I spent a month using a free open-source touch typing package to up my speed and improve my typing skills. Klavaro is a plain, no-nonsense but effective program that allows you to learn to type even if it's your first time using a keyboard. Although over the last month I've seen my typing speed increase, I noticed a few issues along the way.
I'd previously learned the beginnings of typing on a package called Mavis Beacon. This was more visual, designed to look like a classroom, with a female animated teacher talking you through the basic keys. Between the lessons, colourful games required you to hit certain keys within certain times to get points. Mavis Beacon offered a visual representation of your fingers on the keyboard, and showed you where you should move your fingers to. Each key would light up as you hit it.
It was fun, but I didn't commit to it properly at the time. This was 4 years ago, before I swapped from Mac to PC. Mavis Beacon was a paid-for product; Klavaro is free from Sourceforge.
Klavaro is much more curt. There is no speech guidance- only the printed text for instruction. There's also very little indication of which fingers to use for which keys- instructions for the home keys are there, but after that you're guessing. There's no on-screen keyboard during the exercises,
After learning the home keys (asdf jkl;) the lessons move on to the keys above before incorporating the two rows. When using keys like qwer, the temptation is to rest your fingers on that row and not keep them on the home keys and reach up with each one. There's no instruction not to do that, though, nor encouragement to keep the fingers in the proper place.
I found some trouble distinguishing upper-case I from lower-case l, and the number 1. You may want to change the font from the default setting. You can also add bold and italics to some of the fonts, should you desire.
A font change, however, won't necessarily help you find the more obscure keys. When incorporating the symbols, you will eventually be asked to press the vertical bar. It looks like this:
Wikipedia says it has something to do with maths. That rules me out of using it for anything other than getting through Klavaro's lessons...
This is also difficult, on-screen, to distinguish between I, l and 1. It took AGES to find. The position, on my keyboard, of the vertical bar is shift and the key directly left of z.
Other problems: The colour scheme is a little hard on the eye, especially for the 1 in 5 of us like myself who are partially colour blind. Yellow-on-green is a strain.
These are nitpicking issues I felt compelled to make a note of for the purpose of blogging later. By the end of the month, I found I could type faster and without constantly looking at every key. I've still got a long way to go, and I'm still making errors, but I type a lot in work so I have plenty of opportunity to see the results of the practice.
I know I said I'd do this for a month, but there's no point stopping now. I'm just getting the knack. I'll sneak a few lessons in over the Christmas period and see what the rest of the package has to offer.