January 30, 2019

Dvorak

So probably about 4 years ago now I started to really get into mechanical keyboards. And I don’t mean that I bought one and that was that. Like, within a year I’m pretty sure I already owned at least 2 keyboards and a handful of keycaps. That led me to look into other keyboard related things like alternate layouts.

Now I had heard of Dvorak from a friend back in high school. He used to talk about how he wanted to make the switch because it was supposed to be more efficient and better for your hands and wrists. I thought it was interesting at the time but never really gave it a real thought. That was until way after high school, about mid 2015.

I don’t really know why I wanted to switch other than just to see if I could. I mean, the layout made sense to me. Having all the vowels on the home row and on the same side made sense. Moving the semi-colon off of the home row too made sense. But I didn’t really have a reason to switch. I just thought it might be fun.

Now if you don’t know, the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout changes a lot from the standard QWERTY layout that we were all taught in school. Here’s some images for reference:

Qwerty Layout

QUERTY Layout

Dvorak Simplified Keyboard Layout

Dvorak Simplified Keyboard Layout

As you can see, there are a lot of differences in the two layouts. In fact the only two main keys that stay the same are the “A” and “M” keys. Everything else, save for the number row, are different. But there is also Programmer Dvorak which even moves the number row around, but I’m not going to get into that in this post since I’ve never used it.

So the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout is a keyboard layout patented during 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey. Dvorak proponents claim the layout requires less finger motion and reduces errors compared to the standard QWERTY keyboard arrangement. It is claimed that the reduction in finger distance traveled permits faster typing while also reducing repetitive strain injuries, although that claim is controversial. (source Wikipedia)

The Dvorak Zine also has some really cool information on the layout in the from of a neat little comic.

Any way, enough about the history. Let’s talk about how I got started using the layout. Like I said earlier, I just wanted to see if it would be possible for me to switch. I didn’t really think that I’d still be using it 3 years later. But here I am.

Getting started was the hard part. I had tried a few times but only used Dvorak at home, at work I was still using QWERTY as I was comfortable with it. But I honestly don’t think that was a good idea. I believe it only slowed me down in learning Dvorak. But after a few weeks I decided to just switch entirely to Dvorak. I used a neat little website to help me learn where the keys were located and it honestly helped a lot. Another thing that helped was NOT changing my keycaps around to be in the Dvorak layout. I left the keycaps in the standard QWERTY layout for a few reasons. One, they were sculpted so the profiles of the keys would have been all messed up making typing a nightmare., and two, I wanted to learn to touch type. I was never really good at touch typing. I always found myself looking down at the keyboard every now and then just to see where that one letter I was looking for was. This is a TERRIBLE habit to develop! Touch typing is the most efficient way of typing. So I didn’t switch the keycaps around. What I did do however, is printed out a little cheat sheet of the Dvorak layout (actually it was the exact image posted above) and set that under my monitor at work. So that way, when I needed a little help, I wasn’t looking down at the keyboard but instead I was still looking straight at my monitor and used the cheat sheet as a guide to find the key by touch and build muscle memory.

I believe that little cheat sheet worked wonders and was the biggest reason that I was able to make the switch. Now I really wish I had documented my process of learning Dvorak at the time of actually learning it, because man was it frustrating. It took me for ever just to reply to an email or instant message at work. It was really a bit of a nightmare at the time. But after about a month or two I was at a point where it was no longer slowing me down and I feel as if I was actually a bit faster.

Now, I’m not saying that Dvoark is for everyone. I do believe that there are very large benefits to switching to any layout other than QWERTY and there are a lot. There are even some like Colemak that I might even want to give a shot one day. But for now I’m happy with Dvorak and I see no reason to switch. And I love the fact that I am now a touch typist. It opened up the world of blank keycaps, which just look absolutely beautiful if you ask me.

Maybe sometime in the future I’ll write more about my personal experiences with switching to, and sticking with Dvorak but for now I’ll leave you with this quick little post about the layout. I’ll also have to post some photos of my current keyboard collection in the near future here. But for now this is fine.

Currently Listening To: In A Safe Place - The Album Leaf

© Chance Monnette 2019

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