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What Is the Colemak Keyboard Layout? Full Guide for 2024
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What Is the Colemak Keyboard Layout? Full Guide for 2024

|May 20, 2024

We’ve always used and seen the same keyword layout since we were kids. It’s the one people use for all personal computers and laptops, so it’s normal for most people to think it’s the only one. However, that’s because they don’t know the Colemak keyboard layout.

Being the most popular doesn’t make the QWERTY keyboard layout the best option. There are many others available, and each has specific variations to adapt them to different needs.

Although it’s not the second most popular option online, the Colemak keyboard layout is excellent for people trying to feel more comfortable while typing. What is the Colemak keyboard? You will find all the answers on this page.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about this EN-US keyboard layout. There are similar blog posts about ergonomics and office work on our website, so check it out if you like this one!

What Is the Colemak Layout?

When people talk about a keyboard layout, they don’t refer to the type of keyboard you buy but the order of the keys you use to type. Most keyboards come with the QWERTY layout as the default, but you can digitally change the one you use on your computer.

The Colemak layout is an alternative option to the traditional QWERTY model made for English speakers to type more comfortably. As you read, it focuses on English typing, which means its keys are strategically placed to make typing in this language easier.

How does this keyboard layout do this? Easy, it placed the most common letters used in the English language in the home row of the design. Those letters are A, R, S, T, D, H, N, E, I, O. That way, you can easily type most words without getting your fingers out of the middle row.

Apart from those things, the Caps key is replaced with another backspace key. Ergonomically-wise, that makes it more comfortable for people to type faster without taking their pinky to the other side of the keyboard.

What Is the Colemak Layout?

How Long Does It Take to Learn Colemak?

It’s difficult to measure how long to learn Colemak layouts since it mostly depends on how much time you put into it. You could take from three weeks to a couple of months, so it truly depends on how much you practice.

The main advantage Colemak has against other keyboard layouts is that, apart from a few keys, it’s similar to the QWERTY setup. Its developers made it like that on purpose to make it easier for people to switch from one to the other without taking too long.

If you are wondering how to learn Colemak, that’s another story. There are many methods, but you mainly have to switch to it and start practicing. Some people take daily practice lessons while others switch to the new layout overnight. Choose what works better for you.

PC gamers could try to play their favorite games with this new layout to practice. Gaming accessories such as wrist rests can make this experience even more comfortable.

The same happens with remote workers, but we recommend you practice a bit before working with a new layout. You don’t want to make any mistakes due to not being used to the Colemak setup.

If you are optimizing how comfortable you feel when you type, you should also practice the right keyboard hand placement to boost ergonomics. Try to buy other office accessories that make this process more enjoyable and comfortable, too.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Colemak?

Is Colemak Better Than QWERTY?

If you are an English-speaking writer, yes. Colemak is way better than QWERTY. The way its designers placed the layout’s keys makes it way more comfortable for people to write without suffering wrist pain over time.

As mentioned before, being the most popular doesn’t mean being the best. Although not many people know it, the QWERTY layout wasn’t made for keyboards but for typing machines.

Layout developers deliberately placed the most common letters in the English language far from each other because typing machines used to jam a lot when you pressed keys close to each other quickly. That is the main difference between the two layouts; one was designed to protect the machine and the other to optimize comfort.

You can tell that the Colemak keyboard layout was made for writers when you master using it. People can easily go through long work routines without suffering any pain and feel way more comfortable while doing it.

The only problem with this EN-US keyboard layout is that it was made for English speakers. Hence, it won’t offer the same benefits for people typing in other languages.

Is Colemak Better Than QWERTY?

Is Colemak Faster Than QWERTY?

Using the Colemak keyboard layout doesn’t directly make you type faster. Your typing speed depends on how much you practice and how familiar you are with the layout. However, it’s not like using this new setup will make you a better typer.

You can be as fast with a QWERTY keyboard as you are with a Colemak one. Regardless of that, using the latter could indirectly make you type a bit faster.

Since the main idea of this layout is to make you feel more comfortable, you will naturally type faster if you feel physically better while doing it. This is not because the placement of the keys makes it a faster layout but due to how comfortable it makes you feel when you use it.

However, if you’ve been using a QWERTY keyboard layout all of your life, don’t expect to type as fast as you do with it on a Colemak system. Both use the same keyboard position and a relatively similar key placement, but you still need to get used to the new layout.

You need to be patient and understand you won’t master using this layout overnight. Just like you did with the classic layout, muscle memory will build after you use it for long.

Is Colemak Faster Than QWERTY?

Is Colemak More Ergonomic Than Other Keyboard Layouts?

The Colemak keyboard layout is more ergonomic than most options online. If we take the QWERTY example, it’s clear that Colemak offers more comfort. However, other options, such as Dvorak, are different.

Now, taking Dvorak as an example, you could say both options were made with comfort and ergonomics in mind. Hence, it truly depends on your preferences and what you need the keyboard for. Most people consider Colemak to be slightly better than Dvorak, though.

Why? Well, there are many reasons. Unlike other layouts, Colemak offers other features apart from just reducing finger movement. This layout’s placement promotes a more balanced hand alternation. That can help you avoid strain injuries.

You also get reduced finger stretching when you use this keyboard layout. This reduces the possibility of strain injuries and other musculoskeletal issues, too.

Although there are countless alternatives and variations available online, you could say that the Colemak layout is more ergonomic than most options. Regardless of that, even if its design is technically better, you still need to make sure it works for you.

Is Colemak More Ergonomic Than Other Keyboard Layouts?

Is Colemak Better Than Dvorak?

As mentioned before, most people say Colemak is slightly better than Dvorak, and we agree. Both options serve the same purpose: to make typing in English an easier and more comfortable experience for people. However, what makes Colemak better?

First, it’s way easier for QWERTY users to switch to Colemak than it is to do it to a Dvorak layout. Although the home row changes a lot, Colemak uses the same key placements for many common letters. You don’t need to relearn all of them.

One of the main problems of switching to another keyboard layout is that it’s difficult to keep using both once they master the other. If you, for example, learn how to type on a Dvorak keyboard, you may forget how to do it on a QWERTY one after a time.

Since they use similar key placements, Colemak users can switch back to QWERTY setups whenever they need to. Why will you want to go back to it if you feel more comfortable with Colemak? Well, it’s still the most popular layout worldwide and the one most people will have on their computers.

You should know how to type on it in case you need to use another person’s PC or laptop. It’s not like you will go through the process of setting the other person’s keyboard to work with a Colemak layout for 20 minutes.

Switching to Colemak is also easier in operating systems such as Mac, which made it one of its native keyboard layouts. The layout has an active user community eager to provide you with all the resources, support, and tools you need to adapt to it.

Although it is more popular than Colemak, switching to Dvorak is challenging. Learning how to type on this layout is difficult, too, due to how different it is from QWERTY systems. On top of all that, the difference between layouts makes Dvorak users prone to forget how to type on classic keyboards.

Is Colemak Better Than Dvorak?

Is It Worth Switching from Dvorak to Colemak?

If you are already a Dvorak user, you may not need to switch to Colemak unless you don’t feel comfortable with the layout you are using. Although it’s a better option, that doesn’t mean Dvorak is a poor keyboard setup. It still offers excellent benefits, and many people love it.

You can choose if you want to switch to another layout using your typing speed. If you type 100WPM or more, then it may not be worth it to switch to Colemak. That would mean you already feel comfortable and confident using your current keyboard.

However, if you still want to try a new option, do it. Switching from Dvorak to Colemak may be more difficult than making a QWERTY-Dvorak transition, though.

Is It Worth Switching from Dvorak to Colemak?

Does Colemak Increase Your Typing Speed?

Using this, or any other keyboard layout, won’t increase your typing speed. They may make you feel more comfortable while doing it, but key placements don’t inherently make you type faster. If you end up typing faster, it’s because your hands feel better while typing, which reduces strains and discomfort.

However, someone who feels highly comfortable writing on a QWERTY or Dvorak keyboard layout can type as fast or faster than someone with a Colemak one. Everything depends on how much you practice and how you do it.

Does Colemak Increase Your Typing Speed?

How Do I Switch to Colemak?

If you want to switch to Colemak, set up your computer to use that layout. You may have to do this manually, but the process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

Once you have the new layout on your computer, you can start by printing a picture of how the keyboard should look like. People often get confused because, regarding hardware, almost all layouts are QWERTY-based.

Following a picture when you take your first steps will definitely help. Some people start using a Tarmak layout first. This option is slightly different from the QWERTY, but not as much as the Colemak one, so it’s a good transition channel between the two.

There are many typing tests and games online. Some of them have Colemak practicing options. You could try them as part of your daily adaptation sessions. If you have a mechanical keyboard with removable keys, you should rearrange them to your new layout.

How Do I Switch to Colemak?

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits in switching to the Colemak keyboard layout if your job involves typing or anything similar. It takes discipline to master a new setup for your workstation, but you should be alright in a matter of weeks or a couple of months.

This doesn’t mean the classic QWERTY layout is bad. People still use it, which means it works. However, the Colemak option offers more benefits for people who type a lot throughout the day.

You can read similar blog posts to this one on the Autonomous website. This company also sells the best gaming desk accessories and office furniture on the market. Do you need a keyboard tray or an ergonomic chair for your house? Autonomous has it. Visit it now!

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