Recently I have been investigating using better, more ergonomic computer equipment. To this end, several months ago I purchased an ergonomic keyboard, the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000. During my investigation of keyboards, however, I came across a lot of discussion about alternative keyboard layouts, and their various pros and cons, and have decided to try switching to the Colemak Keyboard layout.
I don’t have any issues with RSI, or pain or stiffness in my hands. I would like to keep it that way, and so I would like to use good ergonomic equipment and practices to keep my hands that way. I work in IT, and do a large amount of typing throughout the day, so even a small improvement to the quality of my typing can pay off for me.
During my investigation on different keyboard layouts, I of course found a lot of information on Dvorak, another popular alternative layout. Certainly there are some significant benefits to Dvorak:
- It has more OS support (comes built-in on Windows)
- It’s more widely used, and therefore more studied.
So why choose Colemak?
- Most importantly for me, it keeps some of the keyboard shortcuts the same, like Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V. On Dvorak the common pattern Ctrl-C -> Ctrl-V are both two handed shortcuts. 🙁
- It has slightly less finger travel than Dvorak. For more details, see https://colemak.com/Ergonomic
- It keeps almost all the symbol keys in the same place, which is nice.
The first day was so hard, and it went soooo slowly. Very frustrating, and by the end of the day I was getting only 12 WPM. I found I was constantly having to read off the image of the keyboard layout to type simple things.
Days 2 – 7
Once I got through the first day, I slowly improved over the next few days. I found that I was not having to look to remember the keys on the home row, and only check for keys above or below. However, even with the home row, I would get stuck with a mental block about once per sentence, trying to un-jumble the keys in my mind. This significantly slowed my typing, but as the week went on, the pauses would get shorter and less common.
Days 8 – 14
Once I was past the first week, I found I was no longer running into issues getting stuck, however my accuracy and speed were still lower than I had on QWERTY. However, as the week progresses I found my speed and accuracy picking up. I also started using the CapsLock backspace key, which is great.
So how fast am I typing now? I just tested my typing speed, and I’m getting 35 WPM. That’s not bad, but it’s not great. I have previously scored up to 50 WPM on QWERTY, although I haven’t tested my speed for a while. However, I plan to continue using Colemak, as I find it very comfortable to type on. We’ll see how I’m going after a couple of months of usage.