Computers & Tech

Good Bye Colemak… It’s Been Fun

Pressing enter.My journey with Colemak has come to an end. I know I have debated about its merits and flaws on quite a few posts, but I do feel its time to move on to something better for me in the long run.
Its not been a straight forward, enjoyable journey and my fingers are probably going to hate me for this; I think with the number of mistakes I’m making now, they already are. A journey for more than a year of trying to get to grips with Colemak and then, when I was finally getting traction with it, I decided to change. O yeah… My fingers hate me alright. 😛

So, if not Colemak, what am I going to be using? Well, again with all the posts about choosing the right layout for myself, one would think that I would be heading to Dvorak. No.. HORROR OF ALL HORRORS, its QWERTY.
Yeah… I know.. Shocking. The biggest question is why choose something that is so bad?
Lets get something straight. QWERTY is not the best. I’m not moving to it because it is. Colemak is far superior to it; so much more comfortable and easier to type on. Right now, even looking at the keyboard, I find my fingers getting confused to and working more harder to type a single sentence. There is a whole lot more same finger travel and it seems more chaotic.

Now to answer the most important question… Why?
Its been on my mind now. When trying to decide on Dvorak vs Colemak, I came across this article (http://allthingsergo.com/blog/articles/colemak-dvorak/) which actually made some sense. It was about what is the best in the long term for me.

I had a couple of experiences where I was away from my computer and I had to type a long report via email with some attachments. This was something urgent. Since I was at a friend’s place, I decided to use his PC. They say that while using Colemak cold-turkey, a short stint on QWERTY would not be so bad, but it was for me. I could not type as fast as I wanted to. It was at that point that I started thinking.
Another instance was when I was forced to use an Internet cafe while on a short break in Singapore. Being away from Albert and not having a laptop with me, I was struggling to send an email that I really needed to at the time.
I know that not being able to use a computer while on vacation is sort of a good thing, but sighting a reason that you are not able to use a computer because it uses QWERTY is kind of stupid.
I know its not often that I do have to use another person’s PC, but when I have to, I don’t like the fact that I’m not comfortable on the layout he/she uses; QWERTY.

This also comes into play when I’m at someone’s place assisting in fixing their system. Having someone look at you hunt and peck while trying to type on their system does not install the best of confidence in your abilities to fix the issues with their system. Bear in mind that I’m no computer tech by profession; just a geek.
I’m also going to be moving around a bit in my new role at work, which means in my job, heading to government centers and using their terminals for applications. I know they definitely won’t be using Colemak. This was when I decided to get used to something that will make my life easier in the long run.

To switch won’t be easy. To be honest, I kinda grew fond of Colemak. Its easy shortcuts, comfort is, for the moment, unmatched. I was beginning to touch-type so well & it felt good.

But the sad truth is that Colemak is not practical for me the more I kept thinking about it. I want to be able to touch-type on any computer that I come across; right from the moment my finger hits the 1st key. Another issue was that just like Jason mentioned in his article, my fingers were feeling rather cramped and I got a large ache in my right forearm while using it. Couldn’t explain it.

Maybe its was my positioning of my hands while using Colemak or not, I don’t know, but  I wasn’t as comfortable as I should have felt.

Even Dvorak would not work for work. Its available on all systems, that’s true. Although considering all, it would be crazy to spend 2 – 5 mins changing the layout on a system that I may only be using for a max of 30; even more so if it is a public terminal.

So here I am, struggling with a new keyboard layout again. Who knows how long I will take to get in tune with QWERTY; and be able to touch-type properly on it. All I know its gonna be one tough ride. 🙂

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9 replies »

  1. You’re crazy! After spending so long learning too. Like one of those smokers who quits for a year and then starts up again!

    Colemak and Dvorak are similarly efficient, but most analysis puts Colemak ahead. Certainly Dvorak overuses the right pinky. Colemak has easier and was designed for computer keyboards, whereas Dvorak was designed in days up typewriters.

    I have been using a (slightly modified) Colemak for over 2 years. The first few months where hard as hell, but it’s totally worth it now. The thought of having to go back and type on the Qwerty would fill me with pain and dread. Never look back!

    • It was not a decision that I took easily.. especially after such a long time using it.
      The main reason was to be able to type on any system… that was something that I was not able to do at that point. Another was that my fingers were feeling very cramped when using Colemak. The movement was comfortable, but I started to get a pain in my right wrist while typing for long hours.

      I do not deny the superiority of Colemak over QWERTY, but for my needs and intentions, being proficient in QWERTY is important for me.

  2. How about a hardware solution? A small (60%) programmable keyboard, such as the Pok3r or the GH60. You program it how you like it and bring it with you. It plugs into any computer so that you have your layout wherever you like.

    Alternative: software solution. AutoHotKey for Windows, AutoKey for Linux, there is some solution for OSX as well. Put that program on a USB-stick and run it on the computer that you are using. It translates key strokes, so that you have your Dvorak (or whatever) keyboard to use.

    • It is a good solution if there certain terminals or systems that I frequented at. But what if you are at a public terminal like one at an airport or an internet cafe? It is unlikely that you will think of carrying a keyboard with you when you go on vacation. My reason for choosing QWERTY is the idea of trading more comfort for being better able to touch type on whatever system I come across.

  3. People tend to say that only Dvorak favors right hand, but that’s a myth, probably propagated by Colemak fans. Any keyboard comparison tool will show that both of these layouts Dvorak and Colemak heavily over-work the right hand.

    There have been advances in keyboard layout design programs that can create an optimized layout for your need. Including balancing left and right hand and minimizing pinky usage, while still offering great efficiency. In fact, there are quite a few layouts much better than both Colemak and Dvorak in all areas of measurable statistics. I suggest BEAKL, HIEAMSTRN, ADNW, and MTGAP, to start. (disclaimer: i created BEAKL based on unconventional theories. particularly avoiding common letters from pinky. i would never put a vowel or NTS on pinky, for example.)

    I also worked in IT tech support. so i know feeling of not being as familiar with qwerty any more. however, i don’t let that bother me much. as long as you can type 40 wpm on qwerty (which is not hard at all)–this is the standard to pass official typing exams–customers shouldn’t think your typing sucks. Personally, just a few minutes with qwerty (yes looking at the keyboard) should be enough to reorient myself with the layout (without looking like a clutz). but i guess everyone else has a limit on how much they need qwerty.

    • As a personal choice, if I had to choose an alternative layout, I would choose Dvorak simply because it is sure to be installed as standard on any computer.
      Another thing is that it didn’t take me long to get used to it. It took me about a 1 month to get used to Dvorak. It took me more than a year to get used to Colemak.

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