My Experience: The Dvorak Keyboard Layout

How this all got started

After trying it twice unsuccessfully, the third time was the charm, and I’ve never looked back!

I think I found the Dvorak keyboard layout out of frustration with the QWERTY layout. I always found typing to be awkward and slightly frustrating. There are just too many words, very common words, that do not flow well when they are typed. After years of typing, the awkward, unnatural feel of typing never really faded. And the order of the keys seemed to make no sense! And it begged the question: “why are the keys laid out this way?”

So, while doing some searching out of curiosity, I found the Dvorak keyboard layout. Right off the bat, I was sold on the idea:

  • the purpose of QWERTY was to minimize binding of typewriter arms,
  • No one seems to really be sure how exactly the QWERTY layout was chosen,

But Dvorak…

  • was designed through scientific study and measurement
  • was designed for the purpose of maximizing efficiency for the English language.
  • Common letter combinations were placed outside-in. When drumming your fingers on a hard surface, it’s more natural to go pinky-finger to forefinger.
  • The most commonly typed letters were placed for the strongest fingers.
  • There was a focus on hand alternation for consecutive letters, which is more efficient than consecutive letters on the same hand
  • Vowels were placed all on one side to maximize alternation
  • …and the list went on.

Countless people claim that it feels more natural, and can reduce strain from typing (which I had). And the long-time world record holder for typing used Dvorak.

There was also lots of talk about how much easier it is to learn than qwerty. 

Dvorak just made more sense! But, as with many things, QWERTY is still around because it became the defacto standard.

The Dvorak Layout

The Dvorak Layout
The Dvorak Layout

So, I decided to try it.

First Try

I was so convinced that I set out to try it right away. I started memorizing the layout at home, and planned to eventually start using it at work. It was gonna be great!

Well, it turned out to be a bit harder than I thought. The QWERTY was so engrained in my brain and in my muscle memory, that trying to continue with Dvorak after working all day with QWERTY became counter-productive. So I put it on the shelf.

Second Try

Pretty much the same thing.

Third Try

OK, this QWERTY crap is really pissing me off. Typing sucks. And I’m actually pretty good at it! I can understand why so many people reach a ceiling at a fairly low proficiency level.

In a career that requires me to type a LOT, if I have to do this for another 20 years, I’m gonna lose it.

Since the last time, I’d met someone at work who actually used Dvorak as her primary layout. She went to type a period on my computer, and ‘e’ showed up. After a chuckle, she told me she used Dvorak and had been using it for a while. The next time I saw her type on her own computer, she was one of the fastest typers I’d ever seen!

This time I changed my approach. I was gonna have to go “cold turkey”, take the plunge! Going back and forth just wasn’t working for me. I was going to have to find a way to make the switch completely.

At work, I was approaching the beginning of a long project cycle that would involve a lot of documentation. Because it was to be a several month cycle, I knew that the beginning of it would be fairly low pressure. That meant that I could probably take a bit of a slow-down in my typing speed without much impact on anything else. Besides, there were people at work who were extremely productive engineers, but were terrible at typing. If they can be productive at a snail’s pace on the keyboard, then so can I, darn it!

So, I found some time over the weekend to re-memorize the Dvorak layout, and took the plunge.

I didn’t have an actual Dvorak keyboard, so I had to rely on touch-typing. For that, I used the method described in my hub on touch typing:

After a few weeks

I was still a lot slower than before I started, but I was starting to type fairly steadily, and at a regular pace. I was seeing continual improvement.

After a couple of months

Much improvement! I was about as fast as before I started, but many fewer type-o’s. Typing had become much more comfortable and natural. It was also more steady and rhythmic.

Now…

My typing is far better than it ever was with qwerty. I have fewer type-o’s. It’s more consistent and steady. It’s actually more comfortable, which seems like a strange thing to say, but it’s true; there’s no awkwardness, and the words flow so naturally that my hands can stay much more relaxed.

I have also acquired a new skill, at which I continue to improve, making it actually enjoyable to type sometimes.

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning at least one drawback (which is exactly how many I have found). Not all of the keyboards out there are set up for Dvorak. So, if you have to use someone else’s computer, or you have to share a computer, then you might have forgotten qwerty. This has happened to me, but, to be honest, I’m using my own computer 99.9% of the time, so it really doesn’t matter that much.

My standard black Dell keyboard with Yellow transparent Dvorak stickers.
My standard black Dell keyboard with Yellow transparent Dvorak stickers.

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Comments 5 comments

Uriel profile image

Uriel 7 years ago from Lebanon

HEHE man nice story... you reminded me of when i got (for the first time a pc and started -theoretically - learning how to type) It was embarassing.. (ONE FINGER TYPER LOL) yup, you showed the reader that patience and persistance are the key for acheiving your goals. Still i will stick to my keyboard..nooooo way i am going to shift keyboards.I can't believe i finally mastered it. BUt i bet taking that challenge down made you feel great! Way to go man...but trust me when i say i am a chicken when it comes to trying NEW stuff...btw are there any programs that help you learn typing using Dvorak ?


droj profile image

droj 7 years ago from CNY Author

There is definitely some software out there, some of it is web-based, so you can use it right in your browser. But I've never really liked them, because you're not actually producing anything while typing, you're just typing nonsense. But give them a shot when you change your mind and decide to try the superior keyboard layout! :)


Bryan 5 years ago

Hey neat story! I got some keyboard stickers when I took the plunge too, so I recommend that method. I also kept track of my typing speeds to see how they progressed. Have a look at the graph if you're interested:

http://bryanbraun.com/2010/12/27/the-dvorak-keyboa...


droj profile image

droj 5 years ago from CNY Author

Interesting graph, Bryan. I admit, I let my skill at qwerty slip. I might try regaining my proficiency with it, though, for the sake of convenience.


Tony 5 years ago

For Qwerty typists, Colemak is another option.

Colemak retains QWAH-ZXCVBM keys and changes only 17 keys, while Dvorak changes 33 keys from Qwerty. That halves the learning time compared to Dvorak

My own layout switch experience

http://forum.colemak.com/viewtopic.php?id=970

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