Now that you’ve got your spiffy new layout in action, how do you learn it?
There are a lot of free typing tutor programs and websites out there. None of them have anything specifically geared toward learning Minimak, however.
To make it easier to learn the 4-key layout, I’ve created a word list focused on the keys that change in that layout. It’s in the download zip in the words folder.
The best program I’ve found to use this word list is the free, cross-platform TIPP10 typing tutor. There are instructions in the README in the words folder on how to add these word lists as lessons.
If TIPP10 isn’t to your liking, here are some programs and sites that you may find useful instead:
- GNU Typist - Simple console-mode tutor
- Amphetype - Desktop tutor with detailed typing analysis
- TypeRacer - competitive typing website that tracks your scores
- Hi-games.net - another competitive site with interesting visualizations for other layouts
- Key Hero - typing website with detailed typing analysis
- Type-fu - a slick, stripped-down website
Here’s a list of other tutors if none of those are to your liking.
As always, make sure you are using good antivirus, such as Panda Cloud Antivirus, as I’ve come across at least one free typing tutor that reportedly is infected. For the best security, I recommend scanning any downloaded file with the VirusTotal site, which scans with 40+ brand-name virus scanners. they also have an uploader application that can send a file from your desktop for scanning via the Explorer Send To menu. There’s also a Chrome extension for scanning suspicious site links from within Google Chrome.
How sad is it that Typing of the Dead, the funnest way to learn typing, can’t be had for less than $55? There is, however, a free demo still available from PC World. The demo features the first arcade level.
There are several methods for learning a new layout, depending on how much effort you’re willing to expend, what your work environment looks like, what your goal is and how fast you want to reach it. I’ll briefly discuss some of these considerations.
You don’t need to decide how far you’re going to go with Minimak upgrades (4-, 8- or 12-key) to start. It is always recommended that you go through them in order. You are free to stop advancing when you feel you’ve reached your goal.
I recommend learning in steps because there’s a non-linear relationship between the number of keys you change and the difficulty of learning. For example, it’s easy to learn two key changes, but the learning curve becomes much steeper after that. My experience was that I could cope with 4 key changes. After that, my learning would take a big hit if I added even one more key. So you will learn faster if you limit each change to four keys, which is what each of the steps does.
The goal you’ll need to eventually decide is how much time you want to invest and how far from QWERTY you’re willing to go. If you start with the 4-key layout and decide it feels good enough, you’ve sacrificed little from QWERTY but gotten a lot of benefit. I think the 8-key layout is the sweet spot, still easy to maintain your QWERTY skills while getting rid of the worst occupants of the home position (I’m looking at you, J). The 12-key layout is aesthetically pleasing, and does offer improvement, but approaches or crosses the threshold of diminishing returns.
If you happen to be on a machine that won’t allow you to install software, you’re obviously going to have different requirements than someone who is the sole administrator and user of their machine.
For those in such an unfortunate situation, you’re ok with PKL as long
as you can copy the files onto the machine and run the
executable. It is portable and doesn’t need to be installed. You can
even run it from a USB drive. You’re not going to be able to use the
registry mappings, though.
If you’re in a multiuser situation on your machine, you too are going to want to use PKL so it is only local to your account and doesn’t affect others. If you happen to be on Windows XP, there are user-specific registry mappings you can use as well, which you can read about on the download page. This can work well since it doesn’t affect the layout for the login screen. If you’re on Vista or 7, there’s no user mappings though.
Otherwise, you’re probably eventually going to want to use the boot mappings. If you occasionally need to let someone else use the computer, there are PKL inverse Minimak mappings (8- and 12-key) so you can hand the keyboard to a QWERTY user without having to reboot.
If you’re gung-ho about learning the 12-key Minimak as quickly as possible, I still recommend that you take the 4-key upgrades a step at a time.
If that’s not good enough for you, the 6-key layout is a good compromise that gets you to the 12-key layout in two steps. It’s designed for learning the 12-key layout quickly, and isn’t meant to be used on its own. It isn’t the best 6-key layout for that purpose.
First, measure your current typing speed with a site like Key Hero. This will give you a point of reference.
The length of time to gain full proficiency with Minimak varies, but it’s a good bet that it will take a good 2-3 months before you are typing as fast in Minimak as you do now, depending on which layout you choose. However, unlike most other layouts, you’ll be able to begin using it for work almost immediately.
There are three popular methods for learning new layouts. With other layouts, these are meant to get you to the point where you’re barely sufficient with the new layout, at which point you stop typing QWERTY. With Minimak, however, the point is to keep your QWERTY skills. It’s recommended that you keep typing QWERTY until you can type both layouts at your old speed (before you started learning Minimak). Once you’ve accomplished that, you can use Minimak most of the time, but I suggest tuning up QWERTY every once in a while (say, once a month). You can do it less if you’re on the 4- or 8-key layouts, but the 12-key layout really needs it.
- Day on, day off: Use QWERTY on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Minimak on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday
- QWERTY by day, Minimak by night: Use QWERTY while you are working and Minimak for personal usage
- Which am I slower at: Start each day by measuring your speed at both, then work on the one you’re slower with
With any of these methods, some people swear that using the new layout for chat sessions is a surefire way to increase your speed.
The first two methods are pretty self-explanatory. A lot of people claim success with the QWERTY by day, [other layout] by night approach. My opinion is that since you can quickly adopt Minimak without hurting your work too much, the by day/night approach is less useful than the day at a time methods. You might use the by day/night approach for the first couple days until you feel comfortable though.
I’m a fan of the “which am I slower at” method, because this method ensures that you keep both sets of skills tuned. While I’m learning, I’m using this method. Each morning I take the median of three typing tests with each layout, then use the one I’m slowest at for the day. That way I never lose my edge with QWERTY. Another variation is to set a floor beneath which you don’t let QWERTY fall. You only type Minimak when QWERTY stays above that floor.