Touchscreens and voice control interfaces may well be growing fast, but if you want to get some serious work done then most people will still turn to the humble keyboard. This doesn’t mean it’s the easiest option though, as it requires a decent amount of practice to get up to the kind of speeds that will keep up with your brain.
So how do you improve your typing speed? Well, we’ve gathered together a number of tips, techniques and apps that can get your fingers flying across the keyboard. All they need are a little dedication and patience. So let loose your dynamic digits: there’s work to be done.
How fast can I type?
Before improving your speed it’s a good idea to actually know how fast you can type. One simple, free way to do this is by taking an online speed test. Try visiting www.thetypingcat.com and clicking on its Typing Speed Test option at the top of the page. On the right side of the next screen you’ll see options for one, three, or five minutes tests. Click the one you want then click on the purple arrow on the left to begin.
Now just type over the text on the main screen until the time runs out, remembering to include captilisations and punctuation. When the test completes you’ll be given your current rate of writing. Make a note of it so you can return later and see how much you’ve improved.
Use all your fingers
It’s not uncommon for people to type with just two fingers, but if you want to get quicker then you’ll need to employ all of your digits. At first this can feel uncomfortable, a little bewildering, and will most likely make you type slower. Persevere though and within a few weeks you’ll see significant improvement. It’s like any new skill, you slowly build up muscle memory then after a while you don’t even need to think about what you’re doing as your fingers will instinctively know where to go.
One of the key aspects of typing faster is minimising the amount of movement in your hands. When you first try typing with all of your fingers there’s a good chance that you’ll be moving your hands all over the keyboard. This is not a good idea though as it increases the chances of you getting lost and hitting the wrong keys. To stop this, and build in good habits from the start, there is a standard hand position that you should adopt.
If you look at your keyboard you should see two little raised lines on the F and J keys. Give them a little rub now to see how they differ from the surrounding key. The reason for these lines is that F and J are the keys where your index fingers should be when you start typing. Those letters are centrally placed and will the the anchor points that your fingers return to throughout any typing session.
Try placing your index fingers on them now and then placing your other fingers on the three keys to the left of F (D,S,A) and the right of J (K,L,;). Your thumbs get to join in too, as they will be used to hit the spacebar. If you’re using a laptop then the base of your palms will rest either side of the trackpad. Desktops will vary depending on the type of keyboard you are using and the arrangement of your desk.
With your fingers now in the standard typing position you can try typing out a few words to familiarise yourself with the new arrangement. Remember it will feel weird at first and you will no doubt be slower than normal. It takes time to build up the right technique but the rewards will be worth it in the end.
Try some typing tutorials
Armed with your new finger placements it’s a good idea to go through some typing lessons. There are a number available online and a good place to start is back at www.thetypingcat.com as the courses are free and acquiant users with the standard typing position. The Basic course starts with just a couple of letters that you need to enter in the correct order. These are F and J, both of which should be typed with your index fingers. It’s very helpful as right from the start you are familiarising yourself with having your hands in the correct position and keeping them there while you use the Spacebar and Enter keys.
The lessons progress at a comfortable rate, focussing on one row of the keyboard at a time. When you’ve worked through those you can progress to the Advanced course which incorporates punctuation, capitilisation, and numbers. There’s even a little exercise at the end that uses quotes, sayings, and jokes to keep things fun.
Keep your eyes on the screen
The eventual aim of typing quickly is to be a touch typist. This simply means that you can type without looking at the keyboard. It might seem impossible when you first start out, but if you stick to the courses above and use the correct position for your hands then it will be something very achievable in a month or two.
As you work through the exercises and generally practice your new skills try allocating a little time to typing blind. At first it will be a random mess, but that’s ok. Just keep trying little by little and you will surprise yourself how quickly it can all come together.
As the old saying goes - the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is today. So if you do want to speed up your fingers then start with a small acorn, practise each day, and watch it grow into something impressive.