Why Should I Learn To Type?

Whether you just want to use the computer, learn a new skill or improve your typing, there are many reasons for learning how to type. We live in the digital age surrounded by computers, so it is only natural and beneficial to learn to type effectively.

If you think about the number of times you've used a computer this week, and think about how much time you take to type each character. You may not at first realise how much time you will save because overall it does not look like much. But imagine now if you managed to double your speed from 20 words per minute (WPM) to 40 words per minute. In that short but achievable jummp, you have already double the time you saved for that same task. How much time can you save if you triple your speed to 60 Words per minute or higher and you had to write a 5,000 word report?

The saving in times becomes more valuable if you use computers constantly as part your job, profession or studies. The truth is we do not only write assignments or documents but we do a lot of retyping and editing as well.

Starter's Guide To Touch Typing

Learning to type fast and accurately requires knowing the right techniques and then drilling upon those techniques until it becomes second natures to you. It is like learning how to ride a bicycle or learning to improve on a sport, at first, it'll be clumpsy, slow and you will probably make a lot of mistakes, but over time and with practice, it will feel natural and instinctual.

There will be time you will feel lazy and want to stop, but don't give up, it is a rewarding skill to have and when you have learnt to type, you will look back with a feeling of achievement and satisfaction.

Your focus should not be on the speed alone, your typing speed will naturally follow and increase when your accuracy is there. If you make a lot of mistakes when you type, then time will be spent on making corrections and editing your words and this will slow your typing speed back down. So if there is one number you should pay attention to the it is your accuracy rate. Be conscious of letters that you find difficult to type or frequently make mistakes over. Adjusting your techiques on these tricky letters and mainaining consistency will drastically improve your accuracy as well as your speed.

Positioning of Fingers To Keys

keyboard finger layout There are really only two stages to learning to type fast, that is...

  1. Learn how to type without looking (i.e. true touch-only typing)
  2. Work towards improving accuracy & consistency (and hence speed)
If you are a typist who still looks at the keys to know their positions, then you have a lot of potential for improvements!

Have you ever wondered how the layout of the current keyboard keys come about? Why aren't they laid out from 'a' to 'z' you may ask? Wouldn't that have been so much simpler!?.

The reason dates back in the days of the machanical typewriters - people used to type too quick! Tiny hammers would strike inked ribbons based on the press of each keys. But because the hammers would jam if people typed too quickly, the keys were rearranged to avoid collisions and so we end up with our current 'QWERTY' keyboard layout (which is the first letters of the first row in the sequence). You can read more about the QWERTY keyboard.

In the first stage, we want to learn how to type without looking at the keys, to do that, we have a starting positions for all our fingers. This would be the placeholder or Home positions and the fingers will be on the Home Row. Each character keys we type would essentially be a finger 'move' from our home positions towards the relevant character keys. Once we've typed the key, the finger can naturally return to the home position ready for the next keystroke. Have a look at the following diagram and place your fingers accordingly under the correct 'starting' character.

You will noticed that the keys 'F' & 'J' will have a raised indentation. This is useful for you to quickly feel for the two home keys through touch alone. As long as your two index fingers can feel the indentations, you know you are on the right starting keys.

Left Hand Finger Positions

keyboard layout The Home Row for the left hand starts under the left index finger (L2) on the 'F' key.
The left middle finger (L3) sits under the 'D' key.
The left 4th finger (L4) under the 'S' key.
The left 5th little finger (L5) under the 'A' key.

Right Hand Finger Positions

The Home keys for the right hand starts under the right index finger (R2) on the 'J' key.
The right middle finger (R3) under the 'K' key.
The right 4th finger (R4) under the 'L' key.
The right 5th finger (R5) under the ';' (semi-colon) key.

The thumbs (L1 & R1) of either hand would control the Space bar.

Finger Movements & Key Coverages

Now that you have a basic idea of where your keyboard starting positions are, the next step is to learn how your typing fingers move. If your finger movements are smooth and fluid, your typing speed will be more natural and effortless.

You can think of each finger as having a coverage or range. For instance the left index finger (L2) will be responsible for typing any of the following keys - F,V,R,4,5,T,G,B. The two columns of letters surrounding the 'F' Home key. These keys are the most natural keys for this finger to reach within it's range and therefore the most economical to use.

Likewise the right hand index finger (R2) would be responsible for these keys - J,M,U,7,6,Y,H,N. All the characters to the left of the 'J' Home Key.

You can see that this pattern follows the same rule for the other fingers. This is not to say that the rule cannot be changed. Many people (myself included) find that it is easier to use the 4th fingers (R4/L4) to type some of the outer keys that is designated for the little finger (R5/L5).

The main thing to bear in mind is that all the typing exercises and typing tests are designed to train your muscles to remember the movement and location of each keys. With repetition this muscle memory will become second nature. You will find yourself naturally and effortlessly knowing and reaching out to the correct key that you desire.

Typing Movements

Now that you have an idea of each finger's position and their direction of coverage, I want to talk a little more about the importance of the Home keys and the Home Row. These two keys (F & J) are vital if you are to learn your positions because they act like a beacon, reminding you where you are and hence, where all your fingers should be on the keyboard.

Each time your index fingers move away from the Home key, remember to come back to it after each key press.
Each time you use any of the other fingers to type, remember to come back to the Home Row.
By returning to the Home positions for each fingers, you are developing an awareness of the relative positions of all the other keys i.e. relative to the Home Row.
Any fingers that are not typing should ideally remain on the Home Row.
If one of your non-index finger (R1/L1,R3/L3,R4/L4,R5/L5) is typing, you should try and keep the index finger on their corresponding Home key or within touch at least. Remember the beacon? Your index finger is on the beacon, so you are spatially aware of your keyboard and key positions at all time.

Your ultimate goal is not to look at the keyboard keys while you are typing. Do not rush, if you have to look then look, but always use your fingers as your main guide to their location and next placement.