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Typing tips from the fastest typist, Sean Wrona

  • Started by Tony_VN
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Quote from http://seanwrona.com/typing.html

I am also frequently asked for tips on typing faster. I believe my biggest advantage in typing is that I do not necessarily use the same finger to type the same key. I use whichever finger is most comfortable, which can vary based on the context of the letters in the word. I cannot completely explain what I'm doing since I have been doing it since my childhood and it comes naturally, but I do tend to use whichever finger is closest based on the positioning of my hands typing the other letters in the word.

Additionally, if you want to increase your speed, do not type each word at uniform speed. Speed through the easier words and take a little more time on the harder words to ensure accuracy. Always focus on the word after the word you are currently typing so there are no unnatural pauses in your typing. I recommend using caps lock instead of shift to type capital letters to allow more flexibility in the hand that you would normally use shift with.

Finally, with regard to online typing games, for whatever reason my scores seem to register higher in Google Chrome. Although this won't actually improve your speed, it could improve your nominal scores on certain typing sites.

==================

I think that such insights are very useful. Sean Wrona is the fastest typist now, and he is not follow any standard typing style, which most Colemak user do.

Last edited by Tony_VN (01-Dec-2011 10:18:49)
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When he says “using caps lock instead of shift to type capital letters”, I think he means only when you need to type more than one capital letters. Otherwise it looks more like an ergonomic advice rather than speed. Am I wrong?

PS: And thanks for the link Tony. It's an interesting read.

Last edited by pafkata90 (01-Dec-2011 18:02:21)
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If by 'follow any standard typing style, which most Colemak user do', you mean to imply that most Colemak users touch type "by the book" I think you may be wrong. All the best Colemak typists I've heard from at least, have advocated some alternative fingering tips (even if the main pages seem to say that you won't need such tricks with Colemak IIRC?).

The first one you should learn is probably the 'nk' digraph: When typing 'think' I'll invariably avoid the same-finger digraph by slightly sliding inwards. I think that's the kind of thing Sean does except he probably does it a lot more than me! :)

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I think instead of Capslock he meant StickyKeys. That's the accessibility feature where a modifier key stays active until the completion of the next keystroke.

Then again, Capslock is pretty handy if your typer training software has you doing a lot of news articles with full caps headings.


As for his comments on not following set form, isn't that just your basic everyday advanced floating?

Last edited by cevgar (01-Dec-2011 20:54:21)
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I think that Sean means replacing Shift totally with Capslock.

Type "Colemak" = Caps-c-Caps-olemak. Type ENTER = Caps-enter-Caps.

Since Capslock is typed handily with left pinky you won't have to move much.

Last edited by Tony_VN (02-Dec-2011 03:54:57)
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For both examples you are increasing the number of keystrokes and distance traveled over how I would handle it. Granted I don't type 200 some odd words per minute. Still, using the same examples: Colemak is [L.Shift]c[/L.Shift]olemak. ENTER is [L.Shift]enter[/L.Shift].

Since Shift is typed handily with the left pinky you won't have to move much.

For me, left shift is only an issue with capital Q Z A or !, and even then it isn't much of one.

Last edited by cevgar (02-Dec-2011 13:33:44)
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The benefit of using caps lock is that you can avoid simultaneous key presses, just like when using sticky keys.  I think this feels more relaxed on the hands, and allows hand realignment (I hate using modifiers - never know if this is the right expression - in my old age.)

A month or so back I started to use sticky keys on my laptop and it felt pretty liberating.  I'm not sure if you'd be able to use that type assist feature though in a championship!

Using caps lock to uppercase a letter requires three sequential key presses.  And a downside about caps lock, is that it doesn't behave like shift, in as much as having caps lock on and typing the number 7 will not get you an ampersand (uk layout).

Sticky keys require two sequential key presses for an uppercase letter rather than two simultaneous key presses, and behave more as you'd expect.

On the mac (OSX10.4) two taps of the shift key results in the shift key being depressed (virtually), until you tap it again.  Which is kind of like the caps lock behaviour.  You can also turn on visual notifiers for sticky keys which I find a help.

I had to disable Gnome's accessibility daemon on Linux, to get sticky keys working as expected as it kept asking me whether I wanted to turn it back off.

The caps lock is a much neglected key.  I'd certainly suggest that noobs use either sticky keys or the caps lock to toggle between uppercase, it's less of an awkward manoeuvre.

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I am Sean.  Since people are talking about this, I thought I'd clarify what I meant about some things.

I have read very little touch typing literature so I'm not very familiar with the scholastic study of typing and don't know what floating means in a touch-typing context (and searching for the term on the forum here didn't help me understand very well).  It sounds like floating means typing with one's hands in the air without leaning the wrists against the keyboard.  That's not what I'm talking about at all.  In fact, some people would certainly find my posture appalling.  I have typed from ridiculous positions including slouching, with my feet leaning up against the computer table (or even sitting on top of it), and sitting on the floor with my arms leaning at basically a 45° angle between the floor and the keyboard.  There's no excuse for any of these postures but they rarely slow me down much.

In this thread (https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=1123), Jin's second post on June 6 stated "But proper touch-typing technique (using the right fingers to hit the right keys) is a must if you want to achieve that".  This is what I am challenging...the idea that there is A, and only one, right finger for each key.  A lot of typists (probably mainly QWERTY typists) insist upon typing the same key with the same finger every single time.  I don't do that.  I type on QWERTY and am not interested in switching to Colemak in the near future, but I just randomly thought of two words containing the letter l as an example: to type hyperbole, I type the l with my index finger, while to type inconsequential, I type the l with my ring finger, based on the other letters of the word.  Since the letters before the l in hyperbole using the right hand are p and o and those are on the very right side of the top row of the QWERTY keyboard, I would center my hand at around that part of the keyboard, so that when typing the l, I would use my index finger.  However, with a word like inconsequential where the other letters in the word on the right-hand side of the keyboard are all to the left of l, then I would type the l with one of my rightmost fingers (usually the ring finger).  I have a good enough map of the QWERTY keyboard in my head that I type certain keys with different letters based on the other letters in the given word and the surrounding words so I don't have to move my hands as much to (for instance) always type the l with my right ring finger according to the home-row key dictum, and I don't do this with just l's.  My guess is this is my primary advantage over a lot of other typists who insist on returning their fingers to the bumps on the f and j and try to type each key with the same finger every single time.  I think that's wrong and you should base it on whatever the surrounding letters you have to type are (centering your hands around the part of the keyboard where most of the letters in the word you are typing are located).  I think I learned how to develop this particular talent so that for me it's automatic just like typing the same letters with the same fingers is automatic for others.  Like I said, I haven't read much scholarship on typing at all, so it wouldn't surprise me if this is some established technique I developed independently, but it still surprises me that most touch typing advice doesn't discuss differential typing of the same character based on the context of whatever you're typing.  To me, it seems obvious, and I don't think this has much to do with "advanced floating", although I'm sure you guys do have a specific term for it.

With regard to caps lock vs. shift, I meant exactly what I said there.  When typing capital letters, I virtually always use caps lock, not shift (occasionally there are exceptions).  I infinitely prefer caps lock to shift for a variety of reasons.  I am considerably more accurate with caps lock because when you are holding down the shift key, there are a variety of other things you have to think about that makes typing a capital letter considerably more complicated.  Did I press the key hard enough for it to register?  Did I make sure to release it immediately before typing the next character?  This can be very hard at around 200 wpm (where the vast majority of typos I find are me hitting the space bar one character too early or one character too late).  You have to release the shift key at the exact right moment which at my speed can be very difficult since that would be within a tenth of a second or less, and not making an error there is by no means guaranteed (in fact, I frequently do whenever I have to use shift, i.e. characters such as !@#$%^...)  Furthermore, I don't like shift because it locks my left pinky into place and therefore forces my left hand to be locked into place.  Given my main typing strategy which I detailed above, I like to NOT have a fixed location for either my left or right hand and slightly vary it according to the context of the words.  My left hand is not usually fixed near the shift key when I am typing, so holding down the shift key and locking my left hand into a place I would not normally put it would mess me up.  For these main reasons, I am much more comfortable using caps lock than shift for any capital letters, but obviously I do use shift for the characters I need to.  However, if you're a traditional home-row typist who for the most part does not vary the finger you use based on the other letters in the word, Shift is probably preferable.

I haven't even read much about what the mainstream typing rules are, but I don't think I follow them.  Nonetheless, the way I type is much more comfortable (to me) than the way you're "supposed" to type.

To be sure, I probably only use at most two or three different fingers to type a specific key (and one of them WILL always be the finger you are supposed to type it with based on the home-row method), but considering it seems like the vast majority of people who know about touch-typing believe that you never deviate from the home-row method (presumably, the people on this site know about and have discussed 15-20 other methods including mine), it's worth discussing.

Perhaps I need to make what I have written on my website a little less vague...

Last edited by arenasnow (03-Dec-2011 22:13:07)
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Hey! A celebrity! ...oh hell, when WAS the last time I cleaned this place? Do pardon the mess. Um... have a seat... wait no, let me get that for you. I'm afraid we don't have anything to drink, but we do have cookies...?


I see what you mean now about using the capslock. I never really gave it much thought to the implications of typing at 200 wpm (heck, sometimes I doubt I even think at 200 wpm). 200 wpm is, what, around 17 keystrokes per second? If you are going that fast, what is an extra key or two. Or five. Right?

Anyway, I was thinking about your comments about typing with whatever finger is most comfortable and positioning fingers based on upcoming text. That sounds somewhat like what I might do when forced to type one handed. Most efficient fingering with the least amount of movement, disregarding the home position. That is what I consider advanced float. Strategic typing, if you will. The thing is, it isn't something I could do with two hands. Or without glancing at the board and generally spending more time planning my next keystroke than my next word. Home position is a little too ingrained in the system. So, I got to thinking that maybe training each hand to float over the whole board individually, then combining them might get similar results to your system. If you don't mind me asking, as a point of comparison, I was wondering if you know the speed you type with a single hand?

Final question, if I remember correctly, on the site provided by Tony_VN you say you set most of your online records with a Das Keyboard (mechanical), but are currently using a Logitech Illuminated (scissor). Again, if you don't mind me asking, any reason?

Last edited by cevgar (04-Dec-2011 00:07:38)
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Thanks Sean for your detailed explanation of your typing tips.

Such individual typing style of Sean is hard to explain and even harder for others to imitate. I think Sean's style decreases the finger travel a lot, and since other Qwerty typists use the standard "returning back to home row" way, Sean has a distinct advantage.

All Qwerty-Dvorak-Colemak comparison is under assumption that Qwerty typists use the standard typing method, which Sean is challenging. It is clear that Qwerty is not bad for everyone, but bad for only typists who use the standard typing style.

In a way, Sean has optimized Qwerty to a level that comes close to Colemak.

For Colemak users, I think the standard "returning back to home row" typing style is fine, since Colemak focus on the home row (65-69%), while Qwerty focus on the top row (50-55%).

@Sean: Since your typing style is individually optimized, while Colemak typing style is standard, you are not advised to switch to Colemak or any other layouts.

Last edited by Tony_VN (04-Dec-2011 02:32:30)
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Well, 200 wpm is not my average.  174 wpm is clearly my overall average (since my TypeRacer career average on arenasnow2, my non-race-selection account, my 50-minute hi-games.net score, and my nitrotype.com average all converge there), but that would still be 14.5 characters per second.

I have never tried to assess my ability with one hand before, but I do know that I'm not very good at one-handed typing, and that there are many, many, many people who do that better than I do (I tried to do a 1-minute one-handed tests on hi-games.net and was only at 41 wpm with my right hand, and 33 wpm with my left hand).  I've been touch typing with two hands for so long I can only think about how I would type something with both hands and I was making tons of errors trying to use only one hand...

I have rarely recorded myself typing or anything, nor have I watched videos of people typing using the home-row method.  I'm sure I mostly still do use home-row, but the key is to not always do so without any variation whatsoever (and definitely do NOT repeatedly search for the f and j keys to center your hands, not that that applies to anyone using Colemak, but I digress).  Furthermore, I'd imagine that most Qwerty typists diverge from home-row much more than they think they do, given the frequency of typos in general.  One of the other top TypeRacer users commented in the YouTube video taken at the Ultimate Typing Championship that I do mostly use the home-row method except for typing the backspace with a different finger, but I'm less sure myself because I haven't tried to analyze my style yet to a great degree (when describing this, I often have to reconstruct by trying to think about how I'd type a specific word, and I'm not 100% positive I'd always type the same word using the same fingers every time).

With regard to the Das Keyboard vs. Logitech, this is an embarrassing story.  I won the Das Keyboard as a prize for making the Ultimate Typing Championship finals, however I live with my mom and she spilled soda in the Das last April.  I've been unemployed most of the last two years so I bought a relatively cheap replacement Logitech keyboard from Staples.  To be honest, it wasn't much slower.  While some keyboards are certainly better than others, in terms of average speed differential I kind of doubt it would be more than 5 wpm from keyboard to keyboard.  I set records on the Logitech too (at this point I don't remember which records I set on which keyboards).  Later, Das Keyboard did an interview with me and after I told them the other keyboard was destroyed they sent me a new one in exchange for the interview, so I am using a Das again.

Last edited by arenasnow (04-Dec-2011 08:10:23)
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@arenasnow,

To me you have alternating keyboard layout that you have developed. I doubt you can't really teach your typing style.  That's so fantastic.

I give an example for others. Martial arts - the technique of fighting skills - have developed various forms. Boxing is one. Traditional boxer only use two hands, and punching and waving are all he got.

If the boxer fights against an opponent who knows boxing and wresting, unless the boxer lands a good lucky punch to knock down the opponent, the boxer will loose.

To be a good martial artist, one needs to know: punching, kicking, grappling, plus understanding the body mechanism, and practicing and fighting. So the fighter adjusts mix or change styles against each opponents which suits best.

You changes fingering position for word patterns to have maximum speed and accuracy.

@Tony_VN,
I totally agree with you.   Sean has mastered the formless layout that can't be fit in a fixed layout. How many typists can achieve that level?

A good fight should be like a small play, but played seriously. A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit. It hits all by itself.

Last edited by penguin (04-Dec-2011 08:18:55)

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Interesting point about using caps lock to avoid simultaneous key presses. I'm not at the speeds where releasing shift fast enough matters but it should help with comfort. In fact I have now started using sticky keys as an experiment.

[shift] h e l l o
"Hello"

u s e r s   [shift] [shift] w h e r e [shift]   i d
"users WHERE id"


A dangling control key press can be destructive, though :-)

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So everyone should learn the standard typing techniques, and when you have known all the rules, feel free to change some rules to your advantage.

For Colemak users, most of the time your fingers would rest on the home row, so standard typing techniques are still good.

Colemak use Capslock for Backspace, this is another optimized key relocation.

I will try to use Shift as sticky key to type UPPERCASE.

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@erw: My sentiment exactly about the Ctrl key! Isn't it possible to have a sticky Shift only?

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I've got the same question. I couldn't manage to set it up from the Sticky keys under Windows. I also would like to try it.

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The pattern I demonstrated is from sticky keys in GNOME. I don't know how it works in other systems, sorry.

But I was just looking into the possibility of using only sticky shift when I noticed how pleasant it is to have the other modifiers sticky as well. You have to pay a bit more attention, though. But I have an indicator in the menu bar showing the state of each modifier (off, once, locked) which helps.


Edit: Sticky keys also really help for single handed typing which is kinda hard on a Kinesis Advantage.

Last edited by erw (05-Dec-2011 21:42:34)
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I suppose Autohotkey can help with a script for sticky Shift only. Maybe someone who are Autohotkey proficient will post a script.

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I tried but couldn't do it myself, neither could I find any on their forum. Here's a topic so we can continue our discussion about this there: https://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?pid=8862

Last edited by pafkata90 (06-Dec-2011 03:01:51)
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erw said:

The pattern I demonstrated is from sticky keys in GNOME. I don't know how it works in other systems, sorry.

But I was just looking into the possibility of using only sticky shift when I noticed how pleasant it is to have the other modifiers sticky as well. You have to pay a bit more attention, though. But I have an indicator in the menu bar showing the state of each modifier (off, once, locked) which helps.


Edit: Sticky keys also really help for single handed typing which is kinda hard on a Kinesis Advantage.

Xorg supports the sticky key feature. ^^  I tried on my Debian workstation, which uses fluxbox as window manager.

$ startx -- +accessx

To activate the sticky key press [Shift] five times. To turn it off do it again.

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We are not worthy!

When starting out with touch typing, I was looking for some good examples of typing, and came across the ultimate typing championship video featuring Sean.  I noticed that he doesn't type by the book at all!  His fingers look quite straight, he has a bit of a hunch, but it clearly works for him!

Pianists are told to arch their fingers - but some professional pianists don't do that also, so it goes to show there are many different approaches and styles.  What might be good for one, isn't necessarily right for another.

@cevgar? can you define what you mean by floating style then?  I assume you mean floating the hands rather than resting the wrists?  I have noticed a general improvement since adopting this style.  It certainly helps on the longer reaches like the number row.  And I now move my arms as well as my fingers.  I'm stretching my fingers less and less.  And generally my typing is becoming more relaxed and easier with time.

When I started out I was vigilant about returning my fingers to the home row.  These days they return to roughly that area, but I'm not groping about for bumps (my last keyboard the bumps wore off entirely.)  I'm sure my mind has learned to not return to the home row for some scenarios, it's natural to find shortcuts.

I found an old rubber dome in the bin the other day, and decided to clean it up.  And was pretty surprised to find that I typed almost at the same rate on it as my mechanical.  Though I do prefer my Dell.

Sean's comments are a welcome antidote to some of the keyboard snobbery found on some forums.  I doubt I would see that much of a change between my £10 recycled keyboard, and something costing ten times the price.  But as I said in another thread - I think my typing has gotten better as a result of using a mechanical (but it's a hard thing to quantify.)

I don't think I could consciously think about using alternative fingers in certain scenarios.  I think though that subconsciously you end up doing this anyway if you are pushing yourself for speed or comfort.

When I was cleaning the mentioned keyboard, I decided for a laugh to switch the layout (swapping key caps) to Dvorak for the first time.  I couldn't even remember the position of O and E without doing a bit of mock typing.  It's funny how brainless typing becomes.  The brain is amazing (said with a Brian Cox like enthusiasm)!  I find reading ahead by a word helps my typing - but I don't feel that I'm consciously doing anything more than reading the word - it just comes out!

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pinkyache said:

I doubt I would see that much of a change between my £10 recycled keyboard, and something costing ten times the price.

Speed no, but comfort yes.

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@pinkyache
To me, float means a flexible home position, or hand or finger motions that bypass home position between keystrikes. Ideally it would be to reduce finger motion in favor of hand/arm motion. For instance, 'you' on qwerty. You could extend your fingers to reach each letter. Or you could move your hand up a row and a little to the left, floating your fingers above the top row keys, instead of returning to home positions between each strike. A sort of floating home position. Another example would be 'nothing'. At the beginning of the word, my right hand spreads out for N, O and I simultaneously, despite not needing I till the fifth letter of the word. After the N, my index finger goes straight to H, bypassing J, and so on.

Also, you shouldn't be resting your wrists over much, as that tends to lead to wrist extension. Wrist rests are like lumbar supports, poor replacements for proper posture.

Beyond that, erw is right. Mechanical isn't really about speed. It is about comfort over time. Dome and scissor keyboards require 'bottoming out' to register. That means jamming the thing straight into the backboard, usually with far more pressure than is required, because if you miss connecting, by even a hair, you get nothing. That kind of repeated jarring impact, honestly, you might as well be typing on concrete. Or on a touch screen. Mechanicals are designed to register about midpoint of the motion, often with a soft tactile and audible click to let the typist know that the strike is good. Once the typist adapts to the keyboard's specifics, they can often apply just enough pressure to get it to register without bottoming out. This greatly lessens the stress typing on the fingers. On the same point, I often find myself wondering if the old model m's might not be even more ergonomic than those silly wave shapes Microsoft has been pushing.


About StickyKeys. Windows has them as described, single modifier for one instance, with the option to lock with a double click. There does not seem to be anyway to turn on StickyKeys for only the shift, or to disable StickyKeys for the other modifiers. StickyKeys can set off sounds when a modifier is pressed and display modifier status in the taskbar.

Last edited by cevgar (07-Dec-2011 02:54:09)
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Hmmm... for most people, I'd think that 'float' is taken to mean a typing position where you don't rest your wrists/palms/fingertips (much) but keep your hands floating over the keyboard, fingertips barely touching the home position. I'll wager a search will support this - I immediately found this link for instance.

Your definition should therefore probably have another name I feel. What about 'flexible home position' ('home-flex' for the speedy)? ;)

I agree with your bottoming out argument, but I do think that you may type on a membrane board without bottoming out much if you're skillful and careful! It's just easier to do it right on a mechanical board... and I like other geekhackers LOVE the feeling! Also, whenever I'm stressful I'll forget to type carefully on the membrane boards and stress plus bad typing should be a horrible mix for the poor muscles.

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Yes, DreymaR, I'll agree to that. My own definition of float was poorly worded (I realized after posting that I was talking through my hat), and is perhaps more of a description of changes to typing style that might happen after you've been floating for a while, or a technique aided by floating rather than of  floating itself. I think I was trying to cover all my bases and instead missed most of them.

While I still think of it as advanced float in my mind, I'll go along with this 'home-flex' term for now. Then to explain the advanced 'home-flex' I accused arenasnow of earlier, lets take the word 'tree' on qwerty. Basic home-flex has typist sliding the hand/fingers up so the Middle and Index are on ER and stretching for the T. Advanced home-flex would have the typist moving Ring, Middle and Index to ERT.


About mechanicals, rounding up my previous statement, I present you with this analogy. Shoes don't make you run faster. They make running more comfortable, and ease impact on joints. You can probably run just as fast barefoot, maybe even faster, but not as long. While it might not seem like much now, in 30-40 years the guy with shoes is still going to be running, and the barefoot guy is going to be reduced to trampoline exercises. Or like parking. Sure you can pull up to the parking curb slower, or touch it more gently, but overall it is better not to hit it at all.

Out of curiosity, how do you avoid bottoming out on a membrane keyboard? Granted most people don't really JAM keys down, as I was implying, and I don't doubt a skilled typist can reduce the effects, but the very design makes coming to a dead stop at the bottom of the key motion necessary, no matter how gently. Maybe I am using the term wrong?

Last edited by cevgar (07-Dec-2011 14:28:31)
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