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Colemak is a popular alternative to the QWERTY keyboard layout. Why even consider switching?

The QWERTY layout was designed in the 19th century to allow typewriter salesmen to easily type the word “typewriter” and to prevent typebars from sticking. We’ve been stuck with QWERTY ever since.

Colemak is a modern alternative to the QWERTY and Dvorak layouts. It is designed for efficient and ergonomic touch typing in English.

Not convinced? Again, straight from the website:

  • Ergonomic and comfortable – Your fingers on QWERTY move 2.2x more than on Colemak. QWERTY has 16x more same hand row jumping than Colemak. There are 35x more words you can type using only the home row on Colemak.
  • Easy to learn – Allows easy transition from QWERTY. Only 2 keys move between hands. Many common shortcuts (including Ctrl+Z/X/C/V) remain the same. Typing lessons available.
  • Fast – Most of the typing is done on the strongest and fastest fingers. Low same-finger ratio.
  • Multilingual – Allows to type in over 40 languages and to type various symbols, e.g. “pâté”, “mañana”, €, em-dash, non-breaking space.
  • Free – Free software released under the public domain. You don’t have to buy a new keyboard, just install a program.

It’s easy to start learning to touch-type in Colemak. I recommend a program called KTouch.

sudo apt-get install ktouch

Once installed, run the program and select Settings > Keyboard Layouts > English Colemak. Then, go to Training > Default Lectures > Colemak (auto-generated). Finally. type along with the on-screen text, and begin to learn to type in Colemak.

The Colemak website has some helpful tips for learning.

Once you feel ready to remove the training wheels and use Colemak as your system layout, Ubuntu makes it easy. Just run the following code in the terminal:

setxkbmap us -variant colemak

To revert, enter:

setxkbmap us -variant