Learning To Type in Colemak

I made a half-hearted attempt to learn to type with Dvorak last year, but it didn’t take. When I saw that Ian was learning Colemak, I decided to dive in as well. I first made a Mac-style Colemak layout so that I’d have something better-looking to reference. It also meant I had a bit more vested interest in seeing it through.

But why learn a different keyboard layout? The two main reasons would be reduced risk of RSI and because I enjoy technical challenges. The particular appeal of Colemak is that it changes less keys around than Dvorak, meaning I would hopefully pick it up more quickly. Notably, the z,x, and c keys are identical, keeping cut, copy, and paste keyboard shortcuts in the same place.

I started this past Monday and have been plowing though drills in Master Key 3–4 times per day. I’m quite happy with my progress:

Ian went on to detail his Colemak learning strategy, and I especially liked that he was importing text from a great speech to augment his drills with real text that was simultaneously useful and edifying. Instead of a speech, I decided to go with a classic: St. Augustine’s City of God. This way I can double-down on completely frying my brain.

Some observations:

  • Muscle memory fights very hard to not change things. My jaw and shoulders have started to clench up as I’ve moved into higher speed and broader keyboard coverage.
  • Somewhere around 25 wpm requires some unconscious typing, triggering the above feelings. I’m trying really hard to stay relaxed while typing.
  • It’s much easier to type in the drills because you can focus on the letters, while “real-world” typing operates on more of a words level.
  • The City of God starts with Augustine talking smack against the Pagans.
  • I wrote this whole post in Colemak. It was slow and I had to use the backspace key a lot.