Do developers need fast typing skills?

I kind of get the feeling I'm going to get some flack for this - but as a matter of comparatively small importance, it does seem to have reared its head a few times. The question of speedy typing skills among developers seems to be a sticking point for some.

I kind of get the feeling I'm going to get some flack for this - but as a matter of comparatively small importance, it does seem to have reared its head a few times. The question of speedy typing skills among developers seems to be a sticking point for some.

On the one hand I heard from a .NET developer pal of mine who types relatively slowly and tells me that this is because it's not a core developer skill. The ability to think fast, stay focused and keep sharply attuned to the code is more important, he says.

On the other hand, we recently had a talkback posted here at ZDNET about the fundamental importance of being able to employ "ten finger input" in programming work.

Also, if you read any of the blogs I posted from VMWorld Europe, you may remember me describing a story where a programmer had had to type physically faster than thought possible to hard code (or just perform an emergency fix) for an operation during a keynote demo that had gone wrong.

Yet again on the other hand I speak to people who are more involved with systems analysis, architectural planning and face-to-face customer requirements analysis – and this type of work, they say, means that they are naturally less speedy across the keyboard.

So which is it? A bit of both maybe – I know, I know… "It depends," right?

keyboard'

Here's some of the feedback I got when I asked around:

"Well I suppose it has something to do with being in command of the tools of the trade. It's not great to know that someone whose job it is to use the PC all day can't use the interface (keyboard) properly. What else can't they do properly? Someone who types slowly but claims to think fast must be a very frustrated programmer." Martin Clark, Enable Development, London, UK.

"Speaking as someone with mediocre typing skills, I think it depends. Some shops might require quantity and others quality - and some a combination of both. In my own world, fast typing isn't required, I'm thinking more on the fly, so when I compose emails, right some test code, log case notes, write up bug reports, I need to collect my thoughts and focus on the task at hand, all while multitasking. Because of this, fast typing wouldn't be of any advantage as my main skill is problem diagnosis. I'd think as a developer - from the people I work with - they're going to be a mixed bunch. Some are fast typers, others slower. It seems the fast typers are those developing new code - maybe because they've always been coders. Others who are slower seem to be of the ‘sustaining’ engineering type - they're testing more then typing, looking for bugs, thinking actually. When they're ready to code the fix, the amount of code is usually ‘light’ so the speed of typing is no big deal." Paul Vero, Sybase, Denver, Colorado.

"I spent 18 years or so as a software developer and have now been freelance writing for about 15 years... and I'm still a two finger typist – and a bad two finger typist at that! My philosophy has always been: there's no point for me being able to type faster than I can think!!! In fact, I have watched software developers – who have developed fast keyboard typing skills which are the equivalent of the old American West gunslingers – who are too quick off the mark and create serious problems for themselves because they type before thinking – sometimes with disastrous results! For me, at least, slow and steady wins the race!" Tony Stevenson, Hobart, Tasmania.

"I agree with the last reason... "it depends" on what aspect you do as a developer. If you are more of an architect or an analyst then typing is not a crucial skill. If you are a hard-code developer and code hack then you better be fast on the QWERTY! :-)" Chris Pollach, The Great White North Evangelist, Ottawa, Canada.

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