Learn to Type

Home & Family, Technology
on September 18, 2005

The over-50 crowd is going online in record numbers, but some computer neophytes are still hesitant to jump onto the Internet. For many, it’s not fear of technology that holds them back, but a lack of basic typing skills.

“Computers can be intimidating if you’re not used to them,” says Sandy Berger, a computer expert who hosts AARP’s computers and technology website, which includes a guide to the computer keyboard at www.aarp.org/learntech/computers/howto/. “The fact that you don’t type can exacerbate that because you feel even more intimidated.”

But if you can tap out a web address, you can learn to type online, in many cases without paying a cent. Some of the best typing tutorials come from companies that sell their own typing software and offer a taste of their products for free.

A great example can be found at www.typingpal.com, the website of a Canadian company that sells the typing software Typing Pal 5.0. Visitors can take a fast typing test, learn finger positions and practice letter drills. At the end of each exercise, which is illustrated with simple animation, the computer calculates your typing speed and error rate and decides whether you’re ready to progress to the next level. The software also offers a handy, easy-to-follow tutorial on ergonomics.

Another popular site is www.learn2type.com. The website provides free information on repetitive stress injuries and basic hand placement and also explains some of the function keys that may be unfamiliar to new keyboarders, such as the Windows key.

For a simple refresher course with a little comic relief, try www.nailitnow.com.au. The Australian typing tutorial offers free advice on finger placement and letter drills, plus memory devices laden with down-under lingo.

The key to the success of any typing tutorial, Berger says, is to make a commitment to practicing. And if you’re still typing with two fingers at the end, don’t worry. Computer makers are working hard to perfect machines that will recognize your voice or your handwriting, bypassing the keyboard altogether.

“With something like that,” Berger says, laughing, “you don’t really need to learn how to type at all.”