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Show HN: I made a site where you practice typing by retyping entire novels (typelit.io)
1589 points by Octouroboros on Oct 6, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 378 comments

"[Hunter S. Thompson] chose, rather than writing original copy, to re-type books like The Great Gatsby and a lot of Norman Mailer, the Naked and the Dead, a lot of Hemingway. He would sit down there on an old type-writer and type every word of those books and he said, 'I just wanna feel what it feels like to write that we'll.'"

HST: "If you type out somebody's work, you learn a lot about it. Amazingly it's like music. And from typing out parts of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald - these were writers that were very big in my life and the lives of the people around me - so yea I wanted to learn from the best I guess."


This was explained by HST in one of his letters, which was collected in the excellent three book collection of letters he sent and received to his friends. Including many famous writers.

HST was always great in small rapid outputs of writing, which is captured well in his letters (similar to how his collection of articles are his most popular works, but these deserve a similar look).

He obviously had some sort of ADD and later on combined with a long series of drug/alcohol addictions, so it makes sense he was better in short blurbs. Even his most famous novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has a feeling of multiple long spurts on a typewriter.

Which is always how he wrote. Always also at the very last minute of the magazine due date and/or because he was running out of money and needed the next advance.

I believe this is common in creative fields. Long periods of meh and spurts of greatness.

Anyway the book series is here, usually called the Gonzo Letters:


Only the 2nd one has a Wikipedia page for some reason (the 3rd one came out in 2014) but the first one (The Proud Highway: The Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955–1967) as a young writer who is often desperate and broke was most interesting IMO, even though his life or writing wasn’t yet as it would become famous for (but definitely still as wild) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_and_Loathing_in_America

Inspiration is lumpy, so I've adopted the Fieldstone method [1] (articulated by the prolific Gerald Weinberg).

In my implementation, I collect little thoughts (shower thoughts, observations, good turns of phrases, etc.) into a single continuous Google Doc. I revisit it often and guided by my current emotions and interests, try to coalesce like-ideas and rewrite them into a large idea. Some ideas eventually snowball into something substantial.

Unless you're a columnist with a deadline (with innate talent driven by adrenalin), everybody knows how difficult it is to write an essay from scratch. However if you've been collecting ideas, and have been developing and coalescing and rewriting them over and over again (often for years), the essay almost writes itself.

[1] https://www.skmurphy.com/blog/2016/05/04/weinberg-on-writing...

I have a similar workflow, but for a different reason. BJ Novak described in an interview how the ideation part of the process is totally different from the productive part. This spoke to me, and I've been approaching them separately ever since. When they get too inflated I either get writers/coders block or absolute spaghetti, so it's easy to see when I've grown less disciplined with the division.

Do you remember where BJ Novak gave that interview? I’m curious to see what he had to say about it

I find this to be true with computer programming/work for me. I’m productive in bursts.

I'm productive in bursts as well. I have the feeling that in between bursts things are still computing in the background so it looks like you're not doing anything but the brain is still churning. This type of bursty productivity is very hard to account for in a corporate environment where one's productivity should be accounted for on a daily basis and laid down in cookie cutter time slots. I often wonder whether I have ADHD since I can hyperfocus when Im in a productive burst. Unfortunately/fortunately I don't tick other boxes so I'm in a limbo with the diagnosis

> I have the feeling that in between bursts things are still computing in the background so it looks like you're not doing anything but the brain is still churning.

This is something that's bothered me since my university put out a survey asking about time spent on homework.

Suppose the following things happen:

1. A math class assigns a proof.

2. I look at the problem, fiddle around with it for 20 minutes, and get nowhere.

3. I play Final Fantasy for 6 days.

4. I go back to the problem. In 40 minutes, I have the proof worked out.

How long did I spend on the proof? What if the counterfactual was

1. Proof gets assigned.

2. Look at it, do nothing.

3. The day after, sit down and spend 3 hours proving it.

How long did I spend then? Are the two scenarios... different?

I think about this in terms of how much clock time has elapsed versus how much working time I spend on something - i.e. I am very often able to trade an increase in clock time elapsed (taking more breaks) for a decrease in working time, and vice versa.

As with most things, this comes with diminishing returns as you push toward minimizing one over the other.

Sometimes, even negative returns, e.g. because of increased context switching costs, or confusion and general malaise caused by staring at something for too long.

> I am very often able to trade an increase in clock time elapsed (taking more breaks) for a decrease in working time, and vice versa.

But this is the problem with a survey of "how long does the homework take?". The question isn't well defined. The answer doesn't exist.

I think it's quite common among programmers. At least, I have always been that way too. I can go week of unproductive time then suddenly several days of immersion.

That's the reason I avoid taking the Ritaline/Amphetamines route. I think it is normal and i wouldn't want to be a productivity machine anyway

They're also bad for your heart and can really mess up your diet if you're not careful

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long”

ADHD is defined based on symptoms in childhood. A lot of adults discover they have ADHD when they take their kids in for testing/assessment due to school issues and the kids are diagnosed.

The drugs stimulate your executive function which helps you concentrate.

If you goal is to get prescribed stimulants (amphetamines, ritalin, or modafinil), it's pretty trivial to get diagnosed and prescribed. Psychs hand that stuff out like candy

I went to my general practitioner (in the US) and got a Ritalin prescription just by saying “I have a hard time concentrating at work”. That’s it. No referral to a specialist or anything.

It is a wonder drug for me. I used to spend a majority of my time farting around on the internet at work, then working long hours and scrambling to get my work done before the deadline. Now I am able to be productive more consistently and don’t miss nearly as many deadlines.

Are you a “different” person while on Ritalin? My wife’s a teacher and these days a lot of kids are on Ritalin. She says the kids that “need” it are more manageable when taking it, but it does change their personality. They are less... “lively”.

I absolutely feel like a different person. I started on it youngish in my preteen years and have spent a lot of time reflecting on the question of what being a different person means and my conclusion is basically: I like this person more, off the meds I'm quicker to anger which burns bridges and my concentration is absolute trash making me unable to pursue things I want to do. This person's life is better so I choose it over the other one.

Do you think you could alter all your bad habits and slowly taper off so you no longer need to depend on the meds? Or do you think over time they might loose their effectiveness?

I don't believe so - I also struggled a bit with this question especially in my twenties - "other people are able to overcome it and focus so maybe if I put enough effort in I'd be able to do the same?" As I've aged into working in the job market it's less of a concern to me, I have strengths and weaknesses, even with meds my attention to detail and patience with the minutia is lacking. I'm concerned (especially while I was in the states) that shifting off of my meds could be a tailspin and end up being self-destructive - like hard drug use it's something that the person inside of the bubble is not able to properly judge and decisions and actions that may be clearly poor to an outside observer may be viewed positively internally.

The early days of uni for me were the first time I was actually responsible for ensuring that my med supply continued and that's a big part of why I'm hesitant to try tapering off of it - it was incredibly difficult for me to find the motivation or the energy to actually fill up my prescription if I had let it lapse and the days (up to eight in the worst case) I was without meds I completely dropped the ball on schoolwork and other responsibilities.

So I'm worried about tapering off since I'm concerned I might not be able to stop tapering or I would burn a lot of goodwill/financial security recovering from the tapering off if it went poorly. That all said, ADD is different for everyone with different levels of apathy and concentration, I wouldn't be surprised if mine was a particularly potent variety beyond what most folks deal with but, with meds, I'm able to cope and have a nice life.

The philosophical questions about personhood don't really ever stop nagging away at you in the background, but I'm happy with things as they are - sorry if this was a bit of a downer response ;P

I can say I felt more like a zombie or emotionally dampened when I was taking Concerta (which is similar to Ritalin just with a longer duration and smoother effect curve).

That's an interesting question. I don't think so? If I was, would I notice? Nobody has ever mentioned it to me.

I only take it at work so I am pretty much just sitting in front of a computer when I'm on it.

I certainly hope you are joking. The statement sends a chill down the spine. When did people forget that children are, indeed, quite human?

I tried some and I don't like their effect. Yes, I can sit down through boring stuff but the intrinsic interest becomes dries up while on these. It is true that I didn't try this treatment for extended periods of time but I may if I absolutely need to (but only temporarily, up to a couple of months or so). For now I try to enjoy my average productivity which comes in bursts and that is okay

I don't know how it is in the US, but I'm scared of even trying to be diagnosed in the UK. Once you're in the system as somebody with psych problems, a lot of things can get harder. I fear the risk is not worth satiating the curiosity.

I guess that’s one benefit of the US’s terrible health system? There isn’t a single “system” so even if one doctor diagnoses you with something, a different doctor in a different office won’t have any idea about it unless you volunteer the information.

Wait the US doesn't have a centralized/shared medical records service? I never realized that! In France, I suppose like in the UK, we have our "Carte Vitale" ("Life/Vital Card"), which is scanned each visit to a doctor, hospital, pharmacy, etc, each updating your personal database nationally.

It also serves as a link to your insurance provider in each location, so reimbursements are automatic.

Nope, doctors can't see you medical information unless you give it to them.

There must be some sort of system that shares info some of the time. I signed up for a new doctor (haven't even visited yet) across the country from my old one, and the website of my new doctor's medical center already knows all my historical vaccine dates. I didn't give any of that information over, just my name, birthday, and SSN.

Usually by fax.

Or by handing them a CD

Just FYI, this is increasingly less true in many respects...although the opposite problem also occurs, where there is so much noise that the important pieces for any given visit do not surface for the doc.

Still waiting for the third volume to actually drop? Can't find it available and all the amazon reviews are 5-star complaints about the delayed release :(

Oh weird, I wasn't aware they still haven't release it yet. It's been 19 years since the 2nd volume. That's really odd. They didn't fulfill the preorders in 2014 either https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0684873176/

I thought making it through the other two 700+ pages of letters was quite an achievement. I was planning to read the 3rd one at some later point in my life.

I guess I'll still have to wait ... the title was really great too "The Mutineer: Rants, Ravings, and Missives from the Mountaintop, 1977-2005".

You need the long periods of meh for the bursts of great to happen. The meh puts in the ground work for the good.

Agreed that you learn much about a work (I've retyped a few articles and books simply to get a usable copy). But copying is not the same as creating --- you'll see the finished product, and may intuit hints as to how it was created, but what you're not getting is the creation process itself: research (especially for nonfiction), structure, plotting and character (for fiction), editing, rewriting, restructuring and reordering content, additions and deletions.

Writing (and reading) short disconnected bits is fairly easy: nothing interrelates strongly, composition is simple and forgiving. Longer works are complex: they have structure, arcs, need to retain interest, jumps and connections need to be plausible, the whole be consistent (unless inconsistency is used for effect), etc., etc.

And you don't get this knowledge simply by copying out great works.

I see a similar failure-to-grasp in some proposals for hypertext or advanced publishing systems. Reading is inherently serial, in that we follow lines of text on a page. Interactivity --- usually defined by the ability to skip between previously-written segments --- just offers more serial paths.

The value of hypertext and related tools may be far more on the writing process, where vastly more sources can be referenced and cited with greater ease. Some might be incorporated into the final work, but an excess of interconnections and quotations is itself distracting.

I see this as a particular blindness of Ted Nelson's Xanadu project, despite many fascinating and original elements to it.

> And you don't get this knowledge simply by copying out great works.

Well, I think the point is that you may get knowledge, but nt necessarily of the type that lets you make another great work. Doing is an act of learning, whether very small amounts of learning as you do something you've done countless times before, or possibly large amounts of learning as you try something absolutely new, or learning about yourself and what you like, what you don't, what you feel is worthwhile even if you dislike it, etc.

Ultimately, there's something to be learned from everything. Even the book you read that purports to teach you someething that you find worthless for the task should be illustrative of either what things are not useful for you in learning that, or how to structure something in such a way that it's hard for you to take away good meaning from it, and ultimately, some hints about what to look for next time that doesn't have the same problems.

So, copying isn't necessarily creating, but it should be an act of learning, and learning should hopefully help in creating, even if it's something totally divorced from what you were originally copying.

I think we're mostly in agreement: copying is useful. It is not complete.

And any learning process which focuses largely on output or product rather than process, shares this deficiency.

To your other point, serendipitous discovery is very much a thing. I find that it is helped by haviing a conceptual structure or mental model which allows slotting new concepts from unrelated areas into a larger whole.

Recent example: moralising pathologies fallacy, in wildfire:



We are, I wasn't intending to rebut you, but instead to expand on a a specific aspect you touched upon and tie it back to the context of the discussion in a slightly different way.

> I find that it is helped by haviing a conceptual structure or mental model which allows slotting new concepts from unrelated areas into a larger whole.

I very much agree. In fact, I think discovering new mental models is one of the best ways to come to new understandings about things. My entire stance on topics has changed in the past when I found on revisiting it I now had a mental model that I thought applied better/more closely than the ones available previously, and looking at the topic from that new perspective yielded a different opinion.


My entire stance on topics has changed in the past...

I keep seeing this, revisiting topics, questions, books, etc., and immediately seeing some now-obvious relationship or aspect. It's an argument for returning, at least occasionally, to familiar ground. Though it generally helps to have journeyed elsewhere.

Also for both extensive and intensive reading. Domains which focus exclusively, or even only extensively, on intensive analysis and exploration, seem more prone to going off the rails or ending up at dead ends.

> Amazingly it's like music.

Maybe he means like jazz musicians? (I'm one.) Every musician I know has transcribed solos. You pick some solo you like but have no idea what they're doing, transcribe it, and learn to play it along with them. Bits and pieces perhaps will rub off in your own playing. You don't want to sound like them, but it's good to be able to if you want – and for that you need to absorb their style, so your body can just go into that mode, without having to think about it. I'm a piano player but have also transcribed sax, trumpet, bass lines, gospel songs, reggae, funk, .. even taps dripping, babies crying etc etc.

In language learning there's something called the "Input hypothesis" which states that we learn languages primarily by reading and listening (consuming input), rather than production of language.

The reasoning is that when you produce output you are by definition producing something at your own level, so little improvement occurs. When you consume input (and transcription is a great way to do it), you are consuming input of a native speaker - or in the case of Jazz, a master player - which is at a much higher quality level than what you could produce yourself. So input drives the learning process.

The exception is for motor e.g. pronunciation or playing technique, which do benefit from practice.

I don't think it matters what kind of musician. I'm mainly a electronic music producer and I've done exactly the same thing; recreate entire tracks from scratch from some of my favorite artists. It has helped me a lot in understanding every part of music production. Everything from designing every individual instrument to arrangement and finally mastering.

Hey! How do you do that? It is my dream to be able to make something as great as Worakis, Rone, N'to do. What tools do you use to recreate tracks?

All you need is a DAW and then import the song/track you want to recreate and you're basically good to go.

Been prepared that it will sound absolutely terrible for the first few months or even years.

Why would you take his general statement (musicians) and turn it into such a specific example (_jazz_ musicians)? You make it sound like jazz musicians are the only ones who would transcribe music to study it.

It's a safe bet that it's more common among jazz musicians than among classical musicians, who have access to the sheet music for practically everything they play.

Probably also more common among jazz musicians than rock musicians, who don't emphasize sheet music and music theory as much (as much, it's certainly more prevalent than outsiders would naively think).

And of course, all these categories blur together. There wasn't any reason to take his post and interpret it in absolutist terms.

In regard to typing out novels, HST went on to say that Faulkner (iirc) doesn't have an out-of-place word anywhere. So yeah, he was speaking about the style: putting down words in an interesting order.

I once read an interview with a Japanese novelist in which she said that, each day, she would copy a page or two by hand from a story by an author whose style she admired. She said that it helped her focus on sentence structure, word choice, and other details and that her own writing improved as a result.

One of the authors she mentioned was Yasunari Kawabata, who is widely admired for his writing style in Japanese. I believe she also said that she got the idea to do this from the tradition of shakyō (写経), the copying of Buddhist sutras by hand [0].

I have never retyped literary texts myself, but I used to teach English literature classes to Japanese students in which I would read the texts aloud in class before we discussed them. I found that, over the years, that experience heightened my awareness of writing style and maybe improved my own writing as well. I can see how retyping might have a similar benefit.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutra_copying

> transcribe solos

Do you mean learn other people's songs from sheet music, or do you mean write down, from the sheet music, the same song again on blank sheet paper?

Edit: Or do you mean write down the song via hearing?

Transcribing solos means, you listen to the music and write it down, bit by bit. Someone's solo = their improvisation. If it's simple/slow enough that it's quicker to learn it by playing along, just do that. (I've never needed to transcribe Louis Armstrong, but have just learnt by playing along with him.) If it's very fast (e.g. Bird, Coltrane) you might need to slow it down to transcribe it. You learn how to transcribe it by doing it, it also trains your ear in recognizing melodies, harmonies, chord voicings, rhythms, forms.

You can buy books of solo transcriptions, but I've found that they're absolutely useless. (and always inaccurate) Maybe it's like reading a book vs. typing it out?! hehe. At first glance I couldn't see how typing a book out would help anything, I mean, it's already written down for you! The main element of learning by working out bit by bit what it is, isn't there. But there are elements in common - it's a little like playing a solo you've written down, and you would absorb the word patterns if you typed a whole novel I guess.

Ear training gives you this skill

e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhyyjRcrn84

Transcription is the latter -- create a paper version from a recording. Same as medical transcription is typing up dictated notes.

Reminds me ... in a computer nerd way ... of "python the hard way" (which used to be very open/free, now it has changed)

You would not read or download the lessons. You typed all the python in word by word. I think it really helped the learning process to type it out. It was slow and deliberate, even to mistyping and making mistakes (and fix them).

Yup! To learn music, cooking, martial arts, etc., you start by following someone else to build the muscle memory on doing the skill. As a follow-up, my own research [1] on retyping code showed students earned higher grades and submitted less erroneous code. Replicating technical skills is a common practice technique that seems to have been "lost" in current CS education.

[1] https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.1145/3373165.3373177

I still have a directory tree around from doing those lessons. Given how picky python is about indent spacing, I agreed somewhat with the philosophy behind those lessons, particular for people new to coding.

The analogy with music is interesting. Superficially, the musical activity which looks most like typing is simply playing an instrument. And sight-reading does feel a bit like typing. But I wonder if he's talking about transcription in that quote. One can sight read complex music without learning anything about it if they happen to just be a good sight reader. But transcription really does force you to pay attention to structural nuances you otherwise wouldn't get just by listening to a piece of music.

I think the idea is that typing is much slower than reading, so one has forced downtime in which it is possible to consider structure and choices[1].

Compare https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23528483

Qui scribit, bis legit

(Maybe your sight-reading is quicker than your playing? Mine is nearly the opposite.)

[1] Quintilian even finds value in exercising criticism of popular examples (because of course, even way back in the first century, The Old Days Were Better. Elsewhere Quintilian complains that people in his day only repeat a Cliff's Notes knowledge of greek authors instead of reading the originals in full.)

> "It will even at times be of value to read speeches which are corrupt and faulty in style, but still meet with general admiration thanks to the perversity of modern tastes, and to point out how many expressions in them are inappropriate, obscure, high-flown, grovelling, mean, extravagant or effeminate, although they are not merely praised by the majority of critics, but, worse still, praised just because they are bad."


and makes a good point about a pedagogical advantage to criticism of works other than one's own:

> "I will venture to say that this particular form of exercise, if diligently pursued, will teach learners more than all the text-books of all the rhetoricians: these are no doubt of very considerable use, but being somewhat general in their scope, it is quite impossible for them to deal with all the special cases that are of almost daily occurrence. The art of war will provide a parallel: it is no doubt based on certain general principles, but it will none the less be far more useful to know the methods employed, whether wisely or the reverse, by individual generals under varying circumstances and conditions of time and place. For there are no subjects in which, as a rule, practice is not more valuable than precept. Is a teacher to declaim to provide a model for his audience, and will not more profit be derived from the reading of Cicero or Demosthenes? Is a pupil to be publicly corrected if he makes a mistake in declaiming, and will it not be more useful, and more agreeable too, to correct some actual speech? For everyone has a preference for hearing the faults of others censured rather than his own."


Im demang tili peroba pash im demang finyish vide fit.

It was very common in the past for composers to learn the craft by copying out the musical scores of the masters.

This is also why I always type in all the examples from programming books instead of cutting and pasting.

This is how I first learned technical writing. Found a few exceptional papers in my field, sat down, and literally just typed them out.

The downside is that it's easy to 'overfit' and lose your own voice.

For this to actually work you probably need to put the original text away, try to recreate a piece of it from memory, and repeat until you get it close to right. AKA the Benjamin Franklin method.

Just like anyone can trace or copy a picture drawn by a master, copying text won't grant understanding. What actually matters for a creator is the ability to produce content from higher level ideas, eg from whatever mental representation you used to hold the writing or drawing in memory.

> Amazingly it's like music

Programming is the exact same way. If ever I'm in doubt of someone's design and I have an inkling of respect for them, I'll try to design the code from scratch in my head, or sometimes even redesign a toy version myself. This usually surfaces some weird property of the problem that explains their code. You can also go through their thought processes and see exactly how they made decisions along the way. I'd argue you can even infer philosophical viewpoints in some cases, too - all without actually communicating with the author.

I love that about humans. One of the things I really admire about us.

Would be super interesting if this holds true for 'copying out' code as well... it's all the edge case handling that can get boring to re-type out without context / comments...

It does hold out! Here is a link to my research on retyping code [1]. To summarize my findings, students that regularly completed typing exercises earned higher course grades and submitted less erroneous code.

[1] https://dl.acm.org/doi/pdf/10.1145/3373165.3373177

Interesting - thanks!

This is myth and it is wrong.

Writing does not proceed letter by letter, word by word, paragraph by paragraph.

Earlier writing is deleted, moved, revised. Passages are moved earlier or later. Key passages are rewritten.


Typing character-by-character an entire novel will likely teach you little about the act of literary creation.

I'm not sure the sources in the parent comment are making the argument that you are countering. Neither suggests to me the claim that using a touch typing website, in our case, replicates the complete process of writing literature.

The second quote in the parent comment is "If you type out somebody's work, you learn a lot about it." - the focus is learning more about the finished product. And I read "I just wanna feel what it feels like to write that well." as about experiencing the quality of the finished product.

Important to note that it was on a manual typewriter. The key is making it slow, so you can observe how the author is doing what they're doing. Reading is very fast ... typing on a manual typewriter is slow enough to give you time to observe.

Here is a Stephen Fry Oxford union video where he talks about trying to write from memory a scene from The Great Gatsby:


Sounds a little bit like the process of training a GPT-3 style network...

He required copious amounts of Wild Turkey and cigarettes though

Dunhills, if I remember correctly.

Amazing idea, really I'm impressed. This intrigued me at first glance as a fun typing exercise, as I've always struggled with typing - I started using computers way before they started teaching typing around here, so my typing is far from the optimal 10 finger method, but I've always found typing exercises mind numbingly boring.

However, as I started typing The call of Cthulhu, I'm now much more intrigued by this as a new way to read books. It is a very different literary experience from just simply reading. I'm way more attentive to the text itself, rather than just the meaning, if that makes sense. Though it's very possible that this effect is going to go away as I get more used to it.

Any chance of typing out custom uploaded books? Maybe copy pasted plaintext?

Also kudos on the execution, the site is really nicely made.

I've always thought of typing lessons as being a thing from long before computers. Back then it was treated as a serious skill which could lead directly to employment. Now it's just something you're expected to know.

I had plenty of basic IT education at school, but was never taught how to type at all.

It’s an interesting idea that we still “need” typing practice. We do it every day why would we need to practice extra?

To provide an additional use case, my wife just got me an awesome and completely configurable ergonomic keyboard for my birthday and I’m considering switching to Dvorak or Coleman layouts after typing QWERY my entire life. I NEED a long form practice like this instead of just typing nonsense short blurbs of words as most typing practice provides.

Super excited about this!

I practiced qwerty touch typing in school, but never really used it myself, rather using two-three fingers on each hand and letting them move around a lot across the keyboard.

I switched to dvorak over 10 years ago and since the letters on the keys didn't match, and because it's designed to make it easy to touch type, I quickly learned.

But after a year or so of dvorak, I grew tired of being extremely slow when I had to switch back to qwerty when using a shared keyboard in a conference room (imagine reading and hitting single letters in a meeting in front of people), so I switched back to qwerty. I thought that my new touch typing skill would transfer, but it didn't. I still try now and again to properly touch type, but it's slow and with a lot of mistakes. So this practice site looks very interesting to me as well!

Some people say that they can easily switch back and forth between qwerty and dvorak, but it turns out that I couldn't. I still miss the speed and ease of dvorak, but I also enjoy being able to quickly use any keyboard now.

I had a similar experience switching to the Kinesis. I mean I don't think as stark as yours.

I noticed the Kinesis Advantage forced my hands into a position that encouraged touch-typing, so I thought I'd give it a try and learn to touch-type while doing my normal work (Still QWERTY though) It worked! I can now touch-type greatly...

Sort-of, it really only applies to the Kinesis though, when I go back to a normal staggered layout keyboard I go back to my two-three finger pecking around the keyboard.

It's obviously still the same layout, so I don't think I experience it as bad as you do on a standard keyboard, but now I'm pretty much stuck on my Kinesis!

I added the Dvorak layout to the computer in the conference room.

(This is probably a more acceptable thing to do in companies where more than one language is spoken. The computer already had English-Qwerty and Danish-Qwerty installed.)

I have a similar issue! When I learned Russian I installed the Russian keyboard layout on my computer. Because my keys (obviously) didn't match, I had to type by feel using a small diagram I printed as a reference, carefully placing index on f and j like you're supposed to. I just touch type in Russian now, but if I dare do that while typing English I stumble and lose track; I'm stuck doing it my normal messy (still faster than average) way.

> It’s an interesting idea that we still “need” typing practice. We do it every day why would we need to practice extra?

We all walk every day, but most people have terrible form and efficiency and would probably injure themselves if they tried to do it for long periods without practicing...

I’m not sure if context was lost in my comment but I tend to agree with what you’re saying here and was the point of my comment.

Does this really apply to typing, though? To what extent could one suffer from long-term injuries due to the way they're typing? I know one can suffer from repetitive strain injury if they are not using their mouse properly, but does this extend to keyboards as well?

Sadly it does!

If you have poor form when typing you can put considerable stress on your wrists and compress your shoulders.

That's why ergonomic keyboards are so big, weirdly shaped and sometimes split. They all try to force you into typing in a way that won't do as much damage to your body as slouching over a 10keyless microkeyboard would.

If you don't learn proper technique but type often, you will organically develop some method of typing that may work for you.

But it's easy when learning a skill without guidance to end up into a local maximum. It's easy to end up in a situation where you're typing reasonably well, but could do way better with training.

I'd argue that typing occupies a big enough place in our life that we should be very efficient at it.

It took me 3 years off and on (and mostly at work) to become fluent in Dvorak. Good luck!

If you do it on and off you'll be much slower. I switched cold-turkey to Colemak and could type reasonably after a month and quickly after 3 months. The hardest part was retraining my muscle memory for keyboard shortcuts (but it wasn't so bad because in Colemak many are unchanged)

My educational experience was almost the exact opposite. Computer class was always typing or application focused, rather than IT focused; typing exercises and learning how to use ClarisWorks rather than anything about how actual computer worked.

Similar experience here in suburban southern California public schools around the 2010s, except for one class on digital art, which was 90% packet work (funnily enough almost the equivalent of just copying out novels, but for Illustrator/Photoshop. Today I use them regularly and adeptly.)

Hey I'm thrilled you're enjoying the site! There are indeed plans to add a feature like that sometime in the future. Thanks!

Uploading custom books would be a killer feature. Please do :)

> Any chance of typing out custom uploaded books? Maybe copy pasted plaintext?

typeracer.com allows you to submit extracts for people to type; just not entire books.

Have you tried reading books out loud? I found that made a surprising difference to experience of books, even just because I was devouring them much slower. Found it much easier to enjoy the 'craft' of the book too.

Plus it helps train your speaking / pronunciation; if anything, there's muscles that may need to be exercised a bit.

"Librarians hate him!"

I had a similar experience doing translations. It made me a lot more aware to the fine detail of the text and sensible to the author's specificities.

Seconded, I use gnu typist often but the drills are too bland and I needed something like that. Superb

Yay for gtypist! It comes with typefortune(1), for which you can adjust the content of the drills by installing fortune files that suit your taste. Eg. you could

  sudo apt install fortunes; sudo chmod -r /usr/share/games/fortunes/!(lit*); typefortune -l
for something (fairly) like this.

This is a cool site, though I did notice something that I haven't seen anywhere before: the URL paths are JSON objects. Is there a reason for this? For example, for "The Call of Cthulhu", the URL is this: https://www.typelit.io/chapters/%7B%22bookTitle%22:%20%22The...

Why not just use this? https://www.typelit.io/chapters/5f468ca35e91c10be0883a57/The...

Also, the JSON object is fault tolerant and will display whatever you want for a title, even if there isn't a book available: https://www.typelit.io/chapters/%7B%22%64%69%73%70%6C%61%79%...

Hey I'm glad you asked! It's the way Nextjs handles urls with more than 1 param. If I prettify the URL then for some reason the page can't access them. Don't know if they've improved on it yet (or, who knows, maybe I'm just using it wrong) but it'll be fixed eventually.

The URL parameters are:

{"bookTitle": "The Call of Cthulhu", "displayTitle": "The Call of Cthulhu", "language": "English", "bookId": "5f468ca35e91c10be0883a57"}

Why do you need all the others besides "bookId"?

Changing "bookTitle" and "language" don't seem to do anything. Changing "displayTitle" does change the displayed title, but why can't you get that using the bookId?

// call /MyPage?par1=hello&par2=42

const MyPage = (props: { query: { par1: string; par2: number } }) => ( <div>{`${props.query.par1}-${props.query.par2}`}</div> );

That's interesting. Thanks for pointing me towards Next.js. I wasn't aware of that framework, but I'm checking it out.

Super cool framework that is only getting better. If you’re interested in framework spelunking-check out Remix by Ryan Florence and Michael Jackson (no, not that one...). It’s actually going to be paid but I’m very excited to try it. It handles some data loading pain points among others that seem very interesting.

Link to the mentioned framework “Remix”: https://remix.run/

That is just an email collecting form. Astroturfing?

I think only the bookID is necessary

This comment can’t be read, perhaps use code block formatting, or remove the http and domain info, so we can see what you mean? The link is getting truncated when it displays.

Those links are over 200 characters long, and just look like escaped JSON, so I don't think it would help much. You could just click on them if you really wanted to know the details, but I think the question is pretty clear regardless.

That's a fair point. I was expecting people to click or hover the links to see the examples, but for really showing how the paths are formed, this would make sense to do.

That's a cool idea. I once made a similar site but for a completely different purpose -- language learning. Unfortunately I never finished it but it's still in my TODO list.

The workflow was:

- you read the sentence

- the sentence disappears

- then you type from memory

- every time you mistype something -- the next couple of words appears for a few seconds and you keep typing

That way you not only learn to type that foreign language. But you also memorise the sentence in your short-time memory and you get a feel for sentences are created (order of words, phrases, etc.).

PS. Didn't finish the site, but I did made a simplified version as an Android app: https://github.com/tkrajina/10000sentences

The schtick of the Pimsleur Method was to train by starting with a chunk at the end of a sentence, and prepending until one had recall of the entire sentence. That way, once you get over the hump of the newer material, still fresh in mind, it's all downhill revising the older.

this is an amazing idea. I wonder if you could do it with an auditory fashion, I think that would be very useful too!

This is really cool. Some feedback:

- I'd prefer if the words not typed were in a lighter shade of grey so there were greater contrast between them and the words I've completed. I know this would reduce contrast with the page but I found the fact that they are such a strong grey to be somewhat of a distraction. Different people will have different preferences here, so maybe a slider or knob that can be used to adjust the contrast of yet to be typed text would be helpful.

- The fact that you can't correct mistakes is a huge annoyance and breaks my typing flow. It also tends to lead to runs of errors since I'll make a mistake, hit backspace, and then carry on typing, meaning I get an off by one error in the next few letters. I understand that you want to help people type with fewer errors but the reality is the way it works at the moment interrupts my flow much more severely than correcting the error would (and leads to far more mistakes), and you can still track the number of mistakes I make even if I'm allowed to correct them. I'd say the ability to correct mistakes should at least be an option that can be enabled or disabled according to the preference of the user.

Hope that's useful and, once again, this is very cool.

Hello! A text darkness slider is a great idea -- I may implement that in a future update.

You should be able to backspace all the way back up the page. If backspace isn't working for you, feel free to let me know which browser and OS you're using, and if you're using any extensions that might effect backspace functionality. Thanks!

You can correct all mistakes by using backspace and retyping what you're meant to type. I got a 100% accuracy in the end but that's what I expected as it's the same behavior in other typing exercises as well.

Interesting. That absolutely doesn't work on my machine (2015 Macbook Pro, Catalina, latest Chrome). Backspace simply does nothing.

Congrats, it's really great! I have a few thoughts/suggestions, but first:

Does anyone know of a competitive/practice typing site (as TypeLit, or TypeRacer) where you help digitize books (or any sort of document)?

I'm very motivated by TypeRacer's competitions (it's silly, I know), but I would be even more inclined to play if I knew that there was a "greater" purpose...!

I haven't looked into Project Gutenberg's proof reading volunteering. But, something like that? A sort of "good for humanity" reCaptcha (the original one, that helped Google to digitize books)..?


Ideas for TypeLit:

- It would be nice if the WPM/ACC counters updated in real time in the upper right corner, not just when changing pages

- The competitive aspect of https://play.typeracer.com/ might not be a perfect fit for your site but just wondering if a leaderboard/social element could work (probably not, but just a thought)

When i noticed that there are only public domain works, I got an idea for an optional mode where you help digitize books by typing from scanned/OCRed works and the results get sent to organizations like the Gutenberg Project or Distributed Proofreaders[0].

In the case of Distributed Proofreaders you could automate the process even by creating a diff of your results with the current draft of the Works being worked on.

This is just a crazy idea nobody take it too seriously. [0]https://www.pgdp.net/c/

Didn't Google / Recaptcha do that for a good while but with individual words?

Yes they did, to help digitize Google Books and archives of NYT -- (from wikipedia) "The system helped to digitize the archives of The New York Times, and was subsequently used by Google Books for similar purposes" [0][1]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReCAPTCHA

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/science/29recaptcha.html

Hello! The WPM/ACC thing will be updated really soon. As for a leaderboard/social element, it might be worth looking into once I eventually add accounts. Thanks for your suggestions!

I've used Type Faster and Sublime Text to achieve something like this but instead of books I've used articles/tutorials/documentation or articles in another language. In Type Faster I was creating new lessons with article I wanted to read. In Sublime Text I've used two panels - on left side I had article on right it was my typing space. While Type Faster shows you what word you have to type right now Sublime doesn't so I had to memorize as much words I wanted to type to avoid looking back and forth between panels. This is also useful when learning new language, if you are using Duolingo you most likely focus on speaking/reading/pronouncing words and not on writing so retyping articles in that language is very good method to memorize words.


Love this idea. I've recently decided to do some deliberate practicing around typing. I've been using keybr [1] which is a great site that randomly makes up phonetically accurate pseudo-words and has you type them. The goal there is to have you practice weak combinations of keys, and they have an excellent stats dashboard to show you your progress over time. I was able to raise my typing speed from ~90 wpm to ~110 wpm as measured on that site over about 40 days through 10 minutes of practice per day.

Based on my experience with that site, which I really love, I'd love to see some additional tracking of keys. The downside of your core idea is that you can't really do the trick of forcing deliberate practice of weak key patterns to engrain them into you.

Some other suggestions for stats, based on what exists on keybr and what I'd like to see

- Time practiced today and stats for today

- Daily streaks to encourage practicing

- Cumulative time practiced

- A 7 day running average of your typing stats

[1] https://keybr.com

I also used keybr extensively for some time while switching to an ergonomic layout and I have two additions to that:

- The layout is much more bearable when using ublock to remove about 60% of the site, makes it much cleaner and more enjoyable to use

- In my native language that I used for training, german, the site would frequently generate words that exist but are just spelt wrong or just stop before the last character, ruining my stats because my brain is auto-completing and auto-correcting what I'm reading so I have to go back and correct my writing to something wrong. This gets very annoying very quickly. I switched back to english after a week because that works much better and I'd recommend others to do the same.

Love the idea! What about something like this but for software? Could be an interesting way to learn a new language/codebase

https://typing.io/ This is pretty similar I think, used in the past. Can use your own code with the paying/subscription

Hello -- I'm glad you like it! I believe typing.io has something like this, but for programming languages.

Or to improve your code writing speed and syntax familiarity; it would have to be integrated into your editor/IDE and tooling though, since I find that in some cases it helps a bit with productivity (autocomplete, auto-close, auto-format, etc).


(It says they quit doing the type-in programs after 1988)

That’s exactly how I learned to code. Retyping code from Byte magazine, Dr. Dobbs, and Apple Incider.

Second that method.

It also increased my debugging skills as well when I entered one or more typos along the way.

Also works for human languages!

yes, instead of learning dart, you will be tasked with writing microsoft excel in dart

This feels like a home run, talk to some publishers about allowing their books on their for a fee and charge a subscription to type those books and maybe you've got a viable product.

Hey that sounds like a solid idea -- I might just give that a try!

Start with the startupy books and it might be easier to get ahold of the publishers. Plus you might get a bit of an influencer impact when they share on social.

Think about how masterclass does it, then niche down into startups and follow the playbook.

Feel free to ping me (email in profile) if you end up going down this path and need suggestions for initial folks to reach out to.

Oh actually, while you’re on the front page of HN, drop a contact form on the page with something like “interested in having your book hosted?”

Might “fill the funnel” with even less work. Good luck!

Hello, nice work! Unfortunately, since for now I am navigating through my keyboard only (not using a mouse because of lack of batteries) I can't really use it.

I am using linux and chrome with vimium and when I press f (to reveal the links) it doesn't "capture" any links for the books. I also tried it using tab to go to the books and it just jumped over them (!)

I presume you are doing some fancy JS things in the frontend that's why it can't understand the links, however I think it's a little ironic to not be able to use a practice typing site with only your keyboard :)

PS I am not trying to to be the "smart-ass" with my comment, it is honest; if the comment does not seem nice please forgive me, english ain't my primary language :|

Hello! Sorry the site isn't more keyboard friendly (which is indeed ironic). Plus I imagine if you were to get into the typing portion of the site, you may get stuck, since keystrokes register differently in there. I'll see if I can't make things work smoother for keyboard only users at some point in the future. Thanks!

Great! For the actualy typing portion I have added an exclude rule for vimium for the https://www.typelit.io/typing-console/* and it works fine.

In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, he tells how he learned to read and write by copying out, by hand, the entire dictionary from the prison library, copying a page a day. (It's in chapter 11 of the Autobiography).

I already do this in https://www.keybr.com/ most articles I want to read from hackernews I copy past them there and type them instead of only reading them, I find it more fun and allow me to finish articles which I don't do when I read only.

In keybr.com you can provide your own custom text in => Setting => Provide your own custom text.

One thing I really miss is the ability to backspace an entire word. I expect Ctrl+backspace to delete the previous word. This works in all places that I usually type so I find it quite difficult to not have this.

Hello! I feel the same way -- Ctrl+backspace support is planned for a future update. Thanks!

While trying it out, I've realized how I rely on ctrl-h as a more comfy backspace. I think this an Emacs binding that macOS supports system-wide. Would be great if that was supported :)

Awesome! I came here to say the same thing. Great work BTW!!

Agreed. I also suspect it's better to retype the whole word after a mistake - better to learn typing the word correctly rather than correcting the mistyped word. Absolute speed probably suffer in the short term though.

I got through the second paragraph. I probably made 10 mistakes. Very nice interface.

My only thought was - if I suck at typing, learning it, it's going to be very discouraging getting through just one page. I wonder if it would be better to display just a paragraph at a time. Also as the user finishes a sentence without mistakes to give them a visual reward (kinda like one of those cheap mobile games that shows stars or something). And another reward for finishing a paragraph.

Other than that, I am guessing this will likely help a lot of people learn to type or type faster.

Can you add famous speeches? For the same reason Hunter S. Thompson chose to re-write famous books, I'd like to re-write a famous political speech every morning. Also, how about pulling in song lyrics from your favorite band? The option to load your own content would be cool. But the speeches would be my fav option.

Hello -- if I come across a good compilation of famous speeches I'll add them. Loading your own content is coming in a future update, too. Thanks!

Thanks! A@175g.com if you have an email update list!

This reminds me that when I was younger, around 9 or 10 years old, we lived with my mom in some desolate place where Internet was nonexistent. We still had a computer though, so what I would do to pass time is that I would pick up some books from her library and retype them on computer. This really was an amusing experience and I could spend hours doing it. Wonder if I'd get the same feeling ten years later.

Why is it that I find on certain websites (this one included) that some keystrokes aren't recognised when I use Safari? The letter 'e' not being recognised is common. Chrome works fine. This is on a Mac with Catalina and a British keyboard.

Yeah, having a similar issue. Catalina, American keyboard, Firefox. Halfway through the second sentence it started flagging everything as incorrect no matter what I typed.

Typelit.io will help me practice/improve my steno skills. Here's some feedback:

- +1 for dynamic metrics (WPM+ACC) while typing, shown at the page dash.

- Consider partnering with publishers to increase your content coverage.

- Add ability to request books

- +10 for Tech books

- Keep it free!

- Gamify the heck out of it. It'll allow you to create revenue streams while keeping it FREE.

KEEP THE FIRE BURNING Octouroboros! ;)

Hello and thanks for your suggestions!

- Dynamic metrics is coming very very very soon - Good idea reaching out to publishers -- I might just do that. - People just email me their requests anyway, but it might be a good idea to invite the interaction - I'd love to host tech books, but as far as I know, most aren't in the public domain - Keeping it free is the plan! - Gamification is coming once I eventually get around to making user accounts. I'm not really sure how it'll create revenue streams though, so if you have something in mind, let me know!

Won't they sue you for hosting their books? Other then open source ones. Allowing user to upload their own epub/pdf would solve major issues. They could surf b-ok.cc and grab any book for free.

It's great to see that some people really like this, and the quote from HST is cool - obviously there is some value here. The collection is eclectic (public domain I suppose), and the UI is pretty nice. I found that recognizing whitespace was possibly something that could be improved a bit, but overall it felt really nice.

That said, this is not for me. One page and I was cooked. I had thought that this might be a decent way to enjoy a novel that I've not read, but one page in I can say:

Not only did I not comprehend what I was typing, I didn't enjoy it at all.

This is really great. Thanks so much for making it. Existing sites use word lists or random arbitrary user submissions.

I've been looking for something exactly like this. I've switched up my keyboard layout several times in past months and need constant practice more than my daily work requires to unlearn years of muscle memory and the confusion of recent rewirings. Using normal sentences is better so that frequent words are typed/learned more often to build up that muscle memory faster/stronger.

My wife is a teacher, and she is reading harry potter to her students. It would be fantastic if she could find 3 pages of text from her next chapter, upload it to this tool, and get a URL that she can send to all of her students. Then they can all do a typing assignment in line with their reading, from just a link. (This could apply to many more courses, and cover many aspects of the curriculum!)

Would you be interested in adding that?

Hello! I'm kind of trying to keep copyrighted text off the servers -- though I am planning on adding a feature where you can add your own text and then immediately type it. Probably more work on the teacher and student's part, but maybe it would accomplish the same thing.

Being able to add my own text then immediately type it would be amazing. I would use this app every day if that feature existed. Thank you for making this!

I'm the developer of a wiki platform that allows editing of large structured texts (documents, books), and it took a whole day to type War and Peace into it. :)


The book is mainly for demonstrating the platform capabilities, but I thought you guys might find this platform interesting.

This is great. I do not see WPM and ACC stats though. It just shows empty placeholder for those. I use PiHole and https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts to block ads. I see that the google analytics is not resolved properly in dev tools. Is that the issue with WPM/ACC stats?

I didn't see those stats until I had completed a full page (then it shows for the previous page).

Oh okay thanks! I see other comments with the same observation.

Nice, this is very enjoyable. Will definitely pick this up again, after I get a new ergonomic keyboard.

Would be nice to also type code from famous open-source projects, to practice hitting all the parens etc.

Though, I would add that just copying code verbatim doesn't really follow how people write code. It's not usually, or ever have I seen it, written in a linear fashion. Cursors jump up and down, you open a brace/bracket/parenthesis and almost always immediately close it, then proceed to insert code. Many languages are written from the inside out (like swizzling some lisp code together). Most people don't think "Ok, this is the code I am going to write" and proceed to type it in "page order" (I can't think of another phrase, it's early). Type hints, docs, access modifiers, can be added after the fact. Then constant refactoring occurs as things are broken out into their atomic parts. Then what you are left with is the result. It's akin to tracing a sculpture, there was a lot of work that went on before that sculpture became something beautiful.

That's all.

This is still a neat product. I typed a page from 1984. Makes me sad that I can't seem finish my own book or screenplays.

Learning to type open-source code could still add value since code will have larger frequency of '(', ')', '=', '_'....

I tried learning typing typical paragraphs, got pretty fluent with it, but as soon as I tried the same with code, got stuck with those.

Hey that's a really good idea! I'll add it to the ever-growing to-do list. Thanks!

One of the options I would suggest is to add the possibility to type the end bracket or parenthesis before the included code,by doing some kind of conditional forward lookup

typing.io is one option for this.

Well, this is absolutely perfect timing as my wife has just given me an Ergodex EZ for my birthday and I’ve been practicing on a one shot timed set of snippets from Alice in Wonderland.

Fantastic and really looking forward to reading while I practice. This is so cool!

If you are a developer, I would also suggest giving https://typing.io/ a try. I got and ergodox ez a couple of years ago and it really helped me get used to the layout.

I'm a non-native English speaker and I used to struggle as a teenager to read e.g. Harry Potter in English with a dictionary by my side. Literature is full of words you will never encounter in a casual or professional setting and that ESL learners won't know from having been schooled in English lit. So some way to quickly open en.wiktionary.org for a given word or some option have that in a tooltip on hover or when pressing a special key could be helpful, but I'm just guessing.

Very neat website, and very well made, congrats!

Wow. I used to do this with drawing (I would just re-draw mangas like Dragon Ball and Battle Angel Alita) and I did this with French writing as well! Copying long paragraphs from Albert Cohen and Flaubert because it was so damn good I just wanted to absorb their writing as much as I could. That process was pretty slow though, I would read a sentence multiple time and try to write it. I just tried this app with Gatsby and the first chapter and I felt like I was absorbing less as I was typing too fast (~80WPM)

This seems to be also an interesting way to read books. Those who don't have a habit of reading can get distracted very easily and writing like this keeps the focus!

100% agree! I've always wanted to read "The Art of War" and I just started it while type-practicing. I must add that it will likely improve your reading retention.

This reminds me of a gtypist wrapper I made early in my career for typing over random quotes from custom sources like the dhammapada or the dao de jing: https://github.com/micimize/type-quotes

I would warm up with a few quotes every day before programming as a way of both getting better at typing and deepening my understanding of the the philosophy

Neat project! Would be an interesting way to read a book. Not sure if this is a built-in feature for typing practice. But one small obstacle I encountered was that if I missed a space or I put in an extra character, but kept typing, then everything that came after was in red (wrong). May be hard to implement, but maybe letting a single mistake show in these instances without marking everything that follows as a mistake.

Hello! That's definitely not supposed to be happening. If you don't mind me asking, what browser are you using? In the meantime, Chrome should work ok

Thanks - I was using Firefox on a mac. But you're right, Chrome doesn't have this issue.

The same thing happened to me. I'm using Chrome on a mac.

My wrists hurt just thinking about doing this for any reason.

This site isn't compatible with "Go Back With Backspace" [1] extension by Google on Chrome.

Everytime I hit backspace, it will just go back.

I assume it's because it doesn't use standard text area and didn't take consideration there might be a conflict in hotkey.

Here is the code from that extension about how it detects the "editable" elements, if it helps: https://robwu.nl/crxviewer/?crx=https%3A%2F%2Fclients2.googl...

Please fix it if you can, thanks.

[1] https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/go-back-with-backs...

I've been practising touch-typing for about 2 months now and have increased my speed from 15WPM to 35WPM, maintaining accuracy above 90%.

I learnt from https://www.ratatype.com/ but the modules are now done. This will become my practice board now. Parallelly I'll be reading/writing a few classics.

Excellent idea, reading stimulates our imagination and being able to read and write it at the same time I suppose it involves a very different cognitive experience when it comes to experiencing a book, perhaps it improves memory or has other benefits, it would be interesting to do a study on it. A good practice for learning another language too.

Great idea, very nice UI. It can be a "learn to type tool" but also a new way to experience literature. I like it :)

How about support for RTL languages/books? There are a number of typing practice sites that allow you to use custom texts, but I haven't seen any that work well with RTL. A dream feature would be to be able to upload RTL epub files and type away!

This is the most beautiful and pleasant typing practice experience I've ever had.

I remember in high school, we had an English teacher with very high standards. After we had turned in our first essays, she gave everyone a failing grade, and put on a show of being very disappointed with our work.

Instead of whatever was next on the syllabus, our next assignment was to rewrite, with paper and pen, three separate (3-5ish page) essays written on the same prompt, which she had saved over the years as exemplary.

I distinctly remember hating the idea of it, and putting off the task so I could hate it for longer. However, once I started (re-)writing, I was forced to capitulate (an experience that seems to be shared with other commenters here). While the essays were really good, they were just words on a page -- there's nothing stopping me from writing like that, too. In fact, I was writing like that right now!

At the end, she shared the reasoning behind this exercise, and made us take a vow of silence to not tell the next year's students what to expect. Everybody who traced the essays got an A in the gradebook, and the kids who didn't trace usually dropped-out at that point (it was early in the year, this was the accelerated-track course).

I've never had another educational moment like that, since. It was immensely humbling, in that it told all of us, who were used to being good, that we still have plenty of room to improve. Once out of high school, our egos are perhaps too large to get the most out of that kind of activity.

This is a really cool idea. I'd love to see this applied to foreign languages. For example, if I'm learning German, it'd be great to do that by typing out Theodor Storm. Many of these classic books are in the public domain [1].

[1]: https://books.google.com/books?id=VXgBAAAAYAAJ&newbks=1&newb...

Hello -- I'm glad the idea resonates with you! The site actually already supports German and other languages (though with a more limited selection). You'll find a language dropdown just above where the books are displayed. Thanks!

to be fair, your essays were all probably terrible and her standards were really not that high. If you don't believe me, go find a high school english teacher and have them show you what kids write. Most teachers are kind and skilled enough to know that such a rant does little good unless its obvious no one is trying

Well, they were definitely terrible by "Adult" standards, but that's not the standards that most high schoolers are held to. (And that's not the standard we were held to, I'm sure).

If your standard is the median for our age group, they were probably better-than-middling. It was an advanced class, after all.

Actually, I think that if nobody is trying, such an exercise would be counterproductive. In that scenario, the right thing to do would be to determine and address the reasons why nobody is trying. Like I said, it was an advanced class and people were trying, so it was relatively successful.

Great idea. A suggestion: you can gamify the WPM by making it always visible and giving three indicators: a WPM of the previous page, a WPM of the previous paragraph, and a "realtime" WPM based on the average of the last 5 words or whatever. Phenomenal work!

Hey that's a pretty good idea! I may think of way implement something like that. Thanks for the support!

If you introduce that feature please make it optional. I love the idea of typing novels to get a more intense connection to the content. Gameification for WPM would disrupt this. Please consider this use case even though I understand that this ist not your target audience.

Great Work!

Absolutely it will be optional. The intention behind the site is as much to support author's works as it is to practice typing. I originally figured that having it update more often than once a page might be distracting, which explains why it works the way it does now.

This is a great idea. As someone else mentioned, it is a new way of reading novels.

I won't be surprised if this becomes really popular and then you would surely have Amazon showing interest in your innovation.

Again many congratulations for shipping out a neat idea with great implementation.

This is brilliant! The text is could be used for reading as well, but the book selection is quite excellent. Do you think people could add contributions of text too, like submitting book texts? Thank you!

When starting such an endeavor, I recommend you start learning an ergonomic keyboard layout at the same time, such as neo or Dvorak. I type neo since 2005 and wouldn’t ever go back to qwertz/y.

This is fun, much more useful than made up phrases.

I'd enjoy an option for loading scanned text to help out with OCR, if that is even needed anymore. Perhaps overlay what I write over the scanned pages.

This is really awesome. It reminds me of how artists like painters and musicians train by copying famous works. Or Andrew Ng said you should learn ML just be implementing a dozen papers.

I've practiced typing by retyping webnovels.

I made it about halfway through Worm.

For context, Worm is about 3 times as long as War and Peace.

I would do this with song texts and music scores. When you rewrite something you are interacting with it at an entirely different level, which greatly facilitates memorization.

Awesome project! I've spend some time on sites like Keyhero and 10fastfingers since I really enjoy typing, but sites like those ultimately feel time sinks since there's very little to gain after you reach a decent WPM. This site feels meaningfully different since I get exposed to the literature as I'm typing. From a quick glance it looks like the UI is really clean and the text is easy to read. I'm looking forward to using your site in my free time.

This would be a great exercise for primary school kids. Touch typing is an important skill and once it's learned it's with you forever. On a platform like this they can also practice reading and comprehension, and the teacher has a way to ensure that the reading material was indeed read. Ideally it'd be coupled with some comprehension questions to make sure the kid didn't go on autopilot.

I'm not an expert in pedagogy though so take that with a grain of salt.

Would be really nice if you could use real keyboard commands (ctrl+backspace to delete a whole word or whatever), makes typing much faster than deleting individual letters.

Hello -- I've actually been working on this exact feature (well, ctrl+backspace at least) and will be adding it to the site in the next couple days. Thanks!

This seems to have problems with dead keys. Typing ' and then d on US International results in 'd, but doesn't count as such and instead is an error.

Hello! If you don't mind me asking, what browser are you experiencing this issue on?

All done with US International, but should be reproducible with other keyboard layouts; just that with, e.g. a German layout it might be harder to find digraphs that can be typed by forcing a non-combination for a dead key.

Firefox 81, Windows: Dead keys and the corresponding combination of letters where no single letter is defined by the keyboard layout don't even appear. I.e. I type ', and then s, which normally causes the digraph 's to appear, but here neither the ' nor the s afterwards register.

Chrome 85, Windows: The key sequence registers as just one letter, but apparently not as the ', which thus is marked as an error. This was also what I've seen in Edge (Chromium-based, probably similar version number).

Internet Explorer 11: Same as with Chrome. However, with the added bonus that typing a space seems to be impossible. No idea whether that browser is even on the compatibility list for that site, but it's all I have lying around here right now.

Thanks for your very descriptive answer! At the moment, key combinations aren't nearly as well supported as they ought to be. I'll certainly fix this in a future update. Thanks again!

I don't think I could retype the whole novel, maybe short stories would be more suitable. I remember back in the day when I wanted to be a writer I used to retype short stories just to get out of writers block. After rewriting first few paragraphs I started to change things up and transform into my own story, meanwhile mimicking the rythm and the flow of the original author. It's a good exercise just to get the right feeling.

This is very cool. I did find that I sometimes got confused about where the insertion point was supposed to be, especially when backing up and correcting mistakes. Having the letter ahead of the point highlighted in was inducing a lot of off-by-one errors in my head. I'd prefer a normal insertion-point cursor between characters, with the correctly typed letters bolded and only the errors highlighted.

Besides that, it's pretty good fun!

Hello -- thanks for the suggestion! I'll certainly add options to toggle the cursor style (or make it invisible, even) in later updates. Thanks again!

I've tried and like it.

Few comments to improve your work: French language has a space before and after '?' or '!'.

Also, normally, there are also other accent on uppercase letter, for example I had 'A la serre, le croc et l'ongle.' in 'Le livre de la Jungle', the first A should be 'À'.

Chart for progression in WPM or correctness, tips to improve, audio feedback activation if error in typing...

Keep going, it's a good idea!

As mentioned in the footer (which is small and low contrast, so not surprising you didn't see it), the books are from Project Gutenberg.

Both the lack of space before ? and ! and the lack of accents on the A are present in the version at https://www.gutenberg.org/files/54183/54183-h/54183-h.htm , which has the following note at the bottom

Au lecteur

Ce livre électronique reproduit intégralement le texte original, et l’orthographe d’origine a été conservée. Seules les erreurs clairement introduites par le typographe ont été corrigées. Ces corrections sont soulignées en pointillés dans le texte. Positionnez le curseur sur le mot souligné pour voir l’orthographe initiale.

Cependant «Shere-Khan» a été tacitement remplacé par «Shere Khan» et «Bandar Log» par «Bandar-Log».

It also mentions that

This file was produced from images generously made available by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF/Gallica) at http://gallica.bnf.fr

And looking at the scan https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k96184168/f18.item.r=L... it appears that while the punctuation marks did have more space in front, the A was missing the accent even in the original.

I think I have found a bug. It is in typing "The Art of War".

The "s" in the first sentence of "Sun Tzu said:" does not want to be recognized. My "s" key works fine in other contexts, and other letters before this one are recognized just fine.

EDIT: Actually, this seems to happen for different books, relatively early on in each. I am also seeing it in "Grimm's Fairy Tales."

I have a MBP 2020, and I am using Safari.

Hello! I've just changed the way errors are displayed (it'll show what you actually typed in red if it was wrong). Maybe seeing what the site thinks you typed wrong will help us troubleshoot. Btw, Chrome seems to work for a lot of people, if you don't mind using it

I encounter no problems typing that phrase in The Art of War on macOS 10.14 in Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.

Very cool, I'm also more interested in the "retype a novel to get better at writing" rather than "typing fast", but as I'm French, I'd love to type some french novels. Would you be able to add a simple DIY mode where I first copy-paste a text (for instance that I get from Gutemberg), and then it is either stored locally or uploaded to your server, so I can type it?

Hello! There are a few French novels on the site already -- just use the language select above where the books are displayed to show them. As far as as using your own material, I'm planning on adding a feature like that sometime in the future. Thanks!

I'm much better at typing my own thoughts than copying from text. But, even so, I'm not a very good typist. I don't use all of my fingers. I use mostly my index and middle with a little of my ring finger, but never my little fingers. I wonder, if I want to improve my typing skills, should I force myself to slow down and develop proper technique using all of my fingers first?

I learned to type at a young age from video games and wasn't introduced to "Mavis Beacon" and other typing programs until I was 10 or 11. I had terrible form, but was typing at ~100wpm.

I decided I would try to learn "proper" form, and while it initially slowed me down, my top speed is now closer to 150-155.

In the same boat with you. My left hand is most likely spot on, but right hand only using index and middle, pink for Enter and Backspace. I tend to make typos around the right side of the keyboard. Not sure how to fix it after decades of typing.

I think maybe it would be better if the application showed any erroneously typed characters, rather than the correct characters in red. Or, if it's possible, to show some sort of visual juxtaposition between the two.

Also, I think maybe the font size should be a little bit larger, at least for the text around the position where the cursor is, if not for the whole text. Otherwise, nice application!

Hello! As a matter of fact, I just changed the way mistypes are handled to be like this. There will be options for less obtrusive cursors coming soon as well, which I hope should fix the need for larger text.

I agree with all points especially the cursor. Wish cursor was like Word where it's a line instead of highlighting the letter block.

Excellent Work There! Its greatly helpful. I have shared this with my friends. You should consider allowing user to upload any epub/pdf.

Hey thanks for the support! I'll definitely be adding some way of uploading your own stuff in the future, though it may not be ready for a while yet. Thanks again!

I’m interested to know what issues you’ve encountered with the built in keyboard in iOS. I found the virtual web keyboard weird to use and it missed a few keystrokes. I also do most of my typing and my reading on iOS, so, even if an uncommon use case, I would like to practice using this keyboard with maybe even autocorrect and swipe enabled to master typing in this environment.

Hey thanks for asking! Since this a website and not a native app, accessing and controlling built in mobile functionality has proven quite difficult. I'll certainly come back to it at some point, and if I can get native keyboards to work properly, will definitely add support for swipe and autocorrect to go with it.

This might have an unintended use as a copywriting tool.

There’s an exercise called copyworking where you rewrite copy written by someone else to internalize the rhythm, flow, punctuation, and word choice. I use it for shorter ad copy and have found it to be very valuable.

I do it with pen/paper as I find that it “sticks” better, but lots of people are resistant to that so a tool like yours might be useful.

A minor spoiler from Gravy Planet (1952): when the protagonist, an ad exec, is contacted by radical anti-consumption terrorists, although he despises them and everything they stand for, the very first thing he notices is that their copy sucks:

> "... calm, learned, we're all men of sound judgement and deep scholarship here. It was an appeal to reason, and that's always dangerous. You can't trust reason. We threw it out of the ad profession long ago and have never missed it."

so he rewrites it...

It reminds me of "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" by Borges [1]. If I re-write Ulysses from scratch, line by line, is it still the same book? Is mine better than Joyce's?

1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Menard,_Author_of_the_Q...

I love Borges, thanks for posting this!

His fiction always generates so many questions for me. Is the real writer the reader who constructs the story from the bare framework the author provides? And then is it possible for anyone to actually read the same novel?

I have learn typewriting in school. This how we learn it in 1 hour class in year.

First we start with single letter and need to type 10 page of every letter. Then we start with random combination 2 letter word, every line contain different word. For few day we practice with that. Then we start practising 3,4,5 letter combination

Slowly we moved to word -> line -> paragraph -> essay.

Learning typing will take type.

Cool idea:

Feedback: When I miss typing a character, all subsequent characters are marked wrong (red), even when they are actually correct. For example, let's say I write "paralel" instead of "parallel". The E and L would be marked wrong, even though only the L is missing.

Using a measure like edit distance could be a better way to identify incorrect characters.

I congratulate you on launching this. Definitely an interesting idea.

Another thing that interests me is the approach that Benjamin Franklin described in his autobiography to improve his writing.

He would read writing that he liked, note it carefully, and then after a few days he would try to reproduce the writing. Finally, he would tally it with the original writing to correct mistakes.

I'm making a lovecraftian typing game right now (see my progress here... https://twitter.com/LeapJosh ) and this was a planned feature, now I wonder if I should nix it so as not to be derivative, since you beat me to it!

Maybe I'll mix it up somehow.

Very cool idea and beautiful design execution!

One nitpick: it would be helpful to only have to type out the words on the page rather than different symbols (maybe having it be a toggle). For example, in The Art of War, typing out all the bullet points and numbering can be tedious and not really what I'm looking for from a typing exercise.

Hey, I'm glad you like it! While it's less work for me to just leave them in, I do see where you're coming from. Maybe a way to toggle them on or off could come in a future update. Thanks for the suggestion!

Thank you for this wonderful site! I just typed the first Chapter of Sense and Sensibility ;-) After practicing typing the 100 most used words for most of the time, this is really refreshing! Still struggling to follow the narrative too while typing, but i am sure i will get there (currently i am typing around 40 wpm average).

Excellent tool. How is WPM calculated? There are a few things to consider -- time spent not typing when taking a mid-chapter break, number of characters in a word (unless a words are counted literally by splitting at space characters), or if characters are counted instead of words, average number of characters per word...

Hello! WPM is calculated by splitting space characters, and is tracked on a per page bases. If you're cursor is on the first character of a page, it's not tracking your WPM, so that's where you would take a break. Thanks!

Loving it!

Just as a possible future improvement my eyes would probably be really happy about a dark mode :)

EDIT: just realised OP already has it on TODO.

This should tide you over until then, works pretty seamlessly on this site: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/dark-reader/eimadp...

Really cool stuff! The user experience is pretty slick, and this is also an interesting way of actually reading books.

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