For the past two weeks I have been taking the time every day to learn to touch type.
I type a decent 36 words per minute today (sans touch typing), and I rarely look at the keyboard as is. So why make the effort to learn to touch type. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right?
One thing was Clive Thompson’s talk on the importance of learning to type fast. I thought that I was a pretty decent typer until I took a typing speed test (here), and discovered that I was merely average. For someone who writes and spends most of my day working on my computer, “average” typing speed is just not good enough. I wanted to stop pausing my writing to scan my keyboard for the right key, and I wanted to stop having to go back and fix typing errors all the time.
The other thing was that my pride was a little hurt by the results of that test. If teenagers can learn to touch type in eight weeks (again, see Thompson’s video), then so can I. I had tried to learn to touch type in the past, but like many of my friends and colleagues I had quickly been discouraged.
So I searched online for a bit, and I found a few very useful, free resources that can help you learn to touch type:
Typing Club – this is the main site that I use. It is excellent, as it teaches you touch typing in small, manageable increments (I am now in lesson 22 for those interested).
Typing Study – another useful site that teaches touch typing in much larger chunks than Typing Club. It also has a speed test and games that help you practice your touch typing. I use it for extra drills, on top of what Typing Club provides.
Type Racer – a very popular touch typing racing game that helps you improve your typing speed.
Keybr.com – another popular touch typing teaching game. Gives you words with blanks in them and sets of keys to learn to touch type. Doesn’t teach by the conventional “home row first, then top row, the bottom row” method.
Typer Shark – here for nostalgia reasons only. A lot of people learned (or tried to learn) to touch type during this childhood using this game. It’s still here if you want to use it.
Typing speed test – another typing speed test site, one that doesn’t use capital letters and punctuation (I got 47 words with it, but it felt like cheating).
Typing tips on Reddit /r/MK wiki – a nice collection of useful typing tools and resources.
/r/BlurredFingers on reddit – a sub reddit devoted to fast typing.
What was really a revelation for me was that once you stick to it for a while, and practice, practice, practice, you notice that it isn’t that you are remembering where each key is, but rather that you are developing muscle memory to where every key is. It takes a few days of persisting, but once it starts happening it is quite stunning. Your mind is clearly no longer spending valuable “processor time” remembering where each key is, and you are free to focus on your writing and your writing only.
This post was touch typed, and took me a little longer to write at the moment, but was a valuable learning experience. We invest time, money and effort in things like finding the perfect notebook, pen or pencil, but hardly enough time in developing skills that are useful for the modern writer.