Touch Screen Typing Catches Up

Many writers now find that they type on touch screens nearly as fast as they type on a traditional computer keyboard.

In the early years of the iPhone, I remember trying to persuade a professional writer that she would not want to try to write her book on her new touch screen. It is still true that a person doing volumes of writing has a reason to prefer the physical keyboard.

For casual writers, though, writing short messages of the type usually seen online, the typing speed on a touch screen may be about as fast as the speed of a regular user of a computer keyboard.

Skilled typists can enter 100 words per minute on a keyboard, and the touch screen is not that fast. However, some writers can reach 80 words per minute on a touch screen, and the average for two-finger touch screen typists in a recent study was near 40 words per minute, which for many casual computer users is as fast as they type on a physical keyboard.

I have tried many different approaches when typing on a touch screen. I may type with one thumb or finger, or two, or two on each hand. The four-fingered approach was the way I wrote most of a novel on an iPad mini three years ago. It worked well enough, but there is a cautionary note in that experience. I switched from two fingers to four not for speed, but because tapping the screen so many times with just two fingers led to detectable bruises on the fingertips. Remembering what that felt like, though I continue to do serious writing on a touch screen when I am in transit, I prefer a computer with a keyboard for long stretches of writing.

There is no doubt that touch screen typing speeds have improved in part because of familiarity and practice. Many of us have done most of our lifetime writing on a touch screen, so it is no surprise if we are more practiced at it than the physical keyboard or the pen and paper.

Can you type with ten fingers on a large touch screen, as if you were typing on a keyboard? I have done this myself and seen others do it, but there is no question that this is slower and more uncertain than when typing on a keyboard with good tactile response.

We collectively spend a lot of time writing on a touch screen, so software engineers are sure to keep working on ways to make touch screen typing a faster and more reliable process.

Fish Nation Information Station | Rick Aster’s World | Rick Aster