A friend of mine asked me about how I learned Colemak and I sent him this email; thought I’d flesh it out and share.
- Decide on layout
- Colemak was the best I’ve found given I already touch-typed QWERTY
- Go here, paste in a bunch of text that you’ve typed, and then look over the analysis on how far your fingers would have to move in order to type it: http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-analyzer/
- For this email (minus this bullet), Colemak is the best mainstream layout (32.68meters of finger travel), Dvorak 2nd (33.39m) and QWERTY the worst (51.86m). Again, for me, given the amount of similarity to the QWERTY layout, Colemak became the obvious choice for me.
- Do your own research and look for some of the ergonomic studies that are out there.
- Typing tutor software to help you learn
- Start here - has an on-screen keyboard to guide you. Free. http://typefaster.sourceforge.net/
- If you settle on Colemak, you will want these lessons http://www.colemak.com/TypeFaster
- Once you get the basics, and you know how to (mostly) type without looking at the layout, try typing a book with Amphetype. After you type a couple sentences, it will auto-generate lessons and let you work on your mistakes. Lets you practice with something non-repetitive and meaningful: http://code.google.com/p/amphetype/
- Making the switch
- I practiced with TypeFaster in the evenings until I could type with mid 80s% accuracy and ~20wpm. That took a month, maybe more.
- Then, I went cold turkey. It was painful. I couldn’t really type in either Colemak or QWERTY. My thoughts got stuck and couldn’t get out of brain and into the keys.
- You will get here, you will feel the emotional agony, and you must move forward. Stick with it.
- If you are thinking about they layout as a “letter-to-key” lookup map (which is naturally how you start), you need to switch to thinking about “speaking with your fingers.” It’s hard to explain, but as the thoughts form as words in your mind, you can’t think letter by letter—the thoughts and phones must naturally express themselves as finger movements, just as the thoughts and phones naturally become mouth and tongue movements when you speak. (Inspired by this post.)
- Nice keyboards – learn about the various key switch technologies - http://hothardware.com/cs/blogs/mrtg/archive/2009/03/08/mechanical-key-switch-keyboards-demystified.aspx
- Cherry MX Brown is my personal favorite – they give a nice, gentle tactile feedback as the keypress registers, and it does that before the key bottoms out (notice how on your laptop keyboard you have to hit all the way through to the bottom for the press to register, so it’s like hammering away on a hard surface, which is theoretically worse for your wrists)
- I use a Filco Tenkeyless, like this but with blank keycaps: http://www.elitekeyboards.com/products.php?sub=filco_keyboards,majestouch_87key&pid=fkbn87meb
- And a Logitech trackball, my new favorite and most comfortable pointing device - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005NIMJ?ie=UTF8&tag=travisp-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00005NIMJ
- No one bats an eye when a professional musician spends many $thousands on a quality instrument. If you make your living typing on a keyboard, you owe it to yourself to invest in a quality instrument that will make you better at what you do. I’ve spent a few $hundred on doctor bills because of my wrist issues—a $100 keyboard was a no-brainer.
- If you want to find some REAL nerdy keyboard stuff, this forum is the place: http://geekhack.org/
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