Dvorak Switch

Filed under: neat!,news @ 15:46

As you may have heard on the streets, I’ve been using the Dvorak keyboard layout for some time now. I started after spookily hearing several Dvorak tales (most notably from Ellen and Matt) within just a few days of one another; clearly it was a sign from the heavens. The switch on my laptop is now permanent; the meticulously placed sticky notes I had pasted to each of the keys on my laptop have now been removed, and the keys themselves have been ripped out and put back in their new positions. It is the beginning of a new era.

Though I’ve not gauged it in a long while, I bet my words per minute is in the triple digits on a QWERTY keyboard. You may, then, wonder how fast I can type on the new layout. Not too quickly, as it turns out, though I have gotten dramatically better over the past two weeks. So what’s the advantage? Far less hand and finger movement. I still make lots of typos and I’m yet fairly slow, but I imagine those things will continue to improve whereas the reduced hand stress was an immediate benefit.

And speaking of lots of typos, it’s been really interesting to see what kind of typos I most regularly make. The most common, obviously, is hitting a letter’s QWERTY position instead of its Dvorak position; “s” is particularly dangerous in that regard. More surprising are the ‘look ahead’ typos (hitting the key that should come immediately after the one I actually want), and the ‘second order’ typos. The latter only happened during the first week or so but were truly bizarre and came in two different varieties. The first was the ‘flip-flop’. Suppose I need to hit the “i” key. On a Dvorak keyboard, the “c” key sits where a Qwertyst might expect the “i” to be. A flip-flop typo would therefore be hitting the “j” key which is the key occupying the “c” position on a QWERTY keyboard: second order. The second sort of second order typo I call the ‘flop-flip’. It’s the same except that the error pattern is Dvorak-QWERTY-Dvorak instead of QWERTY-Dvorak-QWERTY as is the case for the flip-flop.

Additionally, some letter combinations, like “or”, are more deeply QWERTY ingrained in my mind than others and, indeed, more so than their constituent letters are by themselves.

In short, the process is still in the ‘adventure’ stage.


    L 10.22.2005 @ 19:35

    Wow.. props on taking the plunge. I made an idle threat about switching to dvorak on my blog a couple weeks ago, from frustration of all the words I have to type that seem to have been chosen for their incompatibility with the QWERTY layout… but it would be too much trouble to switch mid-semester seeing as I have to type allll the time now.

    Someday, though. Someday I will join the revolution…

    Adam 10.23.2005 @ 13:30

    I really don’t understand what the big deal is. Dvorak is theoretically faster than qwerty. Seems to me that the main studies in which is faster were indeed conducted by the dvorak people themselves, rather than by an independent party. How often do you actually need to type 200 wpm anyway? What are the other benefits? The only one that I can think of is that you’ll have your computer all to yourself, since essentially noone else will want to use a dvorak layout. And while it may seem a benefit to you, if that’s the main reason for doing it, it makes you a jerk too, which would counterbalance things.

    Anyway, I’m just sayin’, “Why bother?” Qwerty is “good enough”, and dvorak might be “marginally better”. Unless I can type so fast on a Dvorak keyboard that smoke starts to come up from the keys, I don’t see the point in making a switch.

    MDA 10.23.2005 @ 15:29

    People have continued to use my computer since the switch; I have placed a convenient layout switching nubin on my laptop’s menu bar for that very purpose. As for why I bothered, the benefits I saw are mentioned above; I won’t waste your time by repeating them. I will say that speed wasn’t really an issue. I mean, how often do I acually need to type so fast that smoke comes up from the keys?

    Dixie 10.24.2005 @ 10:14

    If it’s easier and it feels better, why not do it? Why wait until your wrists start twinging to think about ways of reducing stress?

    As for typing so fast that smoke comes up from the keys, if I could do it without wrecking my wrists I would. I type personal and professional communication, I type for work (as do many readers here), and I type for creative output (fiction). The faster I can do it, the more time I have for other things.

    I’m just sayin’. I’m planning on making the switch at some point; Idaho just beat me to it. :)

    pariskan 10.24.2005 @ 12:46

    I took the plunge more than five years ago now, because my hands were on the verge of a breakdown. As a computer programmer, that’s pretty serious stuff!

    I vastly prefer typing on the Dvorak layout. Like you, I don’t care if it’s a little faster or slower; I probably haven’t completely recovered the same typing speed that I had, mostly because I constantly switch back to QWERTY whenever sitting at a computer that isn’t mine. However, I touch-type on both layouts and find that it isn’t that much of a pain. I developed that mental keyboard-layout toggle switch, just like you’ve got on the laptop’s menu bar. :)

    The main difference is that five years later, I can still type.

    L 10.26.2005 @ 19:45

    So you’re apparently onto a zeitgeist here.. Arthur C. Clarke just brought up QWERTYUIOP in a new Forbes essay about the future of communications…

    Luis Alonso 03.07.2006 @ 17:57

    i have considered dvorak due to some pain in my hands, arms… pain, numbness..hmm maybe the guy behind qwerty was a pianist with “Rachmaninov sized” hands.
    maybe im wrong, ok i hope im not but… does dvorak really makes it easy on the hands? i now what the studies say… what does real life experience has to say?

    MDA 03.07.2006 @ 18:04

    I didn’t experience any pain before switching, so my experience may not be the best measure. I can state that there is definitely less hand movement with Dvorak than with QWERTY.

    Try it out, see what you think.


    […] It’s harder to catch typos on Dvorak Filed under: news @ 23:32 Several months ago, I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout. On the whole, I’m quite happy about the switch. I’m still a little disjointed when going back and forth between it and QWERTY, but otherwise things are quite smooth. […]

    Alexander Schrepfer 07.22.2006 @ 01:32

    I have to ask — How are you doing with Dvorak these days? I was once a Dvorak user and started from pretty much the same roots as you described; being a 100+ wpm typist on Qwerty and moving to Dvorak finding out that he had a lot of the flip-flop errors. It was particularly the reason that I finally decided to switch back to Qwerty; the others being the fact that my right hand was always fatigued because it was being used more than previously and that I had a hard time each and every time I had to user somebody else’s computer; it started getting really annoying having to ask people if they minded me swapping their keymap or having to type like a 2 year old when I didn’t want to ask. So after 2 years of that I switched back to Qwerty with pretty much the same problems that came up in Dvorak with the hitting of wrong keys; hitting the ‘y’ key now when I want to hit ‘f’, and so on. I still find it really annoying when I use programs like Vi, cmd shell in Windows, some Unix commands, etc., when old keystrokes come to mind first. I was never able to get the flip-flop out of my mind on Dvorak with y and f keys. I think I am rambling now — but back to the point. I wonder if you managed to get past the stage of the flipflops and if there’s anything you did to help. I did typing tests and those did nothing but make me get over the errors for the first few hours but the old keys would always come up in the back of my mind when I would let it wander. Thanks! Alex

    daKingCharles 12.10.2008 @ 21:00

    Congratulations on the switch.

    I am giving it a try, and find my hands do not ache as much anymore.

    I might stick to it if I can get enough practice. :]

    MDA 11.22.2011 @ 15:53

    I just reread this. I don’t think I’ve ever typed at 100+ WPM. Certainly never typo free.

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