A few months ago I began a journey to learn Colemak. Yesterday I switched back to Qwerty. There were a number of reasons I stepped off my adventure into Colemak, but perhaps its better to start at the why I began that journey.
The luxury of trying
In my job I have the luxury of being able to experiment with what works for me. I had toyed with the idea of trying a different keyboard layout as a lot of colleagues had. They were split between Colemak and Dvorak.
The tipping point
There were a few factors that made me make the change
- New MacBook key sounds: the keys are super loud, similar to a mouse in boots tap dancing loud, when I get a good conversational pace going.
- Wrist pain: over the years I haven’t been great to my wrists with typing strain and they were reminding me of this factor.
- Wanting to reduce my typing speed: a maybe unexpected motivation was to add more thought to my typing by reducing the speed.
I began my journey into Colemak possibly naively by going 100% in with doing it all the time. I did however use a cover. There was a problem with this though quite early on, the cover began warping and it kept leaving marks on my screen – not great.
I moved onto using stickers and this may have been where one of my downfalls began. The only stickers I could find meant you saw 2 letters – the ones on the keys and the stickers. This got even worse at night because the keys highlighted the Qwerty ones. I was rapidly finding things more and more of a struggle
The end coming
I found my spelling mistakes went through the roof. I have a lot of spelling issues as it is and my comprehension can at times be creative. However, it was compounded by trying to learn Colemak, to the point not a sentence would go by without issues. Just writing this in Qwerty already I am back to my usual pace of mistakes.
A different voice
One thing I did not expect to discover was a change in my writing voice. In the past my use of punctuation was somewhat lazy. It has on more than one occasion been suggested I should purchase a box of commas. As I was writing in Colemak this strange thing happened, I found commas.
Beyond my discovery of commas, the voice was slightly different. This was an unnerving effect. Not one I was sure I wanted. I did not feel it was a positive change either. In some respects I felt it lacked personality, it lacked emotion. Because I was having a lot of issues with typing the words, I became minimal to a point that wasn’t always good. It also tested my patience, although that was a nice thing to test at times, at others it could have created a bad response from me.
Mental model comfort
I never have learnt to touch type, I have this kind of weird half memory, half some fingers typing method. Its clumsy and inelegant to view, but it sure gets the job done.
I find touch typing very hard and the lessons to do it close torture. They make me panic, which has this awesome side effect of my Dyslexia going into overdrive. As I switched to Colemak, I began typing lessons that seemed like old scary ghosts back to haunt me.
I did try for several months but it came to a point where the benefits were not out weighing the gains. I had less wrist pain, yet the mistakes and brain hurdles I was causing myself were not worth the change. Even the keyboard sound was loud once I took the cover off and the covers don’t work yet well with the new MacBooks.
Reverting doesn’t mean other issues have gone away. I suspect my wrist pain will surface soon enough. Yet, I will combat this in other ways such as specific exercises and actually being better at breaks. I may have changed my keyboard layout but I did not get better at taking breaks. A keyboard layout isn’t a magic cure all.
What I have learnt is this:
- Exercising my wrists and taking breaks is more important than switching a keyboard layout.
- The ghosts of typing lessons need to be conquered. I plan on finally learning to properly touch type.
- Experiments don’t have to succeed and I am lucky to be able to do them where I work.
- I have more respect for those with slower typing speeds, for whatever reason. I want to try and keep the pace more considered and hold onto that respect.
- Commas are great, I should use them more.