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Switch Weight

What is the best type of switch for speed typing?  How much does switch weight matter?

Here are my thoughts on switch weight.

Lighter switches require less work to actuate, are less fatiguing to type on over extended periods of time, and are more nimble and easier to use.  Stenographers use the lightest spring weights possible for their switches.  While they are pressing more keys at a time than QWERTY typists, I imagine the lighter spring weight must also be for speed and ease of use.

Honestly, while I can share with you my personal preferences, this is something you have to figure out for yourself.  Experiment and find out what kind of switch you are most comfortable speedtyping on.

For me, these are the main switches I’ve used and how I’ve felt typing on them.

MX Blues-  the first board I raced with.  A fairly light switch with a little click that is heard, but not really felt while speed typing.  Basically a linear switch with a click in the middle of it.  My fingers were able to fly on these switches, I think because of the basically non-existent weight while typing fast.

67g Zealios-  When I fell in love with 67g Zealios, I got myself a board of them and pretty much shelved my MX Blues.  I found I could type equally quickly on these Zealios switches.

Topre 55g-  I noticed I couldn’t type as quickly on these-  about a 15% speed decrease.  I think there’s something about the force curve that throws me off while typing for speed.  It’s not necessarily a mechanical limitation, but it feels like there’s a greater disconnect between the action of the switch and the registration of the keystroke.

Topre 45g-  These are easier than the 55g to speed type on, but that strange feeling of disconnect is still there.  Don’t get me wrong, apart from typing for speed, these two Topre domes are two of my favorite switches to type on.  They’re a favorite leisure typing switch, just not a speed typing switch. 😀

Holy Pandas-  When I first started using these, their very tactile nature reminded me of Topre domes in a sense, with their early action and steep dropoff, so I didn’t expect to be able to type quickly on them.  However, typing more on them proved otherwise. They’ve become my favorite switch for leisure, and for speed.  Something about their snappiness, particularly the snappy return, makes the fingers feel so alive and engaged, while retaining that feeling of flitting around that I talked about in my earlier post about minimizing travel distance and having a light touch.

I haven’t used linears in any of my boards yet, but it’s going to happen soon!  I’ll report about those when I get to use them.

Update (March 1st, 2019): I have been using linears for the past half year, and boy do I have some news to report.  First, what linears am I using?  I modded some Retooled MX Black switches with 60g springs, polycarb switch films, and lubed them with 3204.  I used them first in my X60, and now they’re in my Reborn 60.  Let me tell you, these linears have brought me to new levels of pure typing enjoyment.  The sound, the feel, the comfort, everything about it is phenomenal.  From the perfect weight, to the smooth travel, capped off with the wonderful bottom-out sound, they are hands-down my new favorite switch to type on.  And though I am a believer in having multiple favorites, I already know these will be a forever favorite.

And what we’re all here for: How do I like them for speed typing?

MX Blacks (Retooled, 60g, switch filmed, 3204)- I find these top notch for speed typing.   Linears allow my fingers to actuate switches in a way no other switches have allowed.  I understand now why MX Red/Black switches were advertised as the best for gamers, who needed quick actuation and spammable keypresses.  These keys being light, with no tactile bump/resistance, enhances the ease of speed typing in a way that I haven’t felt with any other switches.  The best way I can explain it is that my fingers can fly freely, without needing to exert any particular extra effort in pushing past any tactile bumps, which allows my hands to stay stationary, and just the fingers to move, improving speed and accuracy.  (More on this later.)  I have gotten my highest speed records on linears (mid-170 on 10FF, more recently), compared to my previous highest on Holy Pandas (mid-160 on 10FF, before linears).  Note that this could be due to using linears, but could also be due to having improved as a typist and not having gone back to other switch types after switching to linears, haha.

With all this good stuff to say about linears, I will share my one caveat to speed typing on linears.  I’m finding that to achieve maximum speed, a certain level of precision is required.  This precision is found in keeping the entire ‘typing system’ (arm, wrist, hand, big knuckles) in a nearly-stationary position, which allows the fingers to move independently, quickly and lightly across the keys.  When I’ve competed in typing competitions, such as at meetups, or TCC1 (which I streamed), my fingers get jittery, and that level of precision is harder to achieve.  I find myself hitting the switches harder, and in general having less ‘feel’ for the keys.  While I still have some races where I get that level of precision down and I’m flying through the text, in general, errors come up more often.  I think this would be a case when typing on a tactile switch might be more advantageous, to make use of the tactile feedback that subconsciously gives my hand/mind a better feel for the keys as I’m typing on them.  If you’re the type to get nervous in competitions as I am, it’s something to consider.  I would switch over to a board with Holy Pandas, because I find those to have just the right amount of tactility to be noticeable without being overly difficult or jarring to actuate.

More on typing form, continued from above: My typing form used to be that I lightly rested both wrists while speed typing.  Since switching to linears, I have switched to a posture of floating both wrists.  I find that floating both wrists at a stationary place in the air allows my fingers to move most freely to ‘flit around’ from key to key.  I find this particularly effective with linears, and now also employ this when speed typing on other switch types.  This has led me to find a new ‘technique’ that is basically hovering my wrists/hands, minimizing movement of the palm part of the hand, and moving only the fingers.  I think I’ll make a post about this later to explain further.

With all this talk about switches, I think the most important thing is that you are in tune with the switch you are using.  Know it inside and out.  Know how much force is required to actuate it, and type accordingly.  Don’t waste time and energy being heavy-handed (heavy-fingered?) and slamming down on the keys.  Type quickly and gently- think more like tapping and less like punching.

What about you guys?  What switches do you type fastest on?

Q&A – 1

Before starting this blog, I sent out a form asking people for questions and suggestions of what they wanted to see.  A lot of people responded, for which I am grateful, and I’ve read every single contribution.

I’m going to spend some posts giving answers to these questions.  If your question is not answered, that means it was, or will be, addressed in a blog post, or a future Q&A post.

Q: How to get more consistent?  –k3lp_boy

Practice, and practice well.  Start slow and work on typing accurately.  Build your speed up bit by bit.  Observe the most common mistakes you’re making, and focus on improving your technique to remedy those mistakes.  Practice. 🙂

Q: Do you think at 140+ wpm?  -jb1830

Hahaha.  When I type for speed, like 10FF or TypeRacer, I do best when I enter this hyperfocused state, where I’m thinking solely about the text on the screen.  My mind will naturally want to wander to random thoughts: “Who’s in 1st place?” – “Can people in the other room hear me typing?” – “My wrists are kind of sticking to my wrist rest” – “My monitor is wobbling” – “How much time is left in this test?”  Stuff like that.

When I’m thinking about things like that, it takes away from my focus on the words I’m typing.  Being focused on the text, reading ahead to myself, and focusing 100% on typing gets me the best results.  There’s a certain high that comes with being in the zone (which inspired the name of my blog) where you’re just feeeeling it.

Also, I never really remember the text I type.  You know like when you’re sitting in a group and everyone has to take turns reading something out loud and when it’s your turn you focus on reading it and then afterwards you’re like, umm I don’t know what I just read?  It’s like that.

It feels like I enter this machine mode where all I do is process the text with my eyes, and then type it out through my fingers.  So in that sense, I guess, no, I don’t really think at 140+ wpm.  Ideally.

Q: What happens if one’s hands/fingers are smaller/shorter resulting in more hand movement/harder to use pinky?  -CrimsonPelican

A: I guess you could say that’s… the hand you’re dealt.  WHahlkjkjlsawef no but seriously, unless your fingers are insanely short, you’ll still be able to reach the keys without needing to move your hand more than any other person.  Do the best with what you have.  Or use a 40% board.  Contact me if you want me to take a look, I’m curious. 🙂

Send more questions!  Happy typing!

The Ctrl Key

When it comes to the world of keyboard shortcuts, there are a lot of them out there.  Here are some useful ones that have to do with typing.  Note: I am only familiar with Windows, but I know Mac has its own key that is analogous to Ctrl, which I believe is Command- use that one. 🙂

The Ctrl key manipulates entire words.  This is probably the single most useful key shortcut to know.  Some usage examples:
Ctrl+Left = Moves the cursor one word to the left
Ctrl+Right = Moves the cursor one word to the right
Ctrl+Backspace = Backspaces the entire prior word
Ctrl+Delete = Deletes the entire next word

In text entry fields, such as 10FF, Discord, Messenger, and the like, Ctrl+A selects all of the text you’ve written.  At which point, you can type over it, backspace it, cut it (Ctrl+X) to save it for later, and so on and so forth.  For example, I will often cut something I’ve typed to “hold my thought” while finishing up the current topic of conversation, then paste it later when appropriate.

Side note: I am a big advocate for using Ctrl in the place of Caps Lock, HHKB-style. 🙂

Hopefully this is helpful!

Minimizing Travel Distance

Minimizing finger travel distance is essential to maximizing your speed.

Finger travel distance is how far your fingers move from resting position to the keypress.  The benefit of using more fingers when typing, as well as using home row technique, is to reduce this travel distance as much as possible.

This is readily apparent with horizontal travel distance, but what’s not readily apparent is the importance of vertical travel distance.

Keeping fingers low to the keys will increase typing fluidity and speed.

Try typing something right now!  Keep your fingers as low to the keys as possible.  Go slowly and watch your finger positioning.  I’m assuming here that you’re typing on a mechanical keyboard or a laptop keyboard.  In either case, note that the key does not require immense pressure to actuate.  You don’t need to punch the key with your fingers, which means you don’t need to raise your fingers up high to generate energy.  Focus on typing with a motion of ‘flitting’ from key to key, keeping the vertical distance as low as possible, typing with only as much energy as required to actuate the key.

I made two videos to demonstrate the difference.

In this video, I demonstrate typical typing technique that doesn’t stay low to the keys.  Notice how high my fingers are from the keys, and how far they have to travel from their resting position to hit the keys.  Note in particular how the right thumb hovers high above the spacebar.

In this video, I demonstrate how I normally type, resting my fingers close to the keys, and minimizing travel distance to required keystrokes.  Notice how the right thumb stays close to the spacebar.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!

Keyboard: Canoe with Holy Pandas.

Read Ahead

Here is a mentality tip that has helped my speed a good amount:

Always be reading a few words ahead of what you’re typing.

There is a distinct speed advantage gained from reading the text before your fingers arrive at typing it.  Generally speaking, it’s quicker to type from your mind rather than copy text.  Think of it as utilizing your resources most efficiently.  When you’re typing , we can simplify it and say that two things are happening, in this order:

– Your mind processes the words
– Your hands type the words

If you’re doing these steps at the same time for each word you type, that’s inefficient.  If, instead, you stagger these steps, you’ll get a bit of a speed boost because your hands won’t be waiting for your mind to process.

Queueing up the text in your mind, so you have words ready to go, gives your fingers room to run.

As a general rule of thumb (haha), read ahead about 2-3 words, or 10-15 characters, or about 1-2 seconds — depending on how fast you type, of course.  More reading ahead is required as you build your speed.  As you get into the habit of doing this, you’ll get a feel for how much to read ahead.

The reason this is a somewhat difficult and unnatural thing, I believe, is because of our natural tendency to watch the cursor, ensuring the words we’re typing are coming out correctly.  However, when utilizing this technique, the foundation of good accuracy we’ve been building comes into play, and since you have been so diligently practicing it, you can trust your accuracy to carry you through.  🙂

Let me know how it works out for you!

That’s the type for today — here’s the hype.

What is an Average, Really?

What’s your typing speed?  Okay, you got a number in mind?  Now, how did you decide on that number?

Is it your personal best on a typing test?  Is it your TypeRacer average, which averages your last ten races?  Is it your lifetime average on 10FastFingers?

It’s interesting how we have a natural tendency to omit from our memory the slower results we achieve, because we know we can type faster, and it’s easy to chalk up those slow results to difficult passages, typos, or “not being on our game.”  We tend to remember ourselves at our best.

As you can see, there is a certain difficulty in defining the metric of how fast one types.  Without a fully standardized testing procedure, there can be quite a range of results. As speed typists, tracking this metric matters, and defining it gets even more nuanced.

I’ve tried a lot of typing tests out there, but I enjoy typing the most on 10FastFingers and TypeRacer.

10FastFingers has, in my opinion, the simplest and best typing speed test.  It uses simple words, no punctuation, almost no capitals, and displays simple lines of text that show you just enough text at once, and scroll only when you’re done with each line.  I like that it penalizes you for typos in your final speed, but doesn’t make you fix them during the test if you don’t want to.  This way, it avoids jarring stops, but is still fair in rewarding accuracy and penalizing inaccuracy.  For measuring speed, this site gives the most precision due to its consistency and repeatability.

TypeRacer is a different animal altogether.  Here, you’ve got capitals, punctuation, proper nouns, numbers, varying race lengths, and you’re not allowed to continue with the text if you have typos.  Typing here feels different than on 10FF, in no small part due to racing against other people in real-time.  The thrill of seeing your little car move in those stuttery steps alongside other little cars is something that has to be experienced.

If 10FF is running on your treadmill at home to train your speed and endurance, TypeRacer is running on a track, jumping over hurdles (that Shift key), and maneuvering through a mini obstacle course.

I like both sites for what they offer, and both have their place in a speed typist’s repertoire.  I spend most of my time on 10FF because it offers that pure typing experience, and allows me to focus on practicing technique and speed.  Then, when I want a change of pace, TypeRacer gives me a place to take what I’ve practiced into a competitive environment.

With that said, what WPM rating do I like to use?  For ease of standardization, I think it’s easiest to say your WPM is the 10FF score you can achieve the majority (let’s say 75%) of the time.  For me, that’s 150 wpm (with a PR of 166), which is up about 20 wpm since I started practicing on 10FF a couple months ago, back when I first started really thinking about the mechanics of speed typing.

So!  We’re three posts in now, and we’ve covered the fundamentals of speed typing.  The importance of accuracy, the why and how of good technique, and this post about WPM and typing test sites (which has gotten much longer than I expected).  

In upcoming posts, we’ll be getting into the fun stuff for touch typists — practical tips, advanced theory, mentality training, keyboard hardware, and more!

Exciting stuff to come.  😀

The Importance of Technique

Does proper typing form exist?  Does it matter?

Here’s what I believe: A foundation of good typing technique allows you to reach your greatest potential speed.

No matter how experienced you are with touch typing, there is room to refine your technique to allow you to type faster.  Increasing your speed will come from two things:

  1. Learning good technique, which may involve unlearning some parts of your current technique
  2. Doing what you do, faster

Just about everyone who tries to get faster puts all their effort into #2, without realizing the importance of #1.  This post will be about #1, and a future post will cover #2. If you think about it, it has to be done in this order, because we need to first establish a foundation of technique before discussing how to do that quickly.  We have to know how to run before trying to run fast.

Now, if you don’t feel familiar enough with the keyboard to touch type, your words per minute is likely around 70 or less — that’s fine!  This is a good place to be, because you likely haven’t developed major bad habits, and you can spend some time learning and practicing good fundamentals.

I recommend sites like Keybr and Ratatype, for learning good fundamentals.  (Note: I am in no way affiliated with these sites.)  This site will teach home row technique, which I highly recommend learning.  Even as a proficient typist, I found the site to be a helpful tool that showed me which areas of the keyboard I was less familiar with.

On the topic of proper typing form, don’t think of it as something you must emulate perfectly.  Instead, see it as a strong foundation that will dependably get you to a fast speed, which you will continue to build on over time with your own unique deviations.  If you’ve been a proficient typist for a while, you may have already noticed particular habits and techniques you have.

With that said, no matter how fast of a typist you are, it’s worth taking a look at your typing form.  Take some time now to type some text while watching your fingers, to see if there are things you do that slow you down because of inefficiency, discomfort, or not fully utilizing your fingers.  This might be a bit difficult to do on your own, especially if observing your fingers while typing changes how you type. You could record a video of your hands and play it back, perhaps watching it in slow motion.  You could ask a friend to watch how you type and note any outstanding observations.

Did you notice anything unexpected?  What little oddities do you do?

Here are a few broad principles I encourage for good, efficient typing:

  1. Use at least 4 to 5 fingers of each hand.  This increases efficiency by allowing you to type more letters, at a quicker pace, with less effort, because you already are covering more of the board and reducing finger travel distance in doing so.

  2. Use a thumb for the spacebar, not fingers.  The thumb naturally rests on the spacebar and is the perfect (I would say ‘only’) candidate for hitting the spacebar.

  3. Similar to the above point, use fingers to type keys that are close to that finger’s resting position on home row.  There is some flexibility in which fingers you use to type which keys, but this is a good principle to follow.  (For example, using your right index finger to type the ‘V’ key is probably not as efficient as a finger of the left hand.)

In addition to the broad principles I listed, there is also wiggle room for small habits and idiosyncrasies that deviate from the homerow typing form.  These are personal judgment calls based on comfort, efficiency, and familiarity, and I encourage carefully evaluating them to determine whether to keep them or revise them.  I offer personal typing evaluation services, free of charge!  Inquire at the contact page if interested.

As always, let me know thoughts and questions, and tell me what you find helpful.  Happy typing!

Walk Before You Run

Welcome, friends!   choobies here-  if you’d like more info on who I am, feel free to take a gander at my about page, which you can find in the top right menu.

With that aside, let’s talk typing.

We’ll start with everyone’s favorite question:  How do I type faster?

The simple answer is: by eliminating errors and typing accurately.

Typing accurately is of paramount importance in building up good speed.  If you’ve never thought about ‘practicing typing’ before, this is where we begin.

Start by going to your favorite typing exercise — I personally like 10FF.  However, instead of blitzing through the text as I know you so voraciously want to, deliberately practice typing so as to eliminate all errors.

Take a moment to let that sink in.  It seems simple, but this is the foundation of fast typing.

  1. Type as slowly as you need to be error-free.

  2. Gradually work your speed up, making sure to keep mistakes to a minimum.

Spend some time doing this-  this will take some deliberate practice, typing at a speed slower than you’re used to, and being attentive to typing with accuracy and avoiding mistakes.  Work on this daily, until you’re reliably getting accuracy in the 95% range.  Don’t just practice blindly, but practice well.

In turn, this will boost your speed, as well as increase your overall typing coherency.  Typing will be a smoother and more enjoyable experience, where you can think about what you’re reading and what you’re typing, without being interrupted by having to fix mistakes.

As a short answer to the question of “How do I type faster?”, I believe this will bring about the biggest benefit.  Work on that, let me know how it goes, and send me any questions you have!

Stay tuned, there’s lots more to come.