The Typing Training Topic
When I wake up, well, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who types a lot today
When I go out, yeah, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who goes the Colemak way!
When I get time, well, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who hones my skills today
And when I'm home, hey, I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who has some fun today!
But I would type five thousand words
And I would type five thousand more
Just to be the man who typed ten thousand words
Much better than before!
This started out as an instruction in using the amazing Amphetype program for training your typing skills. It now contains lots of other training tricks as well, and links to other sites and programs. Whether you're new to the layout and just want to learn it properly to get by with less confusion, or an advanced speed monster who wants to make that next Personal Best, there should be something useful for you here. Let's start off with some words from the wise before delving into my tools and tricks:
Top Typist Training Tips
• Good training should be varied! Don't wear yourself out by banging your head against a hurdle until you're exhausted, but keep chipping away at it now and then.
• Remember to take breaks and do stretching and loosening exercises for your arms and wrists. Circulation is important, and you do not want RSI!
• Many shorter bouts in a day beats a few long ones. Sleep can also be remarkably effective for processing your progress!
• Typing experts all seem to value the ability to vary your speed. Type well-known words blazingly fast, and slow down a bit for hard ones to avoid mistakes.
• Mistakes will slow you down more than consciously slowing down will, once you get used to it!
• Wise words from 220 WPM typist Sophie at the Colemak Discord on how to progress past 100 WPM; useful for other speeds too:
When I was around 80 WPM I used to use Ctrl+Backspace to delete the entire previous incorrect word to give my muscle memory another shot at typing the thing out as a whole, and sort of like a tiny little self-punishment that made me not want to mess up after long sessions. But there was a point I definitely had to learn to stop stressing so much and pausing over my mistakes and just, in a way, hope I didn't miss.
I think it's really important to try to type a word [part] as one whole action instead of individual letters to get past 100. A good way to practice typing out whole words is to have a bit of fun messing around planning out your fingerings for each word, even if you have to pause on each spacebar for 2–3 or even 4 seconds. It's a good way to get a feel for how typing super fast feels without having to maintain a high WPM and just good practice at the "one word one action" kinda thing. Then maybe if that starts to get comfortable you could try 2 words in a row, and so on. Once you get the words ingrained like that, it's pretty much just a case of staying calm and spacebarring faster.
At the 90–120 WPM range it starts to become less about hitting single buttons fast consciously and more about a relaxed state of mind, your subconscious mind, and achieving a steady mental flow. Around 100 WPM is certainly not a speed that requires you to stress your fingers in any way, it's still at that point very much a mental challenge rather than physical.
Your mind and hands should both be relaxed – although if they start aching a little bit, like workout pain, this is good; you're building some raw strength. Some people say this is bad but I believe you can distinguish between a good pain for strength building and a bad pain for damaging yourself. I found my right pinky usage made my forearm ache for a while til I got it up to speed with the other fingers.
It's only when I type about 220 WPM raw speed I feel like I'm stressing my hands and that it's becoming a physical challenge. But I also have a long way to go in mastering my mindset and staying calm and just improving my typing in general. But yeah – I don't think there's really much physical challenge in achieving 200 WPM with Colemak so just stay calm, and most importantly enjoy your progress! Also experiment and have fun with bursting fast or whatever. You don't have to type rhythmically at the same pace for every word and key combination. Water can flow or it can crash, be water my friend...
Sophie's tips are in accord with what other expert typists have said. But with the added advice of being water! _/|\_
For a list of recommended typing guides, look at the end of this page.
Training with Amphetype
Amphetype is a brilliant cross-platform typing trainer program written by Frank S. Hestvik, that has recently had a "revival release" with a platform update and some extra features. It'll be exiting to see its further development!
Amphetype can be used for leisurely typing texts or for intensive focused training sessions, as you like. It's flexible and informative despite being a one-man project – and it's free. I keep its database in my Dropbox so I can use it from anywhere while keeping track of my texts and progress.
There's an older version that I still use:
I like using a largish font (Cambria Italic 22) and subtle colors that don't annoy the hell out of me:
When opening Amphetype in Windows, I usually press Alt+Space then X to maximize its window – or if you wish, use the mouse like a big muggle. ( Θώθ) c[_]
Amphetype's Performance tab, not sugar-coating my lack of progress. ᏊᵕꈊᵕᏊ
I usually get a book as a text file from Project Gutenberg or similar, and put it into Amphetype. Experiment a little with how large text chunks you want to use (I like between 300 and 900 characters). This is brilliant for getting a lot of typing mileage. I've "read" Machiavelli that way, as well as Alice Through The Looking Glass, some Lovecraft and a 19th century lewd English book! ;-)
For racking up mileage by type-reading books, I recommend not using too strict parameters so you won't have to type the same page again very often. Your average speed -10 WPM and 97% accuracy is a good starting point. You set the limits on the Sources tab, while selecting what text/lesson to type next. I turn off the need to press SPACE before each lesson, so I can type fluently. The timer doesn't start until you start typing a page, so take your time before diving in if you want to.
Further inspiration: Maybe you want to learn lyrics or poems by heart? Of course, type-reading isn't the optimal way of enjoying poetry but can be a hard-hitting combo if you want to repeat a verse many times anyway! Maybe Kipling's "If" will sort out both your wisdom and typing skills at the same time!? Or maybe something motivational is to your tastes? Feel free to use the song I made at the top of this post... ;-)
Bewäre – of «ṡpéciãł çħâràcṭērṣ»: If your layout doesn't support special glyphs like accented letters, en/em dashes (–/—) and typographic quotes („” “” «» etc), make sure your text doesn't have them either. The book I'm currently typing about Greek and Roman mythology has some old-fashioned spellings like Æsculap and Aïdes. For Colemak[eD] that's no problem at all of course, but beware if you aren't used to it. Here are some ways you can ensure you have a text you can type:
Amphetype about to start a book text session (from Berens' Greek/Roman mythology)
Below is a brilliant post (with an edit or two by me) on generating Amphetype training lessons to focus on hard or common words. It's from a topic called Lessons For Colemak Beginners, in which there are lots of other lessons you can use as well:
The Monkeytype site has separate word lists for English (the 200 most common words), English 1k and English 10k. The smallest list is good especially to start up with but I think you need to prepare for some less common words and word parts too so maybe English 1k is the most balanced alternative? If you use a non-randomized list in Amphetype, you can choose whether to type out the whole list or start over after typing part of the list.
Furthermore, you can let Amphetype generate a list of your "most damaging" (or slowest, most mistyped etc.) words or trigrams, and send them to the Lesson Generator! I recommend editing out rare words before making the lessons themselves so you don't risk training words like 'Cthulhu' and 'Shub-Niggurath' a lot, but otherwise this is very useful once you've racked up some mileage in your database.
Amphetype's Analysis tab, where you can make and export lists of words or trigrams that cause you trouble
After type-reading Berens' Graeco-Roman mythology book for a while, Amphetype suggested this amusing list of words for me; I just sorted it and added punctuation:
They that were called under & into Hera/Zeus' order, have this beautiful form from their king/wife gods – with which their being became overly beautiful.
Really, that was my list of "most damaging" words – rearranged but complete. Heh! A truly divine typing task. (Θώθ )
Note that I find the implications of Amphetype's "viscosity" measure a bit complex. Tristesse feels that metronomic typing is optimal if I understand him right, and this has indeed been an ideal in classic typing schools. Typing sites like Monkeytype also report consistency as a good statistic; a high consistency corresponds to a low "viscosity" as I understand it. I think that high-alternation layouts like Dvorak promote a high pace consistency. On the other hand, we know that the best typists do speed up for familiar words and elements and brake down for the trickier ones. In the Colemak layout you can roll some word parts very fast. Ergo, the best typists in the world choose to have "bad consistency" to some extent?! Hmmm....! I still use the "most damaging" stat to select words, as it seems to be the most balanced measure.
I agree with Viper that what's actually important is a good typing flow, and that implies good consistency but with some flexibility too. The golden trifecta of typing is Speed, Accuracy and Flow.
I'd say anything between 85-95% consistency would probably be in the sweet spot
or would correspond to a good flow
below is likely too sloppy and above is playing music, not typing.
If you want to see lesson statistics and not just book text statistics on the Analysis tab, select "Save key/trigram/word statistics from generated lessons" on the Preferences tab.
User bph has tried starting with the 1000 most common words and after a few runs through them, generating a lesson of the 200 most damaging common words! That's clever, and will make you train only words that are both common and hard for you.
Bigram, Trigram, N-Gram Training
Typing is all about grouping chunks of characters together and into your memory. Grab a list of the most common words and n-grams: 'the', 'and', 'with', 'that', 'tion', 'ing', 'for'. You want to be typing those extremely fast. Roll your fingers whenever possible. You want to commit these chunks into memory. You could think of it as, "I'm going to become the best in the world at typing the word different."
What would you need to do to accomplish that? You need to practice it until it becomes second nature that you don't even have to think about it. Visualization helps. When away from the keyboard, visualize in your mind where the keys are and what fingers you will use to type the word "that" or whatever word you struggle with.
Don't practice full paragraphs that you struggle with. Practice small words or phrases, one at a time. So if you want to learn the 'tion' 4-gram, just keep practicing that. Then add a leading letter: 'ation', 'etion', 'ition', 'otion', 'ution', 'ption', get fast and comfortable with all of those combinations. Then try full words: 'station', 'motion', 'fruition'. You'll notice that the start of those words you haven't practiced, so you will be slow for the first few letters, and then you'll speed through the 'tion' part that you practiced. That's good.
Practice it every day. If your hands get tired, take a break and freshen your mind by trying a new combination, say 'ent'. Then 'went', then 'enter', progressing to 'movement'.
Here are a couple of sample lists for focusing on n-grams. Feel free to add your favourites below! ;-)
You can of course use the above mentioned lesson lists with other training tools such as Monkeytype or TypeFaster, if you like.
There's also a very nice n-gram trainer by RanelPadon (you can find him on the Colemak Discord): NGram-Type. Simple, neat and recommended.
Tarmak training with Colemak
Tarmak, as you may know, is my progression of four intermediate layouts forming stepping stones to the Colemak layout by only changing 3–4 keys at a time. Many have used these Tarmak layouts to learn Colemak gradually, while others prefer to dive right in and learn Colemak cold turkey. But there is a middle ground! User colemux devised a clever way of sorting out words based on the Tarmak steps to train on. Doing this, you can have either full Colemak or the appropriate Tarmak# layout installed while training. In a way, it's learning with Tarmak without the need for installing Tarmak!
You can find a directory of such word lists here. Paste one into Amphetype or Monkeytype to generate custom lessons. ( のvの) c[_]
A pangram is a short phrase that contains all letters. Speed typist Sophie at the Colemak Discord used the best-known one about the quick brown fox to learn Colemak! She just typed it over and over until she knew where all the keys are. It's not a bad way of learning a layout I think, as you can do it anywhere without other tools than a simple text box – or in Amphetype or Monkeytype (see below) if you wish.
At higher skill levels, it's probably best to switch your training to the most common words and n-grams as described above. But maybe it's beneficial for the better typists as well to drill the placement of the rarest letters as well now and then, as those may trip you up more easily.
Sophie recommends using a pangram with mostly typical words. The "quick brown fox" one is a good example, as it uses the common word "the" twice and has no really weird words. Here are some fun pangram examples:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs
Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow.
We promptly judged antique ivory buckles for the next prize.
How razorback-jumping frogs can level six piqued gymnasts!
That quick beige fox jumped in the air over each thin dog. Look out, I shout, for he’s foiled you again, creating chaos.
That last one is a phonemic pangram, containing the sounds in English rather than its letters. It lacks W and Z but those are the same in QWERTY and Colemak anyway. I think it's a cute spin on the first one! (✿◠‿◠)
The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human.
This isn't a pangram but close: It's the 160-letter phrase used by The Guinness World Records for their SMS speed record. Good practice for any keyboard type.
Training with Monkeytype
Monkeytype bears special mention. It's a smooth, fairly no-nonsense online trainer with lots of possibilities. You can train words from different languages, interesting quotes and custom text. It makes instructive graphs showing your speeds and mistakes through each test, and has become a favorite of the Colemak Discord.
Here's an example of pangram training, as described above. I used the standard "The quick brown fox..." phrase which comes up by default on the custom test, pressed "change" then "random" and a suitable word count. Generally though, I mostly do time tests with the English or English Expanded vocabularies.
Monkeytype screenshot with custom word training
Other Training Tools
Here are some typing improvement tools I've used or found promising:
Monkeytype, as mentioned, is very popular. It trains common words smoothly, even plotting nice graphs of your speed afterwards.
10FastFingers has a very smooth and enjoyable test with some flexibility like typing your own text.
TypeRacer is another classic for speed training. There's even an Instant Death mode that trains accuracy ruthlessly!
Fast Typer 3 and its predecessor F.T.2 are a hoot, as you train both speed and accuracy very ... fast, indeed. Brutal but fun.
Speed Typing Online has a fun little test in which you type text quotes and lyrics.
Typings.gg is a sleek no-nonsense trainer. Choose how many words to type, and type them.
NGram-Type as mentioned above, is a simple and effective way to train common n-grams.
bType is great if you want an online tool for "type-reading" books. It even supports multiple languages.
TypeLit.io also has books for you to type in. It has a very nice feel and an interesting library.
The Typing of The Dead is an immensely fun game, also described in the main Big Bag topic. Have a gander!
Typer Shark Deluxe is another game I used to play a lot. The Scratch version didn't work for me, but there's also a download of the PopCap game around.
CAPSLOCKDAY is a Steam bundle that looks fun. It's four more or less typing related games at a friendly price. Haven't tried them out, but one of these days I may!
On the Colemak Learn page, there's a list of several tests and trainers, if you want to browse around for more.
Colemak Academy is popular on the Colemak Discord. It has Colemak-DH, but the lessons aren't adjusted for it.
Sense-Lang has Colemak lessons, but no Colemak-DH.
Keybr is used by many learners. It's a rather no-nonsense online trainer.
Key Hero is a nice online solution. It's written by a Colemak user, records progress and focuses on realistic learning.
The Typing Cat also seems nice. Nice kitty! ( =^･ω･^=)丿
This may come too late for you since you're here reading my training page, but:
If you're new to Colemak and didn't opt for the Tarmak experience, then maybe KeyZen-Colemak-DH could work for you? It lets you learn by simply doing in the here and now, without stress. Om, Om! _/|\_
Take the Control Back!
Whether training or just typing normally, I try to make a point of deleting the whole word if I make a mistake.
This is sometimes faster, more precise and more comfortable than mashing the Back key, but more importantly it lets you type the word correctly before proceeding. That may help in the long run: When practising a music instrument for instance, I focus on doing it right so I don't ingrain any mistakes into my muscle memory and so I can learn in flow. I believe that typing is similar in this respect.
Extend helps me do this quite easily (Ext+T+O for Ctrl+Back).
You may have started using the Colemak layout because you heard that it's more ergonomic and comfortable? Congratulations on that choice then. But there are many other factors to consider and they don't only affect your wellbeing but your health and probably even your typing speed! So don't ignore ergonomics but learn and implement things that are good for you in all aspects of life, your typing included.
I will simply hand the mic over to Xayvier alias Viper, who quit speedtyping shortly after becoming the world's fastest Colemak typist because of bad hand pains, but is back now and still blindingly fast. Do check out Viper's Ergonomics Guide! As we like to say about Colemak itself: Your hands will thank you!
At a certain point in your layout training, you'll start to notice some bigrams being less than optimal. One of the selling points for Colemak is that it allows you to use standard touch typing technique without having to devise a lot of homebrew "alt-fingering" tricks to get fast. The fastest QWERTY typists typically use a whole lot of alt-fingering. However, any layout may at some point benefit from a little alt-fingering. Colemak, too, has some same-finger bigrams that aren't all that uncommon:
E, KN UE SC Y.
Yes – SC/CS is a same-finger bigram on Colemak. If you've got CT/CT instead, you're using an "Angle Cheat" technique for which Colemak wasn't designed. I'd strongly advise you to use a proper Angle mod instead, since the CT/TC bigram is at least twice as common than SC/CS and so you'll spoil the excellent design of Colemak a bit by cheating.
Slide your hand in so that the middle finger types N for KN/NK and MN/NM bigrams. This holds true whether you use Colemak Vanilla or DH. It's not so easy for, say, LN/NL or UE/EU so you'll still have to do those the hard way. I often find downward curling bigrams like UE and E-comma easier than the upwards ones, for some reason.
Alt-fingering is useful once you reach a certain level of dedication and skill. I wouldn't recommend it while starting up with a new layout, as it may confuse the newcomer trying to build muscle memory. Gaining at least 50 WPM before starting with alt-fingering has been recommended. But several speed typists use it to good effect. I usually alt-finger KN/NK, LK/KL, MN/NM, TG/GT, BG/GB and TV/VT now (on Colemak-DH), by sliding in with the middle finger as described above. These all come naturally after a while due to their symmetry, but it's only KN/NK and probably LK/KL that are so common as to really need it.
Links to typing guides:
• Speedtyping Guide by Colemak-wielding 220+WPM champion Viper
• Typing tips from champion Sean Wrona. He has some interesting thoughts on avoiding chording and using flexible fingering. Forgive him for staying with QWERTY. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
• Jashe's Comprehensive (Speed)Typing Guide is encyclopedic and insightful, covering in detail the aspects of typing (faster). At around 150 pages, it's a long read! Towards the end of Jashe's guide there are even more good links.
• "How to Become a Faster Typist" by John is another excellent guide, covering speed ranges from 0–30 WPM to 140+ WPM. And it's Jashe approved!
• Foggy's guide is said to be good, and has a quirky retro design.
• Taran's Guide to Intermediate Typing is a much better read than most of his other posts... ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)
These links are about making specified lists of words:
https://github.com/first20hours/google-10000-english – the 10k word list from Google Research (this one for a raw text file without swear words)
https://github.com/dwyl/english-words – a massive 479k English word list at the DoWhatYouLove project
http://www.wordfind.com/ – you can find words starting with n-grams too, like http://www.wordfind.com/starts-with/the/
http://worddetector.com/ – words starting with "the" on http://www.morewords.com/starts-with/the/
An eager typing trainee (courtesy of TenFastFingers)!