Editor’s note: The following review is part of Macworld’s GemFest 2012 series. Every weekday from mid June through mid August, the Macworld staff will use the Mac Gems blog to briefly cover a favorite free or low-cost program. Visit the Mac Gems homepage for a list of past Mac Gems.
My first typing class was in elementary school. It consisted of many hours of Mario Teaches Typing, and I eventually discovered that my teacher lied when she said that the game would know if I used the wrong fingers. Needless to say, the whole concept of touch-typing never really took, much to the chagrin of my well-intentioned computer teacher.
Fast-forward to today, and though I no longer use two fingers, my typing isn’t much better than it was when I was using a Power Macintosh in my school’s computer lab. It’s a bad habit that I am both painfully aware of and reluctant to take the time to correct after so many years.
The free app is divided into eight series of lessons (depending on what typing skills you want to focus on) with 99 lessons in all. Most are focused on teaching and practicing the basics of touch-typing, but there are also speed drills and two courses that teach alternative keyboards, including the Dvorak Keyboard and calculator keyboard.
These courses are straight-forward and efficient; even the longer lessons don’t take more than 15 minutes to complete. Each lesson begins with a set of instructions and a reminder not to look down at your hands while you type. You are then prompted to type the text that appears on the screen as quickly and accurately as possible. Statistics such as WPM and error ratio are displayed at the bottom of the screen.
As you progress through the lessons, the sample text goes from strings of letters to words, and then from sentences to entire paragraphs, which is where my one nitpick with this app comes in: When practicing sentences, you are forced to put two spaces after the period, which I firmly believe no one should ever do. If you are not used to typing two spaces, this results in undeserved errors.
If you do make an error at any point in the lesson, then you must redo the entire page again from the beginning. While this can be frustrating, particularly for those of us with clumsy fingers, it is ultimately what makes Typist such an effective learning tool. I appreciated having to redo my mistakes as it forced me to focus on my weak spots. I found myself typing better already after only completing a few of lessons—not a small feat considering my longstanding lack of ability.
[Karissa Bell is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter.]
Want to stay up to date with the latest Gems? Sign up for the Mac Gems newsletter for a weekly email summary of Gems reviews sent directly to your Inbox. You can also follow Mac Gems on Twitter.