My partner Ash loves to do things the hard way. When I heard he was breaking with the QWERTY keyboard layout for the supposedly more efficient keyboard Colemak keyboard layout (opens in new tab)I wasn’t surprised.
If Ash had to choose between climbing a mountain or taking a longer walk around it, he would undoubtedly take the path of greatest resistance just to see how things will play out. It manifests in every aspect of his life, and while it struck me as overly Sisyphean to watch him painstakingly teach himself how to use the Colemak layout over several months, I gained a newfound respect for his determination.
Learning a new keyboard layout is difficult. Do you remember the first time someone presented you with a keyboard? It takes years of practice to get used to one, let alone using the ability to touch type like I am now. And don’t worry about relearning it again while your native layout is still spinning around in your head.
My multilingual friends tell me that sometimes they think in English but speak in German or Bulgarian and vice versa. Thinking in English and trying to ignore QWERTY muscle memory is a whole different spatial faff that my synapses would have real trouble with.
Colemak’s purpose, according to the official site, is to offer a “faster and painless” alternative to QWERTZ and Dvorak keyboard layouts. It is currently the third most popular layout for typing in English, with around 100,000 people taking up the challenge of switching.
The website claims that your hands move twice as much with QWERTY as with Colemak, with “16x more jumps with the same hand”. For a more effective layout, Colemak places the most commonly used letters in the home row, which means 35 times the number of words can be typed simply by keeping your hands in their default position.
All this propaganda had really turned my partner. He was ready to ditch his beloved QWERTZ and try something new and exciting. And that went surprisingly well for the first few months.
First, he changed his keyboard layout at home to reflect Colemak, or at least tried to.
The Logitech G513, which my determined other half used, made swapping the buttons quite awkward, which was due to each row of buttons having different heights – something to consider when considering the switch – but it let don’t be put off by that.
He resorted to toggling just a few of the keys and continued to put his heart and soul into learning touch typing with this alien layout. What he found was that his typing speed increased over a period of about 5 months, but it took quite a while for accuracy to increase. He has now achieved 95% accuracy, a more than acceptable level.
“I stopped thinking about where my fingers are about 2-3 months ago,” says Ash. So he managed to get good enough at typing within a few months.
Right now, as someone who types QWERTY daily for my job, I’m at 32-45 WPM with about 91% accuracy, and that’s on a good day (don’t tell my boss). So Ash managed to get his stats up to my level over just 140 odd sessions keyhero.com (opens in new tab). Impressive stuff.
However, all this success was the result of full immersion in the Colemak lifestyle. He swapped his cell phone layout and also his work keyboard layout. While the phone switch helped a bit, he says the switch at work was a revelation. “Sure, typing emails was a drag for the first few weeks, but at least no one could prank me when I walked away and left my PC unlocked.”
Ash talked about Colemak’s superiority over QWERTY for months, but after a while he encountered even more hurdles. The fact that no one could type on his keyboard meant I couldn’t enter my passwords on his PC or change the music while we listened to his setup. While Colemak is great for thwarting potential banter, it’s certainly not for anyone who has to share a keyboard.
Also when gaming there was the problem that games did not register the Colemak keyboard layout. Trying to manipulate it so that playing it wasn’t an issue was no easy feat, especially ones with control schemes he’d been tinkering with for ages. However, some have been automatically updated to accommodate Colemak.
After months of fainting over Colemak, poor Ash finally switched back, at least on his home keyboard – largely for the convenience it brings to gaming. However, he still raves about the layout. He didn’t just move on Colemak Mod-DH (opens in new tab) at work, but he’s also looking for one Custom WASD keyboard (opens in new tab) for future experiments.
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He firmly believes his posture has also improved from using Colemak and says his hands are also a lot less tired from typing all day. But despite its many health and efficiency benefits, in this world of QWERTY domination, it’s still hard to see Colemak being widely used.
It’s difficult to convince people to change when others around them are mired in the old habits, as Colemak points out positively BBC Worklife article (opens in new tab) mention, that. It’s also unlikely that top keyboard manufacturers will offer it as an alternative when it’s still such a niche market.
The Colemak theme comes preinstalled on Mac (surprisingly) and Linux (less so), and more people are moving every day, so there’s room for change. But when it does, it will be a slow and probably very painful change.
This article was previously published on Source link