As I’m writing these words right now, I have to admit it’s quite challenging to find the right keys and avoid making mistakes and typos!
That’s because I just switched my keyboard layout to Colemak from QWERTY. If you have no idea what that means, bear with me because this one simple change could change the future of typing as we know it.
But I think it’s going to be well worth it.
Sometimes you have to be willing to face and overcome short-term obstacles and challenges in order to create a better future for yourself in the long-term.
Why QWERTY is Slow
QWERTY is the standard keyboard layout in the US and much of the English-speaking world. There’s a 99.9% chance the keyboard layout you’re using right now is QWERTY (read the letters at the top left of your keyboard to find out. Of it reads “QWERTY” that’s it!).
The problem is that QWERTY was originally designed to make typists type slower because old-fashioned typewriters would break or stop working if you typed too fast.
Today, with computers, it’s pretty much physically impossible to type faster than your computer can handle. That means QWERTY is obsolete and counterproductive since it’s slowing you down when you type. But it’s still pretty much universally used!
As an advocate of efficiency, I had to put my foot down and finally say, “NO MORE!” to QWERTY.
About the Colemak Keyboard Layout
Colemak is proven to be far more efficient than QWERTY.
Colemak is a modern alternative to the QWERTY and Dvorak keyboard layouts. It is designed for efficient and ergonomic touch typing in English.
Learning Colemak is a one-time investment that will allow you to enjoy faster and pain-free typing for the rest of your life. Colemak is now the 3rd most popular keyboard layout for touch typing in English, after QWERTY and Dvorak, and (in my opinion), it’s far superior.
Here’s what the Colemak layout looks like:
You’ll notice it’s quite different than a regular keyboard, but there are quite a few similarities. 10 Of the letters are in the exact same position as QWERTY.
What you have then is 17 changes of key positions, focusing on bringing the most commonly used letters (like r, s, t, d, n, e, i, and o) to the center of the keyboard which means your fingers don’t have to move around nearly as much.
Here are some fun stats on the differences:
- Your fingers on QWERTY move 2.2x more than on Colemak.
- QWERTY has 16 times more same hand row jumping than Colemak (meaning your hands have to constantly go up and town the keyboard to find the right letters rather than staying in the same row of keys).
- There are 35 times more words you can type using only the home row on Colemak.
How to Install the Colemak Keyboard Layout for Mac and PC
You can download Colemak for free on Mac and PC at http://colemak.com/Download
Installation instructions are available free as well:
For Mac: http://colemak.com/Mac
For PC: http://colemak.com/Windows
Note: If you have any issues installing Colemak and need help, just post your comment here and I’ll do my best to support you in making the switch!
How to Learn Colemak
If you’re going to make the switch to Colemak, I highly recommend you take free computerized typing lessons online at http://thetypingcat.com/course (Just change the layout to Colemak and start learning while you type! Do this 10-20 minutes a day during your transition period until you master the new layout).
I also recommend you update your keyboard with tape or buy a Colemak keyboard cover so you can see the proper keys on your usual keyboard.
Here’s what mine looks like at the moment :-)
It’s not pretty, but it works!
About Switching Costs
Switching cost is the reason almost everyone still uses QWERTY.
Switching costs are the negative costs that a consumer has do pay as a result of changing suppliers, brands or products. Although most switching costs are financial, there are also psychological, effort and time-based switching costs.
In the case of Colemak, the main switching cost is time and effort. In the short-term, you will type much slower than usual as you learn the new key positions on your keyboard. Over time, though, as you master the new layout, you’ll start to see the efficiencies add up through increased typing speed and accuracy.
As usual, it pays huge dividends to focus on long-term results, not just short-term benefits.
I’m 2 weeks into learning and just surpassed 50 WPM typing speed consistently. It still feels incredibly slow compared to my usual 100+ WPM, but I’m making progress (see how I learned to type fast and how you can learn to type faster here).