Learning how to touch type could mean the difference between 10 words a minute to more than 40. That could also mean the difference between adding half a day to your productivity. Or, more than that if you can clock 100 words per minute as most professional typists do. That’s why I sincerely believe that touch typing along with speed reading is one of the sacred arts of the digital age.
But surprisingly both aren’t a product of the digital age. Wikipedia (and I cross-referenced it) tells me that touch typing was invented by Frank Edward McGurrin in 1878. He taught himself to type without looking at the keys…and that’s how touch typing came about. Well, if Frank can do it, then why can’t you? Especially when the stiff keys of typewriters have gone the way of the dinosaurs and you have the soft touch feel of computer keyboards and on-screen touch pads.
Let me show you how with the top ten tools and tutorials for learning how to touch type.
The Simple Online Typing Tutors
We love simple sites that don’t ask us to register don’t we! Keybr wins points on both scores. It is a simple flash–based typing instructor where you can just start off with typing. It introduces you to the basics of touch typing techniques and handholds you from there to more complex method. Like any good tutor, Keybr keeps track of all your mistakes and your words–per–minute (wpm) — and gives an overview with graphs of your day–by–day performance. Of course, you have to register yourself for that.
Features of Note:
- Keybr supports multiple languages like German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian.
- Keyboard layouts supported are – United States, United States — Dvorak, United States — Colemak and United Kingdom.
- Custom modes for learning with your own lessons. A bookmarklet allows you to import any web page into Keybr to type its contents.
10FastFingers is a straightforward site again which tests your typing speed across 60 seconds and compares it to an average score. You are given a percentile score and also a positional one among all who took the test in the last 24 hours. If you grab the bragging rights, share the results on Facebook and Twitter. There are no instructions as such – you just start typing and see how you are faring each day. 10FastFingers also gives you three typing modes or tests which also include a typing competition. You can play the typing completion in the language of your choice.
Features of Note:
- Create your own typing completion in the language of your choice.
- Try the Android app for touch typing practice on your mobile. Apps for iPhone and Blackberry expected soon.
- The online typing tool supports tests in 42 languages.
TypingWeb is better-rounded in comparison to the above two. You have to register to start off. Interactive tutorials start-off from the very basics where you familiarize yourself with the home row keys, and then on to the more advanced lessons which are all about drills. There are specialty lessons too where you get to type chapters from literary classics and other works. So, even if you have nimble fingers, you can start off somewhere in the middle rather than start over. One of the nicer intelligent features of the online tool is that it learns your most error prone keys as you type the lessons. Once TypingWeb has learned which keys cause you to stumble, a custom practice lesson can be created for working on those specific keys.
Features of Note:
- 12 typing games serve up practice and fun.
- A free teacher’s portal with features like interactive lessons, real-time student monitoring and reporting can be used by schools worldwide.
- You can set any among seven languages and choose from 26 different keyboard layouts.
Don’t forget to look into Sense-Lang, another excellent site for typing tutorials and touch typing practice.
The Games You Can Type
Edutainment is the name bandied about around time. So, why not have the same fun when we are learning how to touch type. These represent a few of the best and simple games that can really polish your finger dexterity.
BBC – Dance Mat Typing [No Longer Available]
The BBC Schools site may seem to be geared for kids aged between 7-11, but even adults starting out with typing can try their hand at the four levels just for fun. Each level is divided into 3 stages. Level 1 takes you through the basic moves and Level 4 graduates you to lessons on handling Shift keys. Song, music, and dance accompany each lesson. The site is Flash based, but there is an option for non-Flash too.
Instead of singing along with the lyrics, you have to type them as fast as you can. Typing Karaoke is all about fun while you practice your touch typing. And believe me, it’s more challenging than you think. I am not sure here, but the songs could also be arranged according to their ‘typing’ difficulty. The first, “I won’t give up” by Jason Mraz is a slow ballad while the last single by Stray Cats is faster paced.
20+ Flash games centered on typing greet you when you land here. The site lives up to its name. From Keyboard Ninja to the offbeat Excuses Excuses where you have to type just as they appear on the screen and learn a few in the process for the time when you don’t do your homework. Most of the games have an advertisement at the beginning.
The Software Ones
Rapid Typing Tutor is a free keyboard trainer. Lessons are arranged around letter groups as is common in all trainers. The touch typing trainer offers three lessons from Basic to Advanced. The virtual trainer guides you through the lessons with key prompts. The keyboard gives you language choices and keyboard layout options as you can see in the screenshot. The typing trainer takes you through three levels of lessons and you can set a few options on how you want to view the lessons. Rapid Typing Tutor is free for personal use and is supported by all Windows versions. Best of all, it has a portable version which is an 11 MB download.
Features of Note:
- Training modules also cover numeric keypads and digits.
- A statistics window gives you a glimpse of your performance over a lesson and the course of a training day.
- The Rapid Typing Tutor allows you to tweak the lessons and insert your own material if you want to with the Lesson Editor.
It is an advanced Open Source typing tutor and a free download. The 8MB archive is also portable and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Amphetype is described as being layout agnostic that means it does not come with a virtual keyboard, but gives you lessons you can use to practice any keyboard layout with it. The software supports the learner with speed and performance measuring features and detailed statistics. One of the important metrics is that Amphetype also measures viscosity i.e. it measures the “pauses’ one takes in between words. More pauses means higher viscosity. A lower rate of viscosity translates into better typing performance.
Features of Note:
- You can generate text fragments to type from Project Gutenberg or any other plain text source to practice your typing.
- Review mistyped words and even generate custom lessons to practice difficult words or problem words.
- A performance tab gives a snapshot of WPM, accuracy, measures performance by session, and plots a graph to show progress.
Another alternative Open Source keyboard and language independent typing tutor you can try out is Klavaro. It has ready to use keyboard layouts like Dvorak, QWERTZ, Colemak, AlphaGrip5, and more.
There are many options to practice your touch typing. I have usually found that using software tools like the two mentioned above, and my personal favorite – TIPP10 , and supplementing them with typing games to be the best way. You can always come back to these tools and bump up your WPM (Words per Minute) to an acceptable figure. Want more practice? Look into the following sites too –
- 7 Good Tips To Faster Typing On The iPad
- How I Quickly Mastered A Superior Keyboard Layout Without Losing Productivity
- Think You Can Type Fast? Try These 4 Free Typing Test Sites & Find Out!
We have covered touch typing tools and tutorials quite comprehensively. Even then we are on the lookout for the next good tip or a recommended tool that can sharpen the saw. Maybe, you can help. Type in your comments.
Image Credit: Free Digital Photos