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The fastest typists use a unique skill among video game professionals, according to recent research.
It is a technique that anyone can learn, but can it make you more productive?
A group of researchers from the Finnish University of Aalto and the University of Cambridge, England, analyzed the typing habits of 168,000 people in an online test, and found that the fastest typists use a method in which the next key is pressed before the finger releases the previous key.
The so-called gamers or professional video game players, developed this style to perform more actions per second.
In many games, players use the left hand to control their character with keys grouped on the keyboard, while with the right hand they use a mouse.
For example, you can press the “W” with the left hand to advance your character, or “Shift + W” to run forward, or “Shift + W + Ctrl” to fire a weapon while running forward.
The keyboard must recognize these actions correctly, that is, the fact that you are pressing all these keys at the same time but releasing them in a different order .
“Overlapping typing provides a performance benefit and allows you to perform more actions per second, you do not have to wait until the previous key is released to press the next one,” says Anna Feit, a PhD student at the University of Aalto who he worked in the investigation.
Often, gamers leave the left hand more static and the right hand covers more space on the keyboard, says Antti Oulasvirta, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Aalto University and one of the study’s researchers.
Do you have to be a “gamer”?
Oulasvirta points out that this technique (called in English rollover typing ) is something that is acquired automatically, instead of being learned . And there’s a chance you’ll use it when you type something you’re familiar with, like your name or password.
While 70% of the study participants had previously taken typing classes, Oulasvirta says that anyone who typs a lot can develop their own method . That’s how the gamers came up with their technique.
The study suggests that you should always type the same character with the same finger.
But award-winning professional typist Sean Wrona disagrees. “This varies depending on the context of the word.”
Wrona says he could type 108 words per minute when he was just 10 years old. “Ideally, you would have to press each key with the finger closest to each key.”
A valuable skill
Speech dictation will overtake typing as the main search method in 2022, due to advances in speech recognition technology, says Ben Wood, technology expert at the market analysis firm CSS Insights.
But Wood predicts that typing will remain the dominant method for a long time and argues that it is not sufficiently valued as a skill.
Sean Wrona agrees that typing is a valuable skill, but only up to a point.
“There are not many people who can have coherent and thoughtful ideas faster than they can type them.
“So it probably adds value to improve the average of 30 to 40 words per minute to 60-80 in the same time, which is perhaps the speed needed to be in sync with the thoughts.”
Does it make you more productive?
Productivity specialist Chris Beaumont argues that typing quickly is not as crucial when compared to other skills.
“Improving your typing skills may be useful but it’s just a small piece of the productivity puzzle, ” he says.
“If you need to answer 100 emails every day and you’re typing using only two fingers, then it might benefit you to learn with a typist coach.”
“But we do not spend all day, every day, answering emails or writing reports, there’s the budget meeting, a presentation to prepare for an important client, coordinate the logistics of a shipment that has to leave in the morning.”
“The cognitive aspects of a productivity management system are going to make the biggest difference, not the mechanics of typing,” says Beaumont.