Learning to touch-type properly

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15 Feb 2019, 00:30

I have never been a proper "touch-typist" meaning that I was able to type rather quickly (about 60 wpm on average) but I would use different fingers to hit the same keys and occasionally steal glances on the keyboard. Recently I decided to change this and finally start to touch-type properly: always using the same fingers to hit the same keys and typing without looking at the keyboard.

I used an app called "Typist" which is available in the Mac App Store free of charge. I suspect it's mostly no better or worse than other apps of the same nature, I selected this one simply because it was free (and also one of the first search results in Google). During the last 3 days or so, I completed the basic course and basic drills (the application has several collections of lessons and drills of varying difficulty). Right now I'm working on advanced drills and after this I plan to start speed drills.

Well, so far so good! Today I was able to complete my tasks at work without resorting to my previous (fast but misguided) way of typing. At the moment I really have to be conscious about what fingers I use to press certain keys, but I'm able to type at passable speed.

The most amazing thing is that my hands are barely moving while typing. My fingers (especially the ring fingers and pinkies) are more tired than usual, but my hands and wrists feel better than usual.

Yesterday I measured my typing speed with 10fastfingers.com and got 29 wpm (abysmal). Today I got 39 wpm which is close to 2/3 of my former speed, but — and this is a huge but — I haven't made a single typo. Overall, I'd say I make less typos than previously because typing just feels more consistent. I'm pretty sure that in a couple of weeks I will match or even surpass my previous results, but with better accuracy.

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15 Feb 2019, 01:13

I'm pretty much the same way. My hands fly all over the place while typing, and whatever logic I'm using to send fingers to keys, is unconscious and irrational. My error rate isn't bad, though, and I type fast enough that it doesn't slow me down. Does seem poor form though.

Last time I tried to relearn typing, I threw an ortholinear keyboard and Colemak into the mix. Now that's some brain rewiring! I'd have to really stick with the suck for days on end, without cheating; something I was unable to do. My speed must have been 10 wpm with all that mental searching! I could feel Colemak's increased gravity towards homerow and alternate hands, but I could feel my own resistance an order of magnitude more!

You're probably going about it the right way then. If you stick with it, the gains should be substantial.

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15 Feb 2019, 01:44

Yes, I definitely hope I will be able to stick with it. It seems perseverance is the key in this case.


15 Feb 2019, 09:29

Since I'm one of those who has transformed bad typing habits into proper typing form and increased both my typing speed and accuracy in the process (from ~60wpm to ~90wpm, +95% accuracy), I can share what I gained from my experience.

I believe the most useful advice I can give is to video yourself typing. Proper form isn't just about using the right fingers for the keys, it's everything from how you sit, how you place and move your palms, elbows, shoulders, etc. I gained a lot of speed and accuracy after I fixed my "form" not just fingers.

With proper form, you can type ergonomically even without ergo or ortho board. I used to daily a Preonic for a long time, as well as a Dactyl, but I found out later than I don't really need ergo board at all once my form is correct. The reason for that is, when you learn to not rest your palm while you type, not twist your joints, and not curl your fingers like legs of a dead spider, you can type on ANSI board as comfortable as any ergo boards.

Once you see yourself typing in a video, compare your form to a pianist. Proper form will allow you to type very gracefully, and you should look like a pianist playing on a small piano. I noticed this when I see my friend who is also a pianist types. He types at 140wpm while looking like he's playing a fast song on a piano. The biggest point that I didn't realize before is how I should move my arm to reach the further keys, not stretching/curling fingers or twisting wrists. Using bigger muscles in your arms relief a lot of stress on your joints, increase your accuracy (the same thing apply with mouse, esport competitors also move the mouse with their arm, not their wrists), and you'll look great doing it.

Hope this helps :) Good luck!

Edit: typo

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15 Feb 2019, 09:40

Thank you, this is very helpful! I'm not sure I will actually film myself typing, but I will be more conscious about my overall posture. The tip about not resting my wrists is especially helpful.

I don't have problems with reaching further keys because I happen to have rather long fingers, however I do have a problem with hitting the C key with my middle finger because it (my finger) is just too long and the key is too close to it!

I get what you're saying about the big muscles though: I'm also learning to draw and literally the first thing they teach you is to draw with your shoulder, not with your wrist.

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15 Feb 2019, 16:49

Looks like you figured out the part that matters the most: keeping consistent and practice.

I learned touch-typing from a teacher almost 25 years ago, who had taught typing for around 20 years at that point. We did have 386 IBM compatibles to learn on, but the cheap dome boards were not much better than a mechanical type-writer :)

Once you learn your rows and columns, practice practice practice. The class pretty much consisted of starting with the home row, 50 minutes a day, usually two or three classes, then expanding out into columns per finger.. Most the typing software (well, I'm not up on current typing tutors) take the same approach. We worked out of a text book, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was called. Having to work out of a text book or printed paper forces you to look away from both the screen and board. This helps with proficiency for sure and it helps keep you from cheating :)

The class only taught me key position. It took another 4-5 years of Excite and Yahoo chat rooms, research papers, classwork, ect before I was any where near proficient. I do know that large breaks from typing does not matter. It does become second nature and just takes a little warm up to get right back to were I've been since.

Good luck and stick with it. Its worth it!

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15 Feb 2019, 19:58

I didn't learn to touch type until I turned 20. I was self-taught, never took a formal typing class. What worked for me was consciously forcing my fingers to stay near the home row until I developed the muscle memory and... playing tons of Typing of the Dead. Seriously, it works.

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16 Feb 2019, 22:56

Bass wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 19:58
I didn't learn to touch type until I turned 20.
I'm 35 and making this leap only now :-)

Thanks for the tip about Typing of the Dead!

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emacs -nw

17 Feb 2019, 12:05

Ah, SEGA's TotD :) (jump to 5:07 for the end-of-level boss sequence)

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20 Feb 2019, 00:41

Some more observations along the way:

1) I have some trouble switching between my laptop (normal ANSI), my desktop (ANSI Filco Minila Air which has a less staggered bottom row and a very troublesome right shift) and my work PC which has a full-size ISO-UK keyboard. Apparently, I will have to standardise my keyboard collection. I think I should settle on a normal ANSI.

2) Typist (mentioned above) really is an excellent application to learn touch typing, but I have found that simply typing an endless stream of words is a very useful exercise as well. So far the best Mac application which provides this kind of functionality seems to be KeyKey, which is not free, but it's fairly inexpensive.

3) I now realise just how insane the QWERTY layout really is. The majority of commonly used letters are typed with the left hand, all the vowels except A are not on the home row, and some of the most-frequently used letters (such as P or A) are under pinkies! The worst problem for me is that I cannot quickly double press keys with my pinkies, so such words as "suppress", "rapport" and so on usually come out as "supress", "raport" etc. The A is not as problematic because to my knowledge there aren't any common words with double A. Well, except for aardvark and Aachen, but they're really not that common. I'm starting to think that maybe I should invest in a Realforce with variable weighting...

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