On the Dvorak Keyboard Layout

It’s a relatively well-known fact that I am a Dvorak typist, and have been for about four or five years now. Just an introduction for the uninitiated, the Dvorak keyboard layout is just a different arrangements of letters purposively chosen because it is more efficient for typing the English language. For example, instead of my left hand resting on the letters ASDF it rests on the letters AOEU. There have been studies both ways saying it is or is not faster than QWERTY, and frankly I think most of them are useless. Logically you can see that if the letters you use most are right under your fingers, ultimately you’re going to work less while typing.

Why did I switch? If I remember correctly, I was surfing around the website of columnist John Dvorak and on some page he mentioned the Dvorak keyboard layout and linked to a site about it. Several web searches later, I had read all about the layout I could find on the web and I was ready to switch. Some of my motivation was that I wanted to be as fast as humanly possible, but it was mostly that I spend a tremendous amount of time typing and I often got pains in my hands and wrists. Switching did not seem like a big obstacle simply because it seemed very similar to learning to play a new instrument, something that as a musician I could relate to and didn’t seem too challenging.

I know now that some of my reasons for switching may have been hype on the part of the websites I read, I can offer what I have found in my personal experience to be true.

Switching is not as hard as people make it out to be. Even if you are already quite proficient at QWERTY, it’s not too hard to switch. You don’t need to buy a new keyboard, in every operating system there is a mechanism for switching what’s called the “keymap” or the mapping between the physical keys on your keyboard and what the operating system prints out. So if you switch your keymap to dvorak you can immediately begin typing dvorak in all your applications. However it can be confusing to press the button labeled T and get a Y, so it is generally better, at least while learning, to give yourself some visual aids. What I did was print out letters on a piece of paper and then stick them to the keys using double-sided tape. Of course I was 14 or 15 and had a lot more time on my hands. For some people it might be enough just to have a printout of the layout by their monitor or keyboard, but there is something to be said for being able to look at the key and seeing what you’re going to type. What I do now, if I want to physically switch a keyboard over, is actually pop off the keys and put them back in the Dvorak positions.

This is much easier than it sounds, and probably takes about ten minutes. Of course be careful because sometimes the keys literally pop right off and might jump behind a desk or something, speaking from personal experience. The main disadvantage to doing this in that your home keys no longer have ridges on them and because of the bizarre way that keyboards are manufactured, on every keyboard I’ve done this two the hook on back of the guide keys (usually F and J on your keyboard) is sideways to every other hook for every other key which means that to put those keys someplace else you’d have to put them sideways, and whatever key you put in that position will also have to be sideways. This isn’t as bad as it sounds because it actually serves as a new guide mechanism, but it looks a little funky. I can’t think of a way to do this with a natural keyboard. You can buy keyboards designed for Dvorak, but for me it has never been worth the bother. I don’t want to have to special-order my keyboard, I just want to pick up whatever is the coolest at the computer store.

My writing speed did not increase significantly. Although I could type faster than ever, the limiting factor in my writing speed is and was the way I formulate sentences in my mind, often thinking of several different ways to say something. However in situations where I can type without thinking too much, for example taking notes in class or at a conference, it has been a huge benefit and often I can keep up almost in real time with what’s being said. Of course if I stop to consider something or participate in class discussion I get behind but I think the advantage of actively participating in the class or conference outweighs whatever benefits I would get from having a transcription of it.

The big thing for me is comfort. I can now type for long periods of time with no fatigue at all, and that isn’t even an issue I think of anymore. I can’t point to anything scientific that says for every person Dvorak will be more comfortable, I just know it’s been a major improvement for me.

One advantage I don’t think I have seen mentioned before is the security aspect. On my laptop in particular there is now a device with all of my personal information on it that might be in the hands of anyone. Lets say that you knew my password, if you picked up my laptop you still would have trouble getting in simply because you wouldn’t know how to type the password in Dvorak. In the grander scheme of things this might only be a minor deterrent, but it’s enough. In situations where I want other people to use my laptop I can configure a keyboard shortcut to switch between the two layouts transparently, but more often I don’t even have the QWERTY keymap installed, simply because I don’t want to switch back and forth accidentally.

It would be overly biased of me not to mention some of the disadvantages though. Nearly every problem I’ve run into isn’t so much a problem with the layout itself, but rather being a Dvorak user in a QWERTY world. Non-configurable keyboard shortcuts are often designed to be convenient on QWERTY and so when you’re under Dvorak they can be awkward. The most notable is X, C, and V, which in most applications becomes cut, copy, and paste when used with CTRL, are no longer right next to each other and are instead all over the keyboard. I’ve found it to be not that big a deal. Though I am still alright with typing QWERTY, I am often self-conscious while at other people’s computers, because as someone who is supposed to be computer savvy it must look bad to have to hunt and peck. Of course I may just be blowing it out of proportion. If I use QWERTY for anything more than a minute or two it comes back to me and I can at least partially touch-type again, but usually my exposure to it is much shorter than that. There might be something else that has slipped my mind, but those are the only two drawbacks I can think of.

I suppose it might be significant that I am the only person I know that uses Dvorak. At some point or another, I know that many of my friends and family have given Dvorak a try, but none have stuck with it. There are hundreds of possible reasons why, but I suspect with most is they didn’t feel like investing the time. For my it was a no-brainer because I knew that however long it took me to learn it would be incrementally paid for by the increased productivity and comfort in the future. Part of it may have been incentive though, and to make things interesting I’m willing to spring for a prize.

I will buy a Logitech Elite Keyboard for the first person who switches from QWERTY to Dvorak (and sticks with it!) as a result of this post.

The judging is completely subjective, but using Dvorak exclusively for more than a couple of weeks is good enough for me.

Funnily enough, this whole thing started out as a simple link/commentary post that was supposed to be about twenty words. Getting to that, there’s an article at Kuro5shin called An Argument for Dvorak that makes some good points. The comments, on par, are mostly useless or misinformed so I wouldn’t weigh them too seriously.

120 thoughts on “On the Dvorak Keyboard Layout

  1. First off, I’ve been away for a few days so I missed the switch to the new layout. Very nice!

    I’ve been thinking of switching to Dvorak, after a lengthy conversation with a fellow programmer. I never learned to type traditionally, so switching from QWERTY will not be a major paradignm shift for me. As you say, it’s like learning a new instrument.

    Perhaps a more accurate analogy would be learning a new video game that relies on the keyboard for movement. It’s rarely long before the controls become second nature to the player. It all comes down to an individual’s motivation. Most folks are lazy and resistant to change of any kind.

    1. “It all comes down to an individual’s motivation. Most folks are lazy and resistant to change of any kind.”

      Excellent comment. I’m sometimes lazy, but I know I can learn Dvorak.

  2. Your post inspired me to try the Dvorak layout even before you mentioned the prize. In fact, this comment is (slowly) being typed using the layout. As a side note, the instructions on the site you linked to for switching the layout were slightly incorrect for me. Using XP, I had to go to the languages tab and then hit details to access the setting. It think it’s worth mentioning that it’s really easy to switch back and forth layouts. Just hit ctrl+shift. Ack, this comment took forever to type.

  3. Dave, let me know how it goes!

    Caiuschen, don’t worry, it’s slow getting started (just like when you started typing QWERTY) but you’ll pick it up relatively fast.

  4. Nice to see the perspective of another Dvorak layout user! I also started using it about 5 years ago, after reading the hype and deciding to give it a shot. I had never learned to properly type in Qwerty — I couldn’t make myself unlearn the bad habits I had started around 10 years old. When switching to Dvorak, I used the excellent ABCD course, which is just a simple web page. Since I was using the campus computer labs, switching the key caps wasn’t a realistic option for me, so I just kept a graphic of the layout in my user account. It took about a week or two of pain before I was typing proficiently, and I’ve never turned back.

    The only big problems I had with OS settings was in Win98 and older — they asked for the Windows install CD whenever switching layouts. Fortunately, I don’t use Windows very often, and the latest versions aren’t such a pain.

  5. Interesting essay on the Dvorak system. I’ve been thinking of switching forever, but I don’t think it’s practical for someone who changes jobs and works on-site freelance a lot (ie, on other people’s computers) as I do. You suggest it’s “not too hard to switch”, but only say later that you were 15 years old at the time. I would suggest that it’s a lot easier to pick up new habits at 15, as compared with age 35 or 50.

    Still, maybe when I settle down to one job I’ll give it a shot.

  6. I think no matter how old you are, it’s never too late to simply improve. The Dvorak layout is an improvement.
    It’s a shame that freelancer’s that work on-site can face resistance to using a layout other than QWERTY. If we’re serious about not discriminating against people with disabilities, we should be serious about people who wish to prevent disabilities like carpal tunnel, etc.
    When they give typing tests at employment agencies, for example, they should be obligated to make the Dvorak layout an option. In the age of computers, the “standard” keyboard simply no longer exists.

  7. I switched to Dvorak about 18 months ago, prompted by the onset of RSI. My symptoms have now all but disappeared, though I’m not sure how much of that is to do with the keyboard and how much is to do with the other measures that I took.
    At the time I was at university and had enough time to try it out. For the first two or three weeks it was agonisingly slow and frustrating, but after that I was able to type at a reasonable speed. I never bothered with sticking labels to the keys, I just got by with having a piece of paper sitting on my desk. Though perhaps if I had gone with the labels the process would have been faster.
    Now I have a job it is rather more inconvenient, when other people try to use my computer and get very confused, and I have to repeatedly explain why the keyboard doesn’t work. Having said this, I converted a couple of people at my work to using Dvorak, and I believe one of them is still using it, ten months on.
    There are so many people I know and work with who have had problems with RSI to an extent. It’s a shame that Dvorak isn’t more widely known about and used.

  8. I have been using Dvorak for 1.5 years right now. I picked it up at 23 years old, and I must say it has improved my typing skills in general (i never learned qwerty properly). Also the fatigue factor is really improved, that was my main motivation to switch layouts. The real hard thing is to explain to people in a qwerty world why you switched and explaining them what dvorak is in comparison to qwerty. I really liked your article and I think more should be written by Dvorak users if only to spread the word about it and perhaps convert a few of them:)

  9. I have been thinking of switching for some time now. This article has made the difference! Only drawbcak: my girlfriend occasionally uses my computer 😀
    A couple of notes:
    – the Siemens/Maxim Ergo Delta keyboard (which I own) is designed to be able to switch to dvorak (and WAY cool)
    – Laptop keyboards are hell, especially the ones with a pointer integrated in the keyboard (like mine), since many keys are one-of-a-kind
    – Laptop users could pick up a TypeMatrix TM101 mini-keyboard which features both layouts

  10. I tried Dvorak a few months ago. Maybe it’s a nice layout if you use QWERTY, but here (in Belgium), we mostly use AZERTY. There are a couple of reasons for that:
    1) because of the special caracters (é, è, ç, ë, à);
    2) because everybody else in Belgium uses it.

    I doubt that I could type as fast with Dvorak as with AZERTY in Dutch, because there are a lot of Dutch words that have a French influence.

    I’m a student and like every other student in school, I have to use AZERTY. I can’t change the keyboard layout every time I log on (I think it’s blocked or so: Win2K). So we all use AZERTY…

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  12. Came acrossed your site while searching for a Dvorak keyboard for my daughter for Christmas. Switched over to Dvorak two years ago at age 50. I was unemployed and had time on my hands to learn new things, before being on the job with deadlines. My daughter learned too, at age 10 at the time. My daughter is running into problems at our present school (rated one of the top school districts in TX) from teachers who tend to pressure her to “conform” to QWERTY. They tend to resist implementing the keymapping features of the Windows operating system. A teacher has told her that she will run into problems when she gets to high school because all the keyboards will be QWERTY so she should drop Dvorak now. I told her don’t worry about it, because by the time she gets to high school almost all students will be carrying laptops. And if you are stuck QWERTY, all she has to do is look down at the keyboard while she’s typing. Presently she’s typing 60-wpm on Dvorak, without errors.

  13. Doe, nice story! I would stick with it and she’ll be much happier in the long run. I used to get pain in my hands from typing QWERTY and I haven’t had it once since I switched. The younger you learn, the better. Let me know what keyboard you end up going with for your daughter.

  14. I learned dvorak well enough to get by on it. I peak at about 70wpm querty last time I tested. With Dvorak, I got over the initial hump of learning where the keys are. Although replacing the keys on your keyboard or rearrangin them can be handy, I found it a better learning experience to not rearrange the keys for the same reason I stopped looking at the keys on my querty keyboard when I was learning how to type. At some point in my learning, I was holding myself back by looking at the keys and had to resolve never to look at them again at one point. I have never looked back, and I’m glad I didn’t.

    I think the analogy of learning a new instrument is a good one. Learning dvorak is much easier after learning how to type on the querty keyboard. I’ve learned how to learn how to type and so that makes it easier. But I still usually use querty.

    I got up to about 35 wpm on dvorak. That was the point where I knew the location of the letters with my fingers. Thats where I am, and I havn’t picked it back up again. The next problem you run into that may not have presented itself with such tenacity when you learned how to type the first time, is that your fingers have learned combinations which you no longer have to think about. Your hands have learned the combonations like a drummer is able to read complex combinations of rhythms quickly. Cognitive psychologists call this “chunking”.

    Anyways, it would go quickly if I got back to it, and reading this post has made me reconsider it. the stumbling block is just putting up with your speed when you are used to typing much more quickly. It certainly does have potential to be much faster. The current world record fastest typist , Barbara Blackburn can maintain 150wpm for 50 minutes. her world record speed is 212 wpm. (http://web.syr.edu/~rcranger/blackburn.htm)

  15. I’m 19 and I learned about the dvorak layout about 8 months ago. I don’t even remember exactly how I stumbled upon it, but I read into a bit and decided quickly to try the switch. It was very hard at first because I was fast at qwerty (about 90wpm). It took me a few months to start to get back up to speed on dvorak because I kept fighting with reverting back to qwerty. I just tested my speed today and I’m still only up to 64wpm, with about 93% accuracy, but I won’t give up!!

    I in fact used a trial copy of Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor to learn the positions of the keys (I believe it was a 10-day trial, and that’s all I needed), then I also used the ABCD course mentioned earlier on this page to practice.
    Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve noticed the benefits of switching to dvorak yet, but I’m hoping it will be better in the long run.

  16. great to find someone else using dvorak .. my typing is so much faster, more intuitive & less painful since i switched about four years ago .. only three hours to learn .. with a printout of the keyboard on the desk so i never had to look at the keys

    (wrote my own set of words to practise – the thing is you can type over 600 words using the dvorak home keys – ie without moving your fingers, compared to around 60 on a QWERTY) .. yay for us who know, suffer those who will not change

    ;-> mic

  17. What was the result of the promised Logitech keyboard giveaway (did I miss an update)? If it hasn’t been claimed yet, I’d like to do so. I converted as a result of this post, and I’m still using Dvorak exclusively to this day.

  18. I switched to Dvorak about… whoa, has it really been almost 8 years ago? I work as a paralegal and often was typing all day long. Even with a “natural” keyboard I was having pains in my wrists and forearms, so I said to heck with it, remapped my keyboard one day. I printed out a slip of paper with the Dvorak layout on it and taped it inside of my desk drawer where I could check it if I needed to — I found it actually quite beneficial to not be able to look at the keys while typing, because I couldn’t cheat. It was about six weeks before I was as proficient with Dvorak as I had been with QWERTY. I picked up about 20 wpm in the process, too. 🙂

    Ergonomics as security… this really does work. I invested in a switchable Kinesis keyboard (which I absolutely love) a couple of years ago. With my weird keyboard, funky trackball, knee-bend chair, and my foot pedal shift key, I never have a problem with anyone borrowing my workstation and screwing up my settings.

  19. I have translated your text to German and would appreciate being permitted to put it on one of my web sites. I have written a German Dvorak keyboard driver that comes with installation program and everything, ready for download. My considerations have been identical with yours, I play saxophone and some other instruments. I converted to Dvorak three weeks ago (although not because of your website). I have also written a German typing course to be used with KP Typing Tutor. If anyone wants it I can email it. When I have finished polishing it, it will go on my website too.

    I thought like you did: “This thing is obviously right”. So I switchen from one day to another. That was the hard way, but there are things a man’s got to do.

    Greetings from Germany

  20. Can somebody tell me where I can find hardwired Dvorak Keyboards in a tiny footprint like the (Happy Hacker’s Keyboard, or the Li’l Big Board by Datadesk.



  21. I’ve been using this layout for 6-7 years.. I am pretty obvious in my office, since I have a Kinesis Ergo Classic QD sitting on my desk. People think of it as an alien keyboard, but I think of it as a nice, well-worn glove.

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  23. I switched to Dvorak ca 4 month ago, but I still use QWERTZ at work. That way the switch might take a bit longer, but I will always be able to use the layout at other computers.

  24. I’m wondering how you possibly type as quickly since you have to start with a whole new keyboard layout. I have been typing up all my stuff for 30 years – my fingers automatically move in qwerty, and while they sometimes get pained (on days with lots of keyboarding), I don’t know if I could learn a new system and be as fast (over 120). I’d have to think about where my keys are.

  25. That is no problem as it seems: I get 240 correct chars per minute already… that way it should not be a problem to reach the 120 quite fast. Or is it 120wpm you are talking about?

  26. I switched over to Dvorak about four or five years ago, in part due to some carpal tunnel problems, and also because I wanted to see if it actually did increase my typing speed (which was stuck around 70 wpm for some time). I figured if it ended up being a problem, I’d just chuck it and stick with QWERTY. So I printed out a copy of the keyboard layout, taped it next to my monitor, switched my computer keyboard over, and began typing. Painfully slow at first, but the speed came quicker than I dared hope. By the end of the first week, I was typing about 30 wpm – not excellent, but at least my work was getting done. By the end of the second week, I was within shouting distance of my old speed. Now I type pretty much as the words come into my head (“transparent typing”, I believe it’s called) – I haven’t timed myself, but it’s certainly over 100 wpm, with very few errors. And my arm wearies from using a mouse long before I even get typing fatigue.

    My job requires me to occasionally use some other keyboards, and those of course are QWERTY. I rarely have a problem with this. Since I tend not to use them much, I simply look at the keys as I type. I don’t really have to read the letters on the keys – simply being in this slightly different position sort of keeps me alert to the fact that “yes, I’m at a QWERTY keyboard now, and so the T is up there now”. And yes, nobody uses my computer when I’m gone – everybody knows my computer is set “funny”, and they leave it alone.

    To those considering going Dvorak, I’d urge them to try it.

  27. How well do dvorak keyboards work under Linux? I know how to switch layouts, but wouldn’t Emacs be a little hard with all the new key positions? What about commands like ls and mv, which are designed to be quick on QWERTY keyboards?

  28. I use dvorak under Linux – At first it was quite hard because I used to remember the shellcommands by positions of the keys. But I relearned them in ca 1 month – VIm took a bit longer, but I even use HJKL again (although they are no longer in the nice positions they are on qwerty)
    Regarding ls it’s surely slower now – “l” “s” “return” all right-hand little finger, but after all how often is it the time i need to type “ls” which slows me down?
    Only problem remains bc at the moment – I type “,gcy” instead of “quit” quite often…

  29. http://www.mwbrooks.com/dvorak/layout.html has a pretty good picture of one.

    Just my own experiences with dvorak: I’m 26 and have been typing since the age of 4 (talk about ingrained!) on QWERTY — but switched just recently (about three weeks ago) I use (and have in my house) just about all the popular OSs aroundand my biggest pain thus far has been switching all the other computers after I’ve already gotten used to the new layout (and passwords were no fun either)

    I’m up to about 30 WPM, but I have no letters on any of the keys (prefering to learn touch straight away) I was recently taken aback by a power outage which put my main box (linux) back to console, where I was too lazy to get the console switched. I had half expected that I would give up again (yes, I tried once in college)

    And my solution to the ‘ls’ problem? Well, tis the only post-switch alteration that I’ll ever do, but I found it funny enough that my computer said ‘no’ when I tried to get a listing that I immediately aliased it.

  30. Hi,

    At dvorak.nl, you can find my free online typing tutor. With it, expect to touch type the entire alphabet in less than 10 hours, or 20 if you stubbornly keep using QWERTY more than you use Dvorak.

    I now also sell used keyboards that have been modified to use the Dvorak keyboard layout.

  31. I switched to Dvorak about three years ago. One thing that helped was getting a used IBM keyboard, one of the old ones that makes about as much noise as a typewriter. The advantage is that its keys are designed to be swappable, so you can switch to Dvorak (or invent your own layout) and not have to deal with either mislabeled keys or an uneven typing surface. For the home row index-finger keys I used part of a sticky label to cover half of each key. The disadvantage is that you can’t type late at night without keeping everyone in your house awake. But as a consequence of the distinct touch and sound feedback (you know when you’ve pressed a key down all the way), my accuracy improves in Qwerty or Dvorak, compared to most keyboards.

    At first, I was embarrased to be hunting and pecking whenever I used the computers at school, but after some time I got readjusted to Qwerty and since then have been able to switch back and forth with very little trouble.

    I lucked into a used Kinesis keyboard for 10 bucks which makes typing considerably more ergomic no matter what layout you’re using. (The two hands are widely separated; each hands’ keys are positioned in a literal bowl shape, so your fingers don’t have to reach as far; the keys are aligned in columns so your fingers don’t have to move sideways; keys such as Backspace, Enter, Ctrl, and Alt are under your thumbs, so your fingers never have to reach for them; and wrist rests are built in which you can use comfortably without overstretching your fingers.) It also allows one to switch between two different customized layouts at the touch of a button, which I’ve set up as Qwerty and Dvorak. Now I don’t even have to mess with software to switch layouts – though the Kinesis keyboard still scares away anyone who might want to use my computer.

    Because some applications I use have extensive keyboard shortcuts that are designed for Qwerty, I keep two keyboards plugged in (to different USB ports – the old Kinesis requires an adapter), and whenever I need Qwerty (or, conversely, want to type more comfortably/fluently), I switch keyboards. Typing on the contoured Kinesis in Qwerty is something I’ve never bothered to learn, and the Kinesis is different enough in other ways that if I want to use Qwerty keyboard shortcuts with enough frequency to give up Dvorak, I’ll switch to a regular keyboard.

    Overall, I’m much more comfortable and a bit faster on Dvorak than on Qwerty, although every now and then I fingers get “twisted” (confused), particularly in words where every other letter is a vowel. But even if I were slower and/or less accurate (neither of which I think is true), I would still prefer Dvorak, much as I prefer speaking to yelling when having a conversation — and, to extend an already poor metaphor, I would even prefer speaking slowly to yelling quickly, given the choice — though if anything I believe I’m actually faster in Dvorak.

  32. I am trying it right now. I think I am getting better. This truly requires so much time and effort. I guess practice does make perfect with something like this. I will continue to type like this inside this comment because it is so much incredible fun despite the mental streingth required. It is so much fun and pain to do this as I slowly get better and look at the keyboard for non-existant clues. I am still having an inconcievab (yes! I found B on my first try. Ok! I give up. I will keep trying to learn this evil language, but (yay again) I doubt I will get any better even though I realize this is the best thing since sliced bread and its brilliant box. Ah! Why can I never find the I key. This is admittedly very very confusing. Done! I am done with this at last!

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  34. I think I am going to win the prize as I am determined to master the dvorak keyboard. I love it and although my typing is frustratingly slow compared to my speed on the querty, I continue to use my dvorak board when time is not an issue. At least I can now touchtype and persistance will win out in the long run. I am most anxious to purchase a split keyboard and wonder if you know where I can find one. Thank you. Mary

  35. Hi matt, I’m just wondering how you delt the rearranged shortcuts. Did you end up using the mouse a lot? Or did you get used to the new positions on the keyboard?
    I heard that Apple computers have a Dvorak-qweryt layout. When you use the command key, the keyboard uses qweryt. Ever since I heard that, I’ve been looking for a way to do that on Windows machines.

  36. I read the history of the qwerty keyboard; about how it was conceived back in the 19th century to deliberatly slow down the typists of that era who could easily outpace the old mechanical typewriters. Being a design engineer, my whole schtick is to figure out better ways of doing things and so the DVORAK, I knew, was for me!
    I also imagine (ha!) that someday I might attempt to write a book and thought that becoming a faster/more accurate typist would certainly help matters in that regard. So I began the re-training process. Don’t let this sad tale discourage anyone who would like to become a DVORAK typist, but I found the process to be about the most difficult thing I have ever attempted. I had been a touch-typist on querty for about 15 years and before I could remap the muscle-memory and typing patterns in my brain, I first literally had to unlearn querty…rip those patterns and reflexes right out of my brain, as it was. I spent many hours with eyes tightly scrunched, teeth firmly clenched, and beads of sweat emerging from my forhead, forcing my fingers to extend out and find the dang B key (or whatever) by sheer force of will. Gaahh! I struggled, swore, and sweated for about THREE YEARS before I finally became comfortable and fluent with the DVORAK.
    That was about 12 years ago and now I don’t regret the effort at all. I will certainly teach my children (got the first one due in about a month!) DVORAK and if the teachers buck, they’ll have me to deal with 😉
    DVORAK is so much easier and faster to use…just like the metric system, I strongly advocate adopting this superior system to all.

    PS I have some labels which I found via Google which stick over the keys on my keyboard so that it now reads both the DVORAK and the QUERTY

  37. i switched 24 h ago. i have created a tool to check whether the advantages still apply to text in my native romanian. they do.

    you can compare the two layouts for any text at my

    dvorak wins easily for the criteria i checked (Pairs of consecutive letters to be typed with the same finger, Percentage of keys on the home row)

  38. I had always wanted to switch to Dvorak but it took meeting a coworker a couple years ago who typed in it to convince me to switch and I’m glad I did. Contrary to popular belief, I haven’t met anyone who types in Dvorak who claims it’s faster than Qwerty. I use Linux and there were a couple annoying things to get over about it.
    One was ‘ls’. The right pinky is already overloaded on Dvorak so I switched ‘ls’ to ‘t’ and ‘ls -l’ to ‘te’.
    Another thing was Vim. Vim was designed for the Qwerty typist so using it in Dvorak was awful. The HJKL keys were in strange places and getting anything done quickly was not easy. I now use command mode in Qwerty and Insert mode in Dvorak. This works well and has the benefit of making me think in Qwerty so it’s never forgotten. I can still touch type on Qwerty about half as fast as on Dvorak now.

  39. I switched to dvorak over the christmas period, at first it was allmost unbearable but by the end of a 3 week long stretch of typing on dvorak i had got rather good.

    when i went into university after the break. i looked at all the keyboards and was lost. luckly i had forseen this and had bought a mini usb keyboard and had converted that to dvorak. there was a time when id allmost got mavis beacon out to turn back into a “qwertyholic” but i am allmost at the level where i do not need to look at the keys on dvorak.

    nowerdays, i seem to have good and bad days with qwerty but i i’m now at the same level of typing (if not faster), and with my skills of not looking coming into play, i’ll soon be able to use Dvorak on any computer without having to worry about lugging arround hardware.

    P.S. i have customised the keymap for use with UK Keyboards. this means that shift+2 is now ” ani shift+’ is @ oh and the £ sign has made it’s way back on the keyboard 😛

    if anyone needs any help with converting XP to what i would call “UK-Dvorak” please send me an email

  40. I’ve been using Dvorak for a couple of years now also. The thing I notice the most is how we type in words, not letters. The last time I did any DOS or UNIX navigation (which I used to do a lot of) was in the QWERTY days. So, even though I type Dvorak now, the “DIR” and “CD” commands come out as old finger motions. Then, I have to backspace and correct them. I notice when I’m typing a word that I haven’t typed in Dvorak before, because it takes a sec to start in out, as opposed to a word like “the” which just rolls off the fingers…


  41. I love it!
    I write software for a living and decided to go for the change because it should be better – and it was. I can type faster and more accurately and don’t have other people using my computer (‘qwerty keyboard, dvorak driver – easy under Windows.) The amount of finger movement is considerably less, although it dosn’t help my spelling.
    I’m 50, but also stubbon so it was hard work to start with, particularly with no key caps to look at, but I got there in the end. I don’t think that I would be able (or want to) go back to qwerty.
    Q: How do I get a uk layout – I’m fed up of Alt-156 for the pound sign?

  42. “Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator” is free, easy to use and will let you create any layout you want.

    I mean, why change only the pound sign? If you write code, the positions of the symbols are very bad, you might want to change all of them, depending on what programming language you use most often.

    BTW, the link I gave above, the tool that compares QWERTY to Dvorak, has changed to http://www.siteuri.ro/dvorak/

  43. Matt:
    It was very interesting to read through the Blog. I’ve been using a Dvorak board for about 10 years. Its the only board I’ve ever known; never learned QWERTY. I don’t use any mechanical modifications to the board. It’s just so much easier to use a Dv board that I simply touch type; no looking at all. Actually, looking just confuses me. Too bad others don’t see the value of it but, that’s their loss.


  44. I’ve been typing on a Dvorak layout since I learned it in 1997. As I saw mentioned by an earlier reply, I too learned with ABCD: A Basic Course in Dvorak by Dan Wood. The Dvorak layout has taken me through the second half of university and the couple of jobs I’ve had since. I’ve always ensured that my PC at work has been configured to the layout. (Since Windows has incorporated the keymaps in 2000 and on I don’t even have to ask IT for help.) I’ve never changed the labels on my keyboard. They’ve been wrong since the day I switched. I never needed them. It works as a rudimentary sort of encryption too! I’ve never convinced anyone to switch though. What convinced me to switch? I read an article by Jared Diamond (The Curse of QWERTY) in Discover magazine (April 1997). I am a professional engineer and have always been interested in the most efficient ways of doing things.
    Incidentally I came across this page as I search for ways of incorporating a method of changing keymaps in Gentoo Linux so that my wife won’t have any problems logging in.

  45. Hi there!

    I’m still typing in Qwerty, but am recently in the process of switching over. I’ve already worked on the Dvorak keyboard I bought for myself, and am ready to start. I’m excited to know there are people out there testing this thing, and Dr. Dvorak is probably rolling over in his grave, loving what people are doing with his legacy. I love it! Anyways, cheers to all the Dvorak switchovers, and to new typists! I will be back to let you know how I do. Oh yeah! I wanted to say that I’ve typed a benchmark of 101 WPM on Qwerty, so in having said that, let’s see how well I can do on Dvorak!!! I can’t wait!! I’m such a typing freak! Cheers all!

  46. Not only that, but switching to Dvorak makes you a babe magnet. The faster you type, the faster you can think of witty stuff. This makes you a killer chatter. Don’t take my word for it—just look at the babe Matt ended up with. :?)

  47. Dvorak is really, really great indeed. I’ve only used the Azerty-layout a year before switching and have been using it for 10 years now. I also live in Belgium, but I strongly disagree with Ben. Typing in Dutch is also much more convenient with Dvorak than in Azerty/Qwerty and I think that’s true for any language because of the positioning of the vowels. Special characters can easily be composed with their keycode (alt+number) or a combination of keys.
    Especially when you program, the special characters are positioned brilliantly. I’m an IT student, but I think it’s sad I’m the only one in our school who uses it and I haven’t met anyone who had heard of it before.
    If you can stick with it for the first couple of weeks, you’ll thank yourself later!

  48. I am surprised to not find this program mentioned more often, it is a MUST HAVE utility for any Dvorak typist:


    A simple, free, no-installation program for windows that runs in your tray and allows you to quickly toggle between QWERTY and Dvorak without changing any system settings. Activated mode is system-wide (none of that per-application crap you get with toggling in Windows). It even has an optional OSD keyboard layout.

    Great for when your just learning or have to share a machine.

  49. ** Almost forgot to mention:

    Carry it around on your flash drive and have instant dvorak on whatever computer you have to use!

  50. Hello Matt, it’s great to find a place where there is plenty of discussion about dvorak – i’ve been a passionate user for around five years, because of better speed, accuracy, and comfort in my arms. i’m surprised i didn’t find your post before, cos i’ve searched often.

    another idea for people who have to share keyboards is to actually plug two separate keyboards in the machine, and keep one under the desk for when you need to switch, (as well as use that great dvassist – does it work with xp?). Now you could pick up a second hand usb keyboard for $5.

    i found it relatively quick to learn (tho’ not easy, until i discovered the technique of printing out a keyboard and pasting it to the desk (or monitor), so i never had to pick up my fingers to see the keys. This way, you remap your brain as you type.

    the main advantage i reckon, when learning, is that once you’ve learned the home keys (only eight keys – can take 2-3 hours), you already have over 600 crucial words (only around 60 with the JKL; version).

    thanks again, it’s great to know there are other people making sensible choices and not afraid to buck the mainstream for their own comfort, michael

  51. My mother is Barbara Blackburn, and I can say that I have been typing DVORAK for about 30 years. I still have the original Apple Computer that she was given to do the Apple Commercial back in 1984. Wow…a computer with the keyboard…what a switch that was! Good luck all and Barbara is still alive and kicking, not typing, but here.

  52. Note to Kickstand: I started learning Dvorak when I was 31. It took about a week to get somewhat comfortable. 2 weeks to become fluent. Age is not an excuse! 🙂

  53. I’ve been looking up different typing tutors for the longest because I am HORRIBLE. Then I ran across this post randomly and I thought to myself, “Maybe this is what I need”. So I am going to try it (get someone to switch up my keyboard for me) and let you know how i fare. First though – I have a laptop…. is it a good idea to mess with the keyboards on them?

  54. The best reason not to use a Dvorak is that everybody should be able to switch to another person’s keyboard without having to learn a completely new keyboard layout – (global) standardization makes sense, even if it means that for some (or even all) languages the most frequently used letters are not placed ideally. If you had a specialized keyboard setting for each language depending on letter frequency etc. I couldn’t use a Korean, Japanese, German, Croatian and English keyboard but had to learn five layouts.

  55. I was about 55 and had been typing since age 17 when I switched to Dvorak because of wrist pain issues. I was working at home. Around age 55 I’d also started using Dragon whenever I was mainly dictating text, and that eased the transition. Can’t remember how many weeks I was frustrated by the new challenge–a few. Mostly I just slowed way down. I know it was a major brain reprogramming for me after making my living often as a typist for decades. At age 62 I’m still slower than I used to be (because of errors mainly) but I’m more comfortable typing and don’t mind the loss of speed.

  56. Hello again! I wrote a comment here on January 17, 2006. Wow! I was just in the very beginning of learning Dvorak. Well, let me tell you what a treat it’s been! It took me about six months to learn it well, as opposed to Qwerty taking me a few years to attain a 75-85 average range with 101 peak wpm. In Dvorak, I surpassed what I did in Qwerty – typing between 75-95 wpm, and I’ve peaked many times into the 100s, with the highest at 114. I went to college last fall and passed the typing class by the end of the first week, only because the first timing test was at the end of the week. I was to get 50 wpm to pass at the end of 8 months. That was nothing! I also did a powerpoint presentation in computer technology class about Dvorak, and passed the class with an A+ because of it. My teacher was thrilled about my Dvorak. I love that I switched! I still get the typical answers from people about why they wouldn’t – it’s kind of funny actually, but it’s okay. I enjoy it – that’s the main thing. I’m trying to recruit the young ones though. Anyways, cheers to all the Dvorak typists!!

  57. I think I posted here a few months ago when I was just starting with Dvorak. If I remember correctly it took me about 5 minutes to type 2 sentences!! Well, things are different now, I am typing faster than ever! I love Dvorak so much that I try to get everyone I know to convert, then when I ran out of people I started a blog to take the fight online!! (using wordpress of course) http://typedvorak.com/

  58. I’m a new switcher, as well. With the onset of RSI, I really did not have much choice. So far, I think I’m doing alright.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  59. I love the idea of switching to dvorak, i’m constantly looking for ways to improve my speed, accuracy and comfort with typing. the only problem i am running into is trying to find a hardwired dvorak keyboard. my computer at work is a ‘thin client’ running as/400 and i remotely connect to a windows machine, so changing the regional settings (even if i did have access to them) is out of the question.

    I was rather hoping i could find a split ergonomic dvorak keyboard, as i have seen a couple of pictures of hardwired ones by dvortyboards, but they seem to be extremely rare in the 100$ and under price range. Right now it appears that my only option is the typematrix, which is obviously not ‘split’ and so i am skeptical about its comfort level, especially for the price.

    Does anyone have any suggestions as to where i can find one that isnt going to hurt my hands or my wallet??

  60. Many thanks to Andrei Stanescu for the tip about Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator. I managed to use it (it’s not entirely straightforward) and I can now use Dvorak and have a £ sign on my keyboard. This is very useful, thank you.

    Now I just need to dig out Mavis Beacon and relearn touch typing from scratch.

  61. Matt, I was just about to post something similar myself, then decided to browse Wikipedia to check a few facts, and that lead me to you. You seem to have said it all. I switched back in 2003, although I never saw your post until today. The first year, I ran into many of the things you mentioned, plus locking myself out of my computer because unlocking the screensaver and logging in were done in two different layouts. For a long time I haven’t even thought about it though. It’s just very comfortable typing. Cheers

  62. I just stumbled across your essay, and this is terrific. I read that same article by John C. Dvorak in high school, and forced myself to use the layout while typing a paper (with little stickers on the keys). By the end of the paper, I had it down pretty well and was hooked. I’ve gotten a fair amount of grief from people who have no idea that there is more than one keyboard layout, and go nuts when they try to use my computer (this includes my wife). But I always use Dvorak for typing tests and people are amazed at my speed! I have no trouble reverting to QWERTY when necessary; it’s just slower and more uncomfortable and reminds me how lucky I am not to be using it every day. Happy typing!

  63. I am quite proficient using the Qwerty layout of the keyboard, typing at and around 100 wpm with 97-100 percent accuracy using touch-typing. Upon seeing this article, I am quite inspired to try the Dvorak method. However, I am currently in high school at the age of 14, and require using the computers often. Because I do not have administrative rights, I am unable to access the control panel and change the settings to Dvorak. I am also in a Word Processing class where I am required to type at at least 40 wpm. This is not a problem at all using the Qwerty layout, but I am not sure I could become proficient in Dvorak, let alone even get to use it on school computers. I am going to try to confront an administrator at my school, but I’m probably the only kid here that even knows about this new way of typing. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be very pleased to hear from you, otherwise I guess I’m stuck with Qwertying around for a while.

  64. My wife and I finally gave ourselves the switch after we enjoyed the excellent comic zine that convinces you to the benefits of Dvorak:


    There was a moment after the first two weeks where I was typing some notes, slowly, painfully, in dvorak, and then something went “pop” in by brain! I suddenly could type much faster in dvorak, but then I also immediately no longer able to type proficiently in QWERTY.

    For those considering switching, it has definitely solved my RSI issues and the pain my wife was feeling in her wrists after she became pregnant. I was already typing quite fast on QWERTY, so my biggest gain was comfort. The thoughtfulness put in the layout means that some common words are just a joy to type, like playing a smooth piano piece.

    As for the shortcut key issue, the only time that bothers me is when I accidently press Ctrl-W while wanting to press Ctrl-V, which is perilously close to each other and would accidentally close my windows. Ergonomically you aren’t supposed to be using crow-claw like formations to do your keyboard shortcuts, so switching to dvorak will actually help you do your computing in more comfortable ways. I highly recommend it.

  65. Oh, and if I gave you the idea that I’m now no longer able to type in QWERTY, I recovered that after I became comfortable in Dvorak. I just needed to switch contexts (such as a different keyboard, or laptop). I never lost the ability to type in QWERTY using my labeler or on a smartphone. The brain is a funny, wonderful thing.

  66. I had to give this a try, so this is my first post using Dvorak, I like it but I bet I’m going to have a bit of a trouble with the accents in spanish

  67. Hi. Was at the WordPress in Manila last year. I.ve been using Dvorak for a few months now. Been wanting to for a long time. Then I started using GViM. Haha. Self-flagellation.

  68. Hi. I type 130 wpm and have been contemplating switching to DVORAK. I wonder how fast I will be able to type? Hmm.

  69. Thanks for writing this 🙂 I’ve recently decided to switch to dvorak and was looking for some of the personal experience. This post helps a great deal!

  70. hey. After years of knowing about Dvorak, I suddenly realised that 1) I plan to type millions upon millions of characters in the rest of my life (I’m 38) and 2) the rest of the world wasn’t going to switch for me. So I switched.

    So two months ago I just changed the settings, and still have a qwerty layout, so no joy from looking down. I think that’s a good move. I’m up to 43wpm but still feel like a fawn on the new layout, so I’m confident of reaching 70wpm
    eventually, and crucially with so much less effort.

    If anyone is in doubt about whether switching is a good idea – it is!

    1. Older students of my boarding school told me about Dvorak layout and I was very eager to switch it. I have both QWERTY and Dvorak in my computer because a) Some other people might use it, and most of them use QWERTY and b) most games have hotkeys which are way too familiar to me. But with the exception of game hotkeys, I otherwise always use Dvorak.

  71. Had a bad car accident in 1984. I was a production typist for court reporters. Returning to work was a killer on my neck. Thought of stopping work. Daughter saw an article in 1985 about Dvorak. Switched. Took a month. Before I was a fast typist at 80 wpm. Now I am well at 150 wpm. Changed jobs, but the new company let me change the keyboard at the Control Panel. LOVE IT. Wouldn’t go back!

  72. I have switched to Dvorak yesterday, thanks to your encouragements, experience and tips.

    Before switching, I typed 60wpm on Qwerty. I am left-handed, so the idea of 56% qwerty work fall on my left hand is fine to me. I learned that Dvorak typing, on contrary, put 50++% work on the right hand.

    For software, I have download “Dvorak Assistant” to toggle between Dvorak and Qwerty, and I am using TypingTutor 7 to learn Dvorak typing (Typing Master Pro could also be used). I some time take Qwerty test to measure the decline of qwerty speed during Dvorak learning.

    Day 1: 18wpm
    Difficult Keys: “o” and “s”

    My qwerty speed has slowed by 3wpm.

  73. After 3 days, my speed has decreased to 17wpm. However, I have learnt the whole keyboard.

    For Colemak and other alternative keyboard layouts, I think it’s only a matter of personal preference. 1-3% difference is undetectable for me.

    Here is the Carpalx detailed research about keyboard layouts


  74. Howdy!,

    Some time ago, I read this post. After reading a couple of other Dvorak evangelizing articles from the Internet, I ventured to learn to touch-type with the Dvorak layout using a program called _klavaro_.

    After a few weeks of diligent learning and re-mapping my fingers to the Dvorak, now I am happy to announce that I have fully switched to Dvorak for all things that I do on the computer!. I must thank you for your post which lead me to learn Dvorak. Thank you [photo]Matt.

    R. Siddharth

      1. Matt, I have been using Dvorak now for about 3 years and it was one of the best things skills I have ever taught myself.

        I went from hunt and peck at 20wpm to touch typing about 50 in the span of a month.

        Just an aside too, on the Mac, you can set it up so that the keymap is Dvorak, but shortcuts stay the same. I just went full on into Dvorak, but its a cool little feature.

  75. I’m just learning Dvorak. Typing it joyfully slowly right now. This is my second day….no wait my third day. Haha…I just wanted to go through the added rigamarole of typing all of this. I’m loving the less-publicized combinations…like: ght, qu, ough. ppy, st, ts, umb, oa, ai, ou, ch, etc. I’d looked at many other layouts prior and during this switch, and concluded that while the others have their merits, Dvorak keeps you in the home row or above more.

    That makes a lot of sense to me. And the period key is in a great spot for me, for a key that (unless you loathe punctuation – as many seem to in this day) will get a ton of use in every document.

    I also feel that Dvorak’s research was much more comprehensive than that which anyone is doing (or has done) in this “era”. Some have argued that the u and i keys should be interchanged, but I’ve come to realize how short-sighted this is. First, I find myself typing ou more often than I type oi (most base the move on using the i key much more frequently than the u key). However, Dvorak based much of the layout on the ability to type those frequently used combos. Also, should a person decide to customize too much, they’ll need to carry that keyboard layout with them wherever they go.

    One very important thing: It’s not the worst idea in the world to make your password all numbers while you’re learning, in the event that your computer goes haywire…if you’ve ever seen haywire, you know what I mean.

    NOTE: merely switching to Dvorak will NOT have the effect of making your computer go haywire. So do not use that as an excuse not to switch.

  76. Also, I have read a lot about hte Mac’s support for Dvorak and I’m a bit envious. However, there is the program Dvorak Assist that allows the toggling of the default layout between whatever you have set up (other than Dvorak) and Dvorak.

    However, it has some hiccups in Win 7 64 bit.

    And if someone decides to pick up development on this (the creator has other priorities), perhaps they could also include some facility by which the user can choose whether to move the system shortcuts to the Dvorak keys, or leave them (for those of us who don’t have an actual Dvorak keyboard).

    I hope so. If not, I will be “a toggling” per application. Which isn’t terrible, but sometimes I’d like to not have to do so.

  77. Pingback: 2011 Goals |
  78. I’ve had a similar experience learning 3l (https://github.com/jackrosenthal/threelayout) which is a layout that my friend from school came up with and at least a dozen people use (I was user 3). Besides the better letter placement that emphasizes hand alteration with common letter sequences, the best features are the symbols and cursors layers. These layers are activated with the two keys directly to the left of the enter and shift keys on the right of a QWERTY keyboard and they act like special “shift” keys which turn the letter-keys into symbol keys (basically all the symbols that are on the number keys and around the enter/shift cluster on a QWERTY keyboard) or cursor keys (backspace, delete, up, down, home, end, pgdn, pgup etc.).

    Many of the users of the layout went to school together, and as more of our friends started learning the layout, we would joke that we couldn’t just leave our laptops lying around unlocked anymore because there were too many people who could type in the layout.

    I lost my ability to type in QWERTY for a little while after learning 3l (interestingly, I never lost the ability on my iPad, just on physical keyboards). It wasn’t until an internship where I had to pair program 100% of the time on a shared computer that I regained my QWERTY ability (although at a slightly lower accuracy and speed).

    For me, being able to type all of the symbols as well as backspace without leaving the letter keys really improved my typing accuracy for code. I think that it’s also more comfortable, but I’ve also invested in lots of mechanical keyboards since I made the switch so I can’t tell whether the comfort is primarily due to my keyboard investments or my layout learning.