There is a long and unresolved debate in the programming community about the advantages, and indeed, even the necessity of learning how to touch type. In this blog, we shall try to address this, outlining the pros and cons.
Firstly and to clarify, there is a big difference between typing and touch typing. Touch typing refers to a typing technique where keys are identified by the sense of touch, without looking at the keyboard, using all five fingers of each hand to type. It is a far more advanced mode of typing over the much more common and unorthodox ‘typing’ method, known as ‘hunt and peck’, which typically uses just one or two fingers.
Touch typing is an essential must learn, modern day skill for anybody that spends a significant amount of time working at a computer. Computer programmers, designers, data entry/researchers and the like, users fromall different sectors fall within this category. While it is not deemed an absolute necessity, it can certainly be beneficial.
What are these benefits?
The obvious and areal ‘no-brainer’. Touch typing involves typing without looking or even glancing at the keyboard. i.e. no movement of the head or eyes from the screen to keyboard, between keystrokes. This saves a huge amount of time and leads to much higher speeds. Expert touch typists have been recorded typing at speeds in excess of 120 words per minute!
Ultimately learning touch typing involves memorising the positions of the keys on the keyboard, so that your fingers move automatically to them. This is called ‘automatising’ the skill. Typing correctly with accuracy should always be given preference over speed.Speed should always come second in the learning process and will increase with practice.
Touch typing subconsciously allows you to focus on the code you are writingor the task at hand, instead of the actual typing process. Typos are undoubtedly frustrating and even moreso when you are writing using a code-heavy language such as Java. It takes an unnecessary amount of time correcting mistakes, after each line of code for ‘hunt and peck’ typists. Additionally, even if it’s just fractions of a secondper correction, itcompletely breaks the work flow and the thought process.
Touch typing, with speed and accuracy, definitely makes you a more efficient programmer.
As the skill is engrained into muscle memory, automatised, you do not have to think about the typing process during coding. This is also referred to as ‘think-type’, where you ‘think it’ and it ‘appears’ typed on your screen!
Consider the advantages:
Touch typing greatly improves programming quality.
Lastly and frequently dismissed, the health benefits of touch typing are obvious. Trained typists do not need to keep looking up and then down, alternating between the screen and the keyboard, they can keep looking straight ahead at the screen at all times.
With guidance and a bit of postural adjustment, they no longer have to sit hunched over the keyboard, effectively preventing back and shoulder issues,very common among key borders.
Using all 10 fingers also means less chance of Repetitive Stress Injury(RSI) to index fingers, a condition commonly affecting ‘hunt and peck’ typists.
It also lets you work faster and more efficiently, which ultimately means less time at the computer screen and more time for other activities.
Summing up, having typing as a skillis an invaluable addition to your skills locker. Will it make you a better programmer, or one that has greater ideas and more innovative solutions? May be not. However, it will certainly make you faster, more efficient as a coder and one that is much more employable!
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