When you’re learning to touch-type, the letters printed on your keycaps are kind of like the training wheels. Real proficiency in touch-typing means that you don’t have to look at the letter, because you rely on muscle memory to find the keys.
If you want to dramatically improve your typing skills, it may be time to remove those training wheels and use blank keycaps.
Why Use Blank Keycaps?
First, if you’re typing correctly, those letters don’t really mean anything. You won’t be looking at your keyboard anyway.
Typing without looking at the keys greatly improves your speed and accuracy. Letters on keys make it easy to peek. Removing the lettering removes the temptation and makes you really learn where the keys are.
Even if you’re a skilled touch-typist, it can be tempting to look for those keys you don’t use often. When you don’t have the temptation to look, you eliminate time wasted hunting for keys and dramatically improve your WPM and your productivity.
Blank keys also improve your skill as a gamer by eliminating the time wasted to think about which commands your keys correspond to. This technique will really help to learn your game controls and improves your overall gaming skill.
Plus, let’s not forget that blank keycaps make your keyboard look really cool, and using them efficiently makes you look like a real badass. Nothing says professional like being too skilled to have letters on your keys.
How to Transition
It may be more efficient to start using blank keycaps right away. Self-titled learning expert Josh Kaufman suggests in his book about efficient learning techniques, The First 20 Hours, that learning to type without looking from the start is the quickest way to learn touch-typing.
He even mentions that he ordered a Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate, which comes with blank keys, as a tool that helped him break himself of his habit of looking at keys as he learned to touch-type.
Of course, there are options if you aren’t quite ready to fully commit to blank keycaps while you learn.
If you’re purchasing a new keyboard that’s already blank, you can buy stickers that have letters printed on them and apply them to tricky keys until you learn them.
A cheap, easy trick for a totally blank keyboard is to print a diagram of your keyboard layout and place it under your keyboard. Unlike stickers, it won’t be quickly accessible when you’re typing, you probably won’t reference it unless you’re really stuck and can’t find a character.
If you aren’t investing in blank keycaps yet, another option is to buy a thin opaque cover called a keyboard skin that is made specifically to help you learn touch-typing faster without looking. It sits over your keyboard and coves the letters so you can’t peek when you’re working, and you can remove it when you’re done practicing.
If you’re planning to replace your existing printed keycaps with blank ones in the future, you could go ahead and buy a blank set of keycaps and replace keys as you learn them. That way you can still peek on those tricky keys and slowly make the transition.
And then of course, you don’t have to use blank keycaps if you like your keyboard the way it is, but come on, who doesn’t want a really cool looking keyboard and amazing typing skills?
Do you use blank keycaps? Have they improved your typing speed?