Michael Wolf
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Reflections On Two Seasons With Colemak
Last edited - 23/10/17
The stickers are off and the typing tests are over. My coworkers have stopped teasing me. I feel like I have defeated the level of typing speed I surrendered when I decided to switch from QWERTY to Colemak three months ago. Plus, I've achieved a competency in touch typing and another special snowflake badge. I'll use this post to catalog some takeaways, anecdotes, and ponder my next steps in the quest for efficiency. -Me, 3 months ago
Background

I have a history of bad habits and stubbornness about them. I have held my pen incorrectly since the age of six and I can't read the journals I've kept by hand for ten years. No teacher's compassion could save me from the benign doom that is sloppy handwriting. I am inexplicably slow at tying my shoes. I bite my nails on occaision to the point of an inability to use my fingers. However nothing has cut into my efficiency as a denizen of the 21st century and a developer as my slowness at typing. It was probably a combination of early access to computers and no formal typing classes, but all the way up to my early adulthood I had been effectively a four finger typer. I simply could not break out of the habit. It simply worked well enough. Yet as I dove deep into efficiency hacks and keyboard shortcuts, I realized I should do something stupid and drastic. I switched off QWERTY.

What would be the logical conclusion? DVORAK? Nay, that is far too well supported in modern operating systems. Colemak was my choice. I can't quite remember why, but I thought the layout made good sense so I went for it. And I really tried this time. I tried much harder than I did in elementary school, when the bad habits of my early computer experiences had made any correction from fun online flash games completely moot. This time I obeyed the finger patterns and even mapped my Caps Lock to Backspace (more on this later.) However, despite my progress, I seemed to be slower overall than when I was pecking QWERTY. Even as I made progress, I thought to myself that I would switch back to QWERTY as soon as I completely forgot it so I could properly retrain myself.

I would like to thank my patient coworkers at Kroger Digital who watched me, grimacing, as I put label-made stickers over my keys and went through hourly keyboard exercises from the wonderful Learn Colemak website I had to switch back to QWERTY for emergencies, but I stuck to the new mapping. It's now been about half a year since I first switched over and I am marginally faster on Colemak and absolutely sluggish on QWERTY keyboards. My girlfriend sighs as I hunt and poke on her fancy mechanical keyboard. But I think I'm going to stick with Colemak. I feel that despite the social detractions of being on a different keyboard layout, remapping a million keys on every new non-Linux system, and some occaisional strain, I have achieved a respectable level of typing proficiency and I can totally focus entirely on whatever needs to consume my attention.

Takeaways

Conclusion

My quest to become a mature typist has landed me into a bit of an awkward situation that while being a bit of a hassle, has benefited me tremendously. I'm certainly not alone in my conclusio. I haven't completely ruled out returning to QWERTY, but I would have to remap so many keys I've gotten used to that it might as well be a whole new system.

For anyone interested in trying out a new keyboard layout I would highly suggest these resources. It's easier than learning a new language and may just boost your productivity.

The preparation
Moments before doing the same to my precious laptops