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I drank the coolaid...

  • Started by mbenitez
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Hello there,

I am a new Colemak user. I have been at this for just three weeks. I have been recording my experiences throughout this time and I wanted to share them with the community. I will try to update this thread as I progress in this endeavor.


My experience learning the Colemak layout

About two weeks ago, I got a new mechanical keyboard. I got the Vortex Race 3 RGB LED model from MechanicalKeyboards.com. I have had mechanical keyboards before so I was not expecting anything out of the ordinary. When I got the keyboard I noticed that there were options to switch layouts. At first I did not pay much attention to it. However, after a few days of using my new keyboard I got curious.

I was familiar with other layouts and have been a long time QWERTY user (30 or so years). I had managed to learn how to touch type, and I could type at about 60 words per minute. In general I was pretty happy with my typing skills. However, for those of you who know me, I cannot sit still and need to be doing something (my wife calls them phases!). I decided to learn Colemak. This is my experience:

Week 1

What a pain! My fingers are almost useless! I decided I could not afford a performance hit at work. I type most of the day on either documents, emails or source code so I did not want to take one hour to replay to an email or to type a sentence. During the day, I have been using QWERTY for work. At lunch I practice Colemak and, when I get a break, I try to type with it to. I have been using https://www.keybr.com/ and https://monkeytype.com/ to practice. I am able to transcribe the words on the screen much more easily than writing them myself. It is definitely an experience.

I have also noticed a little tension on my right hand. I have read online that this could be due to the extra strain the pinky and ring fingers are. I believe that is the case, so I will give it some time. Another thing I did was to switch back the backspace key from the capslock location to its original place. I had to do this because I still use QWERTY and I use a dedicated keyboard for it. I find it easy to switch between layouts if I also switch keyboards.

Week 2

This is my second week. I have been practicing online throughout the day. Today I actually typed most of the day using Colemak. For the most part I actually managed fine. A couple of times I switched to QWERTY just because I needed the speed (perhaps the break!). When doing so, it actually took a bit of time to go back. It was not instant, but I managed. I actually use a different keyboard just to try to trick my brain when switching layouts. It seems to help.

Another thing I did this week is configure my keyboard to have two backspace keys: the original and the capslock key. This helped with switching between layouts. The capslock key is still there in the original place, but it is now accessed via the FN layer. This chang was actually a really good one. It has helped me not getting confused with the new backspace.

I finished the week typing exclusively in Colemak, which was exciting. Note that I still cannot type like I used to, and the one time when I needed to take some notes I actually did it on a notebook by hand. I just couldn't do it fast enough on the spot.

I think I am getting the hang of this. Let's see what next week brings.

Week 3

I am currently at the beginning of week 3. I have completed the initial training from https://keybr.com. I have gone through all of the letters and now I moved on to practicing words. I can definitely see that I am improving which is a good sign. I still cannot type as fast as I was able to with QWERTY, but the speed is getting there. My average speed on keybr.com is 33.8 wpm, with a top speed of 51.2 wpm. On monkeytype.com, my average speed is 33 wpm with a highest speed of 40.72 wpm. Both sites seem to agree on the average speed which is nice to see.

It is likely that I will be typing colemak all week. In fact, it has been about a week since I typed QWERTY last. I do notice that if I start typing fast, my fingers tend to go back to QWERTY.

Today I went back to https://www.ratatype.com/. This is a website I had used to test and train my typing. I took a test, just to see how good (or bad!) I was doing. My speed was 39.4 wpm whereas my best speed on this site was 68.9 wpm, almost 30 wpm less than my best. This is about half the speed I could do before. Anyhow, I just wanted to see and compare against an old baseline.

I reached the end of the week having typed with Colemak all week. I am starting to feel more comfortable using this new layout. I can now type at a decent speed. At least enough to not get frustrated.
I noticed that it is somewhat tricky to type passwords, but not impossible. When trying to type faster, QWERTY surfaces and gets in the way so I have to slow down. This is even worse if I am trying to take notes while in a call for work (pressure I guess).
I can consistently type above 40 wpm. I am hoping to start typing above 50 wpm sometime soon. Once I reach 60 wpm, I will be pretty much where I was before. I think that will roughly take a bit over a month. Not bad I think.

One last thing...why did the S and the R switched places? Was this really necessary? For real?

Week 4

It is the beginning of week 4. I have been typing using Colemak exclusively for about a week now, perhaps a bit more. I am getting better at typing faster, especially when typing live in front of people.
I have been practicing online mainly on monkeytype.com now. Yesterday I changed the settings so that the tests would use the 10k most used words in the English language. Unfortunately, this caused my wpm to drop to about 40, when I was already typing a bit above that. It only means more combinations of letters I am not used to. I will press on though.

Something interesting happened today in this journey. I was asked to take some notes during a meeting. Now, before the switch I was able to do just that and capture almost all the conversations without any problem. Granted, there was spelling mistakes, but I would always go back and fix those after the fact. However, I was not able to do that today. Instead, I had to take notes by hand and then transcribe. Not bad, but things like this make me wonder if this is worth it.

One more thing. I am going to focus on accuracy rather than speed. I am aiming for 98% initially. My average accuracy is 96% out of 259 tests I have taken in monkeytype.com. Not bad, but I think that if I focus on accuracy speed will come naturally.

Today I had to take some notes from an online event. The event was a series of presentations from several speakers. In the past this would not have been a problem. I was usually able to type as the speakers presented and capture almost all remarks and conversations. However, I am in the middle of this switch and I am not at the speed I was. I also did not want to switch back to QWERTY because I was afraid I was going to be all messed up. I took all my notes by hand. It was painful. I then transcribed the notes. Not the ideal case. I do wonder when things like this happen, if it all makes senses, if it was the right thing to do? I think that it all comes down to trying something new, different and be willing to take certain risks. I am going to push forward! Maybe a few months from now I will look at this as a distant memory and laugh.

One more thing. While transcribing my notes I noticed that I cannot read and type at the same time. I am touchtyping as I type this. I don't have to look at the keyboard at all. But for some reason, I cannot read and type yet. I think this is all due to the muscle memory not being developed yet. We'll see.

I am finishing up the week after having typed again all week using colemak. I definitely struggled this week. The struggle came from having to type fast at times, particularly when taking notes. It is not a big deal if I am typing an email or a document. But, if I need to take some quick notes, then it becomes a problem. Now, I was able to deal with the problem by using the old fashion pen and paper. Still a problem though.

I keep practicing using monkeytype.com. I recently started using quotes for practicing. I wanted a realistic text to practice with, and it is the closest thing to typing a document or taking notes that I could get to. When I made this change, my speed dropped. It makes sense, but nonetheless it dropped. I keep pushing though. When I think about it I only switched 4 weeks ago, so not bad.


and if you are wondering....yes...I wrote this with colemak

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Welcome to the wonderful world of Colemak, and congratulations on your choice and progress! It'll soon be little hassle and much joy, I promise.

Monkeytype is great. What I mostly do for practice is use the English 1k vocabulary and punctuation, on 60 s tests. But for getting mileage, I find Amphetype a great training tool. I've type-read several books that way, as it builds experience and motor memory in a (mostly) pleasant way.

mbenitez said:

One last thing...why did the S and the R switched places? Was this really necessary? For real?

Yes, really. For real. See the Colemak Design FAQ. There's a link to it from the BigBag.

Last edited by DreymaR (27-Feb-2021 16:15:34)

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Hello DreymaR,

Thanks for the warm welcome.
I have tried to use Amphetype before, but I seem to have all kinds of trouble setting it up. Instead I found a website called https://www.typelit.io/ which lets me type novels. I agree with you, this is a great way to train and you get to read some books while you are at it.

As for the R and the S, I guess I was just whining a bit. It does not really bother me that much. I just trip with it every once in a while.

Mario

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Nice report, sounds like you're making good progress. I'm especially impressed that you're maintaining a fairly decent accuracy, as I struggled with that during the transition. The 40wpm mark is where things to start to click into place and it starts to feel natural, so you should definitely being sensing the light at the end of the tunnel by now. Four weeks spent learning a new skill that will benefit the rest of your life seems like a pretty good return on investment to me. Welcome to the club!

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

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Thanks stevep99! I do feel there is light at the end of the tunnel. I definitely feel typing is improving and more fluid than when I started. I will keep at it and see how it goes. I am hoping the investment is worth while.
I will keep posting here, sharing my experience as I go.

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Week 5

This week I continue to practice. I found a website I will try. The website is https://www.typelit.io/. The idea is very similar to Amphetype. They basically have books you can select and type. I think this may be a better way to practice. It is closer to real world scenarios. We'll see.

I continue to practice as the week goes by. I have done some practice in typelit.io. It is nice and you get to read a little while you are at it. I am still using monkeytype.com though. I guess I need a change from time to time. I do feel I am getting better, but I still don't feel "fluent" to call it a success. I will just keep trying. I can certainly see my average WPM is trending in the up direction. These are some of the values sampled at different times in monkeytype.com:

- Feb 15th: 27.93 WPM
- Feb 23rd: 43.74 WPM
- Mar 1st: 47.82 WPM

As you can see I am approaching 50 WPM. This is exciting. I am hopeful it will continue.

As I said before I changed my settings in monkeytype to 10k English words. My current statistics are:

Average wpm: 43
Tests completed: 369 ouf of 371 started
Average accuracy: 97%
Average consistency: 67%

I am recording these values so that I can come back in a month or so, read this, and hopefully feel good about my progress.

I continue to type using Colemak exclusively. At this point, it seems that if I go back to QWERTY I am looking at a similar effort to what it will take to just keep going. I also did some coding today and the typing experience is weird still. I don't quite feel fluent in Colemak yet. I guess reminds me to learning another language in a way. My native language is QWERTY and I am learning Colemak. It takes some time and practice to be able to carry on a conversation without struggle.

It is almost the end of the week. A couple of notes to report. I did some programming today and I notice that I find it hard to type any special symbol. Things like ": ; () {}". Not all of these changed place when I moved to Colemak, but I still struggle with them. I think this is somehow tied to the way our brain functions. I think our brain functions at a macro level (e.g. words, sentences, concepts) and not at the micro level (e.g. letters, numbers, symbols). When you switch layouts, it is not enough to learn the new location of the characters and symbols. We must somehow retrain our brain at a macro level too. That process takes much longer than the time it takes to learn the individual parts that form the macro. I think this is the same reason I cannot type while listening to a conversation. At this stage, I am guessing that it will take a decent amount of time to get to a reasonable level of efficiency using Colemak.

Last edited by mbenitez (04-Mar-2021 00:54:54)
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I've implemented parentheses/brackets as tap-Extend mappings in EPKL for Windows: I tap Caps then y and I get a pair of parentheses with the cursor positioned between them. With Y I get brackets instead, and with AltGr I get braces. But the thing is, I never bother to use such tricks. I make them, and then after a while I forget I have them. If you use a whole lot of such symbols you may have better luck with it than me.

I use a symbol key mod, which makes the apostrophe and hyphen more accessible. That's really nice for text. But you'd probably be unhappy about demoting the semi-/colon even further – even though it's not quite as common as most programmers seem to think. You likely use both the single/double quotes and hyphen/minus/underscore at least as often.

I think you're right about the mental strain. When changing layouts, your brain really has a lot of work so it's not happy about getting overloaded. Once the dust of switching settles, it'll be a lot easier.

Last edited by DreymaR (04-Mar-2021 12:41:03)

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My solution for programming is a dedicated symbols layer, (in this case activated via AltGr). 

Any key that's more than 1 key-distance from the home positions needs to be rare; otherwise it gets remapped to somewhere more useful!

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

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DreymaR said:

I've implemented parentheses/brackets as tap-Extend mappings in EPKL for Windows: I tap Caps then y and I get a pair of parentheses with the cursor positioned between them. With Y I get brackets instead, and with AltGr I get braces. But the thing is, I never bother to use such tricks. I make them, and then after a while I forget I have them. If you use a whole lot of such symbols you may have better luck with it than me..

I think you are right. I am afraid I will forget if I do something like that. I really think this is just part of the switch experience and will go away once the dust settles like you say. I am also considering a symbol layer as suggested by stevep99. This is perhaps closer to what happens when you press the Shift key plus a number to get one of the symbols.

Anyhow, I appreciate the advice. I will keep at it and see how it goes.
Thank you both again.

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Hi there all. I have a couple of updates still from week 5. Going into week 6 starting Monday. I will keep posting.


An interesting note from late in the day. I noticed that I seem to do better typing text in the form of quotes, or text from a book than typing random words. I have tried this a couple of times in both monkeytype.com and in typelit.io. I suspect this can be due to a couple of reasons. The first may be that the quotes use more common language and therefore I am able to type at a faster speed since they are simpler words. The second may be due to my brain anticipating the upcoming words given the context. Either way it is exciting to notice this as this exercise is more realistic than just typing random words. In the end I am going for a skill that will serve me in the real world. It is cool if I can type random words fast, but it is not ultimately my goal.

The learning continues. I can't quite say if things are getting better or not. On one side, I keep practicing using monkeytype.com and the trend in speed continues to be up. I have been using the quote tests there. On the other hand, I still seem to be making many (don't really know how many) mistakes when just typing myself. On monkeytype my supposed average accuracy is 97% (out of 422 tests) which I don't consider terrible. However, I have this nagging feeling that such accuracy drops drastically the moment I don't have the word in front of me to read it before I type it. Trying to type as somebody is speaking to me in order to take notes is nearly impossible at the moment. My fingers just shutdown. I think my brain is still struggling with the task of typing using a new layout. I can only hope things will improve with practice.

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Hi there everybody. I got some updates from Week 6. I know the week is not over, but I wanted to share what I have so far. I will post again later in the week with more updates.


Week 6

Today is the first day of week number six. Not a whole lot to report in terms of the types of exercises I am doing or anything like that. Today I did do some typing, not as much as I would normally do, and my fingers felt a bit more relaxed and "normal" in a way. I think this is a good sign that things are starting to "click". I cannot listen and type still, but I think that will come with time. I can certainly write at a much better speed now which is refreshing. Pressing on...

I continue on my journey through this sea of keys. Today my typing felt fluid. It did not last all day, but it felt right most of the morning at least. This brings me hope that one of these days it will all just click. I am still practicing on monkeytype.com, mainly using the quote tests. My speed feels pretty good and it has been oscillating between 50 wpm and 55 wpm with an accuracy of around 97%. To me the ultimate test will be to be able to type as I listen to somebody speak and capture nearly everything they say. That's when I'll know I managed to switch successfully.

Not much to update today. Another normal day typing on the new layout. I am trying to work on being able to type notes from discussions or meetings with colleagues. I decided I was going to start taking notes from informal meetings. It helps to know that I don't need to worry if I miss something important and it helps me practice the skill. I figure that I will only improve by doing, so may as well go for it.

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Hi there everyone. I got some more updates still from week 6. Hopefully you will find all of these postings informative. I've been trying to write about my experience as I go, so that hopefully you can get a perspective on what it means to switch. It also helps me practice by writing. Here we go:

My typing today was off. I don't know what happened or why, but it did not feel right. It was clumsy, with lots of mistakes and not as fast as I wanted it to be. I think it is probably a fluke and hopefully won't happen again, nonetheless it was not fun. I am also noticing that I make mistakes with some combinations of letters. For example "g" followed by "h", "i" followed by "e" or "k" followed by "n" (or vice versa like "thanks"). I am going to try to pay a bit more attention to these combinations when I type.

Fortunately, my typing seems to be back to what it was before yesterday. An interesting observation from today. I had to type using my laptop keyboard, which of course is in QWERTY. I can't touchtype in QWERTY anymore. I tried and I kept typing Colemak. It was an weird experience. I realized that I needed to figure out what my game plan was whenever I did not have my typical keyboard with me and had to type using my laptop. Fortunately, there is the portable version of the Colemak layout in the www.colemak.com website. I went ahead and downloaded the version and ran it on my  laptop. It worked fine and everything was back to "normal". I don't remember if the capslock key maps to backspace in the portable version, but in a pinch I can live with that, plus it forces me to be accurate. After all, if I don't make mistakes, I won't need the backspace, right?

I keep practicing in monkeytype.com. As I said before, I am using the quote practices for now. My speed is in the 50s. I am satisfied with the progress. Not ideal yet, but getting there. I am also looking to possibly remap the FN key in my keyboard. It is currently in a very awkward place. I usually hit it with my right thumb, and this works, but I really like to use something like the capslock location. Unfortunately, I am already using capslock for backspace, which I am very pleased with. I cannot use tab, because I do use tab rather frequently. I am thinking on using the key above tab, but it seems far away and I am looking for convenience. The idea is to us the FN key to activate other layer symbols and such. We'll see.

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Usually the FN key laptop keyboards is built-in and can't be changed. But if you are thinking about adding extra layers - and you should be thinking about that :D - then you should be checking out Extend. Maybe also a symbols a layer.

Learning an optimized layout like Colemak is but the first step to true keyboarding enlightenment.

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

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Thanks stevep99. I actually use a mechanical keyboard with layers, so I should be able to move the FN key somewhere useful. I agree with you layers is the way to go. I have been thinking perhaps on moving the FN key to the Left Alt, but not to sure. I guess this is a step in my keyboard enlightenment journey.

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Like SteveP says, keyboard Fn keys aren't usually remappable. Unless your mechanical keyboard is reprogrammable (using QMK or similar tools) I think you'll be out of luck. Fn keys are usually hardware coded to produce other scan codes in conjunction with other keys, so the computer will only see the resulting key code and not the Fn key at all.

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Thanks DreymaR. I have a Vortex Race 3 keyboard that I think allows me to change the location of the FN key. I have never done it so I am not 100% it will let me do it. It is good to know though as I may not always have this keyboard with me, especially if I am only on my laptop. In any case, I don't  know yet where I would map the key to, since I already use the Capslock key as Backspace and I certainly use the Tab key (perhaps not as often as I think, so it may be a good candidate possibly).

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I looked it up out of interest, and on this particular keyboard you can actually move the Fn key. That's good for you then! As mentioned, it's a rare luxury.

https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyb … _key_move/

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Huh. That is quite unusual, remapping keys can be quite a lot of Fn.

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

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stevep99 said:

Huh. That is quite unusual, remapping keys can be quite a lot of Fn.

∩(◕‿◕。)∩~♪

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DreymaR said:

I looked it up out of interest, and on this particular keyboard you can actually move the Fn key. That's good for you then! As mentioned, it's a rare luxury.

https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyb … _key_move/

Yeah...I looked it up too and it is a feature. I guess I am in luck. I will play around with it a bit to see if any particular spot makes sense. I am eyeing the Windows key and the Tab key. The Capslock could also be a candidate, but I am really liking the backspace in that location.

Anyhow, I guess it is all part of the experience.

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Week 7

Entering week #7. I type all day using Colemak. In some cases, typing feels fluid and without errors. In other cases it can be rather choppy and more littered with errors. It seems that I really have to be relaxed and focused in order for me to type nicely without problems. Obviously, if I have to type something really quick, it adds a level of stress and pressure that is immediately reflected in my typing speed and accuracy. I am truly hopeful that it will eventually become a more "mechanical" activity. One that does not require me thinking much other than placing my hands on the keyboard.

Today I also observed an interesting thing. I noticed that I struggle a bit when having to type acronyms or abbreviations. The reason is that these are mostly capitalized. I use the shift key in many instances to type the upper case characters. The Colemak layout seems to be a bit more even between characters typed with the left and right hands. This means I must alternate between left and right shift keys. I used to do this with QWERTY (there we go...) without much trouble, but it seemed that in some cases I could hold the shift key down and type a few characters before having to alternate. Just an observation I guess. Not impossible to overcome, but the rhythms are certainly different in Colemak.

Now to testing. As I said before, most of my testing nowadays is typing some sort of quote or paragraph from a book. My thinking is that it resembles real life typing a bit closer. The statistics from the last week are:

Average: 57 wpm
Tests completed: 105
Average Accuracy: 98%
Average Consistency: 68%

Typing speed is looking good! Again, I don't know if it is because I am typing quotes that could contain easier words than just randomized word tests. Either way it makes me feel good =)

I still continue practicing as much as I can. I think I still make way too many mistakes typing in order for me to call it a success. However, I am making progress which is important.

Again, today I felt my typing was very fluid in the morning. This is the second time I experience this. Exciting! I think it means my brain is finally getting the hang of it. I am hoping to continue reporting days like this. Note that it did not last the whole day, but that is ok. I can live with that. Another interesting experience from today: I noticed that I make more mistakes when typing capitalized acronyms. The mistakes I make are typing letters in the old QWERTY layout. Just something interesting to point out. It probably means that my brain commits certain typing constructs (small case vs upper case) slightly different.

I am happy to report that I am able to type mid 50's in monkeytype.com. I can do this with quote tests and also words tests. Quote tests are usually better. Words tests are not always as good as I would like them to be, but still good, compared to what they were back in Week 5. Not bad for just two weeks. I think I am approaching my old QWERTY speed and typing is feeling more natural now. For example, today it felt "right" for most of the day. I had not experienced that before so I think it is a good sign.

Here are my numbers over time:

- Feb 15th: 27.93 WPM
- Feb 23rd: 43.74 WPM
- Mar 1st: 47.82 WPM
- Mar 8th: 53.93 WPM
- Mar 17th: 57.7 WPM

The trend is definitely in the right direction. As for accuracy, I am at 97% average, all time (out of 619 tests) and for the last 10 tests. Accuracy is not bad, but I wish I could go up. There is room for improvement for sure.

One more thing for this week's update. As I continue practicing, I started using the feature in monkeytype.com that allows me to practice the words I misspelled during a test. The idea is that every time I take I test, I also practice any words that I miss right after that. I see it as a way to improve along the way in a more structured way. Kind of practicing what you are not as good at.

Last edited by mbenitez (20-Mar-2021 02:16:50)
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Week 8

Close to two months at this. Typing is definitely manageable now. I still make way too many mistakes when typing, especially if I am typing live in front of someone, or while trying to capture someone's thoughts. Not ideal, but the good news is that I can actually do it, which was not a possibility a couple weeks ago.

The last few days I have been feeling some pain on my right wrist. I am not sure why. I know when I started using Colemak I did feel some pain, but it later went away. I am hoping this is something temporary. I can tell you that the right hand's burden is higher in Colemak than it is in QWERTY.

I can also tell you that my QWERTY skills are eroding at an exponential rate. To the point, that I think it would be a similar effort to go back to QWERTY than what it has been adopting Colemak. Something to keep in mind for all of you looking to switch. I really find it difficult to maintain both skills at a sufficient quality level. I know there are some people out there that are able to do both, but not me, at least not at this time.

Lastly, here is an updated table with my speed progress:

- Feb 15th: 27.93 WPM
- Feb 23rd: 43.74 WPM
- Mar 1st: 47.82 WPM
- Mar 8th: 53.93 WPM
- Mar 17th: 57.7 WPM
- Mar 22nd: 58.22 WPM

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  • From: Oslo, Norway
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*** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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Nice progress! I also had a bit of pain that would come and go during the learning process. It's important to not overdo training.
I don't think you'll forget Qwerty entirely. It has a habit of lingering around the darker recesses of one's brain. You can use different techniques to help separate them - proper touch-typing in Colemak, and ad-hoc hunt-and-peck for Qwerty.

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

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Hello stevep99. I agree with you. I plan on doing the good old hunt-and-peck for Qwerty. It works and gets you out of a pinch if you really need to type Qwerty. I can definitely tell it is not all forgotten as most of my mistakes in Colemak tend to be presses matching Qwerty. However, I cannot touch type Qwerty anymore.

Either way I am charging forward. To infinity and beyond!

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