In summary, it was a change driven by the ego (I am special- I type with the most efficient keyboard layout), and adopting this alternative keyboard layout has some benefits that don’t outweigh the real life inconveniences.
I decided to switch to typing using the Colemak keyboard layout from the more common QWERTY keyboard.
The Colemak Layout:
Here is one site that explains the benefits of the Colemak layout, how it works: [https://sermoa.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/colemak-is-easy-to-learn/]
With that, here is a quick recap of the journey, the pros and cons of living with this layout:
Short Recap of The Journey:
I started switching over in mid April, 2020. I went cold turkey and switched over on my Mac and on my iPhone. I practiced everyday using a typing game [ZType]. It was a fun way to practice.
Here were the results and progress I have made in the game.
I wrote, emailed, tweeted, typed everything in the new layout. The most difficult and consequential part of using the new layout daily was entering passwords. Since I relied on an image of the layout on my computer screen to figure out where the keys were (I couldn’t find a keyboard cover), when I was locked out of my computer, sometimes I simply couldn’t log myself back in, because I didn’t know where the characters were.
It took me two months to become mostly efficient with it. I am at 55 wpm now, and I no longer need to look at the keyboard to type.
Perhaps. I feel my fingers are moving around a lot less. I feel more efficient, but the numbers do not match those feelings yet. I was at 90 wpm with the traditional layout so there is still ways to go before I can determine if this layout is objectively better.
Real Life Issues 🤦🏻♂️
First, it is a nightmare to use Colemak on the iPhone. iOS does not have the Colemak layout. I installed an keyboard app. I tried a few, and none of it was designed well. The sensitivity was off, and there was no auto-correct or text expansion. Text messages and email were littered with mistakes. People either thought I was rude and didn’t bother to even type correctly, or I had some mental deterioration illness.
Second, it is a nightmare using other computers/devices as 99% of them had QWERTY layout. I am shocked by how I have completely forgotten how to type on the traditional layout ever since I learned the new layout. Typing, I realised, was not like riding a bike. I have not yet found another skill in Homo Sapiens’ repertoire that was as fleeting as typing skill. Therefore unless I messed with the keyboard settings of every device I came across, I was utterly unproductive on almost any other device. People became very judgemental whenever they witnessed me struggling with the most basic 22nd Century human survival skill of typing.
Would I do it again? Probably not. We could certainly magnify the numbers to justify for it ( x seconds saved per word + % of reduced muscle strain x number of days alive = years saved in life), but realistic, when 99% of the world is cool and fully productive with QWERTY, I sincerely doubt if a change was necessary. I still fear that I might be stuck situations where my life depends on my ability to type very accurately, and all I have is a QWERTY keyboard in front of me.
“What the fuck is wrong with you!? Just punch in the code!”
” 3… 2… 1…. self destruction commences …”