As a programmer I know my way around keyboard. I write without looking on input device for about 10 years. Until recently I scored 61 WPM (words per minute).

A word under a second? Seems good enough, but there was place for improvements. When reading about people that have twice as much I became jealous and dig into topic of proper touch typing.

As it appeared I neglected ring fingers mostly, due to their inability to move independently. Placement of my hands changed during writing which was slowing me down. They danced all around hovering just a bit above the keyboard. I was used to it and it was effortless for me after all this years. Even during long writing sessions I haven’t been tired.

Touch typing then? There isn’t much to it. Place your index fingers on keys marked with bumps (F and J) rest on neighbouring keys in like (left hand covers JKL; while right ASDF). Try to move fingers only in columns. Middle columns are covered by closest index fingers while keys on far edges are covered by pinkies. Seems simple and it is.

I tried to measure my progress and train on typeracer. I wrote back what it threw at me and with occasional peeks at keyboard (no to cheat! When something went horribly wrong I just froze and checked what was wrong with fingers’ placing).

Beginnings were hard. I had to think about every key I pressed. First day was really awful. From 61 I got down to about 7 WPM. Second day was much better. Sleep as alway was helpful when dealing with spruts, habits and muscle memory. I got up to 30 WPM pretty fast. Even then When I had to write something quickly I had to fallback to old methods. Third day gave me 40-45 WPM. After that getting more of my fingers became harder. In about month I reached over 70 WPM.

Then there was reality. Programming, manging tmux and tiling window manager. Lots of non-word characters and special keys. Pressing special characters like brackets, slashes and quotes by pinky is quite easy. Real problem was numbers. They are pretty far and balancing hands movements and position isn’t easy. I remapped my Caps-Lock to Control (who uses caps anyway? When I scream at people over the internet it feels much better when pressing shift constantly by one index finger and typing using the other). After some time (a week maybe?) I used to everything. I hit number quite precisely. And here I am, typing like a pro.

I even bought mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches. I am still waiting for it to ship.

My opinion? Do it if you want to, but proper touch typing isn’t essential. You can do it for fun, like me, or for other reasons. But keep in mind that you won’t become better programmer, your life won’t change. It has few advantages - your palms rest, fingers “feel” better. Your hand have fixed position so you know when you hit wrong key the moment you press it. Speed gain is fine, but you know, unless you are secretary its not necessary.


01 January 2013