Your Stupid Typing Style Might Not Actually Be So Bad

Your Stupid-Arse Typing Style Might Not Actually Be So Bad

Back in the olden days, most typists were trained to use all their fingers. That's less of a concern now, leading to all sorts of self-taught typing styles. But as a new study shows, our lack of formal training — and our resistance to using all ten fingers — doesn't mean we're not proficient typists. I cringe every time I have to watch my teenage son type. Unlike his father, who still dutifully sets his eight fingers on the home row, this child of the digital era uses his two measly index fingers to type. Incredibly, however, it works for him; his fingers fly across the keyboard quickly and accurately. A new study from Aalto University supports this observation, suggesting it's not the number of fingers that matters when typing, but how we use them.

"We were surprised to observe that people who took a typing course, performed at similar average speed and accuracy, as those that taught typing to themselves and only used six fingers on average," said study co-author Anna Feit in a statement. "The number of fingers does not effect typing speed. You could use just one or two fingers per hand and still type very fast."

Feit's team recruited 30 volunteers of various ages and typing skills, and then recorded their individual styles with an optical motion capture system. A dozen high-speed infrared cameras tracked 52 reflective markers placed on the participants' hands and fingers. This allowed the researchers to to measure the speed and accuracy of their individual typing styles. And to get a visual sense of typing commonalities, the researchers created finger-to-key maps.

Your Stupid-Arse Typing Style Might Not Actually Be So Bad

Fast typists, touch vs. self taught.

Your Stupid-Arse Typing Style Might Not Actually Be So Bad

Slow typists, touch vs. self-taught

Analysis revealed that most participants used their left and right hands differently; some kept their left hands at the same place over the keyboard while their right hand moved from side-to-side, and vice-versa. Four groups of typists performed these similar movements with their left hand, and six groups with their right hand. The volunteers used anywhere from one to two fingers per hand (that is, "hunt-and-peck") to using all five. Some exhibited unique typing behaviours, like using the Caps Lock instead of shift, or using both thumbs together to hit the spacebar.

Your Stupid-Arse Typing Style Might Not Actually Be So Bad

Common strategies for each hand.

Regardless of the style, however, the volunteers typed at different rates, some fast, some slow. This suggests that other factors are at play. For example, fast typists kept their hands on one position instead of moving them over the keyboard. They also used the same finger for the same letter virtually every time. The researchers also observed that untrained typists spent about twice as much time gazing at their fingers instead of the screen, which affected their ability to do complex editing tasks.

The researchers say our typing techniques are often a reflection of the task being performed on the computer. "The touch typing system was developed for typing sentences on typewriters," said Feit. "It is not advantageous for Photoshop shortcuts or gaming, often done with one hand on the mouse."

Developers could use this research to create better user interfaces both in software and in keyboards themselves. The interfaces should be tailored to the way we type today, not how we typed a long time ago.

[Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems]

Images: Aalto University

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    So I take it that my style of resting my left hand on: Shift, A, W, D and Space and right hand on the mouse is not a bad style??? ;)

      It depends, how often do you type 'Asswads'?

      Last edited 11/02/16 5:08 pm

        How did you get my password??? Damn, I'm going to have to change it to 12345 now.

      Ahhhh the "Doom position" - cemented forever in place by late night frights on a x486. (I'm in that club too)

        I would up vote, but it seems I can't...

          Thanks, and yeah - its disabled or something. Just do the B3ta thing and post '^'

    Surely the big difference is whether you need to look. I hate finding that I hit Caps Lock instead of shift.

      Yep, having to look at the keyboard, would be a huge pain in the arse. Been touch typing for years, and never met anyone faster yet. Have no idea how two finger guys can type 75 words if they're looking at a piece of paper of what they need to transcribe. How did they do these tests? Did the two finger typing people memorise what they needed to type? Were they given it verbally or reading of a bit of paper?
      Would be like playing the piano. if playing from memory, perfectly fine to look at the keys and your fingers. If you're reading sheet music, there's no way you can read the music, and look at the keys at the same time. You need to be able to feel the keyboard and play without looking. Not sure if you can type two fingers without looking at the keyboard...

        Agreed. I've worked in corporate environments my whole life (often in communications teams) and I've met very few people who could touch-type 75wpm day-to-day.

        I'm not sure how they were measuring typing speed, but regardless of what they were typing no one I saw in any of their videos was typing at what I know as 75wpm.

          I type 100wpm based on online tests, no training. Not that hard.

            I've only known one person who could type 100wpm.
            Do you have a link to one of these test sites?

    The interesting thing is that they're comparing different styles, but at the same speed. So duh, there's going to be some similarities and efficiencies. How you hit the keys doesn't really matter as much as how fast you can hit them. (Accurately.)

    The REAL problem with self-taught is that most who haven't been taught don't actually get to that speed.

    Our department did mandatory speed-testing to determine which employees needed typing training to improve efficiency. (Edit: Mind you, I have my doubts about that. I type at 120, but I'm pretty confident that the majority of my time is spent thinking about what to write, and clicking on shit, regardless of whether I was typing at 120 or 50.)

    The goal of the training was to get people up to 50wpm. If they couldn't do that in the mandatory test, they had to do the training.
    [REDACTED - LET'S JUST SAY 'VERY, VERY HIGH PERCENTAGE'] of the department ended up having to do the training.

    50 wpm.

    If you can type at 75wpm then no shit, duh just keep doing what you're doing. The problem is everyone fucking else who can't, and who really DO need to be trained, because clearly self-taught isn't cutting it.

    Last edited 11/02/16 6:55 pm

    Asswads.... well done Sir/Madam... that comment made my day.

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