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I am a programmer and architect (the kind that writes code) with a focus on testing and open source; I maintain the PHPUnit_Selenium project. I believe programming is one of the hardest and most beautiful jobs in the world. Giorgio is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 635 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Is touch typing mandatory?

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Touch typing. Its Wikipedia definition is lapidary.

Touch typing is typing without using the sense of sight to find the keys. -- Wikipedia

Is touch typing a mandatory skill for programmers?

Jeff Atwood thinks so:

When you're a fast, efficient typist, you spend less time between thinking that thought and expressing it in code. Which means, if you're me at least, that you might actually get some of your ideas committed to screen before you completely lose your train of thought. Again. -- Jeff Atwood


I can't take slow typists seriously as programmers. When was the last time you saw a hunt-and-peck pianist? -- Jeff Atwood

But often, the typing speed is not the bottleneck:

Programming is more like composing music than performing music. Most composers can play piano well, but some cannot. -- John D. Cook

In fact, only when I am doing something I already know very well I find that my typing speed is limiting me. When exploring new ideas or concepts, or tuning some algorithm, I won't write more than some lines per minute.

Yet being able to quickly change and add code is one less barrier to efficient refactoring and modelling. If you had to pay a cent for each character you write, how much code you will write? Note that I'm talking about writing code, not committing it: you should indeed try to limit as much as possible the code you'll have to maintain in the future, and delete mercilessly lines you have written in the past minutes. I've also seen programmers typing so fast that they could actually make a big mess in a very short time.

What do you think of touch typing for programmers? Does it matter?

Published at DZone with permission of Giorgio Sironi, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Jason Erickson replied on Fri, 2011/02/04 - 11:58am

I would contrast touch-typing with typing fast and also with the 'prescribed' touch typing taught in schools.  You don't need to type fast while programming, but you do need to transfer your thoughts to code without stopping to think about the typing.  I also don't care if you know where the home row is or if you use two fingers, as long as you can express yourself through typing the same as you would while writing or speaking - without spending a bunch of mental energy on the medium itself.  

 To take another example, if you were a speech writer, I wouldn't care if you were a terrible speller and didn't know when to capitalize.  However, I would be very worried if I saw you sounding out each word as you wrote it down. I want you thinking about themes, coherence, clarity and cadence, not how to write something down.

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