Colemak after 4 weeks

November 26, 2013

A while back I read about Colemak in an article on HN. Up until then the only alternative layout I knew, which is actually being used, was Dvorak.

At the time me and my mates practised typing because we were intimidated by the typing speed of most people in screencasts. I never really learned ten finger typing, thus I developed my own weird system of seven to eight fingers.

My speed was around 70wpm, when I concluded that not using the regular ten finger typing was keeping me from improving my speed, so I decided to actually learn it and as an additional challenge I combined it with learning Colemak. The idea was when using a new layout and ten finger typing I won’t fall back into habits as much as if I had just tried to switch to ten finger typing as stick with qwerty.

The fact of how qwerty originated also made me want to learn an alternate layout. For those who don’t know, qwerty was created for typewriters and the layout was chosen so it won’t get stuck if you type fast. As a side effect it also created sort of a maximum speed at which one can type. Alternative layouts have been designed in a way to enable the user to have either the most speed or better ergonomics than qwerty.

Even though Dvorak has been designed to type as fast as possible I decided to learn Colemak since it is being praised for its ergonomics and most users also surpass people using qwerty in terms of speed.

Colemak Layout

Week #1 + #2

The first few days were exhausting especially since I was trying to keep my GitHub streak up. I used Klavaro for practising since it supports Colemak and runs on Ubuntu. Completing the first 31 lessons wasn’t all too exciting, it took me about three days to complete them. After that practising was the only way to improve in speed and after the first week, even though continuously swearing since Colemak did still feel a bit unnatural, my speed was around 20wpm. The next week I still practised daily and my speed wend up to around 35wpm.

Week #3

With 35wpm working on code didn’t feel as painful anymore as it did in the first week, but I wanted to keep my pace of improving up. I thought about how I study for exams and that’s how I came up with, what I felt the most helpful method I used in learning Colemak. When studying I spend the last hour before going to sleep with reading through my notes or practising problems in math for example. That way you process what you read in your sleep and it burns into your brain. Adapting it to my learning process helped a lot and I got up to around 48wpm at the end of week three, although I sometimes thought I was going insane as I sometimes thought about typing when doing something completely different. It still felt pretty good having improved up to that speed.

Week #4

The fourth didn’t start off as well as I would have wanted it to, since I barely had any time to practise and when I did I was getting worse results than the week before. Then I took a whole day to practise and I was back in the game. At the end of week four my speed was around 53wpm, which is acceptable to work with.

Conclusion

Overall I am very happy with my decision, it feels very smooth to type on Colemak. I feared that I won’t be able to use vim anymore when switching to Colemak, but it actually helped me to get rid of using hjkl to move in a file, which I know is a bad habit but I’ve been using vim for about four months now and I learn something new every day so I can’t get rid of every bad habit right away.

I am not really a writer person but since I have been confident with using it since about mid of week three I can’t stop writing and I start to enjoy it more and more.

All in all my opinion: It was a good choice to learn Colemak while learning ten finger typing, because I when my results were still so low that it was depressing I could always blame it on one or the other thing.

Not gonna lie it was not easy but definitely worth it.