Type Smart With the Dvorak Keyboard

The QWERTY keyboard is a given. Everyone uses it, no one questions it… and it would be difficult to find a more inefficient way to type.

QWERTY was developed by Christopher Sholes in the early 1870s with one thing in mind: preventing typewriter jams. After one keystroke raised a typebar, pressing a nearby key too soon would result in a collision that locked the bars together.

So Sholes engineered his keyboard to maximize the distance between keystrokes and actually SLOW DOWN typists.

Now that we use electronic keyboards without mechanical constraints, it makes absolutely no sense to use a layout developed before electric lighting, phonographs, and cars. Ergonomics and the speed and ease of input should be the only factors.

Enter the Dvorak keyboard, designed in the 1930s to address typist fatigue after jam-free electronic typewriters appeared. His layout placed the most commonly-pressed keys in the home row (where your fingers rest) and maximized alternation between hands. He really just took the most common words and made them easiest to type.

The results vary according to different studies and statistics cited across the internet, but none of the actual text is online. A 90% reduction in finger travel seems like a conservative estimate based on the numbers floating around, and a vastly reduced error rate is claimed too. Regardless, the benefits are immediately obvious after using it for a few days.

Reasons I switched to Dvorak:

  • Smartest option
  • Potential speed increase
  • Lower risk of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Reduction in error rate

It comes preloaded and easily activated on all major operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux), so I’m not limiting myself if I have to use someone else’s computer. And strangely enough, my thumbs are still QWERTY rockets when I email or text on my Treo.

I used a fantastic typing tutor called Ten Thumbs Typing that got me up to a functional 30 wpm in a few days. After a few weeks I felt completely up to speed.

Now I’m as fast if not faster, my hands barely move at all, and they never get tired.

Give me a few days of pain for lifelong gain anytime.

Wikipedia: Dvorak Simplified Keyboard Layout
Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor

5 thoughts on “Type Smart With the Dvorak Keyboard”

  1. Yeah! I switched to Dvorak a year or 2 ago and I never looked back!

    When the iPhone 3G came out though I thought I’d have problems typing on the QWERTY keyboard, but for some strange reason I can still type on it!

  2. I’m considering switching back to QWERTY actually. For one I never learn how to correctly type. Instead of using 4 fingers placed on aoeu I only use two or three fingers to type. I think I broke a few keys on my mac making the swap. It makes switching computers difficult and for the sake of the military, hoping to get a computer job I probably should relearn how to type again…

  3. If you’re not typing with the right fingers, you’re not realizing the benefits of Dvorak in the first place. But learning new fingering definitely beats learning new fingering and a new (old) layout.

    Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor will get you straightened out, and military or not, any modern-day (and almost any latter-day) computer has Dvorak pre-loaded.

    It’d just be a shame to go back to QWERTY after investing in the smartest option. The toughest part is behind you.

  4. Month late, but eh…

    The best way to really be proficient in Dvorak, is to not bother physically switching the keys. No broken keys, and you’re forcing your brain to map the keys in your head, without the crutch of being able to hunt and peck.

    Once you don’t have to look at the keyboard, you’ll have a much easier time working on other computers, just switch the layout and voila!

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