Like many people, I wasn’t a good typer. I started using computers when I was a kid and, by the time I grew into an adult, I developed my personal typing style, using only 5 fingers.
Surprisingly, the biggest problem wasn’t the speed ( I achieved about 56 words per minute, an average speed ) but the wrist movements I had to make. Other than being very inefficient, that would have probably caused me pain in the long run.
So about a year ago, I decided to relearn how to type properly, embracing the Touch Typing technique.
Learning Touch Typing
The first thing I did was printing a keyboard layout diagram and sticking it on my monitor, so each time I had a doubt, I could check the correct finger at a glance by watching the color.
But the most important thing I did was to force myself to write properly from that moment on, even if it was difficult. And for the first week, it was very difficult.
I started tracking my progress and after about 2 weeks I was achieving the same speed as my old method. Then, as time went on, my fluency kept improving, as you can tell from this graph:
After 2 months I was comfortable with touch typing, my speed greatly improved and I was ready for the next step:
Moving to the US Keyboard layout
If you live in the US this may sound obvious to you, but the English US Keyboard Layout is the best for programming. Why? Because the people who invented most programming languages used that layout.
Being Italian, I always used the Italian layout and, while the letters and digits were arranged in the same way as the US layout (QWERTY), the symbols were not. Most of the symbols commonly used in programming were difficult, if not impossible, to write on an Italian keyboard ( looking at you ~ ).
So I decided to learn the US layout by using the same approach as before: stick a layout picture on my monitor, practicing on training websites and forcing myself to type with it.
After more than a year of touch typing on the US layout, I can say that my overall productivity increased a lot. Programming and other tasks, like using the terminal, are now a smoother experience.
Of course, living in a non-English country, I still need to type with the Italian layout sometimes. Luckily for me, most operating systems offer a quick shortcut to switch between layouts ( For example Win+Space on Windows ).
For those of you who are considering if learning how to type properly is worth it or not: do it, it takes a little effort, but the reward is huge.
PS: There are some other super-advanced layouts out there ( like Colemak and Dvorak ), but I’m not ready for those yet :)