Colemak Layout - First Week

Published on , 627 words, 3 minutes to read

A week ago I posted the last post in this series where I announced I was going all colemak all the time. I have not been measuring words per minute (to avoid psyching myself out), but so far my typing speed has gone from intolerably slow to manageably slow. I have been only dipping back into qwerty for two main things:

  1. Passwords, specifically the ones I have in muscle memory
  2. Coding at work that needs to be done fast

Other than that, everything else has been in colemak. I have written DnD-style game notes, hacked at my own "Linux distro", started a few QMK keymaps and more all via colemak.

Here are some of the lessons I've learned:

Let Your Coworkers Know You Are Going to Be Slow

This kind of thing is a long tirm investment. In the short term, your productivity is going to crash through the floor. This will feel frustrating. It took me an entire workday to implement and test a HTTP handler/client for it in Go. You will be making weird typos. Let your coworkers know so they don't jump to the wrong conclusions too quickly.

Also, this goes without saying, but don't do this kind of change during crunch time. That's a bit of a dick move.

Print Out the Layout

I have the layout printed and taped to my monitor and iPad stand. This helps a lot. Instead of looking at the keyboard, I look at the layout image and let my fingers drift into position.

I also have a blank keyboard at my desk, this helps because I can't look at the keycaps and become confused (however this has backfired with typing numbers, lol). This keyboard has cherry MX blues though, which means it can be loud when I get to typing up a storm.

Have Friends Ask You What Layout You Are Using

Something that works for me is to have friends ask me what keyboard layout I am using, so I can be mindful of the change. I have a few people asking me that on the regular, so I can be accountable to them and myself.

macOS and iPadOS have Colemak Out of the Box

The settings app lets you configure colemak input without having to jailbreak or install a custom keyboard layout. Take advantage of this.

Someone has also created a colemak windows package for windows that includes an IA-64 (Itanium) binary. It was last updated in 2004, and still works without hassle on windows 10. It was the irst time I've ever seen an IA-64 windows binary in the wild!

Relearn How To Type Your Passwords

I type passwords from muscle memory. I have had to rediscover what they actually are so I can relearn how to type them.

The colemak experiment continues. I also have a ZSA Moonlander and the kit for a GergoPlex coming in the mail. Both of these run QMK, which allows me to fully program them with a rich macro engine. Here are a few of the macros I plan to use:

// Programming
SUBS(ifErr,     "if err != nil {\n\t\n}", KC_E, KC_I)
SUBS(goTest,    "go test ./...\n",        KC_G, KC_T)
SUBS(cargoTest, "cargo test\n",           KC_C, KC_T)

This will autotype a few common things when I press the keys "ei", "gt", or "ct" at the same time. I plan to add a few more as things turn up so I can more quickly type common idioms or commands to save me time. The if err != nil combination started as a joke, but I bet it will end up being incredibly valuable.

Be well, take care of your hands.

Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.