Praktizieren, Practicar, Praksis – Using Languages To Improve Typing

When you’re touch typing, your fingers are moving to the letters that make up the words your eyes are seeing or your brain is thinking. Good touch typists have “muscle memory” that allows their fingers to automatically type common letter patterns, which increases both speed and accuracy. That’s why practicing with text written in regular phrases and sentences is a good way to improve typing skills – you’ll be forming the connections between the words as a whole and the order of the letters in those words, and essentially teaching your fingers to spell a word at a time.

You can look at typing from the perspective of letter strings as well, and not words. This is a more difficult way to practice, but it really helps you focus on the keys each finger hits on the keyboard. Even though it’s a challenging method, it’s a good one for even beginner typists, because it makes the letter-key-finger link directly and requires a lot of concentration. In order to eliminate any automatic word formation and focus only on the letters, you need to use a text that is written in a language that you don’t know. You won’t be able to guess which letters will come next in a word, and at first this will slow you down. However, you’ll find that you’re training your eyes to move more quickly and your fingers to be more accurate in hitting the keys corresponding to the letters that you’re seeing. We’ve provided three practice texts in different languages that you can use to work on your touch typing skills. (Note: You can ignore the accents and just type the letters that you see.)

En skrivemaskin er en mekanisk eller elektrisk innretning med et sett med tangenter som, når de presses ned, avsettes avtrykk av bokstaver på et papirstykke. En skrivemaskin har et tastatur med taster for hver bokstav og talltegn, festet til metallarmer; og når man trykket på tasten, slo metallarmen mot papiret, og avsatte bokstavens avtrykk gjennom et fargebånd. Selv om den fremdeles benyttes i mindre utviklede land er skrivemaskinen nå erstattet av datamaskiner for tekstbehandling, eller en PC med skriver.

Cuando Remington empezó a comercializar máquinas de escribir supuso que la máquina no se utilizaría para escribir textos creativos, sino para labores de amanuense, y que serían mecanógrafas quienes las utilizasen. Así, se imprimieron flores sobre la carcasa de los primeros modelos, de forma que la máquina fuese más atractiva para las mujeres. En los Estados Unidos las mujeres empezaron a incorporarse al mercado laboral con frecuencia como mecanógrafas y, según el censo de 1910, el 81% de los mecanógrafos eran mujeres.

Bei der elektromechanischen Schreibmaschine wird das bei der herkömmlichen Schreibmaschine kraftaufwändige “Tippen” von einem Motor unterstützt. Ein wesentlicher Vorteil ist auch, dass die Taste nur geringfügig heruntergedrückt werden muss. Das verringert bei ungeübten Schreibern die Gefahr, dass benachbarte Tasten versehentlich mitbewegt werden und sich die Typenhebel dadurch verhaken. Die Konstruktion der elektromechanischen Schreibmaschine entspricht jedoch im Wesentlichen der handbetriebenen Typenhebelschreibmaschine.

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As computer screens get smaller, so do their virtual keyboards. The standard two-hand home row position that touch typists use to type quickly and accurately isn’t possible if the device you’re typing on isn’t even as big as one of your hands. People have been using their thumbs to text on these miniature keyboards, but this is a slow method of text input for most people. Even the world record holders for text-messaging don’t type much faster than 60wpm, which is nearly half of an expert touch typist’s speed. Designers and engineers are now looking for ways to make text input quicker on these smaller devices, and they’ve started looking for alternatives to the QWERTY layout.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute For Informatics in Saarbrücken, Germany have designed a new layout they call KALQ that rearranges the letters according to thumb movement distances and letter frequency. The letters are split so that 11 letters are on the right side (including all the vowels) with the rest of the letters in a block on the left side, in order to minimize the amount of double-tapping; by maximizing the alternation from left to right, it’s easier to type. The layout is designed for right-handed people, but there are plans to build a mirror-image keyboard for left-handers as well. The research team says that this new layout will let people increase the average texting speed of approximately 20-25wpm to nearly double that speed, and that the people they trained to use this keyboard averaged 37wpm in texting at 95% accuracy.

The new KALQ keyboard was demonstrated at a seminar on May 1, 2013 at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris, and is now available for Android devices. You can read more about the system and the theory behind it, and get the download, at the research team’s webpage here.

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How To Prevent Eyestrain

You can’t be a touch typist without using your fingers to accurately hit the keys, but you also need your eyes to successfully complete the typing tasks in front of you. Your fingers might know exactly what keys to hit to create the words you’re writing down, but if you’re trying to transcribe a handwritten letter from your boss into an official format, or spell-check a document you’ve already typed, then you need the use of your eyes. Healthy eyes are important for many reasons, including typing, but unfortunately typing itself can be a major cause of eyestrain. Here are some tips for keeping your eyes in good shape so that you can keep typing at top speed:

Fix the lighting in your office or at home, wherever you do most of your typing work. Make sure that the light fixtures are positioned so that there is no reflected glare on the screen, but that they are still providing enough light to see both the computer screen, the keyboard, and any paper documents you’re working with. Too little light is just as bad as too much, so don’t try to work in the dark, thinking that the glow from the computer screen is enough. This rule applies to all electronic devices you use, like e-readers; don’t read in the dark on line either. The contrast between the bright screen and the dark room will cause eye problems in the long run.

Change your computer settings to get the contrast right, so that the screen is neither too bright nor too dim. You can adjust the display size to make things easier to see so that you don’t have to lean forward and squint at the text on the screen, something that’s bad for your muscles and posture and also prevents you from typing quickly. If you need to adjust the font size so that the letters on the screen are larger, that’s easy to do in most programs as well as the main display controls. You can also change background colors if you need to reduce distractions.

Reduce eye fatigue by taking breaks more often. Stop what you’re doing – yes, you, stop reading right now! – and look away from the computer for at least 15 seconds, focusing on something that is at least 15 feet away. Do this every 15 minutes. In addition, if you find that your eyes are feeling dry, it’s probably because you’re not blinking enough. It’s easy to get involved in what you’re doing and just stare at the screen in concentration, but your eyes need to stay moist in order to work well, and the natural liquid from your tear ducts is the best way to keep them that way.

Exercise your eye muscles just like you exercise the rest of the muscles in your body to keep them strong and flexible. Typing requires a lot of back-and-forth eye movement as you track words on the screen or switch between the computer text and paper documents. Check out these eye exercise suggestions and practice them regularly.

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As Technology Enters The Classroom, Typing Skills Gain Importance

It seems like most children have a cell phone or smartphone these days, and many have tablets and internet-connected readers that they carry with them even to school. Schools often have rules about using these devices in class, and teachers sometimes even take cell phones away if the students are texting each other instead of paying attention in class. In some classrooms, however, the teachers are integrating these devices into their instruction, and the “Bring Your Own Device” rule is gaining popularity in several regions.

This trend towards incorporating technology into classroom instruction means that instead of watching someone else, students will be taking an active role in writing, researching, and playing games related to a topic. Since most of the devices used have keyboard interfaces, this means that in order to keep up with the rest of the class, students are going to have to know how to type. Good typing skills will be necessary for everyday class activities, and not just for typing up papers and assignments at home.

The Common Core Standards now being implemented in most school districts across the United States recognize the importance of modern technology and the skills needed to use it effectively. These standards require students to learn how to type, and to be able to type well by the 5th grade (age 10-12). Learning these skills early will make it easier for students to stay productive and efficient throughout the rest of their time in school, and especially if they decide to go on to get an advanced degree.

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Typing and Texting Can Be Tough On the Trapezii

The trapezius is the large triangular-shaped muscle that runs from the base of your head down your spine, and from these two points over to the top of your shoulder. You’ve got two of them, your trapezii, one on each side. They’re the muscles that start hurting after you’ve spent too long sitting at the keyboard in the wrong position, typing without a break. Poor posture, unhealthy arm position, and simply too much typing will stress these muscles, which can lead to problems with your shoulders, your neck, and your back. Here at Typesy we focus on ergonomics as part of typing training and provide information on how to set up your chair, your desktop, your keyboard, and your monitor to reduce stress and avoid injury. However, since many people spend as much time texting on their phones as they do typing on their computers, it’s important to remember that these same principles apply, even if you’re not sitting at a desk.

Take a look at the people around you who are using their smartphones to send a text – if you’re in a public place, there’s bound to be at least three people who are doing just that. You’ll probably notice that they’re all in about the same position: neck bent forward, looking down at the device in their hands, with their shoulders hunched. When you’re in this position, you’re putting a lot of strain on the trapezii, but worse, you’re pulling your spine out of alignment by adding extra stress on the top vertebrae. To reduce this problem, bring the device to eye level instead of lowering your head to look at the screen. You don’t have to hold your smartphone all the way up to your face, but just high enough that you can see the screen by lowering your eyes without moving your head.

You might be just about to reach the next level on Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga, but if you’ve been playing the game for the last three hours, it’s time to give your muscles a break. In fact, you should take frequent breaks from texting or playing games, just like you take breaks when you’re typing at work. Even though you might think that you’re just moving your fingers, the muscles that move your fingers connect back to the trapezius muscles at your shoulders, and the accumulated stress builds up quickly.

Finally, why not just call people instead of texting? Emoticons can’t replace the sound of someone’s laughter, and you’ll probably find you’ve got more to talk about than you thought. Texts are good for quick messages, but if you want to have a conversation, it’s probably more practical to talk in person – and it’s definitely less strain on your muscles!

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How To Type – With Your Eyes

The Typesy program is designed to teach you how to train your brain and your ten fingers to automatically and quickly make the muscle movements necessary to accurately hit keys in the proper sequence to form correctly-spelled words. To type, in other words. But what if you don’t have ten fingers – or any fingers? What if you’re in a situation where you can’t get your hands to the keyboard? What happens to your ability to communicate on the computer if you’ve lost the ability to use your hands at all?

Voice-recognition software is attempting to bridge that gap by transcribing the spoken word into text. Other research organizations are looking at using eye movements to control cursors and character selection on the screen. At Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, The Inference Group is working on a project they call Dasher, a pointer-driven text generator that can be used with eye-tracking software that translates eye movements into cursor movements for text selection. According to the result of user studies, this isn’t the fastest way to type, and the top speed so far is generally only around 30wpm. However, for people with limited mobility, this may be the best option for accurate word processing using a computer.

Another group in France at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) is studying how to map eye movements directly into text formation, by tracking the eyes as they “write” out letters. Users move their eyes in patterns that match letters and numbers (making a circle with their eyes for the letter O, for example) and the software picks up those patterns and creates the letters as fast as the user can move their eyes.

These and other innovations related to eye tracking will be discussed at the second annual EyeTrack Australia Conference in November 2013, sponsored by Central Queensland University. With so many people working on projects that look for new ways to use technology to communicate, we’re sure that new developments in typing techniques – with eyes or fingers – are on the horizon.

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Can You Keep A Secret?

Most of us have gotten so used to the video surveillance cameras in shops and on street corners in most cities that we don’t even notice them any more. Recent news about “government spy programs” is a reminder that not much of our lives are actually private these days. If you buy anything on line, or get a credit card, or even open a bank account, your personal information is being stored in a database somewhere – and every computer system ever set up is vulnerable to hacking. Still, you don’t usually worry about people deliberately listening in on the conversations you have with friends at a table in a restaurant, or that anyone has tapped your cell phone to get all the exciting details of the last chat you had with your grandmother. We can go about our daily lives without feeling like someone’s looking over our shoulder.

In the office, it’s a little different. You generally do have someone looking over your shoulder, whether it’s your supervisor or manager, or a nosy neighbor at the next desk. Most people think that moving into a cubicle will give a bit of that privacy back, and we’re used to lowering our voices on the telephone if we really want to keep people from hearing our conversations. However, with the aid of modern technology, apparently even our e-mail chats can be overheard, at least according to researcher J. Doug Tygar at the University of California, Berkeley. When he and fellow researchers used a microphone to record the sound of keystrokes and then processed that recording using computer algorithms, they found that the computer was able to “hear” the words that were being typed. Each key has a slightly different sound when struck, the researchers explained, and with the right sort of decoding algorithm, everything from online chats to system passwords could be retrieved.

It’s not likely that you’ve got a microphone planted under your work surface, and the computer technology needed to actually decipher the sounds of the keys isn’t widely available, so don’t worry about whether people are listening to what you type. Give them something else to think about with how you type instead. If you’re an excellent touch typist you’ll be typing so quickly that the sound of the keys will be a blur, and all people will think about is your amazing skill at typing!

Reference: J. D. Tygar, L. Zhuang, F. Zhou. Case Study: Acoustic Keyboard Emanations. In Phishing and Countermeasures: Understanding the Increasing Problem of Electronic Identity Theft (2007)

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New Common Core Standards Requirements Include Typing Skills

The educational initiative in the United States called “Common Core” is uniting schools and teachers around the country to promote consistent, high-level ability in reading, writing, math, and language skills for kids from kindergarten through graduation. The sponsors of this program believe that this will help prepare students for higher education, and give them the tools they need to get ahead in the job market as well. School administrations have been working on this initiative for several years, after the introduction of the first set of standards released in 2010, and 2015 is the target date to have the majority of schools following the new curriculum.

The English Language Arts section covers skills in reading and writing, but also in comprehension and listening abilities. Students in higher grades will be expected to read and analyze literature and write about it, as well as discussing it in class. Communication on many levels is emphasized in this area, and that includes communication in digital format. The Common Core Standards include a requirement that children at the grade 5 level (generally between 10 and 12 years old) be able to successfully type out a two-page paper on their own, without taking significant pauses in the process.

This is just the latest trend in digitally-based education; many students already have to use computers as part of their school programs, when teachers put quizzes and lessons on line or refer students to internet resources. A good ability to type – or better, the ability to touch type – will help children meet the new standards and get good grades. More importantly, it will teach them the typing techniques they will need to handle the pressure of university coursework, and later to be an efficient and productive worker on the job.

It’s never too late to learn good typing skills, but it’s increasingly obvious that it’s never too early, either.

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Doreen Holding Brings a Lifetime of Experience to

The best motivation for learning a new skill is looking at the benefits that other people have gained from that skill. When it comes to typing, Doreen Holding demonstrates how learning this skill at a young age continues to bring her success in the professions and projects she’s taken on. Now she’s sharing her skills with others both as a private typing tutor and on her website. A history of teaching typing to people at all age levels has given her the ability to explain the best ways to learn to touch type, and the seven lessons in her Beginner Typing series are a quick and effective way to get the typing skills you need. We asked Doreen about her thoughts on learning typing, and what she plans to do next.

Typesy: You started teaching typing back when it was a skill that was generally only taught to girls, who were expected to end up as secretaries typing letters for their (usually male) bosses. Were there boys who also wanted to learn typing back then, and is there still the idea that typing is primarily something that women do?

DH: When I started to teach typing in 1972 there were SOME boys interested in learning typing, not as many as girls, and when I taught classes in our Polytechnic in the mid 1980s it was to mixed classes. Also at a Secondary School I taught a mixed class but I have to admit that in that class some of the boys had no interest in typing. I caught their interest in a cunning exercise I got them to do but no time to explain that here. I believe that when there were first typists in offices only males were used and it took quite a while for females to become accepted as typists. Today I don’t think any distinction is made; so many men are using computers so they need to learn to type.

Typesy: With the use of technology in almost every part of our lives today, people of all ages need to learn how to use a computer keyboard. Do you find that there’s a difference in how you teach typing to older adults, compared to how you instruct children?

DH: Yes, young fingers are flexible and could cope with any of several typing courses I have used. When I first started tutoring for SeniorNet in 2001, rather than use any of the many typing tutors I had used in schools I designed a special course for older, stiffer, sometimes rhuematic fingers and maybe slower brains by introducing often-used key combinations in English words, as they are set out on a computer keyboard. The first lessons used only fingers 1 and 2 of each hand while the student had time to exercise all fingers ready to progress.

Typesy: Your site isn’t just about learning to type – it also contains a series of lessons on keyboard shortcuts showing people how to efficiently create and navigate through documents while still keeping your hands on the keyboard. Why do you recommend learning and using these key-based commands rather than clicking with the mouse, as most people are used to doing?

DH: I first thought of the idea of keyboard shortcuts when we had an elderly lady with such bad Parkinsons that she could only use one hand and that very awkwardly and she and some others could barely grip the mouse. She wanted to correspond but could only hold a pen long enough to write her signature. We also had several elderly people who were developing shakiness. When I taught at a disability centre there was a young lady who had had a stroke and could only use one hand. Keyboard Shortcuts plus Sticky Keys were necessary.

The other reason is that when I learned to use a computer it didn’t have a mouse, only keys were used and as a typist it frustrated me having to keep taking my hand from the keys and reach out for the mouse, move and point and click it and return it to the keyboard. Also, pain shot through my clicking finger from arthritis. My shoulder would ache after a lot of typing using a mouse. Keeping the right hand on the keys saves time and energy. I wonder how many 2-finger typists will develop RSI in those fingers!

Typesy: You incorporate stretching and relaxation exercises into your typing lessons, giving instructions like “flex your fingers and your shoulders” between steps. When many people think of fast touch typists, they think of someone who can sit at the keyboard for hours on end, typing away madly. Why don’t these breaks slow down a person’s typing speed?

DH: These breaks don’t slow down a person’s typing speed. They help the typists to relax the fingers, wrists, neck and back and then get back to their fast typing more efficiently. It gives the eyes and concentration a break also. They may in the end get more work done and more efficiently.

Typesy: Children tend to be more attracted to game-based interactive lessons, and there’s one game on the site right now. Do you plan on adding more games, or materials specifically for younger children?

DH: No, at this point I don’t plan to add any more game-based lessons. Maybe at a later date. As for younger children, although this course was originally designed for adults I have used it successfully with young children. I feel a problem these days is that children are introducted to computer keyboards at such a young age that maybe for years they pick and poke at the keys and then don’t want to bother learning to type correctly. I have actually had people in my senior classes who had been 2-finger typists who were very thankful for my class and learned to type very well with all fingers.

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Are You Ready For The Cincy Typing Challenge?

There are only two weeks to go before the fingers start flying at the Cincy Typing Challenge in Cincinnati, Ohio! If you’re in the area, be sure to register on line if you want to participate and try for the $5,000 grand prize. The contest is open to anyone, and there will be a “celebrity typing challenge” as well, featuring local news broadcasters and reporters. There’s also a texting competition with a $500 prize, but if you want to compete in this category you’ll have to bring your own device.

This competition is being held on the 125th anniversary of the first typing contest between expert typists Frank McGurrin (who used the then-new QWERTY keyboard layout) and Cincinnati typing teacher Louis Traub. McGurrin won the challenge back in 1888 and the QWERTY keyboard became the standard. This year, the competition will be held at the Cincinnati Museum Center, and there is also an exhibit of old typewriters on display at the Cincinnati History Museum going on now until the first qualifying round in the typing contest on July 20th.

To register for the Cincy Typing Challenge or to get more information, click here.

If you’re in Kuala Lumpur on January 8th, you can celebrate Typing Day and participate in the speed typing contest sponsored by the Malaysian government and the student organization AYFIC Project. In the UK, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, recently sponsored an open typing test competition for anyone who wanted to take it at their training centres, and back in 2010 Das Keyboard held the Typesy Championship in Austin Texas. The Cincinnati challenge is the first major US-based typing contest to receive media attention since then, though several school districts have held informal typing contests over the years.

Have you participated in a typing contest recently? Tell us about it in the comments!

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