Dvorak Keyboard

I use the “Dvorak Keyboard”.

Most people have never heard of it.

This is the dvorak keyboard:

The dvorak keyboard is just a  regular keyboard. There isn’t any extra hardware; no need to buy any new keyboard… it’s all in the software.

Here is the keyboard layout:

The Path to Dvorak

I started using dvorak keyboard in Secondary School in 11th grade. The main reason for the switch was that it was weird, and I wanted to try it.

Now, 2 years later, dvorak is just something that’s just a part of me. It’s just a bit different, but not that much. The best thing is that I strike up some “conversations” about it. By conversations, I mean lecturing people on why the qwerty keyboard (the regular keyboard) is so inefficient.

The Steps

  1. Enable and switch to Dvorak Keyboard on your computer’s Control Panel
  2. Try your best to remember the characters in the layout above.
  3. Start typing… & Practise! (it’s ok if you occasionally look what where some characters are)

A Story

Switching to dvorak is easy. When I made my switch, it was just starting december 2012 in the school year. The bulk of the assignments had already been past, so I wouldn’t need any extra time on school work. Instead, I learnt by typing blog posts. The graph below shows my progression. I had a max qwerty speed of 66 wpm, which was respectable but not fast. After the 1st day, I could type 10wpm, and got back to my old speed in less than 2 months. After some really practice december last year, I hit 80wpm. But I still got a ways to go: Matt Mullenweg uses dvorak and gets 120wpm.

dvorak typing speed

After 15 months, I’ve never looked back. Once you realize just how inefficient and hideous qwerty is, it’s clear that dvorak is the right decision.

Why Dvorak?

The QWERTY Keyboard is designed to make people type slower.  It was designed to slow down typists so they wouldn’t jam the typewriter.

2: With the QWERTY Keyboard, the most frequently typed characters: ‘e’, ‘t’, ‘a’, ‘o’, ‘i’, ‘n’… are mostly on the top row. Letters ‘J’ and ‘K’ are the 4th & 5th least used letters, yet they are on the home row.

3: You move your hand less with dvorak, and you make less errors.

Here’s the Catch:

If you already type at >80 wpm on qwerty, you won’t increase your speed much.

2: It takes 3 weeks at least to return to your old typing speed (with dvorak of course).

3: If you use public computers, it takes 30 seconds to change the keyboard settings each time you start up. Some library computers don’t even allow you to change keyboards.

A common criticism

“There have been no studies verifying that dvorak keyboard increases typing speed…”

If you’re really dedicated to improving your typing, you type a lot, or you’re a hunt-and-peck typist learning to touch type, dvorak is no question more comfortable and faster. Your hands move much less, most characters typed are on the home row, and there are significantly fewer awkward strokes (try typing “minimum” on qwerty!). Of course, there’s the time that it takes to switch from qwerty to dvorak, so each person’s situation would be different.

But it’s not that bad…

You need to type anyways, why not learn a new typing skill AND do your regular typing at the same time?

2: When you become proficient at dvorak, qwerty will seem strange. Dvorak will be your natural keyboard, and you’ll never want to return.

3: Here are some tips that should help ease the transition:

  • If you’re on Windows, Download AutoHotKey, and use this script. All the useful short-keys: control+c (copy), ctrl+v… are now Windows+c, Windows+v…
  • Learn how to switch keyboards on the control panel quickly. It’ll take <30 secs after a few times.
  • Don’t buy a special keyboard or tape letters on your keyboard. The goal is to ingrain the letters in your muscle memory, and after a few days, you should be able to recite all letters.
  • Set your passwords with dvorak encoding because most of the login keyboards are qwerty by default.
  • Switching between qwerty & dvorak isn’t easy. Dvorak should be your default, and to retain your qwerty skills, type in qwerty a few times a month. With dvorak, you will become slower at qwerty, but after a few minutes on qwerty, your qwerty skills should gradually come back.

Last Words…

“I’m tired of trying to do something worthwhile for the human race, they simply don’t want to change!”

—August Dvorak (inventor of dvorak keyboard)

If you’re still itching to learn more, here’s a fun comic.

Happy Typing!

Source: Wikimedia Commons
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