If you are like most people, you probably type at around 20 to 30 words per minute on a good day. You may find it frustrating when you make mistakes, and you may find it uncomfortable to type only a little bit at a time, and then look at the screen to see how well you’re doing. If you’re like most people, you’re not very good at taking notes in real time on a computer. And, for most, typing is not relaxing. Let’s change all that! As you are about to discover, there are a number of simple techniques that make a remarkable difference, and most are so easy to learn you can start using them in one or two minutes. You don’t have to buy anything. You already have everything you need.
There are two techniques that are exceptions to the rule. One may require that you buy a new keyboard if your current keyboard doesn’t have what you need. The other may take a year or two to gain full proficiency. But the other techniques are yours to start using just as soon as you read this book. You don’t need to use all the techniques together. You can just pick and choose the ones you like.
I’m using most of these techniques right now, as I am writing this article for you. They work, and they work well. The last time I tested, my typing speed was 57 words per minute.
The first technique in this article can be used for handwriting as well as typing.
Technique #1 – Speed Writing
(tec- 1 sped writ.)
When you are taking notes or creating a first draft, you can speed up your typing considerably with the following simple little tricks. This way, you won’t fall behind, or lose your train of thought, while you’re trying to get everything written down.
* Instead of spelling out common endings or suffixes, just type “.” For instance, “improvement” can become “improve.” It is much faster to type “end.” than “ending.”
* Any long word that you cannot mistake for another in your current context, you can shorten by typ. the first few letters, then using a “-” to represent the rest. For exam-, “computer” becomes “co-.”
* You wont have much trouble read. senten- witho- punctuat- such as apostrophes, but you cant safely omit comas or periods.
* You can leave out double letters in most cases and stil have words that you can understand.
* Consider omit. silent letrs.
* Many smal words such as and, at, a, is, cn b left entir- out.
* U mst b care- avoid tak. so many shortcts u cant mak sens out of what u wrot latr.
Speed typ. taks longr to red but fastr to writ. Usually, yu r mor in hury wen wr-. than wen read.
Here is some very old advice, which is still totally applicable today:
“Composition: If you would write to any purpose, you must be perfectly free from without, in the first place, and yet more free from within. Give yourself the natural rein; think on no pattern, no patron, no paper, no press, no public; think on nothing, but follow your own impulses. Give yourself as you are, what you are, and how you see it. Every man sees with his own eyes, or does not see at all. This is incontrovertibly true. Bring out what you have. If you have nothing, be an honest beggar rather than a respectable thief.”
-Inquire Within, (by Garrett?) published by Dick & Fitzgerald, N.Y. 1858
Technique #2 – Mouse Highlighting Shortcuts
If you already know these three shortcuts, you may be amazed at how many people don’t know them.
1. To highlight a word, double-click it.
2. To highlight the entire line (or paragraph, depending on the program you’re using), triple-click.
3. To select a large area, simply drag over the beginning of the area with the mouse to highlight the first few characters. Or, easier still, just double-click on the first word to highlight it. Then, scroll to the end of the selection, and click while holding down a [Shift] key. This will highlight the entire selection without the annoying need to scroll and highlight at the same time.
Technique #3 – Instant Cursor Movement
Have you noticed how much time and energy goes into moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse during the course of a day? What if your mouse was so close, that you didn’t have to move your hand at all? Of course that’s impossible, right? No! On a laptop, or a desktop computer or tablet with an external keyboard that has a built-in touchpad, or even with a smartphone and an external keyboard, you can learn to use the side of your thumb, typically the right thumb, on the touchpad, and with practice, it becomes second-nature. No more reaching back and forth for the mouse!
Technique #4 – Touch Typing
Touch typing is the ability to type without having to look at the keyboard. Imagine, no more glancing back and forth from the keyboard to the screen, or worse, from what you’re copying to the keyboard to the screen. That’s tiring! From now on, you’ll be able to simply look at what you want to copy, or watch your words magically appear on the screen. Then, you can see and correct mistakes instantly, on the fly!
You may have never learned touch typing. Believe it or not, most professional programmers don’t know touch typing. Oh, they’ve become reasonably proficient with whatever random way they learned to type. The reason more people haven’t learned touch typing is because they assume it is difficult. They believe it takes a course in school and a year. Not so! You can learn the basics in two minutes, just by reading the next few steps. Then, you can practice a little bit here, and a little bit there. In a few weeks, you’ll have it.
1. Learn to remember that there is a bump on the [F] key and on the [J] key so that you can tell them apart from other keys without having to look, just using your fingertips.
2. Whenever you can, lightly keep your left index finger on the [F] key and your right index finger on the [J] key. In whatever way you type now, just make enough of a change so that your fingers can rest on those two keys whenever you’re not actually pressing another key.
3. Whenever you need to type an [F] or a [J], just press your index finger down, and trust that you’ll get the letter you want. Once you can reliably do this without looking at the keyboard, go on to Step 4. For some people this will take a day, but for most, it may require a week or two.
4. Once you’ve become totally familiar with the F and the J, notice the three keys to the left of the [F] key, and the three keys to the right of the [J] key. These are called the home keys. Memorize them, and then use your fingers that naturally rest on those keys to press them when those letters come up. Once you can use these keys without looking at the keyboard, go on to Step 5.
5. Memorize the keys above, below, and between the home keys. You can just memorize one per day, or one per week. Trying to do it all at once might be a bit overwhelming. It doesn’t matter which fingers you use to press the ambiguous keys such as [T] and [N]. The only thing is whichever fingers you use for those keys, learn to use the same fingers consistently. As those keys are needed in your typing, try to press them without looking at the keyboard.
6. Learn the number and punctuation keys the same way.
7. Anytime you are not in a hurry, try to do more and more typing without looking at the keyboard. Soon your accuracy and speed will increase tremendously.
Technique #5 – Keyboard Shortcuts
Learn the keyboard shortcuts, and you can do a majority of your editing without having to right-click or go to the main menu. These are a combination of the [Ctrl] (“control”) key on Windows and most Linux computers. On a Mac, it’s the same combination but with the [Command] key (the funny four-loop-looking key). If you haven’t used [Ctrl] + [Z], you’ll start how to wonder how you could have ever done without it!
- [A] Select All
- [B] Toggle Boldface (in most programs)
- [C] Copy
- [D] Create Bookmark (if in a browser)
- [F] Find (in most programs)
- [I] Toggle Italics (in some programs)
- [P] Print (in many programs)
- [V] Paste
- [X] Cut
- [Z] Undo
Dvorak Keyboard Configuration
Learn the pros and cons of the Dvorak Keyboard Layout, how much faster you can enter text, how easy it is to set up in Windows and OS X, some celebrities who use it, and how to start with training and practice.
When you look at the picture above, you’ll see what looks like a computer keyboard, but the keys are laid out strangely. This is the Dvorak keyboard configuration, also known as “simplified keyboard layout” and “Dvorak keyboard layout.’ The purpose is to increase the speed and accuracy of typing the English language.
As you’ll soon discover, setting your Windows, Linux, Apple or Android device to Dvorak is easy to do.
According to a Wikipedia article, it was invented in 1932 and patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak, a psychologist and professor of education at the University of Washington in Seattle, I have also heard that the keyboard was designed by a US Navy committee, headed by Captain Dvorak. I’m not sure which story to believe, but my money’s on the Wikipedia article.
The Dvorak layout helps typists in three ways. The most commonly used consonants are in the home row under the right hand, and the vowels are in the home row under the left hand. This reduces the amount of distance the fingers must travel for all but the least commonly used characters. I have heard that during an 8-hour day, a typical typist’s fingers move a total of 12 miles. The same typist with a Dvorak keyboard would move one mile. The keyboard also helps with sequencing. In many common character combinations, the keys that are pressed alternate between the left and right hand. On the QWERTY keyboard, the left hand does a majority of the work, even though 89 percent of the population is right-handed. In the Dvorak keyboard, it is nearly 50/50.
The standard keyboard that we have all grown up with is called QWERTY, named after the first keys from the left in the row above the home row. The QWERTY layout seems illogical until you understand that it was invented for early typewriters. Those typewriters would jam if the typist moved too quickly, so the keyboard was actually designed to slow them down. Unfortunately as more and more typewriters were built using QWERTY, it became the standard, even though newer typewriters could handle faster typing speeds.
Several famous people have used the Dvorak keyboard layout. Presidential candidate and consumer advocacy lawyer Ralph Nader is one of the most famous and eccentric – in a good way. He has always put social and environmental awareness high on his agenda, and likes to be an example of what he considers better alternatives. So, back in the day when typewriters ruled, he bought a custom-built manual typewriter with Dvorak. He could easily have afforded an electric typewriter, but I believe he figured it would be a waste of electricity.
Piers Anthony wrote his science fiction novels with Dvorak.
Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, uses Dvorak.
In fact, the world record holder for typing speed uses Dvorak. Barbara Blackburn set a Guinness world record in 2005 with a speed of 150 words per minute for 50 minutes straight. She can hit speeds up to 212 WPM for short bursts. Compare this to the average touch typist who might hit 40 WPM on a very good day.
There’s a downside of Dvorak: It takes a while to learn. If you learn Dvorak, you’ll find a QWERTY keyboard hard to use. And, if another user comes to your computer, they’ll find it impossible to use. It’s almost like password protection. I once had an employee come to work on one of my computers that I had forgotten to reset to QWERTY. The first thing he told me was that he had to remove a virus. I asked for details and he said, “Well, the keyboard is all scrambled up.” That was kind of embarrassing for me.
If you haven’t learned touch-typing, the ability to type without looking at the keyboard, it will take exactly the same amount of time to learn as with QWERTY. However, if you already know QWERTY, then you’ll find the old habit hard to break, and you may be frustrated for a while until your Dvorak speed finally exceeds your old QWERTY speed.
It took me two years to transition, and during that time, I was slower in both layouts. Oh, I probably did it the hard way. I kept switching back to QWERTY when I had to get something done in a hurry. I found the whole process rather frustrating. I don’t know why I stuck with it, but now, I’m glad I did. My typing speed is 57 words per minute, almost as fast as I can think – which is fun. Right now, as I type this page, I’m zooming along, almost as if I was speaking with you directly.
After the two-year transition period (I’ll admit I’m a slow learner), I’d get stuck having to work on a QWERTY computer from time to time. I was ridiculously slow in QWERTY, even though I had been a fairly efficient QWERTY touch-typist before I learned Dvorak. Now, twenty years later, I am able to switch back and forth between QWERTY and Dvorak almost without thinking and without difficulty. Of course, I don’t really like using QWERTY, because it is always slower and less accurate.
On many keyboards you can rearrange the actual keys, by pulling the key caps off and pressing them back down where you want them. But most Dvorak typists don’t do that. They have learned never to look at the keyboard, so there is no need to rearrange the actual keys.
I think the best way to learn is to draw or print out a Dvorak keyboard map, such as the picture farther below, and keep it to one side of your keyboard. Find the home keys, then look entirely at the map as you write anything – stream of consciousness or whatever. Resist the temptation to look at the keyboard – ever. You can find the home key position by feeling the little bumps that are on he keys under your index fingers. These were the [F] key and the [J] key. Now they are the [U] key and the [H] key. Practice typing whatever you want for 20 minutes, twice a day, if possible. If your work demands it, you can switch back to QWERTY. But switching back and forth will probably lengthen the learning time. Switching between QWERTY and Dvorak is easy on all the major operating systems.
Soon, you’ll be able to look at the screen as you type, only glancing at the map occasionally for a forgotten character. Then, you can look at the screen entirely. This is a very enjoyable accomplishment if you have never experienced touch typing. You can now compose easily. You’ll never again have to keep alternating your gaze between the keyboard and the screen as you write. You can see your mistakes right away and correct them on the fly. The final step is being able to copy text from a page without looking at the keyboard or at the screen.
Installing/Configuring Dvorak on Your Computer
It’s easy! If you have a Windows computer, go to the Control Panel, and select Language/Internationalization – or something like that, depending on which version of Windows you have. There you can add the Dvorak configuration, and set up hot keys to switch back and forth.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Keyboard, and then click the Input Sources button.
On an Android device, you need to download a Dvorak driver from Google Play. As of now, there are one or two available, and they’ll work fine. Once downloaded, you can change between QWERTY and Dvorak in the Settings menu under Language & Keyboard. In most Android applications, Dvorak is less important, because touch typing is not really done on tablets and phones. However, you can get an external keyboard. There is only one application in Google Play for switching external keyboard configurations that includes Dvorak. I forget the name of it, but you can just enter “Dvorak” in the Google Play search field. The problem with this driver is that it is a bit quirky. For instance, you cannot enter [q]. When you try, you get a comma instead. You may find Dvorak on an external keyboard connected to an Android device unacceptable at this time, but no doubt someone will improve upon it soon.
Almost all Linux versions also support Dvorak, but the way it is configured varies.
In general, you go to the settings, control panel, or configuration menus, where you’ll most likely have a GUI interface for setting up the keyboard layout you want to use. Almost all Linux flavors come with a Dvorak option.
Have fun and prosper! – Jeff