What I Learned by Switching Keyboard Layout

Let's switch to DVORAK

16 July 2017

A few months ago, I’ve set some resolution to learn touch typing by using Klavaro in my Ubuntu. For about 2-3 weeks I persisted to use QWERTY layout to learn, started with home row as usual then move to another row. Apparently using QWERTY layout hurts my fingers, especially my little finger (both of them). I was able to touch typing, but my speed not increased at all. Day by day I skip my Klavaro practice and using https://10fastfingers.com/ to increase my typing speed, and it is not working at all (stopped at about 40 WPM).

During my quest to increase my typing speed, I found some old quotes from Albert Einstein saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Because of that quote, I start to thinking about change my layout. Then I found this Telegram group, and start to think change my keyboard layout to DVORAK. Member of this Telegram group show me the benefits by using DVORAK layout for everyday usage, such as reduce repetitive strain injuries (which i have during my quest), increase typing speed and the others. So I decided switching to DVORAK layout, to learn this layout I did spent some money to buy Logitech MK240 and then re-layout the keyboard layout to DVORAK. Here is what I’ve learned during my quest to increase my typing speed with DVORAK.

1. It’s Easy, Is it?

I can learn this layout less than a week, and using Klavaro to learn only the homerow. This layout offering user to mostly use homerow. But getting keyboard with DVORAK layout is not easy, in Indonesia most computer store only sell keyboard with QWERTY layout. You should modify QWERTY keyboard to DVORAK, or buy from abroad. Another solution is to get programmable mechanical keyboard, but to get DVORAK keycap also not easy. The easiest solution for mechanical keyboard to get DVORAK keycaps, is by buying DSA keycaps since they have common profile for every row.

But, yeah it is easy to learn it.

2. Using DVORAK is Cool

Imagine you can write and read upside down, it is a cool thing, but did everyone really care about it? No they don’t. Using DVORAK layout is pretty cool actually, you will be in an exclusive club (DVORAK Typist), increased your productivity, and many more. As we can see, here in Indonesia, everyone mostly using QWERTY as standard. We can found it in almost every institution using this standard, and by using different standard will make you cool but also added some problem. I’ve used to bring my own Logitech MK240 to the meeting room and change the input source to DVORAK everytime I attend the meeting. My colleague can’t use my computer due to this different keyboard layout, also the IT guy who will fix problem in my computer.

In fact, yeah it is cool to use DVORAK layout, but not everyone use this layout and they don’t care. But as additional benefits, it’s increase your privacy since everyone do not want to use your computer.

3. It’s More Comfortable

There is a study that said the typist finger traveled 30 km in QWERTY layout, but only 1.5 km in DVORAK in a day. Yeah it is, I didn’t feel pain in my little finger anymore. But it is not comfortable to always bringing your own keyboard to every meeting (tips: bring programmable mechanical keyboard, which programmed to DVORAK, to eliminate changing input source process). Notable things in here is, you cannot use your most common keyboard shortcut as usual. This is like copy and paste feature, which usually can be done with single hand now require two hands.

After all, yes it is more comfortable using DVORAK layout rather than using QWERTY layout.

4. Increase Typing Speed

Remember where my speed stopped when using QWERTY layout, about 40 WPM. By using DVORAK layout now my speed increased to about 70 WPM just in a few weeks. DVORAK designed to maximize utilization of home row about 70%; 22% on top row; 8% on the bottom. Also DVORAK placing all vowels at the left side of home row and most used consonant at the right of home row. This will guarantee your strokes alternate between your left and right hand.

Faster at typing increase your productivity after all.

That is what I’ve learned by using different keyboard layout for daily activities. Not all benefits from this layout became real benefits in real life after all. All the problem we facing here is because the standard. Dr. Dvorak created something great, but he died in vain.

“I’m tired of trying to do something worthwhile for the human race,” he said, realizing his failure to convince people to adopt his layout. “They simply don’t want to change!”

QWERTY has remained the default keyboard layout for over a century. It has outlived the purpose for which it was designed, yet it’s weaknesses still remain. By switching to Dvorak, you are joining a movement that empowers typists and honors the legacy of a great man.

I am gonna use this layout to the end, and teach my son later to use it. Just to be different …

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