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Daniel I. Scully

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Learning to Touch Type

About four years ago I filled out a light-hearted profile, where one of the questions asked me for one thing I wished I could do. My answer was “touch type”. It was an honest answer, but I didn’t really consider that I would ever actually do it. But I’m typing this now without so much as a glance at my keyboard, and it’s made a massive difference to the time I spend on my computer. If you spend any time at all working with computers I can assure you it’s worthwhile learning, so here’s how I did and what I got out of it.

I finally got around to it while I was out in Japan for two months. I was there to work on my experiment, but it was a cool December and I had plenty of evening time on my hands.

My starting point was a BBC website for school kids: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing

That may sound silly, and if you check out that site you’ll realise it is a little. But I have a nasty habit of skipping through tutorials too fast and not realising until it’s too late. This game took it’s time and I gradually worked through. If you want something less silly, just search for “learn touch typing” and there are plenty of interactive exercises to teach you.

Once I’d completed the BBC school’s typing lessons, I flitted around the internet practising on various other interactive sites (I don’t remember which but, like I said, there are plenty out there). After two or three evening’s I’d gotten the idea.

Actually that was the easy part, in fact I’d made it this far once before, back in secondary school. The critical part of the whole journey is what comes next. At this point you know how to touch type, but your fingers haven’t quite gotten the hang of it. But you must, at all times, touch type, and don’t revert even for a second back to how you used to type.

If you’re anything like me you’re looking at a couple of weeks of slow and frustrating typing. Followed by a couple of months of less than fluent typing. But the key is determination. Don’t look at your keyboard, don’t revert back to your old typing, not even for one quick e-mail!

But, if you can keep patient and disciplined, it’s worth it!

It’s not really about typing faster. I have had a minor increase in typing speed, but it’s not really noticeable. But productivity has improved predominantly because I’ve definitely seen a decrease in typos – with your eyes off the keyboard they can watch the screen and catch errors before your proof reader/compiler does. And copying text that you’re reading onto the screen is so much easier!

But I think the biggest difference I’ve noticed is physically. After long periods of typing I would occasionally get nasty pains in my hands, fingers and wrists – something you don’t really want in your 20s! That’s all gone now. No more contorted hand positions, no more over use of some fingers and under use of others.

Even my seated posture has improved because of the emphasis on symmetry that the touch typing position has.

If you spend much time at a desk in front of a computer I find it hard to believe improved speed, accuracy and comfort don’t sound appealing. The benefits are life-long and the only cost is two or three weeks that are slightly more frustrating than they would be otherwise. I highly recommend making the investment!

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