Dvorak beats Qwerty by aoeuhtns much

Last year I embarked on an experiment to try the Dvorak keyboard layout for typing to see if it was easier, better, and more comfortable. I'm a sucker for the contrarian method that is reputed to be better, faster and smarter.

Some background first. The Dvorak keyboard is just a keyboard layout that is designed to make typing easier, faster and more comfortable. It has been proven superior to the dreaded, contorted QWERTY. It is available on the keyboard that you are using right now. Here's a picture of the layout:

Learning it was easier than QWERTY and becoming a Dvorak touch typist was about ten times faster. I taught myself by using this website. Switching your keyboard to Dvorak, and being able to toggle between the two can be done pretty easily in the control panel for Windows (look under languages, not keyboard). Go ahead and play around with it. The letter placement is much more intuitive, the beginning steps are easier to follow than on the QWERTY. Note the home row keys (where your fingers rest on the center row of letters) for the two layouts:

asdf jkl;

aoeu htns

Look at the Dvorak home row, especially the two sets of four letters. Vowels to the left, consonants to the right. The other two vowels are on the left - 'i' is next to 'u' and 'y' is on the QWERTY 't', a short jump up from the 'i'.

Think of typing the word 'that' on this keyboard. Roll your right middle and index finger for the 'th', then left pinky for the 'a' and then the right middle for the 't'. No stretchy stretchy. On QWERTY, it would be stretch left and up to the 't', stretch left to the 'h', then 'a' and stretch up and left 't', and with the same hand.

After about a year of use, I can say definitively that Dvorak is much, much better.

Not only will I not go back to QWERTY, but I have found that I can't even if I wanted to. I've lost the QWERTY touch typing ability completely and when confronted with such a layout it is back to hunt and peck. A final knock against it - it doesn't stick in the mind when not used for a while.

So, like the trackball is to the mouse, the Dvorak keyboard is much better and easier to learn than QWERTY, which was designed to be a slow pain in the comma. I recommend that everyone learn it. It is available on every keyboard on every operating system. As a touch typist, you won't need to have the letter stickers on the keys correspond to what you get when you strike them. How many of you will be flexible enough to give it a try? Some won't want to throw away that long and painful investment in learning QWERTY, but Dvorak won't be as long or painful and you'll really crank when you are proficient.

The bigger question is what to do when the younger trackballs are ready to move on from the QWERTY hunt and peck to actual keyboarding? Do I let them join the elephant QWERTY touch-typist club or do I induct them in the enlightened cheetah club of Dvorak typing goodness? In the age of PC's and custom desktop accounts, the choice of keyboard layout is pretty much personal (but your computer support people may be surprised when they try to use it). Dr. Trackball may not like the Dvorak option, fearing that the trackballs will be outcasts, but if I convince her to switch over...


Wendy said...

Nope, not happening. Brain full.

leobh said...

Changed a while ago and haven't looked back since. I matched my QWERTY speed of ~60WPM within a month, and passed the 100WPM not long after. Not quite sure how I could bear typing before ;)

Daniel said...

I switched a bit less than a year ago, and I feel like I'm typing much faster. However, that's subjective; I didn't measure my speed before or after switching. I am slower at QWERTY now than I was, but I needed to use it on a public computer over the summer (and I couldn't put Dvorak on it because it would interfere with other people). I found that, after a few minutes, it started coming back to me. It isn't lost, just hidden somewhere.

Now I'm learning French and haven't found a good layout that uses the Dvorak letter positioning but allows for special accents. I'm using a QWERTY variation, and now I'm proficient in both, though slower in Dvorak than I was before starting French. I'm currently working on creating a custom Dvorak-based layout that will allow accents and other characters that I often type.

AC said...

Jdpps kjdo msokapw G ;dd kjak ts aod sld sy kjd dpgkd!

Will said...

<s,w kjak pa;k ismmdlk ,a; rodkkt jaoh ks odahw nfk kjdt aod a psk da;gdo ks ktrd!

AC said...

lol, this makes it a bit easier to translate http://wbic16.xedoloh.com/dvorak.html

Tak said...

jd.jt m. rgyw c co y.d jrrn.oyv

Mavrisa said...

I've been using dvorak for around 2 months now. At first, I found it really frustrating (I had tried a few times before, but had given up both times because of the frustration of not being able to express myself as fast as on a qwerty), but now I'm pretty much used to it. Trouble is, at work I've had to use the qwerty layout. For a while I sucked at typing on both layouts. I find I'm now able to type both in qwerty and dvorak. I just need about 3 minutes to regain my old qwerty speed. I think this has had an effect on the rate at which I'm able to learn dvorak though... I still make tons of mistakes along the way (I really don't like the positioning of the f key. I don't think that was thought through.)
How long would you say it took you to for sure be able to say you'd surpassed your maximum-ever top speed on a qwerty? I don't think I have yet, just because of all of the mistakes that I'm constantly making. That said, I don't think that goal is too far off now.

AC said...

@Mavrisa It was about 3.5 months for me, but I was a terrible qwerty typist.

I believe there is some sort of law requiring accommodation from your employers; also, show them this: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/career-planning/getting-job/rsi-in-the-workplace-dont-fall-victim-to-the-keyboard-curse-410284.html

Kevin said...

One thing that Dvorak has really helped me with in the past year is passwords. I keep my keyboard in Dvorak, but type in standard- Super encoded password with lots of symbols.