I’m constantly amazed at people who work with a computer every day, several hours per day, much of it typing in text, but don’t know how to type. You’ve seen it: hands happily waving above the keyboard, twin index fingers scanning the rows of plastic keys, sometimes pecking at one; head bowed down, eyes fixed at the keyboard only to occasionally glance up at the screen to check the results.
I was an OK typist already as a kid. I remember taking a typing class, in the ninth grade I think, and scoring a straight A without even trying (or a 10 actually, the Finnish school grade system goes from 4 to 10). My friends also marveled at my typing speed. Regardless of this, I had bad typing habits. For one thing, I was looking at the keyboard a lot. Then at high school I got a new friend who was, to my great frustration, even faster than me. He knew touch typing. I didn’t even know what the little raised dots on F and J were for.
During the first year at the university I decided to finally do something about my typing. Unlearning my old typing method turned out to be really hard. I would always just fall back to my old ways, because that’s what I had been doing for ten years, and it was just so much easier. At some point, it dawned on me that I would have to start from scratch: I would have to learn to type with a non-qwerty keyboard layout. My old skills would be useless on the new layout, so I would be forced to relearn.
At the time, most of the writing I did was either in Finnish or program code, so Dvorak didn’t seem like an optimal choice. If I would have to learn a whole new layout, why not make something that would be perfect for me? So, I wrote a small program which captured all my key presses and kept it running for a week or so. Then I wrote a program which analyzed all the data, gathered the most common chords of two and three letters, and arranged they keys on the keyboard in an optimal way.
This is what my program made for me:
Changing the keyboard layout turned out to work wonderfully. I couldn’t fall back to my old qwerty skills anymore, and started making real progress with touch typing. Within a couple of weeks, I was up to my old typing speed. After a couple of months I was already faster.
I still use this layout.
Nowadays I can easily reach 85-90 words per minute cold, typing in unfamiliar English text. In my first language, which is Finnish, I’m probably somewhat faster. The fun part is that I have a keyboard layout nobody else in the known universe can use. It’s kinda fun to let a coworker sit at my computer and watch them fumble.
How did you learn touch typing? Or do you still look at your keyboard?