Is Touch-Typing an Obsolete Skill?

December 16th, 2010 106 Comments

I can touch type.

If you don’t know what I mean, you probably don’t touch type, and if you don’t touch type, you hunt-and-peck.

I didn’t make up the terms so don’t get mad at me if you don’t like them. I’ve seen impossibly fast hunt-and-peck typing on a keyboard, and perhaps the greatest hnp typists are texters, whose thumbs can fly across their keypads.

I would compare their words-per-minute output, but as we all know, texting involves “words” that would make my typing instructor lulz.

Photo by Lainey Powell from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Touch-typing is a lost skill, and I wonder why, given its utility to people like me who use a keyboard all the live-long day. I’ve met developers who pound out millions of characters each week without touch-typing. It seems horribly inefficient.

Didn’t they ever stop to wonder why the “F” and “J” keys have nubbies on them?

It would seem odd that touch-typing classes have not become a prerequisite of computer science courses, if only to help the students become more productive. I don’t know if they are, but somehow I doubt it.

Why?

Because through texting and computers at home, children are exposed to keyboards much earlier now, and it’s supremely tough to break ingrained habits like hnp typing. So what’s the point of a touch-typing class?

In addition, I doubt anyone finds real utility in a typing class now, since the touch-typing hallmark statistic of words-per-minute no longer seems valid or useful to getting a job.

The benefits of learning to touch-type vs. hnp typing are too hard to quantify, and thus, “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy yellow dog” is now just a sentence no one uses anymore.

So, am I right? Can anyone touch-type anymore?

Find the comments.


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106 Responses to “Is Touch-Typing an Obsolete Skill?”

  1. Kathleen McDade Says:

    I teach it in an elementary school. And almost invariably, the kids will go back to some version of hnp when no one’s looking. They’ll touch-type for the typing lessons, but if they’re doing a report or something? Almost never. I have ONE classroom teacher who insists that they use proper form outside of the typing lessons too, but that’s it.

    I also have a fair number of adults who tell me on the sly that they never learned to touch-type.

  2. Jake Says:

    I’ll take that as a resounding yes. I wonder if anyone could quantify the time (and therefore money) saved by mandating touch-typing classes.

    It’s funny bc even the best of hnp typists can’t compete with even a below average touch-typist. Weird.

  3. Jake Says:

    I’ll take that as a resounding yes. I wonder if anyone could quantify the time (and therefore money) saved by mandating touch-typing classes.

    It’s funny bc even the best of hnp typists can’t compete with even a below average touch-typist. Weird.

  4. joel garry Says:

    I learned to touch type in junior high, and it still does me good. The instructor would bring in antique 78rpm typing records to teach us increasingly fast rythyms.

    People in work environments sometimes comment on how fast I type, but I don’t consider it all that fast. Sometimes when I’m coding, I’m glad I can type fast enough to remember all the code I’ve worked out in my head.

    I’ve tried to convince the kids it’s a good thing, with mixed results. As long as they’re acing everything, I’m not going to push it. They’re way faster than me typing with a WII, for sure.

    Voice recognition is already here, almost usable. I’d rather be typing than:
    “Call home.”
    “Please select one of the following options:
    1. home
    2. Home
    3. Paul Ho”
    “Two.”
    very long pause.
    “Calling Home, home, is this correct?”
    “yes”
    very long pause.
    (call ended tones)
    But between touch screen in car and touch screen on phone, can’t do it, and can’t use tiny phone keyboard while driving. Not that I can touch type on it anyways.

  5. Gary Myers Says:

    But how much of the time is actually spent typing as opposed to thinking. Touch typing is great if your are transcribing a dictaphone message or hand-written notes, but isn’t a big advantage for authoring content. The question is, are your keyboard skills interrupting your flow of thoughts to document.

    I don’t touch type properly, but don’t need to look at the keyboard all the time when I’m typing. Any slowness is more a result of switching between keyboard and mouse.The mouse is what killed touch typing. We’re an arm short !

    But how can you ask about the relevance of touch typing going forward without using the word “tablet” or “ipad”. Differently sized and oriented screen based keyboards with no tactile response put it all in a new game.

  6. Chris Says:

    I think it just depends on what is important to you. My mother was trained as a legal secretary, my dad not. Mom still types way faster than Dad. Mom taught me where my fingers were supposed to go on a keyboard, but that was it.

    For me the definition of “touch typing” is the ability to type ACCURATELY while not looking at the keyboard.

    That could let you write commentary on something you are watching, watch the screen to be certain you typed accurately (I used to look at the keys, then the screen, then the keys, then….) or simply think while you type because you are not focused on looking at the keys. Whether or not you use the “right fingering” is irrelevant to me.

    My guess is simply that kids will learn, as I did, how to type without looking if they need to. You get people who can sms off a standard phone without looking. That’s touch-typing.

    And yes, the soft keyboards will change things too, but I find that I can type quickly on the iPad when it’s in horizontal mode (the iPhone is terrible for me in any mode while i find Google’s Nexus 1 really easy).

    Just some thoughts.

  7. Jim Says:

    I think it’s funny here at work seeing the different ways people type. People who are IT geniuses do the hnp approach, or do things in Oracle which seems really clunky and slow. I sometimes feel like saying “didn’t you know you can just do x y z instead of that?” but I don’t want to appear like a big head / know it all.

    I can touch type / type without looking at the keyboard, sometimes I make mistakes, but I can also hit the delete key without looking at it ;-) Probably not by using the correct fingers in the right places, but it works okay for me.

    BTW, what +are+ the nubs on the j and f keys for? Also on the #5 on the number pad. I’ve never really noticed them before.

  8. oraclebase Says:

    One comment I would like to make about touch typing in an IT context, I’ve spoken to a couple people who can touch type and do so when writing prose, but when coding they switch back to HNP. Why? Because of all the symbols and special characters they need when coding. I don’t know if this is a limitation of their touch typing skill, or a common feature, but the make-up of prose is quite different to your average programming language.

    Touch typing is always one of those skills I am envious of. I’ve tried to learn it a few times, but reverted to HNP because I’m faster that way. It’s the classic case of needing to take a step back to move forwards, but it’s so darn frustrating… :)

    Cheers

    Tim…

  9. Jake Says:

    Interesting point about coding, although when I wrote code long ago, I did so by tough-typing with hnp when necessary, i.e. I looked down at the keyboard to find the symbols.

    Eventually, as with any respectable keyboard jockey, I learned to touch-type the stuff that I used a lot, just like keyboard shortcuts. It’s simply faster, and life is short.

    Which is why you should lament, it’s too late to change your ways anyway.

  10. Jake Says:

    I feel the same way observing people stumble around a keyboard. It’s like a translator using a dictionary, very odd. I also type quickly and nuke errors as I go without looking, still faster, even though it’s not as clean.

    I have the same reaction with keyboard shortcuts too, which I use aggressively to stay on the keyboard.

    The nubs are for finger positioning without looking; the base positions for the index fingers are F and J. The 5 has a nub on phones, remotes and other number pads to give the same base position.

    So if you get lost and start touch-typing gibberish, you can reset your hands :)

  11. Jake Says:

    You make a good point about typing without looking, which I suppose takes the h out of hnp. As Jim mentions, I prefer speed to accuracy, i.e. I know where the keys are, including the delete so I can mash out errors at a high rate.

    So, touch-typing may not be obsolete, just the method I (and many others) learned. This begs the question, when will keyboards morph to support new typing methods?

    I can’t touch-type with any accuracy on soft keypads. The lack of tactile keys kills my ability like Kryptonite.

  12. Jake Says:

    I don’t mention tablets or soft keypads bc these have reached the mainstream only recently. Classic touch-typing has been on the decline for a decade; it’s just worse now.

    If you can hnp without looking at the keyboard, you’re touch-typing, even if incorrectly :)

    Your point about slowing down the brain to use the input mechanisms is interesting. Funny that touch interfaces have swapped the primary input from key to pointer, i.e. the keyboard is much faster than the mouse, but touch is much faster than soft typing, at least for me.

    The logical conclusion is that voice input will eventually replace the keypad, bringing the input nearly up to thinking speeds.

    Input of the future: voice and touch only. That’s actually much more natural than keyboard and mouse.

  13. Jake Says:

    You mention Gary’s point about the input mechanism slowing down your thoughts, an excellent one.

    Voice will replace the keypad eventually to go with touch as the new inputs. Google’s voice technology is highly accurate, probably bc they’ve been analyzing and transcribing everyone’s Google Voice messages for several years. Do you have an Android phone? You can use voice instead of the keypad.

  14. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    I took a typing class in 10th grade, in the mid 1970s when the only computers that I encountered were either small computers dedicated to BASIC programming, or large mainframes that used punch cards. (I wouldn’t encounter any type of personal computer until several years later.)

    Basically, I’m lucky that I took that typing class instead of a more academic class. At the time, I had no idea that the keyboard (a word I never used at the time) would become one of the primary communication devices for the next 35+ years. Back then, my highest ambition was to use an IBM Selectric because it simplified the correction process (no erasers!). On a more practical level, I had no idea that almost every job that I would have in the future would involve using some sort of keyboard (either a typewriter or a computer keyboard).

    Even when I’m thinking while typing, touch typing benefits me because I can look at the screen rather than worrying about where my fingers fall. And occasionally, when the words just flow, I can hit my stride and type away at my claimed speed of 60 wpm, or perhaps much faster than that (I’ve never bothered to test myself recently).

    Hmm…at 60 wpm, that means that I can tweet in 28 seconds or less. (And I figured that out using long division – another lost skill.)

  15. Jake Says:

    Nice. I took my typing class in the late 80s or early 90s, right before it became obvious that so many office jobs would require a keyboard.

    I agree somewhat about hitting my stride, although I tend to think Gary is right that the input mechanism (keyboard) really slows down our thoughts.

    Voice can keep up, and it’s improving. Typing at all will be obsolete in the next ten years. Weird right.

  16. John Says:

    I’m learning with online tool from http://www.typingstudy.com There are typing lessons, games and speed tests. And links to other free online tools too :)

  17. Gary Myers Says:

    Voice won’t work for coding…unless we get a new coding language without those fiddly punctuation characters. Its full of percent, ampersands, greater than/less than, forward and back slashes, at symbols, underscores, upper case/lower case and three different types of brackets.

    Not sure how well it would work in a crowded office either.It would be fun to turn some-ones mobile ringtone into “Reboot computer” or “Email boss. Subject I quit. Send”

  18. joel garry Says:

    I have an lg 11000, kind of wish I had gone Android now that I’ve had it a while, but it was “free” and I’ve gone from habitual bleeding edge to near-luddite. I bluetooth it in two different cars, the (true and common) example I gave was in the Chrysler. So I never really use the voice to dial on the phone itself. Wife has cheaper phone, and really hates the Sync voice interface in her car, so she usually dials with the nav touch keypad. And since she often has the kids in her car and gets calls from patients she wouldn’t want them to hear, lately she’s taken to turning the bluetooth off. In my station car I keep a plugin headset, and never even think about using the voice commands. It was a real quest finding the right plug for the headset when I first got the phone, four trips to Radio Shack/Fry’s, finally had to stand in a Verizon store looking psycho until they would open a box just to get me outta there.

    In the early ’80s, the most brilliant geek I knew would sit down in front of the terminal, pick up the (CIT-101) keyboard, turn around and put his feet up and start two-fingering at speed like those android commercials, in any of several languages, including BLISS (an OS language) and a commercial language he wrote. While either staring off into space or telling you about some technical thing.

  19. Jake Says:

    Yeah, writing code would be tough in its current forms, but I suspect that will change too, followed very quickly by backlash from old school types about how it’s not real code. Those of us who used to write Pascal, C, PL/SQL, etc will laugh and shake our heads.

    Good point about voice input in the office. I wonder if the keypad will be reworked as classic touch-typing fades.

    Interesting discussion.

  20. Jake Says:

    Yeah, so I had voice commands in those other phones too. Google’s are much better, again bc we helped ;)

    I can’t imagine the office where a guy typing with his feet was encouraged, even for a virtuoso coder. Good times.

  21. Is Touch-Typing an Obsolete Skill? | The AppsLab | Author Course Says:

    [...] Typing lessons – Google Blog Search by Coffeelatte [...]

  22. joel garry Says:

    lol! I didn’t say two-toeing… but see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KTgLqCgXrU (I thought I uploaded my own video of this guy to my flickr, wonder where it got off to…)

  23. Jake Says:

    That’s just wrong.

  24. Chris Couture Says:

    I took the first computer programming classes at my high school in the mid-80′s, and took typing RIGHT after. Been able to touch-type ever since, and can do like 90wpm. This has served me well, and the only problem I tend to have is getting on a desktop keyboard, since I’ve only owned laptops. The raised keys on the keyboard that come with basic work computers really throw me off! As for coding, its usually no problem. What does throw me is the IDE or app that has no mouse equivalent on the keyboard. I don’t use a mouse at all – not even the touchpad, just the track pointer.

    When I learned to play guitar it was when I stopped watching my hands that I truly felt comfortable with the instrument. I started to play the music, and the instrument was just the vehicle. Computer is the same way, and I noticed that my keyboard and fretboard both have extensive wear, but I know where I am at any moment.

    My Blackberry (Bold 9700 with QWERTY) is getting worn in certain spots too. I don’t look much at this one though if my hands are in any way cold I have to slow down and watch as I can’t feel the edges.

  25. Jake Says:

    90 wpm? Rockstar. I agree that tacile typing is hugely different, even between types of keyboards, which is one reason why I don’t even attempt to touch-type on the iPad.

    I’ve never really liked tactile keypads on phones. Thumbs are just too big for comfort.

    It’s a lost art.

  26. Ashish Derhgawen Says:

    Hey Jake,

    I am a computer programmer, and I learned touch typing in 4th grade. I can type reasonably fast (80-85 wpm), but I don’t think this speed really helps in programming. You have to think more, and type less while programming. The speed comes in handy when writing emails (or writing this post!) If you can touch type, you can type your thoughts without thinking about the keyboard at all. I mean, I don’t think I even know where the “Y” key is on my keyboard…but my fingers know exactly where it is. Touch typists don’t think about the keyboard..they think about their thoughts. Their fingers automatically translate their thoughts to text. :)

    I saw a comment on this post saying that kids always switch back to HNP typing when no one’s looking. Kids don’t like learning things they find boring…no one does. I learned typing by playing typing games. Typing games make learning fun and interesting…and some of them are so difficult that you have to touch type to get a good score…hnp just won’t work.

  27. Jake Says:

    I disagree partially with your assessment of touch-typing for writing code. IDEs do so much work for the developer now, especially autocompletion, that code creation can keep up with typing.

    However, when you’re writing code in a plain old text editor, you get caught up in syntax, etc. So, I agree with Tim that coding isn’t a great forum for touch-typing, but it’s an improvement over hnp.

    You’re absolutely right about making touch-typing fun. Back in my day, we had no reason to practice the skill, other than for the grade. Now, I can see why kids would benefit, but it takes even more work to untrain them of their hnp habits.

    If you read here, you’ll know I think everything is better with a game attached :)

  28. joel garry Says:

    I asked my 9th grader about this, and he mentioned he learned touch-typing in middle school as part of the digital arts class (this was a science and technology magnet school). 1/2 the class was actual digital art, 1/4 was touch typing (and I forget what the rest was). He still uses it, though I watch him struggle with trying to compose a perfect exposition on the first shot every time, so he hasn’t quite seen the advantage yet. He’s still only doing light texting, so it will be a couple years before he can really answer this question.

  29. Jake Says:

    I guess we’ll find out in a few years if it really matters. On a related note, I really miss Swype on my Android phone, much more easy to use quickly than hnp. But bc it’s in the new Sprint OTA, Swype discontinued the beta for EVO users, and I have a modded phone.

    Fail for me.

  30. Mark Says:

    Hello, I can touch type. In fact I can touch type in a different keyboard layout – Colemak. I have only observed 3 people thus so far in my university whom have the ability to touch type which is worrying – or not since it’s not my fingers hahaha

  31. Jake Says:

    Excellent for you, sad for everyone else I suppose. Touch-typing is a lost art.

  32. Melissa Sorrentino Says:

    I can tell not one of you has any children that have to type homework EVERYDAY! I’m annoyed as a parent that they have taught her excel, word, powerpoint…etc and not one class to help her do her 5 hours of homework she gets every night FASTER! Instead…she asks me because it’s 10:30 at night and it’s the last thing she has left and after she’s spent all afternoon working I feel bad that because she lacks the necessary skills to type it in a reasonable amount of time..I do it for her. I did try to teach her myself over 2 summers, but every September she would get bombarded with homework to be typed and she would revert to her BAD HABITS because at least it was a little faster for her. However…compared to me…SLOW AS HECK! I’ve also used voice software and it sucks because it takes me longer to go back and edit everything. There are way to many people who can type out there and it would cost businesses way to much money to replace all of their compuers so they can upgrade to this type of software and train employees how to use it and try to teach people who touch typing skills to break their habits to form new ones that won’t even save them any time… I THINK NOT!

  33. Jake Says:

    It is sad to see the increasing emphasis of computers in education without the accompanying skill of touch-typing. I guess most schools assume kids already know how to operate a computer so they don’t think investing in touch-typing is worthwhile. Also, the cost of undoing hnp habits makes it more challenging.

    Voice and touch are the banes of touch typing and IMO productivity. Neither provides an interface that’s particularly good at quick entry, which is bad for everyone. Entering this comment on a touch device would take me too long, so I wouldn’t take as much time thinking about what I’m saying or how.

    Funny fact, the iOS keyboard replicates the finger-positioning numbs on f and j, which I find irritating. Why even bother?

  34. joel garry Says:

    I was just thinking about this old post over the weekend, as I watched my 10 year old update his blog for school… he’s getting pretty good at hnp, doesn’t get at all why he should learn touch.  Of course he thinks I’m supercomputerdad, and can’t conceive of being at my level, which I think he will hit in much less than a decade.

    I generally avoid texting, but yesterday I did one on the train on the qwerty phone, and noticed I was thumbing relatively fast, I think I was mentally mapping my ten-finger to the thumbs.  Even the phone-specific special symbols were easier than I recall, that’s a head scratcher to me.

  35. joel garry Says:

    It’s simple.  Refuse to do it for them.

  36. Jake Says:

    Maybe you are supercomputerdad :)

  37. oldbushie Says:

    http://www.typeonline.co.uk/typingspeed.php
    “Your speed was: 75wpm.
    Congratulations! You made no mistakes, practice does make perfect.”

    I… never did learn to touch type. If anything I use a weird hybrid between hunt and peck and touch typing. My brain is very fast at finding all the right letters and I do ten finger hunt and peck. I code software for a living.

  38. Jake Says:

    Not bad, I’m not saying there aren’t productive ways to get by without touch-typing. There are. It’s just odd that the rise of computing devices hasn’t coincided w a rise in touch-typing classes. I think touch interfaces have helped kill this skill too. The lack of tactile feedback makes touch-typing difficult and annoying on touch interfaces.

  39. oldbushie Says:

    True, and input devices will continue to evolve over time. It made more sense to me to just use an adaptive strategy for typing versus a rigid strategy, so that as needs change I don’t have to suddenly learn a whole new way of touch typing, or suddenly adjust to a different type of keyboard with disastrous results. I still hate ergonomic keyboards, though, traditional layout all the way!

  40. Jake Says:

    I suspect a lot of developers follow that strategy, myself included. The frequent use of special characters, e.g. braces, brackets and Shift-ing, means traditional touch-typing isn’t as efficient. It wasn’t designed to support frequent use of those characters.

    I must say I do love my ergonomic keyboard though :) Just saying.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    I can do 90wpm blind typing.

  42. Matt Says:

    I’m sure if what I do is considered “hunt and peck,” but I can easily reach 70-80wpm(with usually only 0-2 mistakes). But, I use more than just my index finger to type…so, for example, to type “the lazy brown fox” I would use:
    T-leftindex,
    H-rightindex,
    E-leftmiddle,
    SPACE-thumb,
    L-rightmiddle,
    A-leftring,
    Z-leftring,
    Y-rightindex,
    SPACE-thumb
    B-rightindex
    R-leftindex
    O-rightindex
    W-leftmiddle
    N-rightindex
    SPACE-thumb
    F-leftindex
    O-rightindex
    X-leftring

    I can also type without looking at the keyboard at all with no mistakes, but when I don’t look I tend to use my index fingers a little more.
    Btw, my hands are level like with touch typing, not up with my fist balled like some peckers :P

  43. Jake Says:

    Interesting system you’ve developed, seems like an effective mod of standard touch-typing.

  44. MA_Welch Says:

    I’m trying to find a class for my son to learning typing – looks to be called keyboarding now.

  45. Nagrad Says:

    I touch type at about 94 WPM. I don’t think that necessarily helps with the job market these days, but I do think that it helps me get my work done faster/more efficiently (I do a lot of correspondence), which certainly makes my boss appreciate my work more. It also means I have more flexibility in my schedule… since I can get the work done more quickly than (most) other people are able to.

  46. Jake Says:

    Wow, that’s impressive. I agree that WPM and touch-typing generally aren’t skills that the majority of employers look for anymore, but there is definitely a productivity boost to GSD faster.

    The lack of touch-typing skills among younger developers and technical people is frightening to me. At some point, your intellectual capabilities are diminished by the slowness required to input data. Look at the pervasiveness of “Sent from my iPhone” emails. Used to be a status symbol, now it’s an apology for poorly composed (and thought out) email.

  47. Jeannie Says:

    Appreciated your reply, and not touch typing, wish you had, and all the rest. At least you’re honest. I think a lot of people secretly think that. My comments are listed above already. Thanks.

  48. Jeannie Says:

    Touchtyping keeps a person from being 100% connected to the keyboard and screen. Um, drone-like? As for the mouse. If I’m working on Microsoft Word Document I can usually type a 5 paragraph essay, story, article draft without even going the the mouse. It’s all right there on the board….
    Fine finishing a composition, yes, mouse there. But the keys do a lot of the effective grammatical, type, and overall “look” of the piece as well. Control + Shft + Italics, for instance.

  49. Jeannie Says:

    No, not that simple. I am a parent and know what it takes to help your child/student through school. Only a conscientious parent can understand the overwhelming frustration.

  50. bj Says:

    This is despairing to hear. I’m grateful every day I sit down at the computer that I went through the torture in high school of learning to touch type. Does it happen overnight. No. It took two years to get good. That was 45 years ago. I’ve never regretted all those insistent typing teachers!

  51. Jake Says:

    Another point rolled in there, keyboard shortcuts are specifically designed for touch-typists, which makes you even more efficient. I always try to learn the shortcuts in applications where I do a lot of composition.

    I suspect keyboard shortcuts will soon be a thing of the past though, given the rise of the touch interface.

  52. Jake Says:

    Agreed, it’s a key skill that’s been pushed aside for computer skills classes, ironically. People don’t generally do a good job factoring efficiency into their investments. Can you get by hunt/pecking, sure. Is it more efficient, no way.

  53. Paul Salerno Says:

    my ten year old son can touch type 79wpm 100 accuracy

  54. Jake Says:

    Excellent. Good investment.

  55. Billy Says:

    Haha i don’t know what hunt and peck is, But I can type perfectly well without ever looking down ( Other than once in a while to “Get my bearings”) But other than that, I just learnt from using a keyboard for a very long time. And my hands certainly do not rest on any specific “Home keys”.

  56. Jake Says:

    Nice, sounds like you have your own system, good on ya.

  57. joel garry Says:

    I am a parent and my kids are both top of their class. Conscientious does not mean helicopter and does not mean doing their work for them (in fact, the latter is quite counter-productive).

    I do admit, had to go to Barnes & Noble in two different cities to get a forgot-I-needed-it-by-Monday The Great Gatsby last night. But that is an exception with a great amount of appreciation given as a result. The kid’s taking four AP/IB classes, keeping up a ridiculous GPA, I’ll do what I can to help, including not doing as much as possible. That is where self-reliance and the ability to fulfill potential comes from.

    Though I admit, I wish I could convey to them the usefulness of touch typing. Maybe it won’t matter by the time they are employed.

  58. Jake Says:

    We’ll all be using our minds as I/O bridges then :)

  59. Odie Raqvak Says:

    You could argue that touch typing is bad for your health, because looking at the keyboard hurts your eyes less than looking at the screen for 3 hours.

  60. Jake Says:

    I like your style :) Pretty sure the difference would be minimal for most people though, and if you compose that much, you’d probably rather be more productive.

  61. Underboss Says:

    And I can break 100 with a touch-typing/hunt-and-peck hybrid. Your point? I am a software engineer. I have been doing this method of typing for over 12 years.

  62. Cloop Says:

    In elementary school they tried to teach me to touch type. It was absolutely worthless and a waste of time. I really don’t see how touch typing classes are worth anything. Either way elementary school is WAY too young to try to teach kids to touch type. I was an hnp typist until sometime in high school when it became necessary that I type a lot. At that time I taught myself. I don’t think I’m special, I think anybody who put their mind to it could. It is simply of putting your hands on the little “nubbies”, as the article puts it, and trying to type a word you know while looking only at the screen. When you get it wrong you try again. I didn’t even realize that it was something specially. For a long while I did a combination of hnp and touch typing while I was learning. I just kept at it, which I had to because I had classes that required typing, and eventually I got it. I think that knowing how to touch type is very important to me, and for anybody who needs to type anything more than a few sentences.

  63. Jake Says:

    @Cloop: Elementary school is way too young, agreed.

  64. Denise Says:

    nubs on f and j and #5 on keypad

    HOME KEYS!!!

    I took 3 years typing in highschool as prerequisite to accounting major.

    Yes, I’m very glad I did. I laugh at hnp who take forever to type an email, and send it with errors.

  65. Jake Says:

    @Denise: Wow, three years must make you a smoking fast typist, kudos. Nubs is more fun than home keys :)

  66. BOTR Says:

    I don’t touch type but I don’t hunt and peck either (hnp is something my mother would do since she hasn’t done any typing since high school). I know where the keys are on the keyboard and I use more than two fingers to type; I just find having your fingers on the home keys in order to type to be something that’s not for me.

  67. Jake Says:

    @BOTR: Interesting method, like a hybrid of hnp and touch-typing. Would be interesting to study all the non-touch-typing methods to design a new keyboard. Although, I wonder how well it would work, since everyone has developed those methods around a QWERTY keyboard.

  68. CL Tran Says:

    When I read the word touch typing and that people don’t know how to do it, I thought it was some kind of special skill and I automatically wanted to learn it.
    Then I googled it and saw that it’s typing without looking…..
    Isn’t that just typing?!
    that’s not a special skill
    It should not require classes.
    Tell someone to get an instant messaging service and have conversations with someone for like a week. Then bam! you can “touch type”.
    I can understand hunt and peck is common for those who use smart phones without a physical qwerty keyboard, which is why people need to start making phones with them again, but what kind of person wouldn’t look at the screen while they type to make sure that they haven’t typed anything wrong or that they didn’t click out of the text box and are actually typing.
    I understand that there are a lot of people who didn’t grow up with a computer and learning a new skill is difficult, but if a person has to use a computer frequently, everyone should be able to pick it up easily.

  69. Emily Says:

    My daughter, who is now 16, took a touch typing class in middle school. Acccording to her, she is very glad she took it because it is a lot faster touch typing an essay than otherwise, she also said most of her classmates touch type although it may vary between school districts, based on what they think is important.

  70. Jake Says:

    @ CL Tran: Touch-typing is a specific system for typing; it’s not just typing wo looking at the keys. It originates from the days before computers were common when people typed w type-writers, transcribing hand-written notes.

    Classically, touch-typing refers to the ability to type without looking at the keys or the screen or paper in a typewriter. The best touch-typists can look at writing and type it accurately and quickly just by muscle memory.

    It’s a skill you learn, maybe not a difficult one, but a skill nonetheless.

    @Emily: I’m surprised it’s still taught in schools, but glad to hear it.

  71. J. Rodriguez Says:

    Once upon a time typing WAS an absolute necessity for a college degree.
    As a useful skill, given the present trends, how can it NOT help out?
    I’ve three youngsters, each will learn typing skills, college or not. Typing engages the mind with levels of print and understanding that texting could never do. Yet, its obsolescence is merely a matter of time. A definite bummer, but not for my kids. It IS a worthwhile pursuit.

  72. Jake Says:

    @J. Rodriguez: Good point. I’m w you on the value, but I don’t know that primary education curriculum includes touch-typing anymore, although it does include computer skills of all kinds.

    FWIW I think it’s odd to teach computer skills wo teaching a fast input mechanism.

    One new barrier is texting, i.e. many kids come to the keyboard w a predisposition to type in a specific way, which is bound to make learning touch-typing even more difficult, mentally and physically.

    Touch interfaces also throw a wrench into learning the old school method.

  73. Brad the touch typer Says:

    Please do not hesitate to ridicule anyone hunting and pecking or worse, only using one hand (provide they have two). Please suggest to them to learn at all costs or suffer a life of concealed laughter and pity by people like me who have MORE than half a brain. Typing should be taught or attempted at the earliest age possible before bad habits take hold. Maybe there should be (is there?) a child sized usb keyboard for little fingers. I made some mistakes writing this, but I also know where the backspace key is.

  74. Jake Says:

    @Brad the touch typer: Funny, a bit harsh, but I’m with you on the overall point :)

  75. P Says:

    The quick brown fox jumps, not jumped.

    I’ve recently taught myself to touch type, after 25 years as an IT professional. It’s harder when you have to type every day because you can’t afford the initial slowdown. I started by just using the right fingers and that alone, still looking at the keys, quickly made me a faster typist. Still not quite there, but mostly not looking now.

  76. Jake Says:

    @P: Wow, that’s true dedication. I can’t imagine learning now and how painful it would be to erase decades of muscle memory. Good for you.

  77. P Says:

    It was only slow for the first few days. After that, it was pain to keep it up, but at least my speed was similar to before. The trick was to spend a couple of days of my holidays practising, especially the words I typed the most, like my username and password, and the editing keys – delete, backspace, cursor keys.

    I was at least already in the habit of using my thumbs for the spacebar, the only remnant of a 5 minute typing lesson from mum.

    The inspiration to try it came from the sudden realisation that I had almost learned without trying to touchtype with my thumbs on my Blackberry.

    The temptation to relapse soon passed because I never really had a system for which fingers to use for which keys. I used about 6 fingers and my thumbs, but just used whichever happened to be closest at the time.

  78. P Says:

    Question: why are there no bumps on the 4 and the 7 keys? Two rows up from the home row, I find it difficult to home my fingers there without sliding them across the qwerty row to make sure I’m not misaligned.

  79. Jake Says:

    @P: I’ve never typed numbers without looking :) I guess the answer is get an external keyboard w a number pad. I can use that one wo looking.

  80. P Says:

    @Jake: I can use the number pad without looking, it’s the shifted punctuation in the top row that I really need to learn. I do a lot of programming, so I use them a lot.

  81. Jake Says:

    @P: Ah, yeah, I usually have to look for those characters :)

  82. Marco Says:

    I might not be objective, since I run a touch typing website, but I don’t think that still today, after 3 years from this article, touch-typing skills are obsolete.
    There are plenty of websites out there that are still being used to learn and master touch typing: see http://www.typingarena.com, http://www.typingweb.com, or http://www.10fastfingers.com
    And what I have found, in my experience, is that people like touch-typing because it’s funny and is a sort of game.

  83. Jake Says:

    @Marco: The skill seems to have faded into niches, i.e. it’s no longer a common part of school curriculum of any sort, whereas in the past at least vocational schools and summer programs offered it.

    Bit ironic really. I think it should make a comeback, and I plan to teach my daughter.

  84. J. Rodriguez Says:

    Marco, excellent for and your daughter! I’ve three youngsters, none of them being exposed to keyboard skills despite a ridiculous emphasis on technology. My son, rather reluctantly, has progressed in his typing though none of his classmates have clue. His reading and CONCENTRATION skills are demonstrably improved….Now if we can just get his math skills up to par…

    Typing Instructor has worked well for us. Having been a public schools teacher, eliminating this skill is simply another oversight that robs our kids. Somewhere down the road the birdbrains MAY realize the value of typing should be returned to the classroom….

  85. Jake Says:

    @J. Rodriguez: I wonder if the touchscreen will force a hybrid method, e.g. something like Swype, the stock Android OS version or another finger-dragging convention based on the QWERTY keyboard.

    The irony of touch-typing is that it doesn’t translate very well to a touch-only keyboard bc you lose the tactile nature of the keys.

    Thumbs have become much more used thanks to texting and smaller devices and keyboards.

    Interface changes and adaptations may evolve into a new method for input. The problem remains though, i.e. there has to be a faster input mechanism than HNP.

  86. Ryan Says:

    I learned to touch type when I was 9 years old, I think it’s because I started gaming since 6 years old (Tomb Raider, Return to Castle Wolfenstein anyone?).

    Anyways… this skill has been invaluable to me in secondary school doing coursework especially if I was behind. 84wpm I think my speeds about…. Doesn’t transfer well with these new touchscreen tablets though.

  87. Jake Says:

    @Ryan: Seems like gamers are more likely to explore touch typing if only to find the fastest way to interact w a computer. Everything is a game, right :)

  88. Austin Says:

    Jake,

    I learned to type through playing computer games.

    I had an issue with this statement:
    “It’s funny bc even the best of hnp typists can’t compete with even a below average touch-typist. Weird.”

    Like I said I learned through immersion, no classes and I would venture to say I can hunt and peck faster than almost anyone you know can touch type.

    I use my index fingers for all the letters, my right pinkey for shift, and thumb for space and I can sustain 90 wpm over a long period of time and peak around 120wpm for a shorter period of time.

    I know a few other people who can hunt and peck above 60 wpm and I think as long as you can get around 40-50+ wpm it shouldn’t matter how you do it.

  89. Jake Says:

    @Austin: You’re probably right that speeds above 50 wpm are pretty much moot. That’s a very productive speed.

    I guess the different styles are more differentiated at the slow end, i.e. the slow hnp typists vs. the slow touch-typists.

    Anyway, you showed me :) Good on ya.

  90. P Says:

    @Austin: Although you can type very quickly, much quicker than most touch typists, are you accurate? If you can look at the screen while you type then you probably are. If not, how much time do you lose fixing the occasional mistake? Do you ever find you hit capslock by mistake, and the last three lines are the opposite case they’re supposed to be?

    If that doesn’t happen then you’re an exception, and that’s good, but maybe you’d be even faster if you touch typed.

  91. Mikel Says:

    I’m a sort of hnp typer, mostly using my index fingers unless one of my other fingers are closer to the key. I hit 70 wpm using this so no, the best of hnp typists are not as fast as below-average touch-typists. My dad, whos a programmer uses hnp and he hits 90 wpm.

  92. Jake Says:

    @P: Accuracy is always the killer for any really fast typist.

    @Mikel: Sure. Practice has made you and your dad very fast, and probably accurate.

  93. Laura Says:

    I learned to touch type in school, probably unsurprisingly. We started learning it from around 11, but I used to cheat and slack off until I was 14. One day in class I just decided I wanted to learn how to touch type properly (not really too sure why to be completely honest!) and from there on in I challenged myself during those classes.

    12 years later and it’s seriously helped me immensely. I noticed one commenter said something along the lines of touch typing being irrelevant unless you’re transcribing from a dicta phone etc. I disagree! I’m a writer and the fact that I don’t have to think about where I’m putting my fingers on the keyboard while I’m creating something, or writing an article, is fucking fabulous. I can type faster than I can write normally, and almost faster than I can speak.

    And this skill translate to my iphone keyboard as well. Although accuracy in that is obvs a lot lower…

    And for anyone wondering, I had to take a test recently for a recruitment agency and I tested 86WPM with 99% accuracy.

  94. Jake Says:

    @Laura: Good story, thanks for contributing it. The productivity gained from not thinking about typing is enormous.

  95. Brigham Says:

    Touch typing is very useful but strenuous on the left hand, due to it not fitting the way the left hand is directed. I’ve been HNP (approximately 63 WPM) typing for years now and only recently switching to touch-typing. I find this to be a much more comfortable way of typing.
    http://www.onehandkeyboard.org/standard-qwerty-finger-placement/

  96. Jake Says:

    @Brigham: I notice that on standard keyboards, e.g. my laptop’s, which is why I’ve used an ergonomic one for years when it’s docked.

  97. Dean Says:

    The phrase is:

    The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

    Not jumped (as that would not require an ‘s’ to be pressed).
    No yellow (as all the letters in the word yellow are already encompassed in the phrase).

    Thus, it’s not just a sentence that no-one uses any more; it’s a sentence no-one used in the first place.

    :)

  98. Jake Says:

    @Dean: Thanks for correcting me.

  99. Louise Says:

    Can you touch type? I was taught how to touch type at Secretarial College 13 years ago & it has been invaluable to me in my career. In fact only the other day my colleagues and I carried out an experiment to see how many wpm we could type using our own individual techniques. I was the only touch typist in the ‘experiment’ & could type a lot more wpm (89) than the hnp’s of the team. Maybe it’s different now in colleges but I would certainly encourage it to be taught.

  100. Louise Says:

    Sorry Jake – can see that you do touch type! Ergonomic keyboards are a god send btw, I find it quite difficult to adapt to your typical standard keyboard now.

  101. Jake Says:

    @Louise: As much as people argue that other methods work for them, I cannot imagine life wo touch-typing, just too painful, at least for me. So, like many things, it’s a learned behavior :)

    Love my ergonomic keyboard, when I travel and have to use my laptop keyboard, I suffer. So, I’m w you on both points.

  102. David Haimes Says:

    This topic came up at our Elementary school PTA meeting last week. the consensus was kids in 4th and 5th grade should be learning to touch type. We spend so long teaching them how to write neatly and in the workplace how likely are they to need that skill versus typing.

    One thing to watch though is the rise of voice, I see some people starting to dictate emails to their phones now. It has limited use for me, because I mumble or have a funny accent or something, but I keep trying because this is a huge time saver, especially for #walkingmeetings

  103. Jake Says:

    @David: I do like the Android voice services, usually saves time, but even so, I think good touch-typing is faster and more accurate.

  104. mmstick Says:

    I don’t get this at all. The natural way I type is neither hunt and peck or touch typing — it’s called freestyle — and I type at 115 WPM without ever having to learn how to touch type. Touch typing is very irrelevant as a skill. Free typing uses every finger but your hands dynamically move about the keyboard as you type.

  105. Jake Says:

    @mmstick: Never heard of freestyle, sounds effective though, you should start teaching it.

  106. P Says:

    @mmstick: That’s very good, but can you look away from the keyboard as you type to check what you’re typing, or to read what you have to type next?

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