Somewhere around February 13th, 2008, I switched my primary keyboard layout to dvorak. This means I’ve been a dvorak* user for a little over 3 1/2 years now! I have no intention of going back to the normal qwerty layout again. Its been a minor inconvenience at times, but it has had a lot of perks to it.
Here’s my anecdotal take-away from my long-term use of dvorak:
- Ergonomics are better. When I was a typing with qwerty for many hours a day between school and work, my hands would tire out. After my internship and a few hours of coding for school, my hands would be achy and feel horrible. This was the primary reason I chose to try out the dvorak layout, and I can honestly say that this layout has saved my hands a lot of grief. I think this may be largely due to the more convenient placement of the period, comma, and dash keys. (I have no scientific study to back that up though…)
- Useful for keeping others off your computer. Its sorta funny to see someone unaccustomed to my keyboard try to use my computer.
- Sharing a computer with a qwerty user is annoying. Luckily, I don’t have to share a computer with someone else while I’m working too much. I’ve found its best to set up a widget on the taskbar to switch back and forth. I’ve also found its just quicker to just not explain that you use dvorak to your lab partner or coworker.
- I still can type with qwerty. I was a bit afraid setting out that this skill would disappear, but it hasn’t.
- Speed’s about the same. I don’t see that much of a speed-up in typing rates when using dvorak versus using qwerty. Like I said above, my hands aching after 12 hours is what motivated the switch. I’ve never focused on getting my qwerty or dvorak to over 120wpm (or some other high number like that).
- Its impossible to buy a dvorak keyboard. This might not be strictly true, but practically it is. Most of my keyboards are still labeled in a qwerty fashion, and are “re-wired” in software to be dvorak keyboards. Converting a qwerty keyboard to dvorak is not possible with all keyboards. A lot of times, any random key won’t fit in any othe random key’s hole, making physically rearranging them impossible. Laptop keyboards are generally not rearrangeable. Putting stickers on top of the keys is a safer bet.
- This perfected my touch-typing skills. With none of the keys actually what they’re labeled (point 6), this has made me a good touch typer! One handed typing is still a bit tricky though…
*For those of you who haven’t heard of dvorak keyboard layouts, it is an alternative to the normal qwerty layout. It was created in 1936 as an alternative to qwerty, and the rearrangement does things like put all the vowels in the middle (“home”) row, and tries to group the common symbols into easy-to-reach places.