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    The Ultimate 'Will Colemak Destroy My QWERTY Skills?' Thread

    • Started by NottNott
    • 7 Replies:
    • Reputation: 21
    • Registered: 03-Feb-2018
    • Posts: 105

    A huge issue concerning newcomers to Colemak is that they think their QWERTY skills will fall off a cliff and that they'll be doomed to typing at ridiculously slow speeds on any public computer for the rest of their life once they learn it. This thread was inspired by my own concerns this would happen when learning Colemak for the first time, then realising it totally didn't happen. Currently I'm just as fast as I was before on QWERTY, and 20 30 WPM faster on Colemak and way more comfy.

    HOW CAN SOMEONE WHO TYPES ON COLEMAK SWITCH BACK TO QWERTY WITH FEW ISSUES?

    If you're like most people, you did not learn proper touch typing technique when learning to type on a computer. This is what it's supposed to look like:
    ae2afc9492b1c64c.png
    With the circled keys representing where your fingers 'naturally' rest. You've likely heard that this is how it's supposed to be, but you don't do it yourself. Instead, you might 'hunt and peck' with two or three fingers maximum, with little regard to how much your wrists ultimately move (loads!). If you have never tried to type correctly, this is the category you fall into.

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?

    If you did not learn proper touch typing (like most people), it is highly likely you will be able to switch between Colemak and QWERTY.

    Whenever you want to go back to typing on QWERTY (because you're forced to by some nasty public computers), just start using the wrong technique again and you'll find that once you get used to it you can switch between layouts with ease.

    Colemak is a layout built with touch-typing in mind, i.e fingers in the 'correct' positions. When learning Colemak it's highly important to learn it with proper touch-typing technique! Because you didn't learn proper touch typing with QWERTY however, your brain has separated the two layouts in your head based on the typing technique you use..

    When you are learning Colemak, it is normal to see your QWERTY speed drastically decrease as your Colemak speed increases. However, after you have mastered the Colemak layout, your QWERTY speed will likely come back to nearly all of what it was before. This is because your brain no longer is in cognitive overload from consciously thinking about where all the keys are. You probably won't be as good as if your main layout was QWERTY all the time like before, but typing speed is likely to be comparable and very good for normal typing.

    REASONS THIS MIGHT NOT WORK FOR YOU
    If you used proper touch-typing technique on QWERTY, switching between layouts might be a lot more of a challenge because your two layouts use the same typing technique. If you are older, or do not have much experience in learning new motor skills (video games, speedcubing, sports involving your hands) for instance then I think you will find this more challenging as well.

    IS THIS A HARD AND FAST RULE
    No. There are some proficient touch typists in both layouts. And some people will forget how to use QWERTY even if they did not touch type with it. The human brain is really complicated and I no idea how to explain those discrepancies. However, your former technique on QWERTY seems to be a good indicator in explaining how well you can handle two layouts. This post is based on theory, not evidence, definitely take it or leave it.


    BONUS ROUND
    Once you get amazing at switching between layouts you HAVE to try Layout Swapper, a game that may drive you bonkers as you franctically switch between QWERTY and Colemak trying to type words before you lose. Give it a shot!

    Last edited by NottNott (05-Nov-2018 15:19:22)
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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
    • Posts: 4,501

    Nice writeup, and nice mythbusting!

    I was a QWERTY touch typist, then a Dvorak one, then vanilla Colemak and now Colemak-DH with ergo mods. I don't have much trouble writing on QWERTY today, except that it's butt ugly. But obviously I can't blind type QWERTY or Dvorak any more and even vanilla Colemak gives my blind typing pause now.

    So you won't be stumped. But you won't be as fluid as you were either. But you won't mind because you're so happy with your vastly improved layout! ^_^

    [EDIT] I'll link to this excellent topic. Hope it's okay, because I'll probably do it anyway, lol

    Last edited by DreymaR (20-Jul-2018 12:42:36)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    • From: UK
    • Registered: 14-Apr-2014
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    Good points NottNott, in the rare occasions when I need to type on a Qwerty board, I would go back to my old technique of using two-fingers on each hand, and doing a basic hunt-and-peck, often looking at the keyboard. That couldn't be more different from my Colemak technique where I now almost never look at the keyboard and all 10 of my fingers are frequently used.

    Last edited by stevep99 (20-Jul-2018 11:46:41)

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

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    • From: Belgium
    • Registered: 26-Feb-2008
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    Yes I'm also still suprisingly good (relatively) at Qwerty hunt 'n pecking, given the few occasions I still need to do this.  Never "practiced" it like you but it still works without thinking.  Azerty is a little harder, but I never used it intensely myself, only occasionally on public computers in Belgium (ATM's, library, ...)

    Only switching quickly between Qwerty and Colemak, eg. when working on two computers at the same time, gets me really confused.  But that's only a short term effect with no long term consequences on efficiency in either layout.

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    ghen said:

    Yes I'm also still suprisingly good (relatively) at Qwerty hunt 'n pecking, given the few occasions I still need to do this.  Never "practiced" it like you but it still works without thinking.  Azerty is a little harder, but I never used it intensely myself, only occasionally on public computers in Belgium (ATM's, library, ...)

    Only switching quickly between Qwerty and Colemak, eg. when working on two computers at the same time, gets me really confused.  But that's only a short term effect with no long term consequences on efficiency in either layout.

    Removed references to 'practising' it, because on closer examination that was just a leftover from when I was learning Colemak for the very first time. Now that I'm a pro at both layouts, I can switch really easily too.

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    • Registered: 24-Sep-2014
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    Old-ish post but couldn't resist.

    NottNott said:

    If you used proper touch-typing technique on QWERTY, switching between layouts might be a lot more of a challenge because your two layouts use the same typing technique

    This is not completely true. Such a touch typist (especially an advanced one), for one, will have a much easier time adapting to Colemak because the similar touch typing skills transfer. If after learning colemak, they can choose to re-adapt to Qwerty at a rather quick pace, but they need motivation / reason to do so. See my sig for more details.

    (As a side note, when I grew up we had to take touch typing lessons as a kid in the late 90's / early 2000's.. Can't say everyone took it seriously but I think learning touch typing is more valuable than learning Colemak..)

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    • From: Oslo, Norway
    • Registered: 13-Dec-2006
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    I agree with that assessment. It seems that the fast QWERTY typists are the fastest adapters to Colemak and they quickly pick up speed. Whether you keep your QWERTY skills is a matter of the will to work for both – I've lost much of my QWERTY speed because I didn't care for it since QWERTY is so ugly. ;-)

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
    *** Check out my Big Bag of Keyboard Tricks for Win/Linux/TMK... ***

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    • From: Chicago
    • Registered: 27-Apr-2016
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    I did not care about my qwerty skills because I never had ones. :) Learning touch typing in Colemak from scratch is taking long time for me though, and my progress is significantly slower than that people who already touch-typing in qwerty are reporting.

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