment needed to begin court reporting education

You will like court reporting, captioning, or CART if you are interested in court cases and/or learning in general.  You should be detail oriented, have excellent reading comprehension, and a good English vocabulary.  You should be able to learn to master the rules of punctuation and not be afraid of computers and new technology.  The product of a court reporter or captioner is a written transcript, whether on screen or paper. Parts of your studies and your job will require typing. Ideally, you should be able to type around 50 to 60 words-per-minute on a standard computer keyboard.

Writing at fast rates of speed, as well as some subject matter, can cause stress.  You should have good general physical and emotional health.  You only need average finger dexterity, but you will be sitting a lot, so a history of back or arm/wrist problems is a contraindication for court reporting.

A bright, hardworking person with self-motivation, optimism, and self-control will do best in court reporting training.  It helps to be modestly competitive and have a good memory.  It is important that you have two to four hours a day to study and practice in order to complete the program in a reasonable length of time.

Do you have what it takes so far? Below is a list of the supplies and equipment needed to begin court reporting with StarTran Online.


Project Steno and NCRA A to Z

As you will see, there is a lot involved in starting a court reporting and/or captioning education, and it is a big commitment to a pursuit that is frankly mysterious to most people.  Project Steno and NCRA A to Z are two introductory hands-on programs that will teach you the basics of machine stenography before you spend any time or money.  We highly recommend taking one or both of these free courses to help you make your decision to join StarTran Online and feel comfortable with it.  NCRA, National Court Reporters Association, is the primary center for all things court reporting.

Supplies and Equipment Needed

A Steno Machine (Writer)

This is not included in the StarTran Online starting costs. But you do not need an expensive, professional model or any whistles and bells to start. 

Machine purchasing for beginners is in a bit of a state of flux because the manual (non-computerized) machines, as well as any machine with paper notes (the ribbon of paper that falls out of the machine all over the floor in old movies), are not being manufactured anymore, even though they are a good choice for learning theory. Bottom line, you need a machine that will enable you to see and read your steno. There are basically three choices: 

1) A manual or computerized machine with paper: Examples of this are the refurbished Stentura 200 (manual steno machine with paper notes), the refurbished Stentura 200SRT and 400SRT (computerized steno machines for CAT with paper notes as well). If you plan to read steno notes from paper, make sure the machine’s printing is legible, the ink cartridge is not dried up, and there is a paper tray with the machine. About 20 pads of steno paper should be enough to complete the program. You can purchase these court reporting supplies from Pengad, Acculaw, and others.


Stentura 200SRT (no paper tray shown)

Stentura 200SRT
(no paper tray shown)

Fusion steno machine


2) A computerized machine with an attached screen that displays steno notes:  Examples are the Wave, Blaze, or Stentura 8000LX writers.



Blaze steno machine


Wave steno machine


3) A strictly computerized machine and a CAT software system: An example is the Elan Cybra. It has no display for steno notes and no paper tray, so needs to be used with a CAT system (computerized translation system).

Elan Cybra steno machine

Elan Cybra

If you aren’t too tech savvy and want to ease in on using a CAT system, it is best to choose from the first two categories above.

The machines listed above are considered “student steno machines.”  But any machine will work. It is fine to get a used or refurbished steno writer. You should be able to find one between $300 and $1000.  (Note: Some of the machines that were around in the days of DOS, such as the Baron Transcriptor or the Xscribe or any machine with floppy disks or tape slots will not run with modern Windows operating systems.)

If you need help getting the correct machine, just let us know and we’ll point you in the right direction.


To make sure you get a clean, working steno machine with a warranty, we suggest going to StenoWorks. They have refurbished student steno machines, rent-to-buy options, and free CAT software. Here is the link to their Student Steno Writers page:

Student Writers – Most of them are refurbished. Don’t worry. Writers are pretty hardy machines.

 StarTran Realtime Theory requires a wide asterisk key (right side) and either wide -TS keys or wide -DZ keys, no matter what type of writer you purchase. If your machine doesn’t come with these wide keys, they can be ordered from StenoWorks below or other steno machine supply dealers. Also, make sure the machine you purchase has a working tripod and a number bar.

Student Version CAT Software

Student version CAT software is usually identical to the professional version but with minor limitations.  Student version software uses the same CAT dictionary as a professional version.  DigitalCAT by Stenovations, CaseCatalyst by Stenograph, Eclipse CAT by Advantage Software, and StenoCAT all have affordable student version CAT software and offer various buy, rent, or rent-to-buy deals with tech support. Though we may be able to help you, especially with Case Catalyst, and we supply you with the StarTran CAT dictionary used in conjunction with any CAT software, StarTran Online does not specifically teach how to use CAT software. That is usually taught towards the end of or after you finish your court reporting speedbuilding. So if you are going paperless and screenless or you just choose to use CAT software, you will want to familiarize yourself with at least the very basics of your CAT software in order to get the benefits of the StarTran Online program. We also have instruction manuals for most of the CAT systems.

Plover is a free open-source translation software similar to a CAT system, but it does not have a built-in editor like a CAT system.  Rather, it is used in conjunction with any word processing program, such as Microsoft Word. Your translation appears in a Word .docx, for instance.  Plover has other distinct advantages and conveniences for students other than the price, and we highly recommend it.  If you would like to try Plover, since there is no tech support, we have a hand-out available that will help you get set up.


You may use a laptop or desktop. Bear in mind that most CAT systems are Windows based. Our theory program does not require a high-end computer, but you should be familiar with the basics of your system. For most of your practice activities, the smaller screens on a tablet or phone will not be appropriate, so we don’t recommend you try to complete the course using those devices

Reliable Internet Connection

Your StarTran Theory lessons will be presented on our online platform, so you must have a reliable Internet connection to access your lessons each day.

Microsoft Word Or Similar Word-Processing Program

For testing you will be required to type your work and turn it in to be corrected, so you must have some means to do that other than a CAT translation file.  Microsoft Word, any Word-compatible editing software, or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) is required.  There are several free Word-compatible options found on the Internet.  

Adobe Reader 10.0 Or Higher

Most computers have Adobe Acrobat Reader on them already. It’s a free program, one you’ll use often to read pdf files.

Grammar and Punctuation Manual

Any manual, such as a Gregg Reference Manual (recommended), where you can look up grammar, punctuation, and usage rules. It doesn’t have to be the latest edition — grammar and usage rules don’t change radically.

If you’re ready to roll…

Contact Us
For More Information


(805) 967-7179