Thoughts on Colemak  6 years later

Posted on November 24, 2022

After putting in a lot of work into learning a new layout and making it my daily driver for about nearly 6 years I am coming back to the qwerty land.

TL;DR: I am choosing convenience. See update 1

So why am I announcing this?

If by faint chance anyone got inspired or stumbled across my Colemak posts and want to keep up on my journey, this is the end. This blog post would also serve as a change log for me in the future to stop and think the next time I have thoughts about trying an alternative keyboard layout.

What caused the change?

Well it isn’t anything unique that isn’t already there on the internet and not said by other people who have gone back to using qwerty.

QWERTY is pervasive and that is not going to change any time soon. (I was aware of this back when I switched, but now with using qwerty on iPhone, iPad I thought it would just be easier using qwerty on my laptop too).

More recently I have been in situations where I have had to use other laptops and I had to share mine. While it might sound silly, it is an annoying ordeal to switch layouts for a few minutes worth of typing.

WPM Obsession

The exercise of learning Colemak was to make my fingers feel comfortable while that happened to a certain degree(I say to a certain degree because of the initial excitment) the wpm obsession became a thing. The pursuit of attaining a higher wpm turned out to be a distracting act. I have been spending/spent way too much of my leisure time on 10Fastfingers and monkeytype(more recently). Time that I will not be seeing and time that I am constantly loosing, it has become a weird habit I haven’t been able to shake off! And I figured the only way to get over is to get back to QWERTY. It could sound stupid and silly but it really is a time sink.

The biggest thing that people talk about when changing layouts is typing speed a.k.a WPM, and I fell into that trap when I entertained the thought of switching layouts. I even obsessed over it to the point that my free time was spent mostly on 10fastfingers and keyhero, more recently monkeytype. But in real world WPM has absolutely 0 bearing and doesn’t really account to anything.

Reason for my WPM obsession is exactly what the colemak website warns people about, learning it to improve WPM. Even though it wasn’t the main reason, it was partly a reason for me when switcihng to colemak. Which also explains why I was obsessing myself with 10fastfingers/monkeytype.

Not so great with non-ortho keyboards

The Colemak layout coupled with my planck keyboard made typing a joy but I wouldn’t say the same when it comes to typing on the laptop’s staggered keyboard. Not especially after I have experienced the joy of typing on a planck. I was feeling a bit of fatigue which is opposite of why I learned Colemak in the first place. Also I find that typing slow on Colemak made me more error prone in my typing compared to when I was going fast. Weird but it is true in my case! I think this is an attribute of rolling the fingers, which causes me to mistype when going slow or maybe it is because I kept teaching myself to type fast that I am unable to type slow on colemak.

Another rather nitpicky reason is probably that I can do one hand typing. Why would I do that you ask? While eating, or when I am holding my 14 month old in one hand when I have to type I can see where the keys are and type. Not something that I can do when using colemak.

It took me 6 years to realize that colemak was nowhere near perfection  and that qwerty is very good despite the negative press that it gets. Be it as it might because of its popularity.

These typing tests train your muscle memory on common words which are good but its not like you would be repeating those in your day to day typing. Especially not as a programmer. I noticed that it is not always that I have to type the words that I trained during these online typing tests. So whether it is colemak or qwerty I do mistype/have to go slow when I encounter words that I haven’t trained my fingers on.


Comfort is a contentious point, when I first started typing on colemak the only thing I felt was that my fingers weren’t all around the place but that didn’t mean that the layout was comfortable. I had right pinky pain from time to time and typing on staggering keyboard I wouldn’t say it was any different from qwerty except for how much the fingers jump around(which is one of the main reasons I like colemak).

And Colemak is also evolving with variants which goes to prove that there are deficiencies with it. And you would get into this rabbit hole of finding the best keyboard layout that just doesn’t exist.

QWERTY isn’t bad

I would like to believe that there is good reason why qwerty is the default. Whether it is the legacy that got carried from the type writer times or the fact that most of us adopted it and the inertia of moving away from it, it has withstood the test of time.

And there isn’t enough basis to prove that it is as bad as the proponents of other layouts lament it to be. The only reason why alternate keyboards seem to benefit the hands is because of the bad habits accumulated when we first started typing on qwerty.

When you think of an alternative layout, the first thing one does is letting go of those bad habits. And then learning to touch type the right way. I bet if you did the same with qwerty the experience would be no different(atleast not as worse). I would suggest giving that a shot before deciding to jump into alternate keyboard layout.

But what about carpal tunnel/RSI you ask? knocks on the wood I haven’t had any issues of that sort. But I would think that having a good posture and ergonomics when typing might help avoid it. But if that is an issue sure, you could try alternate keyboard layout.

  1. Update: I am back to using Colemak(September 28th 2023) because I prefer not having my fingers jump around that much and also because I don’t want my 6 years of effort to go waste. :)↩︎