Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Proper typing technique

I always hear people complaining about how typing underscores sucks, and is uncomfortable.  There was a complaint in a recent thread about hungarian.

Seriously, try this: hit shift with your left hand for all the punctuation on the right (most of it is).  From my observation at work, pretty much NOBODY does this.  It makes typing SO much more comfortable, and when programming in C where you use () {} " : a lot (and <> for C++), it lets you type significantly faster too.

I've even heard of people mapping ob to expand to { in their editor and cb to } to avoid shifting.  Just do it the "right" way -- it actually works.

I sort of did it at home, but when I became a full time programmer I started doing it 100%.  It's helped my hands a lot.

Try it.

Roose
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I wish computers had footpedals like an organ. One for ctrl, alt, shift etc.

Matthew Lock
Thursday, February 05, 2004

This made me think of the good old days of programming my Sinclair Spectrum (1982).

There were some crazy key-combinations required to get to some of the functions.

Anyone else remember caps-shift + symbol-shift, symbol-shift + xxxx, where xxxx was the red function underneath the keys ?

Check it out: http://www.aceadvanced.org/computers/sinclair/spectrum.jpg (via Google images).

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I thought everybody used the left Shift key for punctuation? :-0

It was possible to type pretty quickly on the Spectrum once you'd got used to the system.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Kinesis Advantage series keyboards *do* have a pedal, and like any other key, you can map it to anything you want.  (I think it's Shift by default.)  Personally, I find that my ankles aren't well suited for high-frequency tapping, but Gregory Hines might have liked it well.

I definitely agree with orignal poster's excellent advice.  Religiously performing two-key chording using two hands reduces the stress immensely.  The biggest stressors I noticed were the ctrl+c and ctrl+v sequences, which I executed for years with a sort of monkey-claw technique.  Correcting that flaw has payed off big.

veal
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I have shift+space configured to insert underscore.  Makes my life a lot easier.

Egor Shipovalov
Thursday, February 05, 2004

and for people with foreign keyboards?  I have to do some [alt-gr] gymnastics every time I want an array indice or a code block grrh.  Make that alt-grrh!

i like i
Thursday, February 05, 2004

(I should add, I've been known to avoid writing destructors because of that almost impossible to find tilde alt-grrh)

i like i
Thursday, February 05, 2004

French keyboards aside from also having Alt-grrrrharg, require shift to get digits; the digit keys support the figures ( with shift), punctuation ( normal) and special symbols ( with alt-gr ).

Seriously the guy who designed that was probably an half-brained lobotomized man. Why the hell they didn't they put our beloved accuentuated letters under Alt-Gr?
Sed etiam we need an extra layer of software because the BIOS of course only knows about US keyboard.

Astrobe
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the reason we use 1 handed double bucky cokebottles is that we're hard wired to go after something with one hand.

From a neuro-muscular point of view, hitting CTRL + C or typing :) is probably much more complex as a two handed move, just as using chopsticks or if they existed, two handed tweezers would be much more difficult.

Essentially, you're asking your two hands to aim for two *different* goals at the same time.

Now when I typed the asterisks, I did use a left hand - right hand combination, but all those keys are close to the home row.

CTRL, :, " {, }, _, and + are far enough away that we have to AIM for them, and it's twice as difficult to do with two hands than to simply memorize one hand position.

www.MarkTAW.com
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I heard that the poor keyboard layout was initially aimed at getting more buzy the typers, which were mainly ( once upon a time...) woman. Urban legend ?

Astrobe
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Oh man, all this keyboard gazing is doing my head in.

On my (german) kbd, I not only have misplaced keys for coding, I also, I just noticed, have some bizarre things on the top row (where the numbers are) - on the 2 key there is another 2 which with the AltGr key produces a tiny 2 character, and similarly a 3 on the 3 key. But then they seem to have run out of ink or something and there is nothing on the rest of them until the braces etc. from 7 onwards.

Jesus, what a mess!


Thursday, February 05, 2004

so lets go devise a perfect programmers keyboard!

Promote { and } etc to proper keys, like they should be!

i like i
Thursday, February 05, 2004

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

I took a typing class in the 80's (on computers), and using the shift key that is opposite the punctuation key was a standard part of the curriculum.  Until now, I hadn't noticed that not everyone does this.

Then again, I suppose that even using the keyboard instead of the mouse is a sign of sophistication...  In a class on HCI that I took a few years ago, the prof had a poll to see how people select text in a text editor: using the mouse or the keyboard.  I was almost the only one who preferred the keyboard.

Here's a business idea: add to your favorite IDE a toolbar that contains all the punctuation characters!  Profit from the poor typing skills of today's programmers!  Be sure to give me some options before you IPO.

Oren
Thursday, February 05, 2004

With the exception of the right hand alt (which over the years I've learned not to trust), I type two handed.  I'm just surprised this appears to be unusual. 

a cynic writes...
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Actually poor keyboard layout is a direct result of the typewriter.  Back in the day, typists were typing too efficiently and the whacker thingies would get all tangled up up top (for anyone that's ever used a typewriter, you know what I mean).  So they purposefully redid the mapping so they would be less efficient to keep this problem from occurring.

Just switch to a Dvorak layout if you don't like your keyboard.  Even if the key's were arranged alphabetically (Q=A, W=B, E=C, R=D, etc.) it's more efficient than the present layout (efficieny defined by keping your fingers first on the home row, second on the upper row, lastly on the bottom row, and distributing letter frequencies evenly between your right and left hands.

Elephant
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I didn't realise people had problems typing _ or {}'s etc, but then I always type two handed. I actually tend to use _ characters a lot as I don't use camelCasing or PascalCasing.

This thread has made me think though, I guess I never really realised that I mainly only use modifier keys using my left hand. I never use the right side Ctrl or Alt, and only use the right hand shift for changing numerics to !@#$% etc.

The thing that bugs me the most is that they've physically moved the \ key on the UK keyboard...

Gordon Hartley
Thursday, February 05, 2004

"I wish computers had footpedals like an organ. One for ctrl, alt, shift etc. "

I wired up a pedal connected to a parallel port one time with a couple of buttons that were interpreted as keypresses. It actually worked (under MS-DOS), but wasn't as useful as I expected; it was really hard to get the timing of the foot and fingers together. And in case you're wondering, I can't dance either...

Tom h
Thursday, February 05, 2004

"so lets go devise a perfect programmers keyboard!"

At YAPC 1999 Jon Orwant presented the "perfect" keyboard for Perl programmers. He did a character-frequency analysis on all the code in CPAN at the time then mapped the frequently used characters to the hotspots on the keyboard. Great presentation...

http://babe.pobox.com/~mengwong/pcd/yapc1999/orwant-1.html

Chris Winters
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I saved a great deal of wrist anguish by swapping the left control and caps-lock keys (as they were on the Suns at school). I use ctrl a lot more than caps-lock, so it made sense to promote it to the home row. I still need to work on the two-handed technique; right now I only use the left shift and ctrl keys.

Devil's Advocate
Thursday, February 05, 2004

In Emacs, in addition to the old friends Alt, Control, and Shift, you can configure two more modifier keys: Hyper and Super. Super is mapped to the Windows keys by default in the recent versions of Linux, and Hyper I've mapped to Caps Lock.  When I need to type -> arrow, I only have to hit Hyper-space - no hand motion at all required. Can you do such a thing in MS IDE? ;)

Egor Shipovalov
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Actually the goal of QWERTY was to speed up typing by eliminating the collisions that Elephant mentioned.  Frequently used letter combinations ('TH', "EX", etc) were moved away from each other so collisions wouldn't happen.

http://home.earthlink.net/~dcrehr/whyqwert.html

apw
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I would have to 2nd the comment on changing over to the Dvorak layout.  I changed 2 years ago and found that typing is much easier on the wrists and fingers that the Qwerty layout.  My typing speed increased but then I began typing more characters so the net increase in speed is probably nil.  However, I do think it is much more comfortable.

Auto-completion within text editors is a wonderful thing as well.  Why type

function thisFunction()
{

}

when you can type *func*

Frogmoses
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I'll also throw my weight behind Dvorak. I switched 5 years ago when my wrists started bothering me, and have had no troubles since.  I don't think I type any faster, but it feels much better. 

I also switched capslock and control when I started using vim as my main editor.  It really makes things a lot more comfortable. 

Also, if you make those two changes, you computer is amazingly unusable to everyone else.  This may be a good or bad thing, depending on your situation, of course :)

Software Is Fun
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Try typing *everything* one-handed.  Wusses.

Seriously, the Sticky Keys feture in Windows became invaluable to me when I lost my arm.  Ctrl-click is mighty tough without it.

One-Armed Bandit
Thursday, February 05, 2004

I just mapped both Ctrl and Caps Lock to Ctrl. I haven't missed Caps Lock, and plenty of other people have used my computer without noticing.

Mike Schiraldi
Thursday, February 05, 2004

That's funny, I always use left shift.

As for ctrl+c, ctrl+v, real men use ctrl-insert, shift-insert.

Left shift, of course.

Microsoft makes a keyboard with *no* insert key. What were they thinking?

Alex.ro
Thursday, February 05, 2004

Ack ... a topic near and dear to my heart. I recently switched form a North American MS Natural Keyboard (the kind with the proper t-shaped arrow keys, and 3x2 insert/home/pg up set) to the equivalent Irish (UK?) one. Alt-Gr is _not_ the same as Alt, the backslash key is definitely in the wrong place, and the # mark and @ sign are no longer shift+number, they have their own separate keys over by the <enter> key.  Sigh.

jedidjab79
Thursday, February 05, 2004

"Try typing *everything* one-handed.  Wusses.

Seriously, the Sticky Keys feture in Windows became invaluable to me when I lost my arm.  Ctrl-click is mighty tough without it."

have you tried learning the dvorak one handed layout?  it was designed for people who only have one hand.  it is completely different than any other layout (there is a right handed version, and a left handed version), and would benefit you a lot.

to switch between dvorak and qwerty, you can configure it to something like ctl shift.  which is nice except when you accidentally hit it.  people dont know what to think, lol.

david boveri
Friday, June 04, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home