How I am improving my touch typing

By Alexander van Noord on

When I was in "high school" (Dutch secondary education) we were challenged to do a typing test, in one of the computer classes. I must have been 15 or something. Some of the kids were already in a typing class, to learn typing the 'correct way': with ten fingers and completely blind. The obvious goal of the teachers was to show us that those kids were faster and that everybody had to do this (paid) typing class. I, contrariwise, was still typing with two fingers; though mostly blind.

While the typing test was done among several groups I, at least in my remembrance, came out on top of the rest. With just two fingers. It felt so good, beating the kids that had studied so hard on their '30 minute per day' (or something) schedules, that I never saw the neccesity to improve my typing again.

Until now, of course. Mostly triggered by blog posts from programmers Steve Yegge and Jeff Atwood. Their pleads make sense. I've spent a lot of time tweaking and learning Vim. So why not spend some time improving on my speed and accuracy in typing?

With two fingers I am quite fast though. Maybe up to 80 WPM. But the accuracy (a percentage in the low 90's) should be higher. I also find I have some strain in my index fingers after long days of typing. And to be honest, I also learned I was still cheating (looking at the keyboard) when I had to type numbers or special characters.

So now I am on my way learning. I am writing this article with ten fingers without much problems and have improved quite a lot in speed. Currently up to 60 WPM. Typing the alphabet was a matter of days. Learning the numbers, the special characters and improving my speed took more like a few weeks. I think it would have been better if I didn't had to type eight hours for work each day; I often switched back to two fingers when not practicing.

For learning I am using GNU Typist. I can recommend it to everyone. I believe it only works on the command line, but it can be installed on every operating system. Typist lets you do drills and speed tests. Most tests focus on specific parts of typing (letters, combinations, often used 'licks', etcetera) which I am finding really handy.

Another cool tool is Typkov, made by Steve Losh. With it you can make your own lessons for GTypist, based on textual input; which is really useful for programming. You can just paste some large bulk of code in it, in your favourite programming language, and download the tests.

A more fun way of learning is with Typeracer, a game around typing. It lets you type small parts of texts in a race against other visitors, visualized by small cars on a race track. A nice thing about Typeracer is that the texts come from some really good books, songtexts and movies. And it's also fun to guess the source while typing.

The coming months I will probably do more practising and conscious typing. While having fun while learning is the most important, I hope I can reach the 100-120 WPM mark. And then, maybe, I am still faster than those kids in high school, that have probably improved a lot in the meantime.