Dvorak - What I’ve learned

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Odds are if you look at your keyboard the top row says QWERTY. If not, you probably think you’re pretty sweet. Dvorak is an alternative keyboard layout that is supposed to be more efficient. It also has a cool factor - if you don’t understand, don’t ask.

Because of this, I of course decided to try to make the switch after wanting to for some time. I’ve found is it’s not too hard to learn a different keyboard layout once you can type efficiently on another. I didn’t drop down to the hunt-and-peck level since I still had the hand coordination, but I did drop down tens of words a minute. I’m sure with more time I’d be back up to my previous speed.

Problem is I’ve abandoned the idea already. My keyboard is still configured for Dvorak, but I’m again typing in QWERTY. The world isn’t designed for Dvorak and it’s frustrating. It’s designed for QWERTY. While this technically isn’t an issue, it’s still a problem that snowballs.

I equate the switch from QWERTY to Dvorak as the equivalent of being left-handed in a right-handed world (I’m right handed). I now can (somewhat) understand the frustration many left-handers have. While the “recessive traits” of Dvorak may in fact be argued as superior for one reason or another the truth amounts to that the environment still caters to the dominant.

I’m also beginning to argue over some of the so-called benefits of Dvorak.

  1. The home row. Dvorak puts the most commonly used letters on the home row thinking this will make you type faster. I have big hands. I argue this makes it more difficult and uncomfortable for me to type. I should point out that I don’t type correctly though; I type how my hands lay comfortably on the keyboard.

  2. Key organization. Again, Dvorak thought it was more appropriate to spread out the keys so that hands alternate more per word. In QWERTY the left hand types a lot more. I can’t argue this alone as being incorrect, but I’m assuming Dvorak was designed before the mouse existed. I find it convenient w/ QWERTY to keep my hand on the mouse a lot of the time while still being able to type. With Dvorak my hands are almost always back on the keyboard.

  3. Universal commands. Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V on QWERTY require one hand, but on Dvorak it’s two you need. Sure, you can remap them to an alternative, but now you have to learn those changes as well. And that’s just two commands. How about every game you play (W-A-S-D)? Or application suites – Microsoft Office, Open Office, etc). All need special attention (IMHO) to cater to Dvorak.

  4. Switching computers. At work I have QWERTY, at home I setup Dvorak. My goal was once I got the point of knowing Dvorak I could switch both. It’s very easy to switch. Issue is, I’d have to either remember two layouts for other computers I access, or switch every computer I every use. I’ve also found out (when trying to type QWERTY on a Dvorak layout) that I sometimes forget where keys are. I can only assume the same would happen when I’d type Dvorak on a QWERTY keyboard.

For all these reasons it only makes sense to me to continue using QWERTY. If the benefits were visibly large enough perhaps most people would change over. But they’re not. There is no guarantee that Dvorak is a faster layout. There’s the same amount of keys, on the same keyboard. All it is for is to feel cool and to keep people from using your computer.

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