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Don't learn Dvorak (dudzik.co)
65 points by dudzik 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 144 comments



If you're considering learning Dvorak, I'd strongly recommend considering Colemak instead. I tried Dvorak with the hope that it would mitigate RSI, but it spreads the work among fingers pretty unevenly -- I really ended up just moving the problem rather than fixing it (mostly to my right pinky).

Colemak is (relatively) easy to learn if you know QWERTY, and it's been life-changing for me: I can work for more hours of the day, and I suspect more years of my life with Colemak.

Interestingly, I tried configuring my phone for Colemak a while ago and had to switch it back. The relatively small movements you make with Colemak meant that the swipe typing thing was just about useless -- it just couldn't discriminate between words.


I second this - as someone who learned Qwerty as most Americans do, then learned about alternative keyboard layouts and ended up learning Dvorak, then finally settled on Colemak. In each of them I was able to type 120+wpm, and 140wpm+ in Qwerty and Colemak, so I consider myself a proficient typist.

Dvorak offered no benefit to me. I firmly believe that any differences or gain that people attribute to Dvorak is attributed to finally learning how to properly type. Many people make this switch from a misguided thought that Dvorak will help them type faster (it will - but only because you relearn how to type) or that it is more ergonomic (I firmly believe that it isn't - but you're likely using proper finger movements now and thus it will be more comfortable).

Colemak is noticeably more ergonomic and doesn't mess up as many default keybinds. I much prefer typing in Colemak than Qwerty, although I type in both to retain my ability to type in Qwerty lest I find myself having to use someone elses' computer.

It takes a few minutes for the wires to switch over - but it's totally possible to retain one's ability to type in either layout. For those wanting to try a new layout but are scared of forgetting the original - just make sure to practice in both!

E: Since another user below also mentioned the context switching being difficult for a year - my context switching takes about 5~8 minutes and I've been using Colemak for about 2-3 years. I use Colemak while at home and Qwerty while in the office. So I spend roughly equal amounts of time in both. It doesn't seem to matter how much time I've spent "not typing" between the context switch. Colemak at 8pm at night, Qwerty at 8am the next day? Still need a few minutes before the brain swaps over. It's a little weird but I've grown accustomed to the "warmup period" I guess, but I know a few people who don't seem to have this problem at all.


Really interesting. It's much less difference, but I use QWERTZ at home and QWERTY on my laptops, and I don't have context switching period, but it's tied to the laptop. I don't even have to think about it - when I use my Logitech keyboard I write with the German layout and on Lenovo keyboards I write with us-intl. It's not a problem - unless someone gives me a Lenovo with QWERTZ - then I mistype everything. I can only imagine how much worse it would be with dvorak or colemak...


I use the same keyboard at work and at home - a DAS Model S with unmarked keycaps. Maybe that contributes to the brain confusion - but I like the keyboard too much to try and type using two different keyboards.


Same here. Colmak allows me to to type at higher speeds for longer without pain.

I carry a mechanical keyboard with dipswitches that allow me to use colmak on other people's machines without much trouble (as a bonus, mechanical keyboard generally nicer than their keyboard too).


Which keyboard out of curiosity?


Vortex Pok3r. It's a 60% keyboard which is a nice compromise for travel IMO. You still have programmable layers, but don't have to reach for them when doing basic programming tasks. 4 dipswitches at the bottom allow you to switch to colmak or dvorak in hardware, so no messing up the host system settings.


Cool, I almost got the same one but went with a leopold 660m, also 60%. I just have caps lock mapped to backspace and use vim for everything I can (checkout cVim for chrome) tried colmak out today but will stick with qwerty since I'm 100% at 100 wpm touch typing.


I just looked at cVim and it’s definitely interesting. I’m currently a user of Vimium. Have you tried both, by chance? Curious about a comparison


Vimium didn't work consistently when I tried it, where cVim did. I used to use VimFx on Firefox but it was abandoned. I like the way cVim does its follow tooltips.


Thanks! On FF Tridactyl is maintained. Vimium search bar dies in my FF because of number of tabs, so I have to use the native. Went to tridactyl recently and seems to be working better.

Edit: autocorrect fix


Actually, I just installed cVim to test and went through the docs. Very nice work. The config setup alone... anyway, Thank you! Appreciate the recommendation gp!


Some off the shelf 60% keyboards have this, the one I remember is Poker 2/Pok3r Keyboards.


I'd say that you should use whatever floats your boat. For me Colemak never stopped feeling weird, despite having spent a lot of time playing around with keyboard layouts.

Another thing people should try, at least if they are at a workstation is pedals. Back when I was still using evil (an Emacs mode for emulating vim) I tried a pedal that switched to normal mode for every other mode or switched to Insert mode from normal mode.

Together with a properly set up abbrev mode that has saved me more typing than anything else combined.


If you worry about RSI, use speech recognition whenever you write emails or comments. There is even a trick to use it on Linux if you're interested (not the crappy sphinx/kaldi).


> there is even a trick to use it on Linux (not the crappy sphinx/kaldi)

What do you mean? What are you using?


android tts to linux trick


What is your experience when you have to use the QWERTY layout? Is it a frustrating experience or can you use it just fine given that Colemak is more similar to it than Dvorak?


At this point I'm pretty terrible at QWERTY on a physical keyboard. I'm fine with it on phones and tablets for some reason, but my brain is pretty hard-wired for Colemak on physical keyboards at this point. I also use a Kinesis Advantage keyboard which adds to the context switch when I have to use a different computer (though this is less significant for sure).

If it's a Mac, Colemak is one of the pre-installed layouts, so if I need to work on someone else's computer I'll just enable it while I work on it and remove it afterwards. Otherwise I can manage, but it does slow me down quite a bit, and I'll have to look down at my hands pretty frequently. You immediately notice the extra workload though: Colemak is pretty low effort, but QWERTY just feels like finger moshing to me now.

I'm pretty sure it's possible to remain proficient in both, but QWERTY was sufficiently destructive to my hands that I use it as little as possible.


I use colemak as well. I find it way more rare than you might think that you have to type in QWERTY. There are probably couple of times a year I need to, and I can always get away with some quick hunt n' peck in those rare cases.


I've used Colemak for 5 years now. I've always just hobbled along with Qwerty, not pecking, but not really touch typing.

However, I rarely need to use Qwerty. It's less than once per week. The only times are when I'm in the UEFI settings on my laptop, or fixing my wife's computer. Any other time I have my own user, and can switch the layout to what I like.


I think it probably depends on if you have a separate keyboard or not. I have an ergodox on my home pc and work laptop, but my laptop is qwerty. I don't even notice moving between keyboards, I guess because they are so different.

Having an external keyboard also means that other people can still use my work laptop when needed (pairing etc)


Learn Colemak instead IMO - I've been using it for about 7-8 years. Here are my remarks to address your gripes from a long time alt-layout typist.

FWIW your ability to type on QWERTY returns after a while - you just need to keep using both. It's like a switch changes although it helps to have visual queues to get back into gear with qwerty I find. Otherwise my keyboards are all blank now including a blank kinesis advantage. If I use qwerty I need to look at the keys to start typing usually.

And my typing speed is probably slower than it was when I was using qwerty. I was reaching 120wpm peak on qwerty, maybe could do 100wpm with colemak (haven't checked) but I type much better as I learned the new layout with discipline - eg no cheating with wrong finger on keys - and I move my hands much less so my RSI is better. You can visibly see wear on my home row - a sheen that's on those keys from pressing them more than the other keys. My co-worker says it looks like I'm hacking on the matrix because my fingers don't appear to move when I'm typing.


As someone else who learned and still uses Colemak... it's just not worth it in the long-term unless you're using it to address something specific like chronic RSI.

QWERTY does return to you, sort of, but only if you still actively use it in some other contexts. If you don't use it regularly, you'll lose proficiency in it and not really be able to easily switch between the two (though in my own experience I did retain some of the muscle memory, it was just much more error-prone). I'm at the point now where I can somewhat easily switch between the two, but it's very context-specific. My fingers recognize my laptop keyboard and gaming machine keyboard and instinctively use Colemak and QWERTY for them, respectively. But there are still times where my brain gets into an "undefined state" where I can't figure out which layout a machine is using or which layout my fingers are attempting to type, and as far as I can tell I end up typing something like a nonsensical hybrid mashup between them which is surprisingly sticky and difficult to recover from.

In the end, I believe my typing speed is something like 10%–15% faster than what it used to be with QWERTY, but I don't feel there's many contexts where I'm genuinely limited by typing speed. On the other hand until I become semi-fluent in QWERTY again, it was maddeningly difficult to use other people's computers.


I sort of agree, but I think it's better to prevent RSI than to manage it.


yeah my goal is to live a long and happy life of hacking and coding. My health is more important than being able to type a search into bob's computer without looking at the keyboard. But I was having a LOT of wrist pain.


Keyboard layout doesn't matter for typing speed. There are endless videos on YouTube of people typing 90+ WPM with two fingers. I use Dvorak at home because it's more comfortable and I hope will prevent RSI in the future. I keep my work laptop in Qwerty because sometimes other people have to type on it. I switch between both layouts with ease. My Qwerty typing speed is slightly slower, but that has not had material impacts on my work. I much more enjoy typing in Dvorak. Everything in this article is a non-issue, and for the biggest reason for switching, preventing RSI, he admits, "it might be worth a shot."


I fixed my RSI with Dvorak, after trying split keyboards, gel pads, exercises, whatever.

Cons: That said, after finally learning it I realized that Cut/Copy/Paste will forever be broken for me on Windows.

I am now a hunt-and-peck typist on Qwerty, which doesn't bother me.

Pros: It's a good security device, like a manual transmission - at least against non-hacker mortals.

Programming doesn't really benefit from touch typing. But my touch typing speed without concentrating is much higher with Dvorak. I can type far faster without trying.


Using an ergonomic split keyboard will do far more to reduce RSI than any particular keyboard layout.


I second this. Since I use a split keyboard with a trackball placed in the middle my hand and right arm problems are all gone.


I use a 60% keyboard and that solved it for me, reaching for the mouse seems to cause all of my issues.


There's also dozen videos of people finishing Dark Souls with a Guitar Hero controller, yet you don't see people using those in the ESL.


The author complains that his QWERTY muscle memory went away when learning Dvorak. This doesn't match my experience. I can still use QWERTY, somewhat slower than before I learned Dvorak, but not much, and since I use Dvorak 99% of the time, it's no big deal.


This matches my experience. I automatically switch to QWERTY when I use someone else's computer, to the point where I get confused when I use the computer of one of my colleagues that also uses Dvorak.

If you set up some shortcuts to switch between layouts then other people using your computer is not a problem either.


It takes me about a minute to switch gears, then I’m fine. I started using Dvorak full time over 20 years ago.


The hardest I find is when i use the keyboard of someone else I know who happens to use Dvorak, there is about a minute of wtf dude... sometimes even if I know they use Dvorak!!


It's also a great party trick. I once lent my computer to my daugther and her buddy, it was kind weird for them that no keys matched up, but even weirder when I showed them I could easily switch between the two. They were so sure I wouldn't be able to type with qwerty. Their faces at that point were priceless :)


This is also my experience after about 10 years of Dvorak and I work on other people's computers in QWERTY daily.

I will sometimes begin to type in Dvorak unconsciously if I am on a laptop keyboard that feels similar to my personal laptop. As soon as I see the mistaken letters coming out I switch back without any effort.


The other computers thing rings very true.

I switched to dvorak in college for about two semesters, cause it seemed like it would make my typing faster. (I actually was a very good touch typist having taking a proper typing class in HS that cured my 4 finger self-learned typing habit).

It only took me a few days before I could actually touch type dvorak. I was really happy because it seemed dvorak was going to be great. But then I kept having to use lab computers, or friends machines and I just couldn't switch back to qwerty for a "session". This resulted in lots of hunt and pecking. If I used the machine for >15 minutes without switching the layout the qwerty would start to come back, then I wouldn't be able to use my own dvorak machine without another 10-15 minute struggle to switch back.

The result was that I never got as fast with dvorak as my previous qwerty speeds, and my qwerty skills were pretty much non-existent.

I think in my case learning the new layout wasn't the problem. The problem was learning to switch layouts quickly and despite struggling with the problem for nearly a year I eventually concluded that it was going to take me years to learn the skill of switching at will. So one weekend after spending 1/2 a day sharing a machine with my boss I switched my keyboard layout back to qwerty.

Although, similarly I use the exact same keyboard model at home and at work because I discovered switching between physical keyboards affects my accuracy (and therefore speed). Its not really the base character set (a-z) that is the problem, its all symbolic stuff that I type as part of programming.


Before I switched to Dvorak, I had RSI problems. I still have RSI problems, but they are much less severe and much less frequent. The difference is stark. It makes a huge difference in quality of life for me. I have also tried alternative keyboards, like the Kinesis and the Ergodox, but switching to Dvorak seems to have had the largest impact.

> Learning a new layout is one of the most frustrating experiences that I’ve had so far.

Learning anything is frustrating. Learning Dvorak, for me, was less frustrating than learning QWERTY was in the first place.


Doing daily exercises for the hands and wrist solved my issues.


Which ones specifically, out of curiosity?


Squeeze therapeutic putty 30s per hand, wrist curl underhand and overhand 10x3, rotate hammer from left to right 10x3. Nothing too fancy but it's the routine an occupational therapist gave me and it worked.


Is there a video/article you could share describing how to do these with good form?

I am now about 7 years into an RSI issue that nothing seems to work on, but I haven't committed to any training routine for more than a couple of weeks (with no effect).


Some starting points:

[The Functional Programmer - keeping Repetitive Strain Injury at bay](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_eelK-KLIA)

[Wikihow](https://www.wikihow.com/Strengthen-Your-Wrists)


There might be, but wouldn't it make more sense to visit an OT and get personalized recommendations?

The Pascarelli and Quilter RSI book is worth reading and as I recall does have exercises.


I have never (luckily) had any problems with RSI, but have taken the time to learn layouts which hide special keys under the home row, accesible with combination of the Alt gr key. Have you had any experience with that and how it impacts on RSI? From my perspective it should do at least an impact since I rarely move from home row even if I do a lot of programming.


Interesting, I found learning Dvorak was way more frustrating than learning qwerty... Of course I learned qwerty at age five and Dvorak at age 19... And usually unlearning things is harder.


My experience is that learning dvorak when you can touch type qwerty is pain since every key you are looking for will be hidden under your other hand. If I were to issue a recommendation to someone in my situation back then I would say: Use only one hand for the first weeks!


What's your take on the Kinesis Advantage vs Ergodox EZ? I'm currently debating between the two.


Maybe you've already ruled it out, but it might also be worth considering the Kinesis Freestyle line too. I've been using one for many years now after trying it at work and have been pretty happy with it. Since the layout isn't too different it's also easy to switch back and forth with regular keyboards. They have new bluetooth/mechanical versions now too.

I use it tented up in the middle at about 30 degrees with an accessory. The setup isn't very portable though.


Never heard of the Ergodox EZ. Looks great. Neat that you can replace entire switches with no soldering.

Most of my typing is done with my Kinesis keyboard on my lap. Doesn't look like the Ergodox can go on your lap, which is a dealbreaker for me.

Also, I mounted a trackpad|touchpad in the center of the Kinesis (with tape), and it's wonderful. Again, doesn't look like you can do that with the Ergodox.


I prefer the Ergodox because it takes less space than the Kinesis. Never used the EZ in particular. I spend most of my time with regular 80% keyboards or laptops.


> Don't learn Dvorak

For me, this list resonates (I use Colemak), but I would maybe call it "Things to consider before learning another keyboard layout".

It's almost never a problem in my life. Someone using my computer? Switch the keyboard back to Qwerty for them. Me using someone else's? I can still do okay with Qwerty.. but I'm never using someone else's computer for longer than 10 minutes.

It _was_ significantly easier to learn to touch type a whole new keyboard layout than it was to un-do my terrible Qwerty habits I picked up from shit-talking people while playing Age of Empires 2 as a kid (I tried and failed for a while to touch type Qwerty).

For the record, I never plan on going back. I'm a big fan of Colemak.


Must be a YMMV because I learned touch typing just fine after knowing qwerty in an inefficient self taught way. I took a class on it for half a high school year and it paid off very well.


My experiences duplicate yours w/r/t learning QWERTY. Self taught touch typing the wrong way followed by a class during high school for the right way. Alternate layouts don't work for me since I can't take them with me to new keyboard. I learned that layouts matter back when some idiot swapped Caps lock with the Control key putting both where they are now, in the wrong place.

Split keyboards are another story entirely, comfortable, compatible with QWERTY touch typing, and the outward down tilt and separation solved my RSI issues. Definitely YMMV.


I have been using Dvorak all my life - I never learned to touch-type with QWERTY - and for the most part I'd agree with this author's conclusions. While my typing speed is higher than average, it's not so much higher that I can confidently credit the use of Dvorak, and in any case I have never found that typing speed has any significant effect on programming productivity.

Contrary to this author's experience, however, I very rarely need to do any serious typing on anyone else's computer, so the fact that I become an absurdly clumsy two-finger typist in front of any machine but my own is nothing more than an occasional source of amusement for my coworkers; nor do I especially mind their reluctance to jump in on my machine and type for me. I can imagine how this would be more of an issue if you worked in a pair-programming shop, but I never have. In any case, this problem has been trivially solved for decades now, on every OS - you just enable a little built-in menu bar widget which selects the keyboard layout, and you can flip back and forth in less than a second.


I type faster than most people, getting 120wpm for sustained periods of time. I did so before switching to Dvorak and I still do (although not with qwerty). For me it was as simple as training to avoid tensing my fingers and feeling strokes of keys rather than individual key presses.

This makes me think that neither Dvorak nor Colemak are the best layouts for me, but rather something that optimises for di- or trigraphs. This will be pretty language dependant, even moreso than Dvorak/colemak, and as someone who regularly write in three languages it is probably just easier to stick to something with a more general design.

The capewell-evolved layout does so for English, and it can really be worth checking out.


I switched to Dvorak years ago and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. It has downsides (awkwardness when typing on others' machines, difficulty typing with one hand while on the phone), but the lack of pain in my hands/wrists is worth it many times over.


Same here, I switched to Dvorak 14 years ago, I was having problems with my wrists and this change fixed most of that. I can get around a qwerty machine pretty well, typing on my phone (qwerty) seems to be fine since I don't seem to use the same muscle memory when typing on a phone (makes sense to me).

The most I had to do was to learn my password (into muscle memory) in both qwerty and dvorak (since corporate windows was qwerty until you login and then user settings take over).


I had pain using non-split/ergo QWERTY keyboard layouts and going ergo solved it for me. Sounds easier than switching to Dvorak.


Same. I've use a Mac for 18 years but I've also use a Microsoft Egro keyboard for almost as long.


I switched to Dvorak about 15 years ago. I agree with others here: I switched from being a Qwerty typist with poor form, to a "correct" Dvorak typist. In the end I'm a pretty speedy typist (~130 wpm), but I can still Qwerty well enough that it isn't painful.

However, I think the speed-up can mostly be attributed to forcing me to have a clean slate and learn to type correctly, rather than any intrinsic advantage of Dvorak. On Qwerty I typed the style I'd evolved since elementary school, and on Dvorak I touch-type like I'm meant to.


There’s something too this, though I also think dvorak has some real RSI related benefits.

Case in point, my handwork is a mess of barely legible chicken scratches in English and whatever other latin character using language I might dabble in.

By contrast I took Russian in college (i.e. later in life than gradeschool English) and learned cursive script. My handwriting in Russian won't win any calligraphy awards, but it's pretty good.


On the subject of using other people's computers: How do people who use a heavily customised environment -- like Emacs with modifications (like caps-lock key for CONTROL) -- cope with this?


I think the same way other people on the thread can swap to QWERTY when on someone else's computer - it always takes me a minute to stop using caps as ctrl, but I get it after 3 mistakes or so. The convenience for my everyday definitely outweighs 10 seconds or so of adjustment (and after that a bit slower speed than normal) on someone else's machine rarely.


This is exactly the reason I don't have a heavily personalized environment anymore. Copying it around to every machine was more hassle than it was worth. This is also why I get so mad when the defaults are bad, especially when they're changed to be bad.

A good example is how ls now adds fake quote characters if your file listing has spaces in it. As someone who mastered the Tab key ages ago those quotes are useless visual noise and I find myself typing them occasionally because I forgot. You can set an environment variable to disable them, but I have to to look it up each time and you have to do it on every new machine.

Edit: the magic environment variable is:

  QUOTING_STYLE=literal


If you're mostly on Linux/Mac I can strongly recommend using a dotfiles repository containing all of your config files and a script that you can run to create symlinks to all of these files in the correct places.

With small tweaks like a non-symlinked file that contains only machine local variables (I call mine .bashrc.local and source it from the main bashrc), you can evem make the configs vary across machines on the subtler things.

This works wonders for me getting custom configs everywhere, with the exception of windows machines that are always a huge headache to work with.


This kind of scheme goes to hell once you're bouncing between networks unfortunately. Especially when you're on completely disconnected machines half of the time.


I think this is why I don't heavily customize my environment. I started my career doing desktop IT and sysadmining, where I had to use other computers all the time (either the customer's or some server that I had to log into to diagnose). Because of that, my custom setups were never available, so I just kinda stopped doing it.

Despite the fact that I haven't had to do that for many years, I still don't spend a lot of time customizing. Old habits are hard to break.


It normally takes me 3-5 minutes to force my brain back to a "standard" layout. Up until then, there end up being RANDOM STRINGS OF CAPS and letters since I'm so used to ctrl in the capslock position as well as random jjs trying to exit insert mode.

I've actually noticed another thing: using someone else's keyboard can be frustrating, even if everything else is the same. I just moved for my job for a few months and I accidentally grabbed my wife's MS4000 instead of mine on the first day in my new office. Despite it being the exact same keyboard and having all my customizations available, I had to put it away and use the keyboard on my laptop after less than an hour. The wear patterns in the key mechanisms were different enough that I was dropping characters all over the place. The spacebar was by far the worst offender.


I cope by doing very little customization. Maximize the defaults first. Work that way where it makes sense.

What this has done is improve on overall flexibility.

At times, my role is one where I do end up using other people's environments.

First thing I do is get them to tell me, then work that way as much as is possible.

Some peak efficiency is left on the table, but the impact is usually minor and I can optimize somewhere else and do just fine.

Dependence on muscle memory is a double edged sword.

If one does not environment hop much, it is worth it. Where that needs to happen, exercising "stretch" to work differently can be equally worth it.

Not sure there is a free lunch here. I find state changes difficult. When it is reverted to default, or my preference, the others are not happy, and it takes time to put it all back, and sometimes more time to remember how to do those things and debug having done them.


I have a pretty customized setup--Dvorak, caps-lock remapped to control, vim a custom vimrc and set of plugins I'm used to, etc.

It's certainly a mild annoyance when using someone else's computer, but in practice, seldom do I actually need to use someone else's computer, and even more seldom that I need to do development work on someone else's computer. It's usually helping someone out real quick, in which case it's easy enough to just deal with it. If I had to work on another machine for an extended period of time, it's easy enough to copy over my settings.


I use an ergonomic keyboard and IntelliJ with emacs key bindings. The answer is that nobody else ever uses my computer, or they use it for about two minutes before giving up and telling me what they want.


It's a lot of fun, when someone tries to write a note on my IDE ( WebStorm ) where I'm using vim mode. Most of them give up and open Notes app.

Joke aside. I don't think that pleasing other potential users of your computer should be a motive to not make it productive for you.


That problem is largely why I've never been a fan of deep customizations.


At some point you just stop using other people's computers or having to share yours with anyone. It's not necessary nor productive for software development.


I use dvorak as my daily driver. I'm still able to use qwerty, and while my typing speed is not as fast, it's still adequately usable.

However, an extended typing session in qwerty just feels...weird. I feel vaguely unbalanced, and I'm more likely to get off by one key left or right (while touch-typing). It also tends to put me in four-finger typing mode, rather than eight-finger.

Can any users of Colemak / other layouts who have also used Dvorak comment on whether the Dvorak->Colemak migration is worth it?


I also retained ability to type on qwerty even though I've been using dvorak exclusively for the last 10+ years (I need to write a few commands on qwerty a few times a year).

I think that's actually the first time I hear about somebody who "forgot" how to type on qwerty after switching to dvorak/colemak. I wonder how long has he been using qwerty before switching.


I've been able to touch typing in QWERTY for around a year before making the switch to Dvorak. I haven't been using QWERTY for some time after the switch so that might affect it as well. It might be interesting to see if I could get back into QWERTY and still retain Dvorak as I used it for a longer period.


> The promise is that it increases your typing speed and reduces the strain on your fingers.

> The jury is still out on whether Dvorak improves typing speed.

> I cannot judge if Dvorak helps with RSI issues as I never had them from typing

why was this article post even written?


Another +1 for Colemak. I tried both Dvorak and Colemak about 8 years ago. I hated Dvorak, mostly because it ruins ctrl+z/x/c/v shortcuts. Also, right pinky hurt from frequently typing 'l'. Colemak is awesome. Much easier to learn, works well with most keyboard shortcuts, and is has worked well for me ergonomically.


I mean, sorry that the author spent time on something that he wishes he hadn’t, but his anecdata conflicts with my anecdata and that of my spouse and various friends.

Learning dvorak many years ago was something I’m still glad I did. I didn’t know touch typing beforehand, and found learning dvorak relatively easy.

My spouse did know qwerty touch typing beforehand, and she also found learning dvorak relatively easy.

Some years ago I did some rough estimates of saved finger stretching based on a corpus of my own emails. I’ll never know whether I'd have typed those emails faster or slower with qwerty, but I’m absolutely convinced I did save finger strain.


I've been learning the [Workman](https://workmanlayout.org/) layout in the past few months. I'm using a split Ergodox board, and Dvorak didn't make much sense to me for what I wanted to do. Colemak was _almost_ there but had some really awkward movements that I wasn't enjoying. After a bit of time I now find Workman extremely comfortable, and very logical, particularly for writing prose. It has taken me longer to get the hang of coding on it, but by using a secondary layer on the Ergodox I've got some very comfortable bindings set up for my programming environment. If anyone's curious, here's my current layout (still very much WIP): https://configure.ergodox-ez.com/layouts/DZaM/latest/0

EDIT: Oh, and it hasn't slowed down my QWERTY typing at all, I still keep a standard board on my desk as well. The reason I took up the split board with Workman was because of RSI, and swapping between the two is a good way to vary the movement of my hands.


I learned to type Dvorak about ten years ago.

Dvorak, by itself, won't make you a faster typist. It will help only if you're actively training for speed-typing.

Dvorak will cause problems with any keyboard shortcuts that depend on the positions of the keys. Control-Z, Control-X, Control-C, Control-V are now in different parts of the keyboard. So is the hjkl of Vi.

But Dvorak is more comfortable to type. If you don't want to move your fingers from the home row as much, it is better.

And unlike Carpalx (http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/), Dvorak is available on most systems without extra software.

Learn it if you like. I strongly disagree with Frederik Dudzik: If you don't care for it after you learn it, you CAN go back. And it take less time to re-train yourself back to Qwerty.


I learned QWERTY when I was 14, in 1991. I switched to Dvorak in 2001. I could type about 100 WPM on QWERTY but suffered extinction of this skill even before I got up to speed on Dvorak (I can still hunt and peck reasonably well). After about a year I reached the same raw speed on Dvorak, but with fewer errors and less hand strain.

I don't know if I'd unilaterally recommend learning Dvorak, but it is a superior (and very near optimal) keyboard layout and I'm quite happy with my decision to switch, even though I didn't believe skill extinction was possible when I made the decision. (Practicing both concurrently may prevent QWERTY extinction, but I found it impossible to resist the urge to fall back on QWERTY without quitting it cold.)


I believe the whole statement saying that QWERTY layout is designed to slow typing down is probably a myth as I find the letters that stand right near each other in a word being neighbors on the keyboard just so often.


Maybe, but a layout that puts j and k on the right hand home row is clearly not optimized for English.

But honestly it's only an issue if you're chasing that last 5%, and IMHO not worth the time and effort. Especially if you are like me and bouncing around different keyboards all day long.


It wasn't designed for slowing down typing but to keep keys away from each other to prevent jamming on typewriters.


If there is some truth to the idea that QWERTY was designed to slow you by separating commonly paired keys, it might actually be advantageous in the world of touchscreen keyboards. Separating frequently paired keys would presumably make autocorrect better at guessing what you meant to say than if common letters were clustered in the same area of the keyboard.


Dvorak is absolutely horrible on touchscreens.


Keyboards are absolutely horrible on touchscreens, regardless of layout. I love my new BlackBerry Keyone.


No, it was designed to prevent typewriters from jamming, with the drawback that your fingers need to move much more when typing. There are various statistical analysis on the web.

> probably a myth as I find the letters that stand right near each other

And that's exactly the problem. Dvorak is optimized to maximize alternating hands, on purpose.


I have three keyboards on my phone: QWERTY, AZERTY and one for my native language. I can switch between the three rather easily but that's mostly because I still look at the keyboard when typing on the screen.

On a physical keyboard, I just don't see the point of learning a new latin layout (e.g. Canadian English layout, UK layout).

It's easier to use a US keyboard instead of a Canadian English keyboard because the few times you need an accent are heavily outweighed by having symbols in the wrong position to what your next computer might have.


QWERTY is just bad design -- it's not something you'd ever design today. You'd never put ";" right under your finger, and relegate "e" from the home row.

I switched to Dvorak in graduate school and it was super-worth it. It took less than 2 months to get comfortable (and I can still switch between the two layouts in 15-ish seconds of conscious attention).

Here's a nice way to think of it -- will you be alive for longer than 5 more years? If so, you should switch to Dvorak.


QWERTY is not badly designed. It's design goals were to minimise the likelihood of the keys of manual typewriters from jamming when typing in English, thus maximising the typist's productivity.

At worst, you can say QWERTY is antiquated. The conditions it was designed for no longer exist.


I learned to type blindly informally on QWERTY and I use only my index fingers and my pinkies. I actually move my arms a little when typing. I'm reasonably fast, certainly fast enough for anything I do.

I have never had any problem with wrist stain and just from trying out "proper touch typing", I feel like my way of typing is far less straining and "more natural". That could just be confirmation bias of course.

SURVEY:

Who else has learned typing similarly to me and what have been your experiences?


> I have never had any problem with wrist stain and just from trying out "proper touch typing", I feel like my way of typing is far less straining and "more natural". That could just be confirmation bias of course.

It will never be a problem most likely until your situation changes. That change could be anything from a new keyboard to a new sport your trying out that increases the stress on wrists and arms.

I am not an expert in any way, but as long as your elbows rest on the desk and your wrists are straight, you should be fine.

> Who else has learned typing similarly to me and what have been your experiences?

I learned informally but started to use most fingers. Later on I learned two different dvorak layouts, switched back to qwerty for a couple of years, switched back to dvorak again. I feel that I have some weird ways to type sometimes, but I only had wrist problems once and that was when I switched keyboards and skipped the wrist rest (quite high keyboard). I've always found that the strain is in the elbows and how well you rest your wrists. Not depending on touch typing/layout etc.


I make this same argument all the time. I switched to Dvorak 15 years ago, and though it did vastly improve my typing speed by teaching me to touch-type, I don't know whether it's intrinsically faster. Mostly it's just an impediment now: I can't type on other people's QWERTY keyboards, and other people can't type on mine. For any computer I sit in front of, I have to hunt-and-peck QWERTY keys unless I can switch the layout.


I have been using Dvorak for the past 20 years. The only real issues are login screens where you are surprised by the layout (windows will use dvorak when locked but not when logging in) and companies that don't allow installing my own custom driver (needed for when I type in Polish). 20 years ago I would be scoffed at if I left server console in dvorak but I haven't used any server physically (not remotely) in over a decade.


I'll give my own experience here.

I switched to Dvorak by using a model M with movable key caps back when I was a teenager. It really was one of the most frustrating experiences with muscle memory I have ever had--in fact it felt painful to receive continual mismatch of intent and results. I think it took me 2 weeks to write sentences without conscious pain, and about 3 months to get to a moderate speed.

Even so, I still type dvorak for more than a decade now. My writing speed isn't really comparably faster with dvorak, but I do believe that it does reduce wrist strain. Ortholinear layouts further reduce some strain for me.

When it comes to QWERTY, I still use it plenty on touch screens, and as a touch typist, I can still do it if I'm on a cheap logitech rubber dome keyboard. Though after a short while I feel like muscles are strained in my hands on physical keyboards.

It is near impossible for me to type QWERTY on a mechanical keyboard or a macbook keyboard. The touch feel I have is so attuned to that layout (despite not having the legends on the key caps in dvorak) that I am continually making mistakes or reverting back to dvorak mid sentence.

I don't regret my decision at all, though my coworkers are intimidated by it.


Switched to Dvorak last Christmas, over the break from work.

The bad: - I’m still not as accurate with non-Python punctuation as I was on QWERTY. - no support on iOS - people need to change my layout if typing on my machine

The good: - noticeably more comfortable typing - can be faster for some things - I have been forced to touch type as I don’t use any Dvorak printed keyboards, this has contributed to me typing faster and is generally useful. - I don’t really use other people’s computers - my thumb QWERTY typing on my phone appears to be totally different muscle memory so this hasn’t restricted my learning at all - macOS has a quick switcher for keyboard layouts which makes it very easy to change for other to use my computer.

Overall it has been very positive, and I’d recommend to anyone who is likely to type for their whole career (for prevention of RSI), and who can take a month of being unproductive at typing. The learning process was frustrating, but with 2 weeks off work over Christmas - practicing a little each day - I didn’t feel like it slowed down my programming once I was back at work. It slowed down my slack/email, but it was manageable and only temporary.


You definitely don't want dvorak on iOS, qwerty was designed to maximize distance between keystrokes to prevent typewriter jams, that can only help on iOS where the keyboard is small and thumb taps are big and imprecise.


I can see your point, although Dvorak was also designed to maximise the back and forth between 2 hands, for typing speed, and that could actually have a positive impact for precision when the whole word is being taken into account. Most typing with thumbs on small screens relies heavily on autocorrect in that way, so I can imagine that Dvorak might provide more information for that to work, even if each character might be less precise by itself.


> no support on iOS

Are there no Dvorak keyboard apps?


There are 2-3, I've tried them all and none are really usable. None have had an update in the last year or more, some crash on launch, some are lacking the most basic usability features (double space for inserting a ".", readable fonts, correct layouts, etc).


Forgive any ignorance on my part; I'm not a dev, just a lurker with a moderately above average familiarity with tech.

I mostly type with 6 - 8 fingers, with my attention split 50/50 between the keyboard and the screen. I can type around 50 wpm, more or less, though I probably average around 30. While I'll concede that typing faster would be a boon, how much faster can one realistically type before they start to outrun their inner voice? When I'm typing up emails or narrative reports for work, I regularly stop and consider what I'm going to write, with frequent revisions. Typing papers is just as start/stop, if not worse. I can think at a certain speed, but having my hands go much faster than that seems like wasted effort. What am I missing? Is it simply a RSI (repetitive strain injury; had to look it up) thing? I can see the obvious benefit if you do a lot of transcribing, but beyond that...I'm not entirely sure. Might someone help me out?


When I'm troubleshooting/explaining something over an IM chat, I'd estimate my inner voice is doing at least 200wpm. The faster I can type, then, the better. (Since I highly doubt I'll ever make it to 200wpm.)


It's often not about speed. Dvorak allows more comfortable typing and to give no attention to the keyboard.


I did not foresee that my QWERTY muscle memory would be replaced by Dvorak, making it frustrating to use other people’s computers — I had to search for keys and type with two fingers at an annoyingly slow pace. This made me aware of how often you use other people’s computers.

This also happens when someone else needs to use your computer, which involves a mandatory explanation of why you are using a different layout and switching it for every time the typist changes (which is frequent when collaborating on one computer).

This is the reason why i don't over-configure my vim or anything else. If you do so you can get lost on not your own machines easily. Also coming to someone's computer which has some weird configs(vim remapping of esc and caps lock anyone?) is extremely annoying.


you can thank these new shit bars, I mean touch bars on the macbook pro for the caps lock remapping.. raising a fist at apple


I've always had a dream of writing an OS plugin that would determine if you're typing QWERTY of Dvorak from your pattern of keystrokes and then switch over to the appropriate layout. V2 would go back and fix your garbled text.


I switched to dvorak for RSI reasons about two years ago and have now switched back to qwerty. If dvorak (plus split programmable keyboards, vim, etc) made any difference to my symptoms, it was at least not enough to be noticeable (though it is hard to say since the symptoms vary in intensity).

One of the things I'm considering as a possible explanation for my issues is that all of the changes I've made have made my usage patterns smaller and more repetitive, and that going back to more inefficient methods slow me down and force me to move my arms in bigger movements might actually be less painful.


I use a keyboard that is hardwired to Dvorak. I have another normal QWERTY keyboard on my desk as well, and when somebody comes to my desk, they can use the other keyboard. Works perfectly well for pair programming too.


>Learning a new layout is one of the most frustrating experiences that I’ve had so far. Muscle memory built up from touch typing on a QWERTY Layout for years meant that during the learning phase, I would constantly press the wrong key. My brain didn’t like that feeling — this is what I imagine a stroke victim must feel when relearning a basic skill.

Learning a new skill as an adult can be be like this. If you would have given up after hitting the wall on something as minor as learning Dvorak, you're going to miss out on a lot of life.


I switched to Dvorak, but other people tended to object when I changed the keyboard layout on shared machines, so I had to learn to type QWERTY again too. So long as what I'm typing doesn't start 'ma' or 'am' then I can usually figure things out.

It's definitely been worth it for me -- my trigger was RSI-like symptoms, which have been in remission since the switch. I would have been 23 when I switched and I'm 37 now, so I've been typing on Dvorak for the vast majority of my professional life.


> I switched to Dvorak, but other people tended to object when I changed the keyboard layout on shared machines

This is why I invested in an external keyboard which is hardware set to dvorak. So whatever machine I go to, I just plug-in, and be on my way.

Some suggestions:

- TypeMatrix 2020

- TypeMatrix 2030

- HHKB

I personally use an Ergodox.


Kinda the same reason why I only used an Ergodox EZ for a couple days. I realized that collaboration is hard and also wasted too much time configuring it. Restrictions do free sometimes.


Colemak is where it's at because cut/copy/paste and the punctuation is all still in the same place as QWERTY but on Dvorak that's all fucked which makes it an impractical nightmare.

I still use qwerty on my keyboard but I started learning both to try them out. I accidentally left my phone's keyboard layout in colemak and didn't realize until months later when a friend tried to use it. It's kinda funny how your brain just adjusts.


I learned to type on Dvorak for fun during my CS degree, and realized very soon that it would be perfect for 2 thumb phone typing, as it focusses on left-right-left-right action, versus the left-left-right-right of Qwerty.

But on a work computer, where other people should be allowed and able to do some minor operations on your machine, it's too much of a hassle.

I will add that the initial learning period was infuriating but more than anything a pretty fun challenge.


I actually really love it on my phone. I've considered switching to Colemak a few times in the last 10 years, but the typing experience of Dvorak on my phone let's me type really fast and I want my layouts to be consistent on my devices.


Using Dvorak can be a conversation starter. You'll get lots of nerd cred from the right people but plenty more weird looks from everyone else. I used it in high school, but I eventually got tired of dealing with the hassle of setting it up on each new installation or the headache of using others' machines (I could still type QWERTY well enough but would make mistakes as muscle memory crept in)


Left my work Mac on in the office... Got in the next morning and saw my prankster coworker at my desk. I call out to him, what the hell are you doing. Sheepishly he flashes a toothy grin and says, "M____, why do you use Dvorak?"

Without skipping a beat, I reply, "precisely for this reason".

Security by obscurity. ten seconds of my life: totally worth the three months of effort I put into learning it decades ago.


Saved me from being teapot email'd at the start of my career, totally worth all the pain.


Linux + i3. I don't even have a lock screen. Nobody can open Chrome.


This article boils down to "Dvorak was difficult for me to learn therefore nobody should learn it."

I've been using Dvorak for about seven years now, and personally I love it.

For the longest time, I typed on QWERTY using a glorified hunt-and-peck method. I could type decently fast, but speed aside, I knew that touch typing was something I needed to learn. Figure if I was going to learn, I might as well learn on Dvorak.

Extremely happy with that decision. Typing just feels natural now, and I can type fast enough. There's many people that type faster than I do -- both QWERTY and Dvorak -- but I don't think I've ever thought to myself "I really wish I could type faster."

The biggest challenge for me in learning Dvorak was after I had more or less "learned" the layout, there was a period where typing was still involved consciously thinking "move this finger to this key". Most of my mental effort at that point was spent thinking about where to move my fingers, which made it more difficult to think about the actual code I was writing. Moved past that phase after a few weeks and never looked back. Overall, it took about month to learn, and it wasn't too difficult.

The author also mentions challenges when using someone else's computer. For me that's been a mild annoyance at worst--not enough of an annoyance to be worth complaining about. And on Mac OS at least, it takes all of a few seconds to switch keyboard layouts.


I'd learned Dvorak using a Kinesis keyboard. I use both Dvorak with the Kinesis and QWERTY with a standard keyboard. The slight difference in profile is enough that I've never had interference, and use both comfortably. That said, it hasn't been an enormous speed increase; I'm roughly equally as quick with either.


Must be just me but when I tried to learn Dvorak I got literally nauseated. Never felt so sick from doing something so simple/hard. He mentions stroke victims' struggle but for me it was like having a vision impairment like upside down vision. Otherwise I would have probably kept going.


I've been using Dvorak for about 20 years and am still happy with it, so I have no plans to switch to another layout or back to qwerty. My qwerty speed and accuracy have suffered a bit but I still use it on my phone to send SMSs, so it's still fresh in my mind and has never degraded significantly.


Dvorak is worth it just for the look on people's faces when they try to use a computer you've been using.


Hard to "hack" your machine by typing things when you step away for a minute. Also makes it harder to capture your passwords by looking over your shoulder...


I learned to touch-type in high school, so switching to Dvorak 17 years ago only took about a month. I was on the verge of RSI problems when I switched, no RSI issues since. Dvorak saved my career. So "don't learn dvorak" falls on deaf ears over here. Good luck with your crusade, though. :)


I can switch back & forth between Dvorak and QWERTY. Maybe it was the years of piano practice that gave me the ability to learn the former without losing the latter.

Anyway, I’m happy with the result. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was a big win for my RSI.


I adapted to the dvorak layout without too much trouble... but I often have to type on other people's keyboards which was quite difficult to manage cognitively... so I had to revert. Good luck though, hope you find some relief.


Me too, it became a show stopper when teaching and later at the job. You won't always only use your own computer. Maintaining two muscle memories is much harder. Anyways, typing speed is not the limiting factor in most cases. And you can always make what you have to type fewer key Stokes.


If you want to do it hust for typing speed, it seems pointless. I typed fast on azerty and now I am typing fast on qwerty. (around 145-155wpm).

But when does typing speed actually matter?


Real-time speech-to-text transcription. Closed captioning for live events, and such.

That's the only thing I can think of.


That's true, I was thinking too much in my box of software development it seems :)


I switched to emacs after two decades of vi. It drove me crazy, and I had to switch back - maybe it’s true what they say about old dogs and new tricks.


We found NitroType a great way to teach kids to type. Maybe adults too?

https://www.nitrotype.com


What's the effect of using Dvorak or Colemak on things like vim? The hjkl for example get topsy-turvied.


Dvorak and Vim works just fine. I did it, without doing any Vim rebinding of keys. It's screwy for a while but ... So is learning Dvorak. And some of the Vim stuff works better in Dvorak, so it's net basically no issue.


I have never been able to learn vim, and I imagine that the bizarre incoherence of its key syntax when typed in dvorak has something to do with it; I've never been especially good at rote memorization.


But Dvorak is one of my favorite composers...

Wait, that's Dvořák.




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