Linux offers great educational software and many excellent tools to aid students of all grades and ages in learning and practicing a variety of topics, often interactively. The “Learn with Linux” series of articles offers an introduction to a variety of educational apps and software.
Typing is taken for granted by many people; today being keyboard savvy often comes as second nature. Yet how many of us still type with two fingers, even if ever so fast? Once typing was taught in schools, but slowly the art of ten-finger typing is giving way to two thumbs.
The following two applications can help you master the keyboard so that your next thought does not get lost while your fingers catch up. They were chosen for their simplicity and ease of use. While there are some more flashy or better looking typing apps out there, the following two will get the basics covered and offer the easiest way to start out.
TuxType (or TuxTyping)
TuxType is for children. Young students can learn how to type with ten fingers with simple lessons and practice their newly-acquired skills in fun games.
Debian and derivatives (therefore all Ubuntu derivatives) should have TuxType in their standard repositories. To install simply type
The application starts with a simple menu screen featuring Tux and some really bad midi music (Fortunately the sound can be turned off easily with the icon in the lower left corner.).
The top two choices, “Fish Cascade” and “Comet Zap,” represent typing games, but to start learning you need to head over to the lessons.
There are forty simple built-in lessons to choose from. Each one of these will take a letter from the keyboard and make the student practice while giving visual hints, such as which finger to use.
For more advanced practice, phrase typing is also available, although for some reason this is hidden under the options menu.
The games are good for speed and accuracy as the player helps Tux catch falling fish
or zap incoming asteroids by typing the words written over them.
Besides being a fun way to practice, these games teach spelling, speed, and eye-to-hand coordination, as you must type while also watching the screen, building a foundation for touch typing, if taken seriously.
GNU typist (gtype)
For adults and more experienced typists, there is GNU Typist, a console-based application developed by the GNU project.
GNU Typist will also be carried by most Debian derivatives’ main repos. Installing it is as easy as typing
You will probably not find it in the Applications menu; insteaad you should start it from a terminal window.
The main menu is simple, no-nonsense and frill-free, yet it is evident how much the software has to offer. Typing lessons of all levels are immediately accessible.
The lessons are straightforward and detailed.
The interactive practice sessions offer little more than highlighting your mistakes. Instead of flashy visuals you have to chance to focus on practising. At the end of each lesson you get some simple statistics of how you’ve been doing. If you make too many mistakes, you cannot proceed until you can pass the level.
While the basic lessons only require you to repeat some characters, more advanced drills will have the practitioner type either whole sentences,
where of course the three percent error margin means you are allowed even fewer mistakes,
or some drills aiming to achieve certain goals, as in the “Balanced keyboard drill.”
Simple speed drills have you type quotes,
while more advanced ones will make you write longer texts taken from classics.
If you’d prefer a different language, more lessons can also be loaded as command line arguments.
If you care to hone your typing skills, Linux has great software to offer. The two basic, yet feature-rich, applications discussed above will cater to most aspiring typists’ needs. If you use or know of another great typing application, please don’t hesitate to let us know below in the comments.