You’re a computer user, which means you likely are fairly deft at the keyboard. You even made it to this site to read app reviews by inputting a few keystrokes. Perhaps, though, you feel like you’re a slow typist, or you know a “hunt and peck” user who prefers their indexes to the other four fingers. I have an app for you (or your friend).
I first came upon Type Fu because I’m trying to broaden my typing horizons by learning the Colemak keyboard layout. Whatever the case, Type Fu can help you tickle the chiclets with a bit more gusto.
Channel your Inner Stenographer
Kids live for trophies, and I was no different. So when I brandished my Little League trophy for 3rd place in the local tournament like it was the end all, be all trophy to rule them all, my mom dug into the closet to find a trophy of her own: 3rd place in the state in typing speed. Later, after I had passed Computer Skills 1 in middle school, I would challenge my mother to a race on my Mavis Beacon software. I was sure my words-per-minute (wpm) rate in the mid-thirties was miles ahead of anything an old-timer could put forth.
Boy, was I wrong. My outcome: 33 wpm with 5 errors. My mother’s: 75 wpm with 3 errors. I was flabbergasted. 75 words. per. minute. How in world is that possible, my middle-school self thought. How?
Now that I’m a computer-literate adult with thousands of hours of Internet surfing under my belt, I can thankfully crank out a respectable speed, closer to the upper-60s in words per minute. It could be faster, but the QWERTY keyboard was never built for speed anyway. It makes your fingers reach farther than they should to access some common letters in an attempt to slow the user down so the typewriter can keep up. Or at least that’s what it was meant to do. In reality it strains your hands, especially if you spend a lot of time behind a screen.
Ease your (finger) Tension
Enter Type Fu. There are better keyboarding layouts in the world; you may have heard of Dvorak or Colemak, two layouts designed to increase typing speed and decrease hand stress. Computers are smarter than typewriters, and thankfully the keyboard layout can be swapped with a trip to your personal settings. The Dvorak layout is even installed by default in OS X and some other operating systems. It’s also a selection option in Type Fu, an app designed to help you learn new layouts with the tried and true process of practicing.
The list of keyboard layouts supported by Type Fu consist of QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak, Workman, Qwertz, Azerty, and Bepo. If you haven’t heard of some of those, you’re not alone; I had to look up a few of them. They are all English layouts so if you’re interested in using Type Fu to learn the keys of a foreign keyboard, you will currently need to look elsewhere.
Using the App
When you open Type Fu, you’ll instantly be greeted with a keyboard, a hovering set of hands designed to show you what fingers to use, and some words to type. If any of this setup doesn’t meet your feng shui, you’ll be happy to know that it is all customizable. For example, you can test your memory by not having the keyboard layout map on the screen while you type.
Additionally, Type Fu gives you a few options about what you want to type. There are lessons designed purely around letter practice for the layout or you can choose to write famous quotes or proverbs for some added fun. The breakdown of the different lesson types is as follows:
- Letters: 23 difficulty levels*, “infinite” exercises
- Numbers: 9 difficulty levels, “infinite” exercises
- Words: 10 difficulty levels, infinite exercises created from a pool of the 5,000 most common English words
- Proverbs: No difficulty levels, 250 randomly displayed proverbs
- Quotes: No difficulty levels, 250 randomly displayed quotes
One of my favorite features of Type Fu is all of the statistical data. Data gathering is definitely becoming commonplace, but the type of data presented by Type Fu is immediately helpful. First, it charts the wpm scores for each exercise on a line graph so you can see your improvement (or decline) over time. It also logs your most-typed letters and the letters you’re most likely to make a typing mistake on. I’m extremely unreliable at typing “w” on a qwerty keyboard for instance; in fact, I mistyped it while constructing that sentence.
The only addition I could ask for on top of those provided is some sort of mini-game (or a few if I’m making wishes). Typing games like where completing a word kills a baddie or faster wpm count gasses a car around a track are welcome pleasantries to the trials of learning the keys.
You can have the cursor stop on mistakes as you type or have it allow you to continue typing in error. The latter is more realistic to day-to-day typing, but if you hate continually backspacing your errors–especially when learning a new layout–then remember the option is available.
If you’re wondering what brought me to Type Fu, I want to learn the Colemak layout. Unless you, likewise, want to learn a new keyboard layout or just hone your current skills, Type Fu would probably not be on your radar. I originally found the app in the Google Chrome Web Store because of its good reviews, I wanted to review the Mac version, expecting some added features; there aren’t any. What’s even odder is that the Mac version is $4.99 in the App Store, while the web-based Chrome Web Store version is free. The only difference I found was a Mac-only option for full-screen mode.
Type Fu is clean, simple, and helpful if you’d like to learn a new English (or Indo-European) keyboarding layout. That is a narrow category, though. Luckily, you can test it out to your hearts content on the Chrome Web Store. If you find yourself using it on a regular basis, it may be fitting to buy it from the App Store in support of the developer, but at $4.99 that may be a hard decision to make as it feels overpriced. Since I haven’t found anything better, though, I’ll be practicing my Colemak on Type Fu for the foreseeable future.