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Aaargh - Developing Muscle Memory Is So Hard

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Hi All,
AAARGH - DEVELOPING MUSCLE MEMORY IS SO HARD
Chronicles of TwoLeftThumbs a Joe average Querty Typer's experience switching to Colemak.

I switched to Colemak approximately 11 days ago.  I've been typing with Querty for over 40 years. Never too good at it. 30 on a bad day 50 on a good day
measured by Type Racer beginner mode.

I've never been comfortable with Querty. The motions are so all over the place and jerky. I  find my fingers and hands hurt a little after a lot of typing.
So I said hey there must be a better way. I went online and researched the different keyboard layouts and decided on Dvorak.

I typed with Dvorak for around 3 days and said " hey this is not for me". Dvorak doesn't have much in finger rolls or same side typing.
It's so back and forth back and forth. I just couldn't get into it. So back to the drawing board. I've tried the two most popular Keyboard Layouts in the world, might as well
try the third.

Deciding factors were that Colemak is integrated into Linux and with the handy dandy program provided by Colemak it's easily integrated into Window 7.
What's really nice is that both Linux and Windows allow you to program Hot Keys to switch back and forth between the  layouts. This is very important!

I've been typing on Colemak for around 10 days now. Up until yesterday I quit cold turkey it. But finally I decided that I had taken too large a hit in work productivity so I'm alternating between Colemak and Querty depending on how busy I am. Querty in the mornings and Colemak in the afternoons or when I'm not behind. The funny thing is that Colemak is actually helping my Querty typing. Figure.?

Last week 1 st  Friday [January 13th 2017] I ended the week at 7 words per minute in Type Racer Beginner Mode. I didn't test myself until tonight 2nd Week Friday and I've increased that to 13 words a minute. I'm finally remembering the majority of the Colemak layout. I find the biggest challenges are that I have a tendency to press the Querty U instead of CK U and the T instead of D. [It's only one over]. I never realized how rarely the P,G,J,K, keys are used very hard to remember. Believe it or not the keys that are the same Like Z X C V B throw me for a loop too. I always have to stop a second and think. Is this really the same in Colemak!

Anyway I think it was valuable to go cold turkey for the 10 days but now I have to get serious, my job performance suffered. My plan is to continue alternating in Querty until I reach 30 words a minute. Hopefully in another 2 weeks to a month. I think  can accept a hit in typing speed  from around 44 to 30.

My biggest problem is that so many words I've been typing for years. I have strong muscle memory. For example right now when I'm typing this post in querty  it's like the word goes from brain to finger without a buffer. My fingers just know what to do. I don't have to think and there are words and companies that I've been using or dealing with for years that I type wicked fast because the keystrokes are just hotwired totally into my muscle memory.

So you may ask why am I going to continue with Colemak.

The biggest two reason why I'm have the commitment to continue are the following.

1.Pride  I've always felt that we should look for a better mouse trap. and Colemak is without a doubt superior to Querty. I'm in my 50s and learning Colemak demonstrates to me that my mind is still open to learning new and better ways!

2. I hate to admit it but I aint getting any younger. I want to avoid the potential joint complications created by typing approximately twice as much [Key Distance Wise] and with way more awkward stressful keys.

My advise to a others who are at the beginning stage is the following.

1. If you are experienced with Qwerty and like using same hand key presses, don't even think about  Dvorak. It's just not fluid in the way that Colemak will become.
2. Print out the Colemak Chart in Color and put it in front of your Keyboard. Yes you can change your keyboard keys but your hand covers both the 1st and 2nd rows and if you are using proper technique the 3rd row too.
One other tip. I actually wrote little | on top  of the beginning letters in all three rows. Example o|   I ||   E |||   N ||||   and same on the other side and rows. This helped me to find my postioning from based on where my pinkie rests. Example at the beginning I'd think E 3rd finger over. I used the | so that I wouldn't become confused by letters and number.  This worked for me. Now I don't notice the | anymore but at the very beginning it was helpful.
3. Use a Typing Program like TypeRacer to practise and keep track of your progress. I paid the $12.00 for a year so I can save my progress as I go. It's very encouraging to see yoursel go from 4 words a minute to 7 and than to 13 etc...
4. Be mellow, accept that you aren't going to learn it instantly
5. Integrate it and use it at your work if possible. Practice Practice Practice. Depending how your mind works you can alternate between the two layouts. I feel at this point I've been able to use both because my muscle memory is in Querty and my conscious typing is in Colemak.

Side note: The Dvorak after 3 days was messing with my Querty skills but the Colemak hasn't at all.
2nd Side Note: This could change as my proficiency in Colemak increases and I learn new muscle memory.

On a different subject I'm hoping that my mind can compartmentalize the two. When I was 19 I studied Spanish in Spain. I became fluent but interestingly enough a part of my brain began to and continues to think in Spanish. I pretty much don't translate from English to Spanish. When I speak Spanish I use a compartmentalized part of my brain that thinks in Spanish mode. Later I decided to learn French. It was too much for me. I had to drop it because the French words were going into the Spanish Compartment, guess I wasn't intelligent enough for a 3rd compartment. Only 1 foreign language compartment.
I felt it was advisable  to know Spanish well than a bastardized mix of two foreign languages.

I'll emphasize for those thinking about switching to Colemak that I'm two left thumbs, my eye to hand coordination isn't  the best and I'm a Joe Average Typer. I'm approaching Colemak as a mediocre typist. Your experience may be different.

Last edited by TwoLeftThumbs (23-Jan-2017 03:10:44)
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Welcome to the world of Colemak!  Everything seems a bit strange at first but you'll come to love it.

Dvorak is fine and all, but I'm always surprised when brand new switchers choose it over Colemak.

I feel your pain, I went through a similar difficult experience. I'm guessing from your previous Qwerty speed, like me, you weren't using the proper touch-typing technique previously. The great think about Colemak is it pretty much forces you to start using a good technique. So in addition to more comfortable typing, you should also end up with better, less strain-inducing technique, and be a faster typist too. So, yeah, keep with it. In a couple of months or so, it will all have been worth it.

Regarding keeping Qwerty ability - I did the opposite of you. I felt that trying to hold on to Qwerty would make it more difficult to internalize Colemak. I didn't even want to look at Qwerty board!  On the other hand, others do prefer to remain "bikeyboardial" (is that a word?), so it can work.

Obligatory plug: If you are having difficulty with D (or G) and don't object to deviating from classic Colemak, you could always consider Mod-DH, or even simply do a D>P>G switch.

Last edited by stevep99 (21-Jan-2017 11:33:14)

Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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1. Dvorak is fine and all, but I'm always surprised when brand new switchers choose it over Colemak.
I chose it first because it was number 2. In many ways it makes sense but the drawback of back and forth wasn't right for me.

2.  you weren't using the proper touch-typing technique previously.
Actually I learned to touch type in school my form was fine . My fingers are short and stubby and I'm pretty uncoordinated so I'd mess up the awkward strokes and I can't reach the number bar easily.

2. Obligatory plug: If you are having difficulty with D (or G) and don't object to deviating from classic Colemak, you could always consider Mod-DH , or even simply do a D>P>G switch.
Thanks for the tip I'll investigate it thoroughly. problem is that it's easy to do in windows but not in Linux. How about changing the T and F keys?









stevep99 said:

Welcome to the world of Colemak!  Everything seems a bit strange at first but you'll come to love it.

Dvorak is fine and all, but I'm always surprised when brand new switchers choose it over Colemak.

I feel your pain, I went through a similar difficult experience. I'm guessing from your previous Qwerty speed, like me, you weren't using the proper touch-typing technique previously. The great think about Colemak is it pretty much forces you to start using a good technique. So in addition to more comfortable typing, you should also end up with better, less strain-inducing technique, and be a faster typist too. So, yeah, keep with it. In a couple of months or so, it will all have been worth it.

Regarding keeping Qwerty ability - I did the opposite of you. I felt that trying to hold on to Qwerty would make it more difficult to internalize Colemak. I didn't even want to look at Qwerty board!  On the other hand, others do prefer to remain "bikeyboardial" (is that a word?), so it can work.

Obligatory plug: If you are having difficulty with D (or G) and don't object to deviating from classic Colemak, you could always consider Mod-DH, or even simply do a D>P>G switch.

Last edited by TwoLeftThumbs (23-Jan-2017 04:19:21)
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If you're only 11 days into Colemak, don't expect your muscle memory to do you any favours in a while. You wouldn't expect to learn the piano in 11 days, I guess? ;-)

If the switch is irksome, you could always reconsider using Tarmak?

The mod-DH variants are easy enough to use if you use my Linux/XKB files. I hope. Let me know if you run into any trouble.

Switching to Dvorak now doesn't really make that much sense. It's a bridge too far, lots of unnecessary key changes that don't make life easier. Yes, installed in Windows but community support for Colemak probably is better these days. Today, there are simply better options. It's quite all right to stick with Dvorak if you already type it of course.

Swapping T and F would mean bigram trouble. Colemak is quite finely tuned, so if you let keys switch fingers you'll likely run into annoying trouble further down the road. As an example, FC/CF is a difficult bigram pair on Colemak, but rare. Your suggestion would mean making the much more common bigram CT difficult, which is a bad bad idea.

Last edited by DreymaR (23-Jan-2017 09:48:00)
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man - make life easy on yourself and go tarmak!

11 days is nothing - I'm still not fluent after several years..

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I'd say you're pretty fluent BPH! You just have high goals. ;-)

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> 1. Dvorak is fine and all, but I'm always surprised when brand new switchers choose it over Colemak.

Sigh.  Why would they choose Colemak over Dvorak?

Dvorak has an alternating hand style. Takes a while to get used to, I'll grant you that.  But once you get it, it's quite a nice ping pong you get between both sides of the keyboard.

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pinkyache said:

> 1. Dvorak is fine and all, but I'm always surprised when brand new switchers choose it over Colemak.

Sigh.  Why would they choose Colemak over Dvorak?

Dvorak has an alternating hand style. Takes a while to get used to, I'll grant you that.  But once you get it, it's quite a nice ping pong you get between both sides of the keyboard.

Well, I don't really want to rehash over the same arguments, and I'm not saying Dvorak is bad - since I have never even tried it, I'm not in a position to comment.  In fact there are some aspects of it that I like the look of.

When I was doing my layout research, I dismissed Dvorak it immediately. Changing keyboard layout is such a difficult transition, without making life extra tough for yourself by choosing such a hard layout to learn. That's why I'm surprised that new users would choose it - learning it looks to me like the self flagellation of keyboard layout switching.

The alternating style of Dvorak is often mentioned. What does this mean precisely? Is the claim that, for every left-hand key, it is better if the next following key is right-hand, and vice versa? I can see how not having long sequences on the same hand is a good thing, but then, Colemak doesn't (generally) suffer much from that either.  In summary what I'm really asking is: Is there a well-defined quantified measure of what is meant by "alternating"?

Last edited by stevep99 (24-Jan-2017 11:16:13)

Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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Dvorak places vowels on the left hand, and some punctuation plus the not so used letters: k,j and q.  P is the anomaly. So if you look at vowel distribution in most words you can grok the consequences.  Makes one handed typing on ISO Dvorak a bit of pain in the posterior though.

Last edited by pinkyache (24-Jan-2017 11:59:45)

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Sigh. We can aspirate at each other until the cows come home, ostensibly.

Dvorak has alternations, Colemak has rolls, they're both very good. Dvorak has some blemishes and absurdities (and they both mistake the middle trench for top quality locations which may be remedied by a Curl mod), but all in all it comes somewhat down to preferences.

Except. Dvorak moves too many keys and consequently becomes needlessly hard to learn. Much less bang for the buck, for a result that's almost but not quite as good as Colemak (for most – yes, I really really believe that!). And don't give me any of that "but it's just as simple because I believe" because I'm just not buying that. Complex things are harder to learn than simple ones, muscle memory or not.

In hindsight, some have claimed that maybe Dvorak has too much hand ping-pong, and maybe Colemak could've had a little more. The ideal may be short rolls on alternating hands most of the time? Or, again, that may be somewhat up to preferences?

I think that Colemak may be the one-handed winner: Using my mirror layouts, you can use the Colemak you already know. With Dvorak, there are two separate one-handed layouts that would have to be learnt whenever you hurt your hand. Maybe you can type faster in the end with a one-handed Dvorak layout; I wouldn't know. But for a short-term one-handed solution I'll wager Colemak (mirrored) is great.

Last edited by DreymaR (24-Jan-2017 16:17:20)
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pinkyache said:

Dvorak places vowels on the left hand, and some punctuation plus the not so used letters: k,j and q.  P is the anomaly. So if you look at vowel distribution in most words you can grok the consequences.  Makes one handed typing on ISO Dvorak a bit of pain in the posterior though.

Yes, instinctively you would think it makes sense for vowels to be on one side, consonants on the other. Colemak nearly does this (except A obviously) too. But of course, words tend not be consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel, in English anyway. This must work well for Japanese words though!

I expect there must be plenty of non-alternating bigrams/trigrams whether you use Dvorak or Colemak. Maybe in Dvorak it turns the rate is a little lower...  But even so, doesn't sound much to get excited about. What's more important is how comfortable the patterns of keys are to type overall. For example, the (colemak) NT bigram is hand-alternation, and is very nice.  But then you could look at say, ZO... sure that's OK to type, but is it any better than the same-hand bigram of EN? I don't think so. In other words, some alternating bigrams are comfortable, as are some same-hand bigrams.

So I guess what I am saying is: Instead of focussing on how much hand alternation, it would be better to assign a rating to all the possible bigrams (or perhaps trigrams), and then base the judgement on that instead.

Last edited by stevep99 (24-Jan-2017 18:00:25)

Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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Good News!
It's middle of the week Wed Jan 1st 2017 and my rating on Typeracer is up from 13 on Friday to 19 Words a minute. Yes I know it's not a speed to brag about but it's progress.

This is with me typing all day long at work and practicing in Typeracer and Sense

The bad news is that I'm in the twilight world of being slow on Colemak and no longer being able to type Qwerty.

I've noticed that  new muscle memory is slowly developing.

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Go you! (y)

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i remember that feeling of looking into the abyss when i realised qwerty was gone and colemak was still a speck in the distance

trick now is not to fold

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Didn't the tarmak rafts keep you safely afloat over that abyss? :-)

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they did, though with the benefit of hindsight i can see i rushed through them needlessly

should have taken my time..

Last edited by bph (26-Jan-2017 13:14:24)
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bph said:

i remember that feeling of looking into the abyss when i realised qwerty was gone and colemak was still a speck in the distance

trick now is not to fold

No folding for me (probably) I feel the toughest part is over. I know where the keys are by pure memory although I still make Qwerty induced mistakes. And that's half the battle. Words I type over and over at work are being remembered in new muscle memory Although It is very frustrating typing slow, especially in a rush situation.

If I hit a ceiling where my speed or accuracy doesn't improve then I''d  be tempted to fold. But at a point where my Speed is increasing 100% Beginning and 50% per week after 2 weeks, I'm very encouraged. 30 Words per minute is my low point goal. My 13 year old son tried Typeracer in Querty and he's at about 30 words a minute and with practice went up to 36 a minute. He's using all his fingers but not touch typing or following touch typing form. So that's a kind of benchmarking.

I bought Colored Iearning stickers for my keyboard on Amazon.] because my computer at home is used by my children. At work I switched the keys to Colemak Layout. They also sell transparent stickers but my keyboard has the letters positioned in center of keys, so I needed this one.

On a different note: For an excellent Keyboard at a affordable price ($30.00) with easy peasy key pulling. It uses plunger keys to simulate mechanical and  feels amazing and is amazingly accurate. This IOGEAR Kaliber Gaming HVER Aluminum Gaming Keyboard Iiked it so much that I bought Two. 1 for work and one for home.
I suggest very strongly that anyone beginning Colemak join a service like typeracer ($12.00 per Year). It's a reward system to see yourself progressing in Black and White!

Last edited by TwoLeftThumbs (26-Jan-2017 15:49:59)
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I'm stoked!
It's Thursday with one day to go for my Friday weekly status.
So far the week went very lackluster. I was staying around 23 -24 words a minute.
Felt like I hit a brick wall. No progress.

Then on work break this afternoon I went into Typeracer. I started jamming. Got my first score in the 30s which was
32 and began scoring in the high 20's my average speed is up to 27 with accuracy in the 90s.

The 32 score was so encouraging.
Until you see it done, you can't believe that it can be done! I did it once and 'll be doing it regularly very soon! [ I hope ]

I'm going to go a different practice route tonight, I'm going to go Gonzo on Senslang and play meteor shower until I drop
tomorrow let's see if I can reach 30 which will be a 30% increase!

Just had to go on a co workers computer and Qwerty looked like a foreign language.
Decided to one finger type so as not to mess with my new Colemak muscle memory.

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Go you! :-)

Remember: Varied exercise is best. Don't overdo the sessions, you'll just "die tired". Instead, many shorter and varied sessions will help. Typing Of The Dead is hilarious if you can get hold of it, but more importantly it's one of the better tools I know for varied training. Or just type texts in Amphetype (but that may still be too slow for you to enjoy).

Last edited by DreymaR (03-Feb-2017 09:55:21)
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I'll have my Friday Update Later in the Day but currently I'm at and have reached a bar of 27 words per minute. just can't seem to rise above it.

But I just realized something that's encouraging.
Once you are above 24 WPM Typeracer goes from beginner mode to intermediate mode and the phrases become longer and  more difficult.

So intangibly an increase from 23 WPM beginner to 27 WPM is substantially more than a 18% increase probably closer to a 30% -40% increase.
taking into account the difficulty Level.

Hey I started cold turkey on Jan 10,  24 Days later I'm 27 words a minute which is the bottom end of Typeracer average typist. I'm able to do my job/work typing adequately.

Don't know if this is considered good progress but I'm Joe average two left thumbs, so if I can do it anyone with a little desire and willing to put in some work can learn Colemak in a relatively short period of time. I'm not saying my progress is exceiient,only that the road to typing adequately with Colemak isnt  super long.

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Friday Feb 3rd - 24 Days into it.

Just hit 29 WPM average on typeracer.

Friday last week was at 23 WPM beginner mode. Now 29 WPM intermediate mode.
that's a 26% increase in typing speed, not taking into account that Typeracer tests in intermediate mode are harder.

I'm not anticipating a large increase this coming week. Hopefully I'll hit 32-34 WPM.

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TwoLeftThumbs said:

I'm Joe average two left thumbs

It doesn't matter if you have two left thumbs, as due to the rubbish design of standard keyboards, only one thumb ever gets used!!!

TwoLeftThumbs said:

the road to typing adequately with Colemak isnt  super long.

Yeah, keep going. I found that at around the 40wpm mark, it started to gel and feel comfortable, and you are pretty close to that point now.

Last edited by stevep99 (04-Feb-2017 13:57:31)

Using Colemak Mod-DH with some additional ergonomic keyboard mods.

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stevep99 said:
TwoLeftThumbs said:

I'm Joe average two left thumbs

It doesn't matter if you have two left thumbs, as due to the rubbish design of standard keyboards, only one thumb ever gets used!!!

TwoLeftThumbs said:

the road to typing adequately with Colemak isnt  super long.

Yeah, keep going. I found that at around the 40wpm mark, it started to gel and feel comfortable, and you are pretty close to that point now.

Thanks for the encouragement, at times it's so frustrating, my mind just can't connect seamlessly with my finger, it helps to hear a friendly voice.

Not to be argumentative: Actually proper typing form is that you press the space bar with the opposing thumb of the last letter typed before the space. Since I'm right handed I have a tendency to press my right thumb even when I shouldn't. Hmm maybe I need to change my handle to tworightthumbs!

Yor comment was helpful it  just made me realize that my goal this week should be to unlearn bad Qwerty technique and  practice proper use of thumbs. This should help my speed later on.

40 WPM seems like another 2 weeks to a month away, but who knows, if I study hard maybe it's not so far away.

You are right When I hit 40 WPM I'll be elated because at that point your brain and your fingers are starting to become hardwired!!!

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i would argue that alternating thumbs based on the last letter typed is not correct, because it depends just as much as the NEXT letter as it does the previous

some of the fastest typists in the world at 150-200wpm use only one thumb

of course, acquiring MORE technique is never a bad thing, so if you want to learn how to thumb with both fingers, go for it

Last edited by misterW (05-Feb-2017 02:49:46)
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misterW said:

i would argue that alternating thumbs based on the last letter typed is not correct, because it depends just as much as the NEXT letter as it does the previous

some of the fastest typists in the world at 150-200wpm use only one thumb

of course, acquiring MORE technique is never a bad thing, so if you want to learn how to thumb with both fingers, go for it

When I made that statement I was referring to what was taught in High School typing class over 40 years ago. probably I'm out of date.
I've never questioned it, but haven't followed it.

You have a very valid point.

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