Rwugchukd gy Cyifmae (Switching to Colemak)

After listening to Matt’s interview with Tim Ferris, I decided to give an alternate keyboard layout a shot. I’ve always been skeptical of the alternate layouts, especially after doing some research into it as part of my undergrad degree. Though I’m skeptical, I’m also starting to get some minor hand pain, especially in my right (mousing) hand and around my left ring finger, so … why not? Most of the people that have switched report that they mostly retain their QWERTY knowledge, so even if this turns out terribly, I have a fallback.

I use Emacs a fair bit, so Dvorak seemed like a bad fit, as it moves Control-X to a weird spot. Colemak, however, keeps most of the common keyboard shortcuts in the same place, but moves enough keys around that you still get most of the efficiency and movement benefits of Dvorak. Plus, a handy online keyboard layout analyzer indicated that Colemak would be just as efficient for my writing style. So, I’m going to give switching a shot over the next month.

Just a record of where I am, roughly, on QWERTY: 77wpm and 97% accuracy, according to http://10fastfingers.com/typing-test/english. I’ve taken other tests in the past and I usually grade out somewhere between 70 and 120 wpm, depending on what I’m typing.

And, for the record, I typed this out using QWERTY. I’ve only started to learn the home row on Colemak so far.

3 Replies to “Rwugchukd gy Cyifmae (Switching to Colemak)”

  1. I picked up Dvorak 4 months ago or so, and I’ve lost any ability to type in qwerty. I figured I’d always be able to fall back to it, but at one point I noticed it was impossible for me to get better at Dvorak without completely switching to it, at least for a while. The next time I tried qwerty it would take me insanely long to even type in my username and password. These days I get super frustrated after typing in one word in it and switch to Dvorak.

    I also ended up remapping hotkeys in all software I had installed previously (and common key maps in software like ctrl+s if possible), because I was extremely used to the locations of the keys and it felt really painful — exponentially more than typing in a completely new layout — to try to adapt them to the new layout, especially in vim (for understandable reasons). To date I always think in qwerty when I’m using hotkeys, but in dvorak for anything else.

    I don’t really feel like not being able to type with qwerty has significantly affected how I can type on other computers than mine though, for two reasons:
    1. it’s really easy to set dvorak as the default layout temporarily in OS X, Linux and even most Windows versions
    2. my keyboard let’s me hook into any laptop and automatically use dvorak with a hardware level mapping (ducky keyboards ftw)

    Having to remap keys hasn’t been much trouble either. Most of the time when I install new software I need to map a couple keys again and to most I can adapt just fine. There’s a ton of `.vimrc` files out there equipped to work in Dvorak, so I just picked one and tweaked it to fit my own needs. This applies mostly to other pieces of software I use/have used enough to have a hard time adapting to the key maps with the new layout, e.g., i3 (the tiling window manager I use) can automatically generate default configuration that maps all the qwerty hotkeys to the same locations on the Dvorak layout.

    Since it all seems highly case specific, I’m not sure how useful my experiences are to you, but the one takeaway that should apply is this: don’t count too much on staying qwerty familiar and be prepared to complicate your life a bit. I think the pros of switching well outweigh the cons and I haven’t regretted my decision to switch at all. One of the main reasons I switched was hand pain, which I don’t experience at all these days.

    Good luck, and I hope you’ll be happy with the new layout choice! 🙂

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  2. On a mac you can choose to use Dvorak – QWERTY (open apple) – it will re-map all the keys to QWERTY when you hit command/open apple, so that your cmd+C, +X, +V etc are all in the QWERTY spots. It’s what I use, so all my shortcuts are QWERTY.

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  3. 5 day update: I’m at around 16 WPM on that same typing test, mostly because of mistakes and missing letters in my new finger vocabulary. I’m working my way through the lessons in MasterKey, and pretty much have the home-row down. Everything else is a mess. 🙂

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