Learning To Type in Colemak

I made a half-hearted attempt to learn to type with Dvorak last year, but it didn’t take. When I saw that Ian was learning Colemak, I decided to dive in as well. I first made a Mac-style Colemak layout so that I’d have something better-looking to reference. It also meant I had a bit more vested interest in seeing it through.

But why learn a different keyboard layout? The two main reasons would be reduced risk of RSI and because I enjoy technical challenges. The particular appeal of Colemak is that it changes less keys around than Dvorak, meaning I would hopefully pick it up more quickly. Notably, the z,x, and c keys are identical, keeping cut, copy, and paste keyboard shortcuts in the same place.

I started this past Monday and have been plowing though drills in Master Key 3–4 times per day. I’m quite happy with my progress:

Ian went on to detail his Colemak learning strategy, and I especially liked that he was importing text from a great speech to augment his drills with real text that was simultaneously useful and edifying. Instead of a speech, I decided to go with a classic: St. Augustine’s City of God. This way I can double-down on completely frying my brain.

Some observations:

  • Muscle memory fights very hard to not change things. My jaw and shoulders have started to clench up as I’ve moved into higher speed and broader keyboard coverage.
  • Somewhere around 25 wpm requires some unconscious typing, triggering the above feelings. I’m trying really hard to stay relaxed while typing.
  • It’s much easier to type in the drills because you can focus on the letters, while “real-world” typing operates on more of a words level.
  • The City of God starts with Augustine talking smack against the Pagans.
  • I wrote this whole post in Colemak. It was slow and I had to use the backspace key a lot.

5 responses to “Learning To Type in Colemak”

  1. You inspired me to use dvorak a few years back and I found it really interesting. I even changed my keyboard at work, which REALLY confused my co-workers when they tried to use it!

    The jaw-clenching is not abnormal and does go away. Also, at least with Dvorak, you can keep the command keys the same which I found very helpful, but I guess those keys are still the same anyway on Colemak. I really enjoy these types of practices – when I was learning Japanese I actually wrote a lot with my left hand because they write right to left… Unfortunately it didn’t improve my writing at all.

    I haven’t used Dvorak in a while, hopefully Colemak sticks better for you. Can you change the keyboard on the iPad?

  2. That’s right, I’d forgotten that you’d actually gone for it with Dvorak.

    Apparently you can change the iPad layout with an external keyboard, but not the on-screen touch keyboard. I haven’t tried it yet.

  3. lol for some reason I replied in dutch.
    Did you give up on it already or still going strong?

    I started a week ago.

  4. I’m still typing in Colemak, just haven’t posted any updates. At about 50 wpm, but need to pick up my drills again.

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