Chapter 2. Extending Typewriting Trainer

Creating courses

You can easily create your own training course using the built-in Typewriting Trainer course and keyboard layout editor. Press button at the right of the home screen toolbar then choose Course and Keyboard Layout Editor.... You can choose open a course file or create an empty course from scratch or using an existing course as a template.

Important

You cannot edit the built-in courses, even if you have the write access to the installation directory.


Course and Keyboard Layout Editor main window

Course properties

The course properties can be chosen using Typewriting Trainer course creation wizard. To invoke this wizard you should press button in the toolbar of Course and Keyboard Layout Editor window.

The first page of creation Typewriting Trainer wizard allows you to choose the type of the data. Select Course and press Next.


Choosing the type

The second page of wizard allows you to choose the title, the keyboard layout and the description of the course.


New course wizard second page

The course title is important for the quick-select menu entry in the course list and for the statistics.

The description should be used to include information about the lesson author and source of lesson data if any. This description can be shown by pressing button in the home screen of Typewriting Trainer.

When you finished with entering appropriate values press Next.


New course wizard third page

Using the third page of wizard you can choose an other course as a template for your course. Select the course from the list and press Finish.


New course editing window

Typewriting Trainer will open the course editor window prepared to entering your course data.

Adding lessons

A course is an ordered set of lessons. To be efficient for learning touch typing the content of the course should meet a few requirements.

Choose a meaningful name for the lesson

For each level you can specify the new characters/keys in the lesson. It is worth to include the new characters in the lesson title. Click on a name label in the Lessons list and enter some meaningful name.

Rationale

The text you enter as a lesson title will be shown as lesson information text in the home screen course list. It will be much easier for user to choose the lesson if it has a meaningful title.

The first lesson should cover the home keys

Usually a keyboard has two haptic markers for the keys on the second row belonging to the index fingers. These two keys and the three adjacent keys outwards are the home keys. That's asdfjkl; for the US keyboard layout.

Rationale

Those eight keys are the start position of each finger. One must internalize the location of these keys first to successfully learn touch typing.

Introduce two new keys per lesson

The unlocking order of keys is not fixed, but usually keys are introduced in pairs belonging to the same finger on both hands. Make your way from the home keys to the ones further away. Thus, the forth row should be introduced at last. Prefer keys for important characters of your language, this may require to bend the introduction pattern a bit. For example in French accents are really important, this warrants a lesson early-on focusing on the accent key alone.

Rationale

If more keys are introduced the trainee might get overwhelmed by the difficulty of the lesson and loose his motivation. Introduce keys for important keys first to able to form real words earlier.

Extra emphasis on the new keys

Make sure the characters belonging to the newly introduced keys are the most or at least very frequently used characters in the lesson text.

Rationale

If the trainee passes a lesson he should have mastered the new keys. This is only possible if the lesson contains a significant amount of the new characters.

Intersperse lessons with new keys with repetition lessons

Every two to three lessons add a repetition lesson without any new keys. These should have an even character mix covering all already introduced characters.

Rationale

Such lessons help to strengthen the acquired skills and provide a way to check the overall training level. They are also better suited for repeated training to further improve one's general typing skills.

Dedicated lessons for capitalization

There should be several lessons focusing sorely on capitalization. Ideally capitalization is introduced in multiple steps: At first only the left Shift key, then the right, then both and followed by one or more repetition lessons.

Rationale

Mastering capitalization is the most difficult part of learning touch typing. Therefore extra effort must be spend on these lessons.

Cover the complete keyboard layout

This includes characters and symbols accessible via other modifiers than Shift. Ideally every character, number and symbol which is printed on a real keyboard should be covered.

Rationale

The more complete a course is the more the trainee can learn from it. It also keeps the course interesting for already advanced typists.

Use button to add new lesson to the course, button to remove selected lesson from your course and / buttons to rearrange the lessons in the course.

Important

Delete lessons only with caution. Doing so may reset the unlocking progress of the users of the course. If you are planning to revise a course thoroughly it is usually better to use the existing course as a base for a new one.

The content of the lesson can be edited using bottom right edit field. You can copy snippets of the text from your favorite text editor and paste them to this field.

Use the button to open a generic text file that will be loaded into the lesson text field.

The button can be used to wrap the lesson text. Typewriting Trainer editor wraps text such that every line of the lesson does not exceed the recommended 60 characters limit.

Let's assume you want to add a new lesson. There are a few guidelines you may want to consider:

Give lessons a descriptive title

Name the new characters if there are any or otherwise state what the lesson is about.

Rationale

Good titles make it easier to find the right course if one wants to train on something specific.

The lesson text should be composed out of real words and sentences

Optimally a lesson forms a comprehensible contiguous text on a freely chosen subject.

Rationale

Training with real words and sentences is more effective than with arbitrary random character combinations since that is closer to real typing. And it is more fun.

Avoid non-word character combinations

This may impossible in the very first lessons where only a few characters are available, but as soon as possible only real words should be used. Never use misspelled words.

Rationale

Random character combinations are hard to type and are seldom found in day-to-day typing. Misspelled words on the other hand are confusing and have even a negative learning value, since the trainee may memorize the wrong spelling.

Lesson text should be roughly 600 characters long

They may be longer, up to 1200 characters is okay, but shorter lessons should be avoided. This is especially true for repetition lessons.

Rationale

Keeping within this range ensures that a untrained typist (~120 characters per minute) can finish a lesson in five to ten minutes. Longer lessons get frustrating, shorter ones are ineffective.

Quality checks in the lesson text editor


Quality check in the course editing window

Above is a screenshot of the course editor with one of a problematic lesson loaded showing one of the built-in quality-assurance checks: if a lesson contains characters not available in that lesson, because they are not among the configured new characters of this lesson or any previous one, they are highlighted in red. There is also a check for too long lines resulting in a muted color for the characters behind the allowed column.

On the left side there is a list over all data files Typewriting Trainer knows about, built-in and user-created alike. If the user selects a built-in resource the editor will degrade to a simple viewer, though. If the user selects a keyboard layout the program will adapt appropriately.