27 July 2016

Improving Typing Accuracy

Das Keyboard - Model S Ultimate (III)I am always interested to improve my typing performance and eager to use keyboard shortcuts. As Code Cop I mentor developers and pair with them in different environments. I need to improve my typing and shortcut-fu across different tools and use flashcards to memorise IDE shortcuts. I found that I need more visual hints to remember the positions of certain keys. I am able to touch type but I do not know the exact position of the keys consciously. This is sometimes a problem when typing passwords.

Using a Blank Keyboard
Iris Classon reported that using a blank keyboard improved her touch typing accuracy. She listed measurements and statistics on her web site regarding her improvements. I own a Das Keyboard Ultimate and have used it from time to time. It is true that using it improved my touch typing accuracy, but it did not help me to "know" where the keys were.

Key Flashcards
I want to memorise the exact locations of all keys on the keyboard. This is very difficult for me, but I want to master it. As with the IDE Shortcuts I used Anki to create a deck of flashcards containing all keys on the keyboard. It starts with pictures of the blank keyboard and the name of the key in question:
Where is the #'-key on a German keyboard?Showing the keyboard already on the front side of the flashcards - the question side - helps me visualise the location of the key. I use the TKL (tenkeyless) variant of the keyboard, ignoring the numeric keypad, to save horizontal space. When ready I advance the deck and see the key marked on the keyboard:Position of the #'-key on a German keyboardThe same layout on both sides of the flashcards help me keep my visual focus on the position. (Having two pictures for each card doubles the file size of the deck, which might be a problem on mobile devices running Anki but I had no issues when using the deck.) As I use German and UK layout depending on my pairing partner, I created two decks with German and UK layout respectively:I did not create these decks by hand, rather developed a sequence of little application that would allow me to mark the key positions on the image of the blank keyboard, render the keyboard with and without markings to be used in a deck of flashcards and write the CSV needed to import the deck into Anki. (See Keyboard Flashcard for more details and the source code.)

During my practise with the decks I sometimes wanted to separate letters from non letter keys. So I created even more decks:

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