I need to learn to enter text one-handed fast
April 14, 2022 10:17 AM   Subscribe

I broke my left wrist. I have a book deadline at the end of the month. What are the fastest ways for me to enter and edit text in a Google document one-handed?

Some notes:

1. I do not have time to learn a new typing system or master a new design of physical keyboard. Really, I don't.
2. Windows 10.
3. Windows speech recognition does not recognise my words, and definitely won't recognise the specialist terms and non-English names I'm using.
4. I usually use a swipe keyboard on my Android phone. I have experimented with having the phone and laptop both logged into the document and using the phone's keyboard, which isn't ideal (phone screen too small) but is faster than the laptop keyboard on its own. Any ideas on how I could improve that setup?

I'm particularly interested to hear from anyone with (ahem) first-hand experience of this problem.
posted by Hogshead to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to do that thing I hate when others do to me, which is tell you to try the thing you don't want to do.

There are a number of one-handed keyboard maps. I've tried one and it was remarkably easy to get the hang of (I was fairly productive in 10 minutes). Basically you use the spacebar as a mod key to shift one side of the keyboard to act as the other side. Here's a list of options. You might want to check out the Autohotkey script in particular—if you're not already using AHK already, you can use it to save keystrokes even without that particular script.

If you spend an hour playing with it and still hate it, you've only lost an hour. Anyhow, good luck. I know this situation stinks.
posted by adamrice at 10:30 AM on April 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you tried Google's speech recognition built into Google Docs.
1. Open Google Docs in Chrome
2. In the Tools menu select "Voice typing"

If you look in the help menu and search for "type with your voice" you'll find all the documentation for typing and editing.
posted by skunk pig at 10:41 AM on April 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

In Win10, you can use the sticky keys option to make one-handed typing less of a pain in the butt by making ctrl, alt, and shift sticky (i.e., by pressing them once it treats them as being depressed until you press the other key you want to press in tandem with it, like capitalizing a single letter, ctrl-c, ctrl-z, etc.).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:46 AM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 4. Swipe keyboard on Android tablet - borrow or buy cheap
posted by boudicca at 12:01 PM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

When I was in this position, I used the voice typing feature built into Google Docs on my Android phone to get a rough draft, followed by one-handed typing on my PC to correct the errors and produce a final document. Google's speech-to-text worked a lot better than I had expected it to, so much so that I realized it was worth using it to speed up my work process even after I had use of both arms again. If a really high percentage of the words in your document are ones it can't recognize or if it can't understand your voice as well as it understands mine, maybe it won't end up being a useful option, but I would at least give it a try to see. One thing that might help you deal with words it doesn't recognize would be to substitute a word it does know when you're speaking and then do a "find and replace" to change it for the correct word wherever it appears. Probably not helpful if you're using different unrecognizable words and names in every sentence, only if you keep referring to the same ones over and over again.
posted by Redstart at 12:12 PM on April 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You can get Android tablets cheap at Walmart, almost certainly right at your local store. They aren't top-grade machines, but are better than Kindle Fires. My adult son has had very good fortune with his.
posted by lhauser at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2022

Record voice memos on your phone and send them to Otter to transcribe.
posted by Clustercuss at 1:20 PM on April 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

Have you tried just typing on a regular keyboard with one hand? I bet you could get pretty fast pretty quickly with practice, maybe around 40-50% of your two-handed speed.
posted by danceswithlight at 1:47 PM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Get a pop socket for your phone and just type it on your phone. It’s really not that bad that way and you could also use the swipe features. Is there something I’m missing?

Other options include asking a friend to help you transcribe at least some portion.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:10 PM on April 14, 2022

Best answer: I broke my arm about 5 weeks ago and had hardware surgically installed a few days later. I am a translator and editor and type all day, every day. I got myself through the first few of weeks of pretty restricted use of that hand through the use of Dragon. I am a fairly fast typist and it's hard to get Dragon to match my two-handed speed for most types of work, but in its currrent state it is a LOT better than the current state of Windows 10's own speech recognition and also better than Google's speech recognition. It takes very little time to get it up and running and figure out basic commands on a basic level. I never messed around with training it how to do much of anything in the way of fancier commands, but for straight input into a Google document and editing passes it is great. It is critical to have a headset with a decent microphone.

I splurged on the Pro version thinking that I will probably continue to use it in certain contexts, but in retrospect it wasn't worth the extra price.

The other thing I'll point out is that I only used it heavily for a couple weeks post-op. After that point I had regained enough use of the broken limb to use my middle 3 fingers, and that was faster than speech recognition due to the fact that I need to use a lot of keyboard commands. I've been in a removable splint for a couple weeks and my typing is near-normal.
posted by drlith at 2:18 PM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

(also, Dragon did reasonably well with a lot of the Spanish names and medical and legal terminology that are part of my job)
posted by drlith at 2:21 PM on April 14, 2022

How many pages are you talking about? Could you use non-AI dictation services? For just hard sections? TranscribeMe is $1.25 / minute and tolerates speaking pretty fast. Unlike robots made out of silicon, you can given them hints for specialist words.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:16 PM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

My (dominant) right hand was out of commission for about 2 months one time. I was amazed at how quickly my left hand sped up, the first couple days were pretty awkward but after that I got pretty fast. The left hand already does like half the typing so it a lot was just at normal speed anyway, the hardest part was getting used to hitting the space bar with the left thumb since usually it's my right.

I'm assuming you have tried just typing on a regular keyboard but I'm just trying to say, don't give up on it totally, you may adjust faster than you think.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:07 PM on April 14, 2022

You didn’t say if you’re right handed, but if you are, how about a pen option? I have an ipad with the Apple pencil and it promises to turn your handwriting into text on the ipad. (I mostly just highlight PDFs, so haven’t used that option much, but seems to work?) Helpfully, since the pencil also works as a mouse for menus, you aren’t switching input devices all the time. Plus almost no learning curve to use it.

I doubt you want to buy an ipad but presumably you can find something compatible for Android/Windows? I also have a cheap Wacom for computer drawing and liked that, so maybe there’s a handwriting to text app for your device? Even if you have to write in e.g. OneNote and then copy the text over to Docs, that could be faster.

Or maybe you’ll figure out some hybrid of pen input plus voice? I use Otter.ai for meeting notes, so that’s another affordable way to get a rough transcript from speaking that you can then edit, possibly with a pen/pencil input. I think it was $50/year for 6,000 minutes? The Otter interface plays the audio for the text you highlight, making it easier to correct.
posted by ec2y at 12:55 AM on April 15, 2022

I also want to note that you’re lucky to be on Android for your phone because IOS swype suuucks. (Like so bad that I’ve got a huge list of wrong word and autocorrect(autoco-wrong) 2-grams examples.)

So at least you’ve got that going for ya!
posted by ec2y at 1:00 AM on April 15, 2022

There are some cheap human transcription services available - no-one in Australia gets this work anymore, it's outsourced (I haven't used them but colleagues of mine have - something like $2 a page) Can you speak your draft, save it and send it off for transcription?

It is possible to learn how to write with the other hand (for some people). It's slow, but could you do that in all caps, scan & OCR it and work from that?

On preview, what everyone else said. Oh, one last thing, you can set up your dictionary to replace your most common words, by designating them a replacement word. For example, you can tell word that every time you type ppl, it should automatically replace it with people. If you cut and paste some of your previous text into a tag cloud online, it will show you the most common words you use (like "also") but you will probably need to keep a codesheet available because there's no doubt a lot of most common words in your vocabulary.
posted by b33j at 3:07 AM on April 15, 2022

Windows 10 has handwriting recognition if you have a touchscreen or other input device, though I'm not sure how well that compares to their speech recognition. I can't find a gestural keyboard where you can draw words with a line through all their letters on a QWERTY keyboard, like on Android but for Windows 10, so speech, handwriting, or transcription might be your best options.
posted by rhizome at 11:44 AM on April 15, 2022

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