Basic Keyboard Skills for Beginners

The most basic of computer skills is the ability to type. Although anyone can sit down at a computer and hunt and peck at the keyboard, it takes a little bit of practice to be able to type correctly. Fortunately, you have a lot of options when it comes to learning to type. Typing tutor software is fairly easy, and sometimes is even fun!

Hands typing on keyboard
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Take a Class

Learning to type in a formal class isn't the cheapest option, but it's easily the most comprehensive. Not only will you have the advantage of a teacher, you'll be in a classroom full of people with similar skill levels to yourself.

Probably the biggest advantage over using a typing tutorial program is that you'll have a teacher on hand who will be able to see the bad habits you might have formed over the years. The teacher will also be able to physically show you the proper motions for effective typing, such as where to hold your hands over the keyboard, and the technique involved in high-speed typing.

The obvious disadvantage to a formal class is the expense. Even at a community college, a typing class that gives full credit will run a few hundred dollars. Another disadvantage is the fact that you'll be learning on the class's schedule, and not whenever you please. The fact that you'll get college credit for the class does offset these disadvantages quite a bit.

Typing Tutorial Software

Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of typing tutor software packages are on the market. Each one has it advantages and disadvantages. Some of them are wonderfully effective, whereas others are little more than timed tests that merely measure the output you can do in words per minute.

One of the oldest typing tutors is still one of the best. Broderbund's "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" has been teaching people how to type since 1987, long before the day of automatic spell checking made things easier on people who didn't know how to touch type.

Another popular program, though of questionable tutorial value, is Sega's "The Typing of the Dead." Based on the popular light-gun arcade shoot-'em-up, "The House of the Dead," this game replaced the guns with text boxes. When you properly type a word with sufficient speed, a zombie will die. If you're too slow, the zombie takes a bite out of you. This game isn't particularly useful for the purpose of learning proper technique, but it is an effective tool to practice on and to increase your typing speed.

Some Basic Tips

One of the most common mistakes that beginner typists make is the tendency to look at the keys. This actually can increase the number of mistakes because the typist isn't looking at the screen to see what the product of his work looks like.

Another common mistake is holding your hands over the wrong keys. When typing, your left hand should be over the "asdf" keys and your right over the "jkl;" keys. By placing your hands in these positions, it makes the movements to the other keys more natural, helping to increase the muscle memory that is used when touch typing.

One final word: If you find yourself unable to avoid looking at the keys or you tend to place your fingers over the wrong letters, you may want to invest in a keyboard that has no key labels. This will force you to type by touch alone, as the keys themselves will give no visual indication as to their function.