How Can I Improve My Typing Skills?
July 17, 2004 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to improve my touch typing skills (both speed and accruacy), what would you recommend as the best way to do that? Are there any free interactive trainers out there? Sould I try typing up magazines to refine my speed?
posted by phyrewerx to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are lots of touch typing apps, but if you already have solid (or even basic) skills and just want to improve, I'd recommend you just keep typing a lot -- pretty much any kind of transcription.

When I started programming many years back, I noticed that my touch typing improved (flexibility on the keyboard, especially) because of the use of a variety of symbols and other rarely used keys. You might try something similar.

One last piece of advice: do what works for you. You don't have to follow the "correct" way to touch type rule for rule. If one finger works better than another, by all means use it as long as it doesn't hinder you.

I find it amusing that "accuracy" is inaccurately spelled in your post, but I'm positive you did that on purpose. : )
posted by thebabelfish at 3:11 PM on July 17, 2004

Get a manual typewriter and start practicing with it. There's two benefits:

- You'll strengthen your wrists. :-)
- You can fix your mistakes.

This way you can see if you're typing accurately or not.

It's how I did it.
posted by shepd at 3:15 PM on July 17, 2004

If you really want good practice, join a MUD. I've never tried it but all my friends who've MUDded are excellent typers. Over my career, I've worked as an administrative assistant, a data entry clerk and a programmer, and I'm still not as good a typist as any of the MUDders I know.
posted by boaz at 4:07 PM on July 17, 2004

A manual typewriter is an excellent device for learning the "home keys" and other proper typing etiquitte.

If you don't want to go that route, I would suggest getting a typing program (the really popular one is Mavis Beacon). Oh, one more thing: remove the backspace from your keyboard. If you eliminate the delete key, you are far more likely to take your fucking time in the beginning and really learn how to type well.

Seriously, the backspace key was made by the devil.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:22 PM on July 17, 2004

Learn the Dvorak keyboard layout. Seriously, that's what I did. Before that, I had never really learned to type properly, and as a result I had wrist problems, inaccuracy, and wasn't all that fast. I tried to unlearn my bad habits on the QWERTY layout, but it took too much discipline not to fall back into the bad habits.

Then I had the idea that if I switched to the Dvorak layout that, in addition to learning a better layout, I would have to start with a blank slate and could learn properly from the beginning, so that's what I did. There is also the advantage that you can switch your keyboard layout to Dvorak without actually moving the keys on the keyboard, which means there's no point in looking at the keys because the letters on them are wrong (well, except for the numbers, A, and M).

It took me about an hour to learn where all the keys were without having to look at a cheat sheet. After a few more hours I no longer had to think about it. It was really slow going for a couple of days, and then things started progressing rapidly, and I was back to my old typing speed in 3 weeks. After a few more weeks my typing speed was much higher than before.

It's worth noting that you don't unlearn QWERTY when you learn Dvorak. I can switch between the two instantly. My QWERTY typing speed hasn't diminished at all. While learning, on occasion I had to get something typed quickly, so I would switch back to QWERTY temporarily with no ill effects on my Dvorak learning.

You don't need a new keyboard to change layouts. It's a simple software setting, and every system I've ever had to work on, it's been no problem to change the layout (in Windows it's in the keyboard control panel, on Unix/X11 you can use xmodmap).
posted by Emanuel at 4:44 PM on July 17, 2004 [1 favorite]

Instant Messenger (just make sure you use proper spelling and punctuation, and full sentences). If you can converse with teenagers over IM, even better.
posted by ruwan at 4:57 PM on July 17, 2004

Get a Kinesis contoured keyboard---the ones that have the split sets of keys that look like bowls. Advantages over a manual typewriter include:
  • The design forces you to type correctly.
  • It's ergonomic---REALLY ergonomic. Your hands remain almost entirely stationary.
  • You can still use it with your computer.
  • If you're in an office, you can get back at the support staff by reducing them to hunt-and-peck on your snazzy new keyboard.
  • You can use them to create amateur episodes of seaQuest: DSV.
The downside: it's expensive.
posted by tss at 5:37 PM on July 17, 2004

Keep a journal. Write a lot. Program. In short, do things that you would use the keyboard to do, and try not to look at your fingers while doing them.

That said, your idea of copying magazine articles or anything else is a good one, because that way you focus on reading and not looking at your fingers.
posted by weston at 6:08 PM on July 17, 2004

I took guitar lessons for 6 months and suddenly found I had the finger dexterity to touch type. I still don't know the keys that well, but I think the hard part is done. It's not the keyboard but the coordination to use all the fingers that's the tricky part.
posted by cardboard at 6:12 PM on July 17, 2004

Get The Typing of The Dead and kill some zombies while getting practice typing words like "lapdance" and "Bolshevikism". It's available for PC and has a pretty decent tutorial in addition to the regular typing/killing storyline.
posted by stefanie at 7:10 PM on July 17, 2004

It's also a lot of fun. Much more fun than the non-typing versions of the game. We had competitions at the office for a few weeks.
posted by Emanuel at 7:25 PM on July 17, 2004

Forgot to note that, unfortunately, Typing of the Dead does not support the Dvorak layout. Boo.
posted by Emanuel at 7:28 PM on July 17, 2004

Try this.
posted by rushmc at 9:24 PM on July 17, 2004

I advise against the split-keyboard design, mainly for one reason. While it forces you to use the correct keys, there are a couple of keys that could go either way. The '6' and the 'B' key are equadistant to each hand, and thus there is no distinct advantage to using either hand exclusively. Personally, I like using my left hand to type them, but with a split-keyboard design, I am forced to use my right, which is just annoying.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:03 PM on July 17, 2004

posted by Katemonkey at 11:45 PM on July 17, 2004

Personally, I like using my left hand to type them, but with a split-keyboard design, I am forced to use my right, which is just annoying.

odd. I have a split keyboard where "6" and "b" are on the left part...
posted by juv3nal at 4:55 AM on July 18, 2004

I agree with thebabelfish - screw the "proper way of typing". I only use a couple of fingers and I type as fast as most touchtypers, and don't look at the keys. Its just a matter of using the computer a lot.
posted by Orange Goblin at 5:38 AM on July 18, 2004

Get Mavis Beacon and spend an hour a day on it. This helped me with my typing. The second thing that helped is that eventually I wore out the letters on my keyboard. Believe it or not, this helped a lot. Consider, once you are half-decent at typing, blanking out the keys for a while.
posted by xammerboy at 11:03 AM on July 18, 2004

That's how I learned typing -- on a manual typewriter with blanked-out keys. Most useful thing I learned in school -- 65 wpm.
posted by sixpack at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2004

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