avatarSwitching to dvorak layout 🎹

50; 12022 H.E.

I switched to Dvorak layout in the summer of 2018. That was a very important time for me, as a couple of months after, I would start my first year in college. Why did I decide to switch to Dvorak and do I still use it four years later? Let us walk through it quickly.

First things first, let me run a quick introduction to the layout. The overwhelming majority of people use a QWERTY keyboard layout, which is currently the de facto standard keyboard layout. Many people that use it don’t even know that there are other layouts possible. The only way you know you use QWERTY is by looking at the first 6 letters in the top left of your keyboard.

If QWERTY is used by almost everyone in the world, it’s the accepted international standard and every physical keyboard in existence is built using the layout, why would I or anyone else ever think about switching out of it? There can be several, but you have to make sure those reasons would apply to you and you could benefit from them.

The big part of why I switched out was my inability to touch type on QWERTY, largely because I never learned how to type "the right way". I think I learned how to type on my parents’ old computer, where I would type by looking at all the keycaps, where my fingers would go smashing them violently. I never trained myself out of it, so even farther into my adolescence and fiery teenage years, I typed a little slow and needed constant visual assistance.

When I took upon learning Dvorak, I spent the first week or so completely crippled and unable to type anything faster than one keypress every 2-3 seconds. I would constantly look up the key positions on my phone (why would I move the keycaps) and try to memorize their positions as much as possible, before it bleeds into my muscle memory.

About two or three weeks later, I could confidently, not exuberantly, but confidently type in Dvorak at the same speed as I did when using QWERTY. A month or so after, it just became second nature to me. Four years after, never looked back. I have been a happy daily Dvorak user for years and more to come. Right as this backstory ended, let’s talk about some advantages Dvorak can bring you in your day-to-day-in-front-of-the-computer-typing-life.

The big part of why Dvorak is semi-popular is thanks to its more ergonomic key and letter placement compared to QWERTY. Most used letters, such as "aoeuidhtns" are located on your home row (the middle one), such that your fingers have to travel less distance in less time to reach the desired key. On QWERTY, however, they are spread out all over the keymap, which makes you run like a wild rabbit, chasing those keystrokes.

The modern Dvorak layout (US layout)
The modern Dvorak layout (US layout)

This difference in ergonomic key placement is very important. On QWERTY, you only spend about 30% of your time on the home row, whereas Dvorak keeps you 70% close to it. We can observe that Dvorak could be at least 40% more productive, as it reduces the amount of space you have to traverse when typing. Taking just that into account, you would be a faster typer using Dvorak instead of QWERTY.

How does it feel typing? I’m doing it right now as I did for years and it is very comfortable. Letters and their positions feel more natural, like dancing a ballet instead of running around like a wild rabbit. Just to sum it up, I would recommend trying Dvorak out if you feel your wrists hurt when typing for a long time or you never learned to touch-type QWERTY. Be crazy.

funny storytime

I was applying for a tech internship and had a scheduled on-site interview, where I had to code some stuff up on their laptops. I did forget that normal people use QWERTY, and I forget how to type it after not touching it for months. It was a funny moment, where this software engineering applicant doesn’t know how to type on a keyboard. I simply asked if I could quickly switch the layout (incredibly easy on macs) and we all had a good laugh. ◼︎