How Do I Internet One-Handed?


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This morning I crashed my bike while composing tweets in my head, or something equally stupid. I managed to break my hand, which means I only have one hand to type from now on. To someone who practically lives online, this is as bad as breaking a leg.

It also means I am going to have to get used to dictating, which is something I have never liked. It feels artificial, and I don’t find it as easy as putting words down with a pen or keyboard. I don’t think — or write — linearly, so speaking a blog post from beginning to end just doesn’t come naturally to me. But now that I have a splint on my left hand, it doesn’t look like I have any choice.

Fortunately, my old Android phone has always had Google’s excellent voice to text baked into the operating system. It is an option anywhere you can use the keyboard. Unfortunately, my iPad 2 doesn’t. So at the moment I am using the Dragon dictation app to compose posts that I can copy and paste into WordPress. For some reason, it doesn’t seem to want to let me use my keyboard to edit the text that gets transcribed without forcing me to hit a new button every time I want to do it. It is working, but it isn’t great.

If you are limited to one hand (or less) I would love to know how you get by on the Internet, because I am going to be one-handed for the next month or two, at least.


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  • Sam, I don’t mean to get juvenile on you, but the Internet may be nearly half one-handed browsing even though most of those surfing porn sites don’t have a broken hand.

    In all seriousness, maybe you need the Leap or another gesture technology to make your one hand more useful.

  • karrie

    Hey Sam,

    I had four kids in less than five years. During those years of holding and feeding infants, I found that I learned to type one-handed. I wasn’t nearly as fast as when I had two hands free, but you will be amazed at how that one hand will adapt to this weird jumping around the key board thing that will be your new one handed life for the next little bit. Give yourself a little extra time. It’s totally worth it, especially if your thought process is so different for your speaking (dictating) and writing (typing) styles.

  • Andy Mergendahl

    Your hand will heal. But how is your bike!?
    Go old school. Write with your favorite fountain pen, then dictate. Or get a recent grad to type everything after you write it. Internship!

    • I will pick up the bike tomorrow, and see how it is. I have my fingers crossed.

      I am considering drafting future posts with my fountain pen, and just scanning and posting. Bad for SEO, though.

      • Not necessarily, those handwritten posts might just attract links…

        • You might be #1 on google image searches for “splendid handwriting”. Or something.

  • Paul Majors

    I always paid the fastest typers in high school to take my timed writing tests in typing class. Consequently, I never learned to type except by the two fingers method. Quite a deficit for a lawyer. I also never liked to dictate – like you I like to see what I’m writing as I am writing it but I bet I get more words on the page faster than most of you. Since the early 90’s I have been using various voice recognition software. Back then it sucked, now its amazing! I’m now using Dragon Naturally Speaking version 11.5 on a Win 7 64 with 8 gbs memory. The software really does type as fast as you speak and is remarkably accurate. Its relatively inexpensive, has a short learning curve allows you to surf the web by voice as well. Try it you’ll like it.

  • Tim Evans

    Sorry to hear about your accident, but I’m glad to know I’m not the only lawyer who doesn’t like dictating.

    That may be a good topic for a future post— the pros and cons of dictating, that sort of thing.

  • Dragon might speed things up on the desktop

  • I spent nearly two years -in the midst of college – without the use of my left (dominant) hand. I ended up dictating some exams directly to the profs, hunt-and-pecking others and scrawling still others with my right hand. The good news is how quickly the brain adapts to and works around an impediment like this. Think of it as an opportunity to develop some mad one-handed typing skills!

  • So far, Windows 7 voice recognition is working pretty well. I’m trying to hold off on buying Dragon, because I always prefer built-in software if it works.

  • I was born with one hand, sooo…. You’ll be fine. hehe

    The thing is, since I was born this way, I learned to type one-handed. You didn’t. I can totally understand the drastic change for you.

    And I totally get the dictation thing, too. I never do. And you’d think I would, but there’s just something about typing out your thoughts.

    Anyway…good luck and heal quickly!

  • Catherine Tucker

    I’ve been there too…although only temporarily. I was eventually able to move my fingers, so I was able to use my busted arm to “help” by resting it gently on the keyboard and using the fingers for the things on the way left side of the kepyboard. Typing was slower but not horrible. Do you have someone who can help you edit by fixing your punctuation and capitalization. If you don’t have to deal with things like the shift key, it is much easier to type one handed.

  • Sam, in the Mac app store, both for the Macbook and the iPad, there are free, one-hand typing apps. The one for the macbook appears to double-up your keys, so that each has 2 letters on it, and the one for the iPad creates a semi-circular keyboard for one-handed typing. The iPad app has some poor reviews but the other one looks more promising.

  • Great minds accident alike. I too, had a bicycle accident recently. I wish I could use my Dragon naturally speaking software which I purchased about two years ago. I installed more than a year ago and repeatedly tried to patch it when prompted from the company’s website. It never worked and I fear it’s out of warranty. I can never get through on Dragon’s voice activated phone system ironically. Complete waste of money and time. The only consolation was I got to read John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech so the equipment could learn my voice (without the Boston accent).

  • As an avid cyclist with an internet addiction, I feel your pain.

    Due to a significant disagreement within my office (my secretary was getting pissed off because she didn’t know anything about my files because I do all my own typing), I am now dictating absolutely everything. With the exception of emails, I have had to learn to dictate letters for the first time. Three days later, I am loving it.

    One thing that helped my dictation was that my secretary prepares a draft straight from the dictaphone, which I can then edit (by pen or by dictaphone.) So I see everything that I dictated before it goes out. That usually means that I have to re-think the way I draft the letter, and I have often scrapped letters entirely and started again.

    As you mentioned, I find it very hard to think linearly, and I tend to write a letter from the middle out. However when you think about it, writing in a linear fashion can have huge benefits if you transpose that thinking to other things, like Court presentation or conversation.

    • Full disclosure; I typed this and the previous comment myself. With two hands.