27
Jul 13

How To Touch Type (for beginners)

Today I came across my old website which is hosted on the University of Manchester Compsoc server. I had an account on this server since I studied Computer Science at Manchester which was in 1999 (before I gave it all up to read music instead). I can’t even log on to my account, but I’m glad to see my account and therefore my webspace / website is still online. For posterity, I am salvaging some of the stuff I wrote back then when the word “blog” didn’t even exist, and blogging it here…

Introduction
It seems to have become the norm that in order to learn to type fast you should pay for a software package or take evening classes.

Well, I strongly disagree with this need for ongoing typing lessons. Perhaps they are necessary for some people – but if you are able to practise on your own and motivate yourself, then the only thing stopping you from typing at 80 words per minute is a lack of knowledge of the basic principles.

Health and safety
Goodness knows why the user manual for the Microsoft Mouse has in it the following advice:

“Eat a balanced diet and get adequate rest.”

Sounds like my mother. Oh well – even though it seems a little random, I’m sure Microsoft pay their medical consultants lots of money to come out with such gems. More importantly when considering the health and safety aspect of computing, however, you must ensure that your sitting position at your computer is natural.

  • Straight back
  • Don’t rest your wrists on hard surfaces (in fact not at all unless you have a wrist-rest: “rest not your wrists without right and ready wrist-rests”). Best of all, get a chair with adjustable rubber armrests
  • Both feet flat on floor
  • Forearms almost horizontal
  • Eyes at same horizontal level as the top of the viewable area of your monitor. (Tilt monitor up slightly.)

Know the default typing position
The basic tenet of good typing practise is found in the following directions:

  • Place your index fingers over the F and J keys. Thumbs over spacebar. There should be little bumps on F and J: these are useful if you are blind, but they also exist should you want to find the default position without looking (hint: you should want to do this).
  • Place all other fingers over the keys that are directly next-door to F and J. Your fingers should now be on all of the following keys:

A S D F J K L ; SPACE

Establish a personal regime
The following step is possibly the hardest because it involves re-learning to type, and also it involves making some critical decisions about your preference and the way your hands work.

  • Consider each key on the alpha side of the keyboard (i.e. excluding the numeric pad on the right hand side). When your fingers are in the default position, which finger is closest to each key? This step will take some time to figure out, but must be done in full. This step is vital to the process.
  • A S D F J K L ; …. all these keys have one and only one finger option. H and G will be pressed using only the respective index fingers. Shift buttons will be pressed by each little finger. T and V are pressed by left-hand index finger. U and N and possibly Y (preference) are pressed by the right-hand index finger.
  • Try to use both left and right shift keys equally, instead of just using the left one. This kind of variation is necessary to equally disperse the number of key presses per hand per volume of text.
  • Once you have established a regime for your typing presses, practise typing a sentence v-e-r-y (painfully) slowly. Be absolutely sure that each key you press is the one you initially thought should be pressing it. Be strict in this respect. Again tedious – but vital to the process.
  • Start slowly, and speed-up your typing by practise and repetition.

If you are a key-prodder (1+ words per minute!), the above should be relatively straightforward if tedious.

If you are fairly new to typing, but can already do it fairly well – be reminded that this is probably easier for you than for those who can type 35+ words per minute!

If you type over 35 words per minute, or you use computers a lot – but do not ‘officially’ touch type – this process will be exceedingly annoying. Indeed, you may be able to say the following: “I don’t officially touch-type, but I can do 60 words per minute”. That is a good result: now re-learn and attempt 90+ words per minute. You will probably be quite taken by the whole thing. You will probably see how much faster you could type if you try the above. You will probably want to give up after 5 minutes. If you want to type faster, you need to start-off properly, so don’t give up.

If you are already an OK typist, then you may simply not be able to re-learn properly (supposing you have work to do and can’t afford to type at 5 words per minute to start off with). In this case, you should try to set aside ‘typing time’ – preferably every time you use a computer, preferably for at least 5 minutes depending on your time constraints. When you get acceptably good at proper-typing (i.e. typing under your strict regime), then try to mix this in with your ‘old-style’ that you have been using till now for the sake of practicality. Personally, I see nothing wrong with this crossover approach. Learn properly alongside carrying on the way you were working before – and then gradually mix the dodgy old technique with the new with a long-term view to fully substituting new for old. It’s worth it. Because I’m worth it.

  • Whatever level you are at: start slowly, and speed-up your typing by practice and repetition. Do not let your speed overtake your accuracy at any point, unless you are ‘mixing’ techniques as described above.
  • I believe that the more time you can give to abandoning your current typing technique and adopting a systematic technique, the more time you will save in the long run. Be motivated.

Use shortcuts
This isn’t part of touch-typing, but if you class yourself as an efficient computer user you should at least be using the following Windows shortcuts (it should be second nature):

  • Ctrl-S (hold down control key and press S) to save your work
  • Ctrl-C to copy a bit of selected text (or Ctrl-X to cut)
  • Ctrl-V to paste
  • Alt-tab to cycle through the different programs you have open
  • Alt-F4 to close the program
  • Alt-S to send email (or save and exit items)
  • Ctrl-B; Ctrl-I to bold or italicise text.