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Colemak from 30 years of Qwerty @ 110wpm

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Figured I'd share my experience since I found others' useful.

A week ago today I started learning the Colemak layout, mostly because it looked interesting. I gave Dvorak a very brief go many moons ago, but it was just too brutal. When I saw that one of the benefits of Colemak was the easier learning curve, that definitely peeked my interest. Note that I was a very fast Qwerty typist though, I never really learned to type "properly" but I tested at 118 wpm immediately before starting.

I program all day so really couldn't afford the productivity hit of going cold turkey so decided to study Colemak at night and continue as normal during the day. I used the most excellent Type Fu and it's built in Colemak progression to learn the top two rows, which I completed on Friday (a total of 10 progressions of two keys each, leveling up at 40wpm at each). The bottom row was so similar that I didn't really need to study it. Starting yesterday I switched my computer to Colemak full time and while painful I think next week will be ok.

I currently have a 35 wpm average on TypeRacer, which is a good deal slower than I do in TypeFu but I think that is mostly a matter of retraining the brain to use Colemak everywhere not just in TypeFu. During the week I wasn't having much trouble switching back and forth, but now that I've gone full bore I am already having trouble typing in Qwerty. I will admit that is a bit scary, but I think 50 wpm is not so far off and after that I think working will feel bearable.

On the layout itself, obviously I really like it. Though I doubt I will exceed my previous typing speed, it seems like getting into the 90s is attainable in a few months and I gather it will be a lot more comfortable. Overall I've kind of enjoyed the experience of retraining something that has been so ingrained in my brain for the last 30 years and overall surprised it hasn't been even harder.

I'll try to post weekly updates over the next month to share how its been going, but I'd say if you are on the fence then it is certainly worth a go if you want to challenge and experience something different.

Cheers,

Nic

Last edited by nicpottier (17-Apr-2018 20:27:40)
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nicpottier said:

On the layout itself, obviously I really like it. Though I doubt I will exceed my previous typing speed, it seems like getting into the 90s is attainable in a few months and I gather it will be a lot more comfortable.

This I feel is really the main point about colemak, it's just so much more comfortable to type, even more for me, if you have ever tried programming with a Central European keyboard, ugh, that's pretty brutal.

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Best of luck! You probably won't regret it. I found I was up to my normal QWERTY typing speed within a month and a half of dedicated practise from cold turkey (80-90WPM). You might get to your old typing speed after all. Either way the comfort is totally worth it.

Wait, you're considering Colemak? Definitely join the Colemak Discord Server and ask away!

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Ya I'm pretty committed to get over the hump.. I am definitely making steady progress and work hasn't been TOO bad (though some coworkers did giggle a bit seeing me struggle typing something simple yesterday).

Accuracy is the big one right now, lots of old qwerty memories take over when I'm trying go type fast and I end up keying the wrong thing. Seems to be a mindset thing as I am much more accurate when doing typing drills then when authoring normally.

Oh well, hopefully those memories continue to fade so that accuracy comes. At 43wpm on type racer now but it is so so painful to miskey so often.

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If you've been at 118 WPM with QWERTY then surely you shall rise at least as high with Colemak.

Check out Ryan Heise's story if you will, he was comparable in speed. And some guy at his test page did 130+ WPM iirc. That's the fastest Colemaker speed I know of; unfortunately we couldn't quite convince Sean Wrona to switch although he was intrigued by Colemak. ;-)

I believe typists have a lot of skills and traits that are largely layout independent. So when you get over the initial humps and chinks, you'll find yourself in good shape again. I'll wager you'll surpass your QWERTY speed eventually, as that's the most common outcome by far.

Last edited by DreymaR (17-Apr-2018 22:27:38)

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Well like I said, will be more than happy it I end up around 90.. anything above 100 seems more like a party trick than actually useful in day to day life.

Errors are reducing! And I'm getting some mid-50s on some Type Races, though my average is around 46 right now. Punctuation is still throwing me off, especially colons and semi colons which I never seem to hit on the first try.

I think partly the challenge for me is that I really didn't use the home row assignments perfectly when typing Qwerty, so not sure I ever typed P using my pinky before. I've now recruited him into service but he's not super happy about it.

Speaking of which definitely feeling some tension in my fingers now that I'm using Colemak all day. I'm chalking it up to them being a bit strained from all the conscious thought as to where to go but I'm hoping it is that as opposed to any sort of systemic issue with using the home row so much. I have very large hands so theres a bit more curl to them when typing Colemak than my previous freeform style. We'll see!

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The less common keys moving to worse positions are often the ones that keep throwing you off the longest. They aren't common enough to learn quickly, and the keys moving to better positions are more pleasant to learn. The semicolon was in a too good position on QWERTY so it falls in this category.

In addition, symbol keys may feel a little differently than letters conceptually which may be an additional confounder.

Speaking of a bit more curl and large hands... sounds like you'd benefit from Colemak-CAW then?

Last edited by DreymaR (19-Apr-2018 09:55:50)

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nicpottier said:

Speaking of which definitely feeling some tension in my fingers now that I'm using Colemak all day. I'm chalking it up to them being a bit strained from all the conscious thought as to where to go but I'm hoping it is that as opposed to any sort of systemic issue with using the home row so much. I have very large hands so theres a bit more curl to them when typing Colemak than my previous freeform style. We'll see!

I had this too when I was getting used to typing in colemak again, I think that it mostly have to do with you having to typen more conciously, and retraining your muscle memory, at least for me it went away again after a couple of weeks.

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sotolf said:

I had this too when I was getting used to typing in colemak again, I think that it mostly have to do with you having to typen more conciously, and retraining your muscle memory, at least for me it went away again after a couple of weeks.

Ya, I think I may just be overdoing it a bit. I'm going to stop with the extra few hours of drills daily for a bit and ramp those back up next week. Guessing it is just new muscles and tension with trying to be accurate.

DreymaR said:

The less common keys moving to worse positions are often the ones that keep throwing you off the longest. They aren't common enough to learn quickly, and the keys moving to better positions are more pleasant to learn. The semicolon was in a too good position on QWERTY so it falls in this category.

In addition, symbol keys may feel a little differently than letters conceptually which may be an additional confounder.

Speaking of a bit more curl and large hands... sounds like you'd benefit from Colemak-CAW then?

Ya, good point on the semicolon and colon.. as a programmer those get a lot more use than is typical so ya will have to retrain that one. I may try my ring finger for that key honestly as that seems a bit more ergonomic and not a whole lot of rolls with the semicolon anyways so not missing our on much giving it double duty.

I'm going to stick to vanilla Colemak for the time being, at least a month to give myself a real opportunity to adapt and evaluate it. CAW looks intriguing, though I do use a split keyboard at work so not sure the main benefit is as bit a win for me.

Will check in next week with my progress!

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Well, if you're on a split at work then the Wide mod will feel very nice when you're not.

If the work board is angled, the Angle mod will feel right on non-split boards. But it'll be less fun on ANSI boards. On ISO boards it's pretty much a given IMO.

As for Curl, I think it's popular with both splitters and non-splitters, matrix and non-matrix. It's the new black. ;-)

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Well, just reached my 2 week goal of averaging 50 wpm on TypeRacer:
Type Racer History

Not second nature by a long shot yet, but the rate of mistakes is decreasing at a good rate. No doubt once the last vestiges of Qwerty have been banished things will pop up even more. 60 doesn't seem too far at all, I'm getting quite a few mid-50 races as it is.

Still slightly uncomfortable on the right hand, but I really think that's just getting used to the increased workload on my right pinky and ring finger.

In any case, for anyone wondering, seems 50 wpm in two weeks seems pretty doable (I know I read some other accounts) it you put in the time to practice. We'll see how the curve continues from here on out.

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Just passed an average of 60wpm on TypeRacer. I actually reach periods of 80+ in some races but I'm still making mistakes often enough that it is slowing down my averages quite a bit. I have even more errors when free composing (as opposed to transcribing) but those are dropping as well. It is no longer TOO painful to be working in Colemak after three weeks, though there is still a long way to go. Pinky and ring finger are still complaining a bit from the workload but not near as much as they were a week ago.

My goal is to keep increasing my average by 10wpm over the next few weeks to get to 80, after that I'm guessing gains will be slower. (a question of speeding up then as opposed do just typing accurately which is slowing me down now)

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That sounds quite a bit more realistic than the goals that many people set for themselves.

I look at it like this - I probably maxed out at around 80 WPM in my typing classes in middle school. It was alright for the time, going from typing with one finger to proper touch-typing, and it was a huge leap. It was only in the following years that I subconsciously developed the notion of "Hey... I can go faster if I really want to". Comfortably over the next few years, I pushed higher still, but there was an upper limit to that as well. The leap from proficient to "pretty darn fast" was less effortful, took longer, and the magnitude of the change measured in WPM was pretty low compared to the first hurdle.

Now you have a good base upon which to build and don't need to re-learn the basics of touch-typing, but you are adding two pieces of information. One is the possibility of rolls for comfort and speed. The second one is the relocation of keys to better positions with a much higher emphasis on home row usage.

I think mastering those two added pieces can easily follow a similar pattern to the less-intense leap I wrote about earlier. Unless you really need much higher speed now, you might be better served to simply use the layout every day for everything you type and ease up on the typing drills (maybe once every couple of days?). The only hard thing about a schedule like that which I would still consider essential is that you should avoid forming muscle memory for the wrong patterns, and instead go back over typos and force yourself to re-type the whole word. It might also be helpful to re-type words where you know that a rolling opportunity exists, but you didn't use it. I've found that rolling only interrupts typing flow if it's something you're doing very deliberately. When it's a habit, the flow continues pretty much undisturbed.

Last edited by azuvix (29-Apr-2018 14:13:23)
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Hello everybody, I have spent a lot of time lurking around, but now I now finally switched to Colemak a few weeks back. Obviously as someone who did 50 WPM in Qwerty and around 30ish now in Colemak, and whose ultimate goal is get to 60 in Colemak, I am not very qualified opinions on speed questions, but here it is.

When I think of speed, I think of cars (duh). Speed depends much more on the driver than the car. If you pedal to the metal an old clunker it will go much faster than a Cadillac just cruising around. Now a Cadillac could probably go faster than the old clunker, but it depends on the driver handling it, and also there are a lot of other restricting factors, like speed limits, cops, road quality etc. When people buy a new Cadillac, it is usually for the comfort and joy of it, not because it can potentially go faster, as in reality they will probably not get to go faster with it. And the pinnacle in speed is achieved by very specific, custom optimized machines like F1 cars and dragsters, which are incredibly fast but of limited practical value and take extra special training.

In keyboard terms, QWERTY is the old clunker, Colemak is the Cadillac, thinking, dexterity, coordination, etc. are the restricting factors, things like Plover are the F1 cars/dragsters and we are all the drivers.

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That makes a bunch of sense! ^_^

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nicpottier said:

Just passed an average of 60wpm on TypeRacer. I actually reach periods of 80+ in some races but I'm still making mistakes often enough that it is slowing down my averages quite a bit. I have even more errors when free composing (as opposed to transcribing) but those are dropping as well. It is no longer TOO painful to be working in Colemak after three weeks, though there is still a long way to go. Pinky and ring finger are still complaining a bit from the workload but not near as much as they were a week ago.

My goal is to keep increasing my average by 10wpm over the next few weeks to get to 80, after that I'm guessing gains will be slower. (a question of speeding up then as opposed do just typing accurately which is slowing me down now)

Just based on my experience, when I reached around 80/90 in Colemak, I started to spend the first half of the day typing in Qwerty. Initially I was typing around 15-20 WPM, but I made 10 wpm+ increases very quickly without sacrificing my Colemak proficiency (and type with similar proficiency on both to this day). To me, being able to type in Qwerty well is invaluable, but this may differ with others here.

Last edited by Zorg (06-May-2018 07:01:10)
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Zorg said:

Just based on my experience, when I reached around 80/90 in Colemak, I started to spend the first half of the day typing in Qwerty. Initially I was typing around 15-20 WPM, but I made 10 wpm+ increases very quickly without sacrificing my Colemak proficiency (and type with similar proficiency on both to this day). To me, being able to type in Qwerty well is invaluable, but this may differ with others here.

Oh nice, that's encouraging to hear for sure and I'll definitely give that a try. Though I generally have control of the computers I do all my typing on it does seem a shame to lose such a useful skill after honing it over so many years.

I missed my goal this week and didn't break through to 70 wpm on Type Racer. I'm averaging about 65 right now, again, still mostly due to mistakes here and there ('d' seems to be a common problem still) Though typing for daily tasks (like this note) is no longer painful, I do find my accuracy suffers when composing still vs drills or typing tests etc.. So obviously there's still some short circuiting taking place in my brain despite the layout being super natural now.

Going to work hard this week to break through to 70 and obviously at this point I'm still using Colemak at work, hoping things start falling together more easily when composing though. That said, I'm still feeling progress has been good and I'm happy with how fast I'm gotten past the worst hump, a month in and I'm happy to have made the jump, just hoping the next month gets me over 80 wpm again.

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That's a great attitude to have. Keep up the good work and stay consistent. No one doubts that you can do this. :)

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Another week passes and I'm up to 70wpm average on Type Racer, a bit quicker actually.

Errors have gone way down this week, at least when transcribing. I think qwerty is being exorcised fully now. I often have sections into 90 wpm now in texts in TypeRacer and the main hangups are often punctuation, that darn semicolon is the hardest adjustment and for some reason I struggle with quotes as well now and then.

Composing new text is still worse than transcribing for some reason but my most used commands on the terminal are becoming fast and natural again, so that is a very nice development. I tried typing a bit in Qwerty the other day and that both feels very wrong and so so nuts in how much my hands move, though I'm still much slower than before I don't see myself going back.

I will probably drill a lot less going forward as I don't think I'm getting huge benefits there. (though perhaps should work on some of the punctuation) Seems that accuracy is still the thing holding me back and that seems to be mostly just getting better through old habits dying off. Will check in every week as I remember though with where I'm at.

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Accuracy is in my experience almost always the thing that holds you back, most of us can mash keys with the best of them, but to get stuff in the right order is what isn't always so easy.

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Quick update.. progress is still happening though more slowly. I'm at about 73ish average on Type Racer, though that varies quite a bit based on how much I've been typing that day or whether I get a crazy paragraph or something.

Typing is mostly natural now, errors are mostly under control and composition is starting to feel more fluid though still not 100% there. I am definitely at the point now where it is no longer painful though and day to day work is just fine. (I'd say that line has only been crossed in the past few days)

Still so far below my previous typing speed that I feel a bit sheepish about the journey so far though, but I have faith that will come with time. I'll try to keep the weekly updates coming!

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By all means, keep going! Remember, most people will never get where you already are. You're fast enough for almost any industry or task. Any more is just a bonus and more about personal fulfillment than necessity. Well done!

I'd bet money that you'll have it all back within a year anyway. ;)

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Seven weeks in and I'm now at 76 wpm in TypeRacer. I think I'll be able to get to 80 in the next few weeks which will put me not too far off from the original goal of 90. Every day is getting a little bit easier and I'm pretty confident at this point that 90 will happen, just might take another month or two!

Last edited by nicpottier (28-May-2018 23:13:17)
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Weekly check up at week 8: still hanging around 77 wpm in TypeRacer. Seem to have hit a bit of a plateau, though occasionally get races in the 90s, I think as I try to push myself harder my error rates shoots up and I end up worse than I would have at a more relaxed typing speed. Things are pretty natural these days with no frustration though my composition speed still feels a long way off from what I had on QWERTY. Pocco a Pocco though, it will come!

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You're already faster than me. Good work! ^_^

Last edited by DreymaR (06-Jun-2018 08:37:49)

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