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Old 09-29-2004, 02:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
Mark Rejhon
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Default BlackBerry Thumb Touch Typist Guide (Typing 60 WPM without looking!)

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The BlackBerry Thumb Touch Typist Guide
(Thumb Typing without looking at keyboard!)

How to type 50-60 WPM on BlackBerry in 2 weeks!*
(*Assumes you are already a desktop PC keyboard touch typist)

Important Note: For full QWERTY BlackBerries ONLY.
NOT for 7100 or 8100 Series using SureType.


As a deaf user of electronics, keyboards are often the main method of keyboard communication. Some other other BlackBerry elites have mastered this technique, and I am posting the learning techniques for thumb touch typing. Very few thumb keyboards are good enough for thumb touch typing without looking at it, and BlackBerry is one of them.

I am now writing one of the world's first Thumb Touch Typist Guide for QWERTY thumb keyboards. But please credit me if you ever use this guide in any press material, or need me to expand this material. (Some of my articles, on other topics, have been published in magazines, and even one new O'Reilly book)

This guide was originally designed for full QWERTY thumb keyboards; like BlackBerry 72XX series, rather than SureType on the 71XX series.

It will take approximately 1 month for most experienced desktop touchtypists to fully learn thumb touch typing. Some people manage to double their BlackBerry speed once they get familiar with blindly correcting typos, etc.

Advantages of Thumb Touch-Typing.
  • Thumb type faster.
  • You can look at the screen instead of the keyboard while typing.
  • You can transcribe from hardcopy to BlackBerry faster.
  • Become faster at correcting typos.
  • People are impressed that you can type on your BlackBerry without looking at the thumb keyboard.
  • Easily exceed 40 words per minute.
  • A few people actually manage to thumb type as fast on BlackBerry as PC
  • Some thumbtypists manage to exceed 70 WPM on BlackBerry. In the Dom Perignon III PDA speed-entry contest by Fitaly, a thumb touchtypist achieved 84 words per minute on a lower-quality TREO keyboard (old bigger size monochrome TREO, not the smaller TREO 600 which is even harder to thumb touch type on) -- and it's easier to thumb type faster on a BlackBerry.
Thumb Touch Typing Learning Sequence
  1. Be Able To Touchtype on Desktop PC first
    First, you need to already be a touchtypist on the desktop PC keyboard. This makes it much easier to learn to thumb touch type on a handheld keyboard such as BlackBerry. A good place to practice and benchmark yourself is at TypingTest.com which can also tell you how many WPM you are on the PC keyboard.
    .
  2. Get familiar with the BlackBerry first
    You need to be familiar with the BlackBerry even if you have to peek-and-poke. Become comfortable with it at first. Get familiar with sending and receiving emails on the BlackBerry.
    .
  3. Memorize using backspace blindly
    Always remember the backspace key is the rightmost key of the second row. It's easy to feel for the key. Try correcting your mistakes without staring at the backspace key anymore. Keep peek-and-poking, but never look at the backspace key again.
    .
  4. Next, memorize using spacebar blindly
    Always remember the spacebar is the bottommost middle key. Very easy to feel for the key. Stop staring at the spacebar anymore when you press it. Practice doing emails without ever looking at the spacebar and backspace key again. You will make many typos, but you've now already memorized the location of the backspace key; you can correct the error without staring at the backspace key.
    .
  5. Finally, using Enter blindly
    Always remember the Enter key is the rightmost key of the third row.. It's easy to feel for the key. Try correcting your mistakes without staring at the backspace key anymore. Keep peek-and-poking, but never look at the backspace key again.
    .
  6. Memorize how to quickly correct accidental presses of SYM key
    You will often make the mistake of hitting the SYM key often, when practicing to thumb touchtype. If you hit the SYM key and you get a popup menu of punctuation marks, simply hit backspace to clear this screen. You're simply backspacing an accidental SYM keypress. You can also clear an accidental SYM keypress by hitting SYM again or the Esc buton, however, it is strongly recommended to be consistent: Automatically press the backspace key everytime you feel you hit a wrong key (including the SYM key). Before long, you will be automatically hitting the backspace key anytime you press the wrong key, including the SYM key before you notice the SYM menu pop up.
    .
  7. Memorize the two main home row keys. It is always the "F" and "J" keys.
    Ever noticed why most PC keyboards have little bumps on the "F" and "J" keys? They help in locating your fingers on the home keys. It also happens that those are the most important locations to put your thumbs on for proper thumb touch typing position. Try blindly putting your left thumb on the "F" key and the right thumb on the "J" key without looking. Then look at the keyboard to see if you accurately put the thumbs on their correct locations. Repeat this step until successful at accurately putting the thumbs on the "F" and "J" keys.
    .
  8. Practice.
    Repeat steps #3, #4, #5, #6, #7 again. You probably forgot at least one step (Everybody does, anyway, don't worry). Depending on how easy the steps are, you may need to practice for a few days before proceeding to the steps below. Some people only take 1 day to get to this step.
    .
  9. Home row key touch typing
    This is one of the most difficult steps for new thumb touch typists so take this step slowly. First of all, start to compose an email to yourself. It is okay to look at the keyboard until your cursor is already in the blank body of email message, waiting for you to type the message body. At that instant, immediately stop staring at the keyboard. Practice some simple typing tests that involves only the home row, as follows without looking at the keyboard. REMEMBER, if you make a typo, you already memorized the location of the backspace key. Practice this email message without ever looking at the thumb keyboard:
    Quote:
    glad glad glad glad glad glad
    flag flag flag flag flag flag flag
    salad salad salad salad salad
    half half half half half half half
    jags jags jags jags jags jags jags
    flak flak flak flak flak flak flak
    Your typing will be much slower initially. You will make lots of typos. Don't look at the keyboard if you make a typo; you can just use the backspace key blindly like you already learned. You'll soon naturally remember that if you accidentally typed an adjacent key, hit the backspace key immediately, and then try aiming for the key again. If you have difficulty, try moving your thumbs back to their home positions (F+J) and trying to aim for the letter again. You can keep repeating one of the above words over and over until you're thumbtouchtyping the word, then you can move on to the next word. Do not worry, just keep practicing every day in the week. Keep repeating a few times per day until you're comfortable typing home row text. (Note: I actually skipped this step myself when practicing, some people prefer to go directly to the next step, but it's more frustrating if you skip the homerow practice step)
    .
  10. Sequential keypress typing exercise
    As always, just like a desktop keyboard, you can:
    Remember that first row of key is QWERTYUIOP
    Remember that second row of keys is ASDFGHJKL
    Remember that third row is ZXCVBNM
    Blindly type this email message to yourself without looking at the keyboard at all:
    Quote:
    qwertyuiop
    asdfghjkl
    zxcvbnm
    This is fairly easy since this is just keypresses from the left to the right. But remember: left thumb for left half, right thumb for right half. But you will accidentally hit other keys when you try to do this for the first time. So keep practicing the above email message until you you stopped accidentally hitting ALT(moon), shift, CAP, Enter, SYM, or DEL/backspace. Don't forget you've already memorized the backspace key, so make sure not to look at the keyboard when correcting mistakes. Another purpose of this exercise is to memorize the locations of the beginning and end of each row of keys, so you don't accidentally hit the "SYM" key instead of "M" and you don't accidentally hit the ALT(moon) key instead of "Z". A good practice email is also:
    Quote:
    palmz palmz palmz palmz
    palmz palmz palmz palmz
    You will notice this is a frustrating exercise, because you will accidentially hit adjacent keys, but this is a useful exercise to avoid hitting nearby non-letter keys.
    .
  11. Common letters typing exercise
    Now, compose yourself an email message (WITH NO PUNCTUATION) and resist staring at the keyboard. As before, you already remember the location of the backspace key without needing to stare at the keyboard. If you pressed the wrong key, correct without looking. At first, you can blindly aim for the general location of the key, so if you accidentally hit "E" when trying to hit "W", you know the aim your thumb a little bit more to the side on the next thumb touch type attempt of that key. Do about 1 practice exercise per day, such waiting on the bus/train. It will take at least a week to complete the below. Now practice this email on the 1st day
    Quote:
    hello hello hello hello hello
    this this this this this
    is is is is is is is is
    a a a a a a a a a
    test test test test test
    2nd day practice
    Quote:
    hello this is a test
    hello this is a test
    hello this is a test
    hello this is a test
    3rd day practice:
    Quote:
    hello how are you doing
    hello how are you doing
    hello how are you doing
    i am fine thank you
    i am fine thank you
    i am fine thank you
    4th day practice:
    Quote:
    brunch is early for lunch and late for breakfast
    brunch is early for lunch and late for breakfast
    brunch is early for lunch and late for breakfast
    brunch is early for lunch and late for breakfast
    5th day practice: Do some random sentence practice of common words. Read the advertisements or an email or a document nearby and repeat one sentence from it, over and over.
    .
  12. All-letters sentence touch typing exercise
    Finally, compose yourself an email message (WITH NO PUNCTUATION) and resist staring at the keyboard. Blindly correct your own errors, as always:
    Quote:
    the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
    the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
    the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
    the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
    the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
    the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
    the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
    Depending on how you mastered earlier steps, this may be an extremely frustrating practice at first because you're now using all 26 letters at once with this sentence. You can backtrack to previous steps, or move on, when you feel you are comfortable with the majority of normal text.
    .
  13. Automatic Periods and Capitals
    Remember you can press the spacebar two times for a period . and that you can hold down a letter key to get an UPPERCASE CAPITAL letter for that key. Some people like me, prefer to memorize the location of the SHIFT keys on the both sides of the SPACE key in order to do capitals, to skip the need to hold down a key. I strongly recommend memorizing the SHIFT keys and typing capitals that way. Pratice this email message:
    Quote:
    Hello. How Are You Doing.
    Hello. How Are You Doing.
    Hello. How Are You Doing.
    I Am Fine. Thank You.
    I Am Fine. Thank You.
    I Am Fine. Thank You.
    Don't worry about grammar for now; the question marks and exclamation marks are for later in the next step, not this one. Now, if you want to practice using the shift key, repeat the above exercise, but this time try to make the opposite thumb hold the SHIFT key nearest its position, basically using the left SHIFT key everytime the right thumb types on the right half. And using the right SHIFT key everytime the left thumb types on the left half.
    .
  14. Simple Punctuation - Memorize using ALT(moon) blindly
    You need the ALT key to type punctuation and numbers. The ALT key is always the leftmost key on the third row, to the left of "Z". Remember, four most common punctuation keys are all in one sequence of 4 keys in the third row of keys.
    Remember that the ? question key is diagonally down-right from "F" thumb home position (ALT+V).
    Remember that the ! exclamation key is diagonally down-left from "J" thumb home position (ALT+B).
    Remember that the , comma key is directly below "J" thumb home position (ALT+N).
    Remember that the . period key is diagonally down-right from "J" thumb home position (ALT+M).
    Now, practice touch typing this email message without looking at the keyboard:
    Quote:
    Hello, how are you?
    I am fine! Thank you.
    Hello, how are you?
    I am fine! Thank you.
  15. Typing Email and Web Addresses Blindly
    Remember that the / slash key is to the right of "F" thumb home position (ALT+G).
    Remember that the : colon key is to the left of "J" thumb home position (ALT+H).
    Remember that the @ at sign key is the rightmost key on the first row of keys (ALT+P) - 8700 Series.
    Note: On older BlackBerry models such as 7XXX Series, the @ at sign key is to the right of backspace key (ALT+L).
    Now, practice touch typing this email message without looking at the keyboard:
    Code:
    http://www.microsoft.com
    http://www.mozilla.org
    http://www.blackberry.com
    hello@hotmail.com
    bye@yahoo.com
    test@gmail.com
  16. Typing Other Punctuation
    Some BlackBerry touchtypists ignore learning this. If you wish, skip this step if you don't type these characters often. A quick cursory glance at the keyboard is enough for now, for a few weeks until everything else is second nature.
    Remember that the ' apostrophe is to the right of "J" thumb home position (ALT+K) - 8700 Series.
    Remember that the " quote key is two keys to the right of "J" thumb home position (ALT+L) - 8700 Series.
    On older BlackBerry models such as 7XXX Series, the ' apostrophe key is the "J" thumb home position (ALT+J) and the " quote key is to the right of "J" thumb home position (ALT+K).
    Now, practice touch typing this email message without looking at the keyboard:
    Quote:
    Hello, "robomaid" help's on the way!
    Hello, "robomaid" help's on the way!
    Hello, "robomaid" help's on the way!
    Hello, "robomaid" help's on the way!
  17. Typing Numbers: Numeric Home Position
    Some of you already know how to touchtype on a phone keypad, dialing a phone number on cordless phones, cellphones, and other phones. Others need to practice this. Doing numbers on a BlackBerry is the same, except your left thumb is holding down the ALT key. Your right thumb is now temporarily on the number "5" key home position.
    The numeric home position for left thumb is ALT (moon)
    The numeric home position for right thumb is 5 (same as letter "D").
    Keep practicing blindly putting your left thumb on ALT, and your right thumb on the number 5 key. Look at the keyboard to see that you've successfully moved your thumb to the numeric home position. On the 8700 series, there is a bump on the number 5 key, so finding the bump may be done by feel, but aim for the 3rd key from the left in the 2nd row of keys so you don't lose too much time hunting blindly for this key.
    .
  18. Typing Numbers
    Blind-dialing numbers is second nature to many people, others need to practice blind dialing.
    Remember 123 row is first row, above thumb home position row.
    Remember 456 row is second row, same as thumb home position row.
    Remember 789 row is third row, below thumb home position row.
    Remember 0 key is the same as the left shift key (to left of space bar)
    Practice this email message
    Quote:
    Please call my office 800 555 1212 or call home 401 867 5309
    Please call my office 800 555 1212 or call home 401 867 5309
    Please call my office 800 555 1212 or call home 401 867 5309
    Please call my office 800 555 1212 or call home 401 867 5309
    You can substitute your own phone numbers, if you prefer.
How To Test your BlackBerry Typing Speed
  1. As of September 2006, there is still no typing benchmark program for BlackBerry (Please contact me if one has now been made), so a more time-consuming series of steps are required.
  2. Find a stopwatch or get somebody to time you. Or you can use a clock, or you can use a web page based JavaScript stopwatch (google "JavaScript stopwatch").
  3. Choose a paragraph from a book based source. I highly recommend a popular Huckleberry Finn typing test:
    Quote:
    You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Pollyxxx8212;Tom's Aunt Polly, she isxxx8212;and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.
  4. Go into email compose mode. Compose an email message to your desktop email address. Make sure the email body is blank and the cursor is in the email body.
  5. Start timing yourself as you start typing for at least 60 seconds nonstop, as fast as you can. You can stop typing after about one minute, or keep typing past one minute, as long as you record the exact number of seconds that you've typed.
  6. Transmit the email to your desktop email address.
  7. Windows Desktop: Now we need to copy and paste the text to count the number of keypresses. When the email arrives on your desktop, select the text that you typed on BlackBerry (From the first word to the last word that you typed; ignoring email headers and signatures) and select Edit->Copy
  8. Windows Desktop: Launch Windows Notepad
    (Start Menu -> Programs -> Accessories -> Notepad)
  9. Windows Desktop: In Notepad, select Edit->Paste to paste the text you originally typed on your BlackBerry (but don't add anything else, not even blank lines at top or bottom)
  10. Windows Desktop: Save the Notepad file to your Windows Desktop
  11. Windows Desktop: Right click the resulting Notepad file and select "Properties", click General tab on the window that pops up. The figure in "size" (not size on disk) is the number of bytes the text file is. This is the number of keypresses you made.
  12. Windows Desktop: Run Calculator
    (Start Menu -> Program -> Accessories -> Calculator)
    Type in the number of keypresses
    Divide by number of seconds it took to type
    Multiply by 12
    (Note: The number 12 comes from 60 seconds divided by 5 keypresses per word)
  13. The resulting number is the number of Words Per Minute (WPM) you can thumb type on your BlackBerry.
  14. When publishing your typing results, it is best to quote the exact text you typed by copying and pasting the text you typed, into a post, if possible. This will reveal all typos, grammar errors, all-lowercase versus all-capitals, etc. You can even post two results: do a fast raw no-capitals no-punctuation test, and you do a slower 100% character-for-character test.
Other Notes Of Consideration
  • Some people stop learning past around steps #14 or #15 and instead stare at the keyboard for more complicated keypresses
  • For the hard core thumb touch typist, you can memorize certain keypresses to type less common characters. SYM+Z does a dollar sign, and SYM+L does an ampersand, and SYM+P does a percent sign
  • In between exercises, you can keep doing your regular emails and keep practicing your partial thumb touch typing skills while you write your emails. This will give you a break from the monotony of practice lessons.
  • In some rare situations, some people have learned to thumb touch type without ever having learned how to properly touch type on a PC keyboard. This unusual situation sometimes means that they type as fast on a BlackBerry as a PC keyboard, and sometimes faster than on a PC keyboard because of less movement than peek-and-poking on a full size keyboard.
  • This Thumb Touch Typist guide can be adapted for TREO, Hiptop, Sidekick, Nokia 6800, BlackBerry 7100v, and other thumb keyboards. As of September 2004, BlackBerry thumb keyboards still remain the gold standard for thumb-touch-typeability.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please contact me if anybody here desires quoting or modifying any of this text; so please either send me a PM and contact me through my website at Mark Rejhon - aka Marky - Home Page of Mark D. Rejhon ;

WARNING! Some experts think that the use of any keyboard at all can cause serious injuries. It is your responsibility to take care not to overdo BlackBerry typing, in order to reduce risk of repetitive-strain injury. Make sure you have many breaks in your thumb typing. If you experience any discomfort or pain, stop typing immediately.

Quote:
This is a "Mark Rejhon BlackBerry FAQ" article.
Copyright (C) 2005 by Mark Rejhon, All Rights Reserved. Some portions may be Copyright (C) by respective forum members.
Mark Rejhon grants permission to use this article only for private use. For all other uses, please ask Mark Rejhon at Mark Rejhon - aka Marky - Home Page of Mark D. Rejhon to ask for permission to use this article. If any content of this article also contains content by other forum members, please ask them for permission too as well. This includes commercial use, public use, reposting in full/part anywhere on the Internet, publication in magazine/book or any other media, or any other use than private use. This copyright notice may not be edited or removed in any manner. Mark Rejhon reserves exclusive right to edit, remove, or restore this article, and this article may not be edited, removed, or restored by any other individual or organizations.
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Mark Rejhon
Author of XMPP extension XEP-0301:
www.xmpp.org/extensions/xep-0301.html - specification
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Last edited by Mark Rejhon : 09-03-2006 at 04:25 PM.
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