Typing: from 60wpm to 90wpm
December 13, 2009 5:54 PM   Subscribe

From a reasonably good [60wpm] looking-at-the-keys typist to a reasonably good [90wpm] touch typist.

I currently type at ~60wpm. I have to look at the keyboard every 3-or-so words. I want to touch type for 2 reasons,

1. To improve speed,
2. So I can copy text effectively, i.e., not have to look at the keys now and again.

Where's the best place to go from here?
posted by ekpyrotic to Technology (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I think the answer might just be practice. In high school I spent a lot of time chatting with my friends on AIM and ICQ so I ended up both being motivated to type quickly and typing for hours each evening. I typed pretty slowly before that but by my senior year I averaged about eighty five words per minute. If you can find something you enjoy typing each evening like a novel or e-mails to family members or friends or ideally a real-time conversation so that you want to type as quickly as you talk, that might help a lot.

It's also entirely possible that you are better at typing without looking than you might realize; if you type sixty words per minute looking, odds are decent that your fingers know where all of the letters are. You might go more slowly at first, but try typing something while trying not to look at the keyboard; it's possible you'll be surprised at how well you do.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 6:11 PM on December 13, 2009

I bought a Das Keyboard a while back ... the one without any key labels. Now, I was touch-typing at around 30000ksph before then, so it may or may not help you but it will force you to touch-type over time, as you use the keyboard.

Without spending any money, though, if you have a spare keyboard and a marker (or better, nail lacquer), paint over the keys until you're used to not looking at labels. Mrs. Pterodactyl has it right, though - chat more and try to keep up with the conversation.
posted by neewom at 6:23 PM on December 13, 2009

Oh, forgot - the das keyboard is really loud, if you're into the silence side of things.
posted by neewom at 6:24 PM on December 13, 2009

I love typing!

To improve speed, it might help to use programs that give you feedback and an incentive. You can get something like Mavis Beacon or Mario Teaches Typing. The programs are good because they spend time focusing on the different keys and movements, which makes you a stronger typist when you put it all together. Rote repetition is the way to do train your fingers. Maybe a local school could recommend more programs; the one at my school was better than Mavis and Mario.

To practice in a fun way, you could play the Type Racer game or games that reward fast typists, like the Pictionary or Boggle rip-offs (Yahoo!Graffiti and Word Racer) at Yahoo!Games.

I would personally work on transcribing text quickly, getting the wpm up, and then checking for accuracy and focusing on common mistakes.

To help with looking at the keys, putting a thin towels over the keyboard while going through the typing programs helps a lot. This makes it impossible to cheat.

I also used to type to myself while going through the day. Highway signs, text in a book, things that people around you are saying... you can type that stuff into the air or your leg. I did it normally and also mirror-style, which gets your brain involved.
posted by ramenopres at 6:26 PM on December 13, 2009

My stepson had a lot of fun with Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor. I think it was about $30. Now he touch-types pretty fast. (Sadly, mostly on World of Warcraft, but there you go.)
posted by musofire at 6:38 PM on December 13, 2009

Yeah I'm going to go ahead and predict that about 95% of the population of America under the age of 25 that can type without looking (aka pretty much all of us) got that fast/nonlooky from chatting with friends online. It just takes practice.

Oh and when I was in typing class way back in the early 90s, I was a looker and my teacher put a huge sheet of paper over my hands so I couldn't spy on them ... just a possible alternative to lacquering your keyboard or buying a $100 das keyboard (though the feel and sound of the keys are so damn sexy).
posted by kthxbi at 6:43 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh wait, and mmorpg gaming ... I forgot
posted by kthxbi at 6:44 PM on December 13, 2009

I'm at about 100 wpm and I have to say that hours of AIM/IRC/Gchat, daily, are the reasons. I don't know if you use any of them, but it might be worth getting on them for an hour a day just for practice.

Also: do you like shooting zombies? If you do, how about Typing of the Dead. It's House of the Dead (the light-gun game) reconfigured to be a typing tutor. I've heard great things. Gameplay.
posted by griphus at 6:49 PM on December 13, 2009

I took my touchtyping speed from 20 wpm to 100 wpm with Mavis Beacon like ramenopres suggests. I'd recommend it.
posted by b33j at 6:58 PM on December 13, 2009

Pick up Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing
posted by radioamy at 7:01 PM on December 13, 2009

My tips: don't look at the keyboard, and use the right fingers. I found that learning typing on my own, I would look at the keyboard for no good reason, and I neglected to use my pinky fingers. As soon as I noticed this, I started to type more accurately, faster, and more comfortably. Typing with 8 fingers is faster than typing with four. (If you get a keyboard where your thumbs are useful, you can probably bring this up to ten.)
posted by jrockway at 7:50 PM on December 13, 2009

Just chiming in to say that I look at the keyboard when I type and I've been chatting on AIM daily for over a decade.

The key is to just not do it.

I'm typing this response right now without looking and it's perfectly fine (I am making corrections as I go along, also without looking), even though my reflex is to look all the time.

It's really just a matter of breaking that habit coupled with a fear of letting go, so let go. You'll make mistakes, but in the end, you will train yourself to get rid of the crutch.

Believe me, you definitely know the letters and key placement by now.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:03 PM on December 13, 2009

I learned to type in second grade from a teacher who put a length of cloth over my hands. I was NOT allowed to take it off. That will break you of the looking habit, for sure. Then you can focus on getting faster.

I had a job once where I had to use the nine-key on the keyboard for most of my input. I got very fast on it within a couple of months.
posted by sugarfish at 9:21 PM on December 13, 2009

I have teenaged sisters. They don't look at the keyboard when they type. I don't remember them ever doing it -- maybe when they were eight years old.

How? Their social lives revolve around AIM.
posted by meadowlark lime at 9:36 PM on December 13, 2009

Nthing Yahoo Games. I like Typer Shark.

Also, to improve accuracy, prop up any printed document, like a letter, and type each line backwards. You can also buy a touch typing book and go through that.

I took typing in high school and later went back and took an advanced typing course. Basically, we had to do the backward typing exercise, plus go through several typing book exercises per day. Then we would take a timed typing test. If you can make yourself do that, you can learn touch typing and then improve your speed as you go along. Whether you go this route or use one of the popular typing instruction softwares, you need to learn the keyboard letters without looking, and that takes practice every day. I can still recite "asdf jkl;" without looking, as can anyone who's ever taken a typing course.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 11:38 PM on December 13, 2009

I came to ask mefi today to ask this exact question. I even type at the same speed as you and end up looking at the keyboard.

I have decided to grab a copy of Mavis Beacon and practice over the coming weeks.
posted by moochoo at 12:54 AM on December 14, 2009

Well, my solution was to use a different keyboard layout (Dvorak). This is probably not an option for you, unless you can live with subpar typing speeds (less than 50wpm) for approximately a month. I would suggest typing in the dark, blocking the monitor light from the keyboard if necessary.

The easiest way to get fast, in my experience, is to put some long hours into the typing programs, as everyone else has chimed in. I have found that north of 80wpm, I am usually waiting on my brain to make new words, instead of my hands. YMMV
posted by mezamashii at 4:38 AM on December 14, 2009

Get a cheap keyboard and paint (Sharpie, nail polish) over the letters.
posted by applemeat at 4:59 AM on December 14, 2009

All the practice suggestions are great, but I'll make another: try typing a novel or a some other heavy-text project. This will give you something to make and also greatly improve your speed and accuracy.

However, I do think that copying from text is harder to do without looking at the keyboard than is simply typing while looking at the screen. When you look at the screen you are still getting feedback from your actions, whereas you aren't getting that if you're looking at another sheet of paper. It may be best just to set yourself a transcribing task. My guess is that one substantial task, performed with fidelity to not looking at anything but the original document, would get you a long way.
posted by OmieWise at 5:06 AM on December 14, 2009

A combination of AIM/MSN in middle school and high school and writing up papers from hand-written drafts were what did this for me. The real speed improvement actually came from writing up the papers, since I was more concerned about typing accurately since I wasn't looking at the screen.. the speed came naturally after you really, really, really wanted to get it done so you could do other stuff, and accuracy helps immensely for speed (backspace is a massive time killer).
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:32 AM on December 14, 2009

How I went from a 60-90 wpm look-typist to a 120+ wpm touch-typist was learn the Dvorak keyboard, leaving the QWERTY keycaps where they were. A combination of AIM and Typing Diver (I think - a Popcap game) were how I got my speed back up. As a bonus, my tendonitis went away.

Please note, if you go this route, that you will briefly go back to approximately 5wpm and it'll feel like you're thinking sideways. This is normal. It generally takes about 2-4 weeks to retrain, in my experience.

Both Windows and Linux come with built-in support for Dvorak, these days. In Windows, it's under "Regional and Language Settings" in the Control Panel, and in Linux it's under Keyboard Preferences.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:01 AM on December 14, 2009

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