Neil Ang

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Switching to Colemak

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About a month ago I switched from using the traditional QWERTY keyboard layout to Colemak. For a couple of years now I've been wanting to switch off QWERTY, and twice in the past I've tried using Dvorak but couldn't get past the first couple of days. However learning Colemak has been a much smoother transition, and I plan to continue using it as my main layout from now on.

Here is my experience with the transition:

Week 1: This was the hardest. It was slow and frustrating to type anything. I switched my layout back to QWERTY whenever I had something important to type, and it wasn't until the third day that I actually used Colemak for the majority of the day.

Week 2: I was now familiar with the layout. I knew which keys to press but I still wasn't very fast at it. It was frustrating not being able to type as fast as I could think. In particular the slowest things to type were passwords, I don't know why but they were the hardest.

Week 3: I noticed that I was building some muscle memory in my fingers, and common words felt natural to type. I still had to think about typing long or uncommon words.

Week 4: I started typing most words without thinking about which keys to press, somehow my hands just knew where they should be. I still hadn't reached my old QWERTY speed, but I was very close.

Every day I took a typing test to track my improvement. This has been the last 35 days with Colemak. The red line indicates my original QWERTY speed.

Graph of colemak scores

Some things I did that helped with the transition:

  • Practiced typing every night in the first two weeks of the transition.
  • Switched to a keyboard without any key inscriptions.
  • Physically removed my delete key to encourage me to press the remapped caps-lock instead.

So to conclude this post: it has been slow going but I'm now returning to my original typing speed. I hope to surpass it in another couple of months. Typing is more comfortable in this layout, but I've lost the ability to touch type in QWERTY. If you can afford to work a little slower for a month, switching to Colemak is very doable!