What can I say? Some things are worth the pain and the dip, I guess…
Exactly two weeks ago, I mentioned that one of the things I wanted to try was to learn and touch-type. You know, using this curious contraption without looking at it all the time…
Actually, the one I use has an extra key, the “~” / “`” key is in a different place, and the Shift and Return keys have a different size. And to make matters, ehm, more “interesting”, I even followed the suggestion to change the Caps-lock key into an alternate Control key (consider for a moment what that does to typing “TODO” in capitals as a touch-typist!).
Right now, after two weeks, I’m still typing quite a bit slower than I used to, am making tons and tons of mistakes (especially for the hard / far-away keys, and all the tricky Ctrl / Shift combinations), and I’m probably hitting the backspace key almost as often as all the other keys combined to correct my never-ending mistakes.
The worst bit is that this way of typing is still much more distracting than it used to be.
But… you know what? I really, really think it’s going to work and pay off!
Weird as it sounds, and hard as it feels, the letter keys are slowly starting to fall into place. Even after a mere two weeks (I did have some prior experience, to be fair). The thing that is taking most time to adjust to, is not the change in overall speed and effort, but the fact that typing speed is much more variable right now, depending on whether I’m typing letters or hitting other keys, and especially whether the Ctrl and/or Shift keys are involved (not to mention the Mac’s Option and Command keys!). So what seems to be happening is that words already come out faster than I used to type, but everything else really really takes a lot of time and mental effort. In short: punctuation and symbols are a pain, and with programming languages that means lots and lots of keystrokes are… t e d i o u s !
If you write a lot of prose, it’s pretty obvious that touch typing will be a wise investment. But now I’m starting to think that even with something as different as typing code, i.e. a notation full of weird characters, and even typing commands in Vim (where all sorts of key combinations have to be used all the time, and where mistakes are awkward!), the task of learning to type without looking at your fingers or the keyboard is indeed worth the effort.
(Speaking of Vim: it’s easier to type Ctrl-[ than it is to hit the far-away Escape key!)
It’s not even really about looking less up and down, as I thought. It’s about muscle memory, about off-loading an activity to a different part of your brain, and about focus. While writing this weblog post, which is obviously mostly text, I already feel more “relaxed” while typing in this new way. It’s like having an extra assistant – albeit still clumsy ;)
Pretty crazy stuff, if you think about it. I’m not making it up. This IS working!
Up next: the final posts of the Dive Into JeeNodes series – stay tuned…