Nobody Wants Your Skanky Code
Dvorak benchmark

The Need For Speed

I have a confession to make: I never really learned to touch type. Oh sure, I took the same typing classes in school as everyone else, but there was about a 3 year gap between those classes and when I got really addicted to computers. In that span of time, I sort of lost the skill.

Later, when I started writing lots of code, I also found that a lot of the keys I needed to hit (periods, parenthesis, slashes, and so forth) were a little farther away from the home row than I'd like. As a result, I grew up typing my own way. It goes a little something like this:

On a QWERTY keyboard, my two index fingers sit on D and K. This leaves my pinky fingers free to rest on the shift key (on the left hand) and the enter key (on the right hand). This also means my index fingers are hitting a large percentage of the keys (everything between D and K), and the rest of my fingers don't do that much work. Using this horribly hacky method, I'm able to type around 35 words per minute. Not great, but (up until now) good enough.

Lately, though, I've been doing a lot more with dynamically typed languages. Python and (more recently) Groovy, specifically. These languages are great, but one of the tradeoffs for greatly reduced code verbosity is that the editor you use can't help you quite as much. When programming in Java, usually the quickest way to type out a method name is to hit the first three letters, hit the shortcut for code completion, and wait a few hundred milliseconds or so for the editor to fill it in. But with dynamically typed languages, that feature isn't always available, because methods and properties can be added dynamically at runtime, and there's no way to know what might be there.

As a result, I've really been feeling the limitations of my home-grown typing method. And so I've made the decision to learn how to touch type...using the Dvorak keyboard layout.

Yes, that's right. Why go along with the crowd when you can be the one outcast in the room with all the vowels on the home row. In all seriousness, most sources that I've seen predict a 20% increase in speed, and a 50% increase in accuracy, when going from QWERTY to Dvorak. And considering I'll also be learning to touch-type, I expect to see a increase even greater than that. I've downloaded a really good typing trainer called Master Key, which seems to support Dvorak well, and I plan to use it for an hour a night. As soon as I've learned the entire keyboard layout, I'll start posting my WPM.


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