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Review of Typist - It's Time to Stop Fumbling Around

Ilene Hoffman

If you are tired of hunt-and-peck typing, you should learn how to touch type. The App Store offers a free program called Typist that will do just that. It won't relieve the tedium of learning touch typing, because there are no entertaining games or letters to shoot from the sky. This is a basic "type what you see on screen" program that follows the traditional way to learn touch typing.

Typist 2.3 works fine in the two systems in which I tested it: Mac OSX 10.6.8 and OS X 10.8.3. It is just so quiet that it's unnerving. You hear nothing, unless you make a mistake, and then you hear a typewriter-type sound to notify you. You are then given the lesson again, unless you choose to use the odd interface to pick another lesson. You must finish the whole lesson correctly to move on uninterrupted. The screen shot below shows you the basic screen in which you choose lessons.

typist screen

If you don't know how to touch type, this program helps you learn, but as it cautions, you must practice, practice, practice, which is also amazingly boring. It's the only way to get better. I suggest you pick a soothing iTunes playlist to accompany your lesson while you plug away at this tutorial. To its credit Typist includes Dvorak Keyboard and Calculator Keypad lessons. The program tracks your strokes per minute, typing speed, error ratio, and time it took you to complete each screen.

The simple Preferences include options to change the space after a period to one or two spaces, how large your characters draw onscreen, and an option to choose a different background color. On the Web, one space is recommended so as not to create gutters of white space in a document.

The character size oddly includes Small (Fixed), Small/Midium, and Small - Large. I don't know why the options are not typed similarly, but I recommend that the developer correct the spelling of "medium." Capitalization in the preference titles is also inconsistent, which irks me.

You can change the lavender default background color with a click on the color tile. It brings up Apple's color picker so that you can choose any other color.

The developer, Takeshi Ogihara, could use some English language assistance for his short help file, but seems to cover most questions you might have.

Interface issues

When you finish a practice screen, you type any key to continue to the next screen.

typist controls

An Abandon Practice mini-dialog offers an odd box in which you click arrows to go back to the main menu or skip to the next lesson on the bottom of the screen. Does anyone read the Apple Interface Guidelines anymore?

There is a Start Dictation command in the Edit menu which you can activate, but it doesn't seem to work. I was not able to deactivate it, even when I quit and relaunched the program. This seems to be a stock command provided by Apple that wasn't disabled in the program.

What I like

Typist teaches how to touch type in the traditional manner. It covers how to place your hands on the keyboard. It tracks your speed. The interface is easy to understand.

What I don't like

The interface includes odd dialogs and navigation elements. Takeshi Ogihara's web site has not been updated with information on the latest version, released in April.

Typist never covers how to hold your hands. You need to keep your wrists raised off your desk, otherwise you can trigger carpal tunnel problems over time. I recommend you read this short article, Type Right - Prevent RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome By Typing Right, on or the longer one at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

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