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- Registered: 27-Feb-2021
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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:
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.
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.
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?
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