Going cold turkey with the Colemak keyboard layout

My colleague, Jerry Bates, on going Colemak turkey:

I have now been typing on Colemak “cold turkey” for about a week now, and I am here to say that I am more than surviving.  In fact, I have been doing just fine.  Granted, I am still typing rather slowly and cautiously, and need to “peek” from time to time, but for the most part I am touch-typing without issue, and getting faster every day.  And that is after just a week!


Switching to Colemak for Typing: What worked

First of all, What’s Colemak? To put it simply, it’s a more efficient arrangement of the keys on your keyboard. Yes, more efficient than Dvorak. Plus, unlike Dvorak, it keeps all the most common keys used in keyboard shortcuts in place. It’s a keyboard layout for people who make their living using a computer. I touch type with it after using a “QWERTY” keyboard layout for years and years.

I was just talking to someone about my Strategy for learning to type with Colemak and realized I should post a quick update with what actually worked for me.

  1. Practice touch typing 0.5–2 hours a day (I started out at 2 hours and over a week went down to half an hour) with the drills in Master Key
  2. and copying a piece of text using Colemak for about 5 minutes every day
  3. Switched full-time to Colemak in 3–4 weeks when I felt up to it.

That’s what I did. That’s what worked. Are you tired of using an outdated, inefficient keyboard layout? Are you worried about RSI and would like to move your fingers less when you type? And just type more comfortably? Give it a shot.

You can see more about my experience with Colemak by checking out posts tagged as Colemak on this blog.

Colemak Check-in

I just tested my typing speed for the first time in … months. I hit 72wpm with 0 errors on one test. But that’s using the Colemak layout. So glad I switched. It makes typing a pleasurable experience, not a chore for my hands.

I’ve Given Up on QWERTY

If you hadn’t noticed a Colemak-sized bomb dropped on my blog and slowed down my rate of posting. That’s OK though. Today was a turning point in my alternative keyboard adventure. I realized that I’ve given up on QWERTY. I fired up the Windows OS in a virtual machine and started typing gibberish into the IE9 address bar because, of course I hadn’t switched the keyboard layout there and I was instinctively typing using the Colemak layout. It was annoying as hell. So now I have Colemak installed there too. I’m done with QWERTY. I may only be typing 40wpm now and won’t suddenly get over 100 just because I switched layouts but once you realize how silly the QWERTY layout is you just have to do something about it. It took me a year to do that something but I did it. It feels good!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feel bad about how long it took me to type this post. 🙂

Switching To Colemak

You can just barely make it out in this sceenshot but I just turned off Canadian English and switched to Colemak full time. Wish me luck, eh?

Colemak Progress

My attempt at learning to type using the Colemak layout is still in progress and going well. I briefly considered switching last night but I think I’m going to keep building up my typing skill in it for a few more days at least. It might be next Monday at the latest that I go cold turkey.

Here are my latest stats from Master Key. My practicing was briefly interrupted by a trip to NYC but I’m now at a comfortable 30 words per minute. It took a while to get there from 25 though. Check out the log. 🙂

Slowly Getting Better

I’m slowly getting better at typing in the Colemak layout in Master Key. My words per minute are creeping up while my error rate is creeping down.

My Strategy for Learning Colemak

Last year I attempted learning how to touch type in Dvorak and I think I only made it about 2 weeks. One of the problems was that I decided to go cold turkey, doing everything at the computer using Dvorak almost right from the start. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least. Now that I’m trying to learn Colemak I thought I’d adopt a different strategy but one that’s just as simple.

  1. Practice touch typing 1–2 hours a day with the drills in Master Key
  2. and copying a piece of text using Colemak for about 5 minutes every day
  3. Switch full-time to Colemak in 1–4 weeks when I feel up to it.

And that’s it. Practicing in Master Key is kinda fun and copying out text for about 5 minutes gives me a real world idea of how I’m doing without being too frustrating. And to make it even more interesting I’m using a speech I found in the Art of Manliness’ 35 Greatest Speeches in History as the text. (I like to err on the side of edification.) Once I feel the time is right to make the switch, I’ll go Colemak full-time, possibly even switching the keys around on my keyboard at that time too. (I’m still undecided on that last one — there are a bunch of pros and cons.)

If you’re interested in learning to touch type in Colemak or Dvorak or something even weirder (Workman?) you can also check out Lance’s tips on switching to Dvorak. Lance successfully switched to Dvorak last year and is getting faster all the time.

A Better Printable Colemak Keyboard Layout

If you’re interested in learning the Colemak keyboard layout for touch typing Matt Wiebe has crafted a much nicer printable keyboard than the one I’ve printed out and propped up in front of me. Check it out.

Colemak Keyboard Layout Craft Project


You can do it too! All you need is some printer paper, cardstock, glue, and a willingness to drive yourself mad for a month or two. Try it, it’s fun!

In other words, yep, I’m learning how to type with the Colemak keyboard layout.