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I’ve used Dvorak for 10 years, and it’s not all that (theverge.com)
78 points by Tomte 35 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 180 comments

I've been typing dvorak primarily for about 20 years, also since I was in high school, and I highly recommend it.

I agree that switching is a pain in the ass. It will make you essentially unable to type for about 2-4 weeks.

Ctrl-C/V/X is a valid concern. I fixed it by mapping mouse buttons to copy/paste, and also getting an Advantage2 Kinesis into which I've programming custom keybinding for Undo/Redo/Copy/Cut/Paste.

I can still touch type qwerty and often do at work on co-workers' keyboards. I'm pretty slow though, about 40wpm (100 on dvorak), and I usually have to look at the keyboard.

I also use qwerty on my phone - I tried dvorak and also found it to be a hindrance there. That makes sense, since dvorak is designed specifically for ten-fingered typing.

The primary benefit that the author of this post completely overlooked is comfort. It just feels... easy and comfortable, in a way that Qwerty doesn't even come close to. Whenever I am forced to type Qwerty I feel like I am doing finger calisthenics. It's tiring. My wrists never hurt after full days of typing, and I'm hopeful that the reduced motion and strain will help me avoid carpal tunnel or other hand/finger issues.

I plan to spend my entire career and much of my free time in front of a computer. Why on earth would I subject myself to anything less than the best interface system possible? That would be like a professional chef using the $20 knife block from the grocery store, or your doctor using WebMD to try and diagnose you.

I've been on a computer pretty much 12-16 hours a day for 30 years now. Dvorak only makes sense to me if you only have to use a single keyboard/workstation for all of your computing time consistently. On my own I have four different machines/OS and I frequently have to type at other peoples'.

I spent 10 years in Dvorak, Colemak and a variety of modified Colemak layouts before settling back on qwerty. I never noticed much difference in typing speed between it and dvorak (~104wpm) and I am still without RSI.

Using vim with dvorak is a real pain.

"Using vim with dvorak is a real pain."

That is not my experience, at all.

Then again, I don't use Vim like notepad with "hjkl" instead of arrow keys... All the powerful movement and editing commands (b, w, $, 0, /foo, *, #, %, cw, dd, ^], ^t, cib, ., etc.) work just as well with dvorak as with qwerty.

There's people that remap those on vim, but I found that doing so may force you to start remapping all the keys on every vim-inspired application and plug in.

It happens that "J" and "K" are next to each other and easily reachable, and that "H" and "L" still are 2 columns away and "h" is on the left, so using them in their new position it's not that bad.

When combined with Colemak, Vim's default keybindings are particularly bad. On Colemak, HJKL all map to the same finger.

Or you can get RSI in just a few years (right out of college) using QWERTY. I switched to an ergonomic keyboard and it has helped a lot, but it flares up on occasion....I've considered Dvorak on several occasions, but doubt I have the time to be that inefficient for a few weeks. I also use Vim when testing some of our software and would hate to have to relearn all the things I only know my muscle memory now.

I can touch type both qwerty and Dvorak and have been for almost 30 years. Dvorak definitely saved me from RSI. I was genuinely losing my hand use due to a data entry job in college. As a developer, I would not have been able to continue, successfully, without Dvorak.

I have never been that much faster on Dvorak because I keep stopping to think. Keyboard can't help that.

Beyond all that, Dvorak just feels good to use.

Although phones & other qwerty biased situations are a pain, I still think Dvorak was worth it.

Similarly, I credit a switch to Colemak in grad school with narrowly avoiding an RSI that year.

I couldn't touch type QWERTY, and realized I needed to relearn touch typing from first principles and wasn't going to go through all that effort just to relearn QWERTY.

> Beyond all that, Dvorak just feels good to use.

I mention this a lot. Even if the extra efficiencies touted by Dvorak and Colemak are marginal at best (and the evidence goes both ways), the interesting part is that they still feel better / more "fun" to type. There are some words with interesting rolls in Colemak that are just "fun", as silly of a thing to be excited about as that can be. For instance, "start" in Colemak is two left-handed inward rolls on the homerow, like idly tapping your fingers against a desk.

A big thing that convinced me about Colemak in grad school, and help push me to make the switch, was that the typing tutor had none of that asdf;jkjk nonsense of touch typing in QWERTY, from the first four letters on the home row in the "strong positions", S T N E you are spelling full words and never typing nonsense (tents, Tennessee, …). Touch typing training is never "fun", but it is much easier to force yourself to relearn when it answers "when would I ever use this particular exercise" immediately out of the gate.

> if you only have to use a single keyboard/workstation for all of your computing time consistently.

The keyboard itself is irrelevant. I'd recommend getting a keyboard without labels to free yourself from the idea that you need to look at them.

All of the time? I don't get this. There's no problem switching between Dvorak and Qwerty if you do it regularly. It's like switching between bicycling and snowboarding.. you just switch the context for your muscle memory. Although you'll probably have a bit higher error rate on the layout you use less

I've been using blank keyboards[0] at home and work for several years now. Whenever someone just stares at it for a moment, I ask "What? You can't type?"

I totally don't get the trend of backlit gaming keyboards. Desktop keyboards aren't supposed to be looked at, period.

[0] Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate

You can touch type the F-keys too?

I'm a touch typist. I do not look at the keys. The issue is managing the keyboard switch on every single computer and OS that I use.

We're talking: Linux workstation at work, company-issued MBP for remote work, my personal OpenBSD laptop, my Windows gaming desktop. The gaming desktop has its own host of issues and might as well be qwerty. And then I'm having to do things on other peoples' workstations constantly (and others mine) and I've only encountered two people in my whole career who use Dvorak.

My point is that typing speed is roughly equivalent and it doesn't reap any benefits with all of the time spend managing workstations and context switching between layouts.

> I can still touch type qwerty and often do at work on co-workers' keyboards. I'm pretty slow though, about 40wpm (100 on dvorak), and I usually have to look at the keyboard.

It's not touch typing if you have to look at the keyboard.

> Whenever I am forced to type Qwerty I feel like I am doing finger calisthenics. It's tiring.

Maybe it is generally tiring to use a layout that you're not the most comfortable with.

> I plan to spend my entire career and much of my free time in front of a computer. Why on earth would I subject myself to anything less than the best interface system possible? That would be like a professional chef using the $20 knife block from the grocery store, or your doctor using WebMD to try and diagnose you.

That's an interesting perspective. Have you also made the best choice of interface for your editor, your operating system, your window manager and all the other tools you use on a daily basis? Do you have the best chair, the best desk, the best office environment etc? If not, can you be sure that you aren't a chef with a really good knife block but a dull set of knives, a terrible stove or a slow dishwasher?

Personally, I don't have the resources to research and apply the best choices in every possible area. I find that this is true for a lot of people. The POSIX tools I use on a daily basis certainly aren't ideal, neither is the programming language I currently work with. I still make small, incremental improvements to my workflow that I believe are more significant than a keyboard layout for some small tens of wpm improvement in typing speed.

That said, I rarely spend a whole day typing. Much more of my time is spent considering what to type, a process that is normally only briefly interrupted by bursts of actual typing.

Been using dvorak for perhaps 10 years myself. Ctrx-c/v/x, well they're not next to each other anymore (and kind need 2 hands to use)!

I recommend using this, in my mind a way bigger improvement than just moving to dvorak itself. It's like having vim navigation everywhere, but better.

Pretty sure my WPM is something like < 20 wpm in Querty (70 in dvorak). I look like a complete beginner whenever I'm on someone elses machine. Not really sure how others keep the dual fluency.

Perfect dual fluency took me about ten years. I still sometimes get confused if I am using a keyboard that feels like one of my own. And then there was the time I dated someone who, unbeknownst to me, used Dvorak. "Hey, what the hell is wrong with your keyboard?"

> I've been typing dvorak primarily for about 20 years, also since I was in high school

Same. I type on my laptop pretty much all day, and am not even close to having an RSI. To me using QWERTY just seems irresponsible, like driving without a seatbelt or something. If you don't use a computer that much then I guess that's one thing, but if you actually use one on a daily basis for your job and are using QWERTY then that just seems like a huge and unnecessary risk for both yourself and your employer/startup.

Everyone here seems to be saying that switching immediately eliminated their pain, so what's the risk? One can just switch when they start feeling pain.

An alternative to using a different key layout is to use a contoured matrix-style ergonomic keyboard (where all keys are arranged in symmetric columns and curved to fit the hand). I did this a couple of years ago and can similarly report an immediate cessation of pains associated with typing, although I kept a QWERTY layout. The costs and adjustment period involved are still not completely trivial, though.

Which keyboard do you use? I use a cheap Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 which works great. I may be ready to step up though.

The one I got was the Kinesis Advantage 2, which I almost hesitate to recommend due to the sticker shock. I'd recommend trying to see if the idea of a more symmetrical typing posture appeals to you enough to be worth it (maybe just some non-typing exercises at your desk). I was at the point of having already adjusted my chair, desk height, and wrist angle (making sure not to rest the wrists while actually typing), and the keyboard was something of a last resort. That said, I am very satisfied and wish it were priced more competitively so it could be a more ubiquitous option. I ended up getting a hard shell briefcase to carry it around in while I learned to type on it (which took around 2-4 weeks, after which point switching back and forth with normal keyboards became less of a hassle).

I've thought of that one before, but keyboardio also looks nice in the price range.

The advantage of the kinesis in my opinion is it being a little more trustworthy off the shelf for my security paranoid industry. Getting a Kickstarter keyboard with an Arduino builtin might scare some folks although I'm not enough of a hardware guru to know if there is anything to actually worry about or not.

I had a similar experience, although I went with the Freestyle 2 instead.

I was on the fence there for a while between the two designs, and now that you mention it I think the shoulder-width separation is at least as important for comfort as any other factor. I ended up going for the Advantage2 instead mainly because of the mechanical keys, since the two bottom-end Lenovo keyboards I was using previously got to where I had to forcibly "pop" some of the keys down to type and I wanted to minimize my chances of a similar experience. Though, I doubt the problem happens quite like that on any but the cheapest of keyboards.

I really do wish they made a separable Advantage version. The ErgoDox seems as evidence that there is at least some market for such a thing.

For me, what alleviated the RSI pain was switching to mechanical (cherry mx brown and buckling spring) keyboards.

Counterpoint to the people agreeing here at having a much higher dvorak typing speed vs qwerty speed, I've never tried dvorak, but I have a >100wpm typing speed on qwerty (every time I do a challenge with people at work on typeracer.com, I flag their bot-check validator/captcha process) having learnt to touch type as a teenager juggling multiple msn-messenger conversations without wanting the counterparty to be aware

I've been using Dvorak for about 5 years, then went back to qwerty because I'm doing all my typing on a laptop and I'm not 100% blind-typing. I also stopped because dvorak is not great for programming; you don't get as much as the benefits when you're not writing texts in English (as I did during my Ph.D, writing research articles) but you suffer because all shortcuts are designed to be convenient on a qwerty.

I still miss dvorak, but for me it's not about typing speed as much as "hand movement". On a dvorak, most typing happens on the center row, on the stronger fingers, so I find it much more confortable to type. On a qwerty I feel like I'm constantly streching my hands around the keyboard while on a dvorak it's much more static.

It's not yes. It was non-scientifically created and self-promoted to hell from the inventor in the early 20th century, for commercial interests. And there are a lot of myths about Qwerty too:


Not to mention that for programmers it's even more complicated. Most of our symbols we use most of the time (e.g. { } ; -, _) have nothing to do with DVORAK vs QWERTY, and the distribution of most common letters isn't even the same as English (e.g. C and the use of i).

Add OS keyboard shortcuts (and things like Vim and Emacs special keys) to the mix, and it gets even more complicated soon.

Oh, and since this is not 1970 anymore, consider that computer users come from all other the world, and type in their native languages, where QWERTY vs DVORAK means even less.

That said, there are better researched layouts that DVORAK, with actual modern research behind them.

> That said, there are better researched layouts that DVORAK, with actual modern research behind them.

From what I've read the difference between from Qwerty to Dvorak is much bigger than from Dvorak to the more optimized layouts. They add marginal improvements. As you say yourself, no layout can be perfect in every context. So since Dvorak is built in to most OSs these days, it's a very good compromise.

Dvorak isn't meant to be a holy grail, just a nice comfort boost.

For professional programmers I can recommend getting the ErgoDox keyboard to optimize access to special characters.

Colemak made it into out-of-the-box Linux and BSD keyboard layout lists and from there to macOS and even iOS, Android. The obvious key holdout left is Windows and that's probably something like just a handful of User Voice votes from making the cut.

It has some small advantages to Dvorak as a good "compromise" for programmers in that a lot of the major shortcut keys stay in the same place (the left-hand bunch of AZXCVB, especially), and almost all the punctuation (the big obvious move being ; moves up a key out of the home row).

(I also like that it has a better "wheel of fortune" score than Dvorak, not that it hugely matters, but all but L in RSTLNE are on the home row, and L is in one of the easiest reaches [up on the right, where QWERTY has U]. Not everyone believes that crowd-sourced wisdom of a decades old game show is useful efficiency data, but it's still an amusing thing to take into account.)

On a sidenote: we worry about "singularity AI" and expect "SAE level 5 driving cars"...

How about we solve the much easier problem of "typing much fewer words"?

We don't even have a good auto-complete story yet in most IDEs, even less so a general purpose predictor that puts whole worlds at our disposal as we type.

I'm not convinced that auto-complete will ever become more useful than the costs it imposes on the user. Even when the suggestion is correct, it still causes a mental interrupt to shift from thinking about whatever virtual problem you were solving to validating some UI behavior. To me it's just another source of distraction.

If auto-complete could reach the point where it was near perfect, then it should probably be able to write entire paragraphs or functions based on context and some minor cues. But that's not going to happen.

Where auto-complete becomes valuable is on limited keyboards, such as phones. Even there (on Android), I find it so sub-par that quite often the variant of the word I want is simply not offered to me until I have typed all but the last character. This is maddening.

I’m quite capable of dealing with the mental breaks and prefer an editor that can save me some typing. The only improvement for me would be able to say “switch statement (3 cases, no default)”


switch <cursor> {

case <tab location>:

  <tab location>

  <tab location>

Actually, if I could say “switch on enum X” then have all cases generated, that would be a huge productivity gain.

You are describing code snippets. This feature is available at least in vs code [1], but I think other editors have similar features.

[1] https://code.visualstudio.com/docs/editor/userdefinedsnippet...

Fair enough. I guess it depends a lot on the language.

I use mostly Python, Elixir, and Clojure (my unnaturally desperate love, which I don't use much). For those languages, the syntax is either less verbose (python/clojure) or less predictable (elixir).

If I were doing Java or C/C++, I would probably learn to love templates and expansions.

Recent-ish builds of Windows 10, I forget where the cutoff is (might be as old as last March's release?) have an option to turn on the mobile keyboard autocomplete predictor above the insertion point when using even a regular (hardware) keyboard.

(Search for autocorrect in Settings and scroll down to hardware keyboard.)

It's interesting to try to use. I type faster than it is useful to me.

Worth noting that article is written from the perspective of the market never being wrong. They're not keyboard or ergonomic experts talking from that experience, they're economists who believe the market works in a certain way and if Dvorak is better than Qwerty and still failed then their economic theories would be wrong. So they set out to prove its not better, not to investigate whether it was better or not.

> That said, there are better researched layouts that DVORAK, with actual modern research behind them.

Any references? I'm curious.

i spent several minutes on both of these sites. they are interesting extensions into the topic of keyboard layouts, but there was almost no research or data on them, other than simple mechanical metrics.

> Oh, and since this is not 1970 anymore, consider that computer users come from all other the world, and type in their native languages, where QWERTY vs DVORAK means even less.

How do you figure? Alternating vowels and consonants is fairly universal.

This is only one component of the optimization though. Eg. letter frequency will be different. For instance, the relative frequency of "z" is about 4.9% in Polish, whereas as low as 0.07% in English (according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_frequency).

The same goes for what the most popular 2-grams and 3-grams are, and conversely, the calculated stroke path (or how much do the typist's fingers have to 'travel', independently of the hand alternation rate), the use of the weakest fingers enforced by a given layout, etc.

This likely doesn't nullify all the benefits of Dvorak, or some other English-optimized layouts - but it certainly reduces them, while the adoption cost is still the same.

It doesn't look like anyone has yet addressed my biggest PRO for switching to Dvorak. It has pretty much healed my RSI. QWERTY had caused a huge drain on my ability to type. I was at risk for being unable to continue my work if the pain progressed.

I made the admittedly-difficult switch to Dvorak and that went away almost immediately. My typing speed is on-par with what it was with QWERTY. I can type out conversational English in real time, and that's about my functional limit. I don't consider that a selling point, but for those of you with wrist pain I can wholeheartedly recommond Dvorak.

I have observed many others who complained about their hands hurting after typing for a short time, and the one thing that stands out is they all seem to have an unusually "tense" posture and almost "attack" the keyboard whenever they type, striking the keys much harder than they need to and making excessively abrupt movements. They also wonder why they can't type very fast and tire quickly, while others like me can type all day at 130WPM on a standard QWERTY board without getting tired.

What I've found to be most important is to relax. Press the keys smoothly and deliberately, without tensing your fingers and trying to maintain a stiff posture. Use a softer keyboard if you can. Your comfort and speed will go up.

> Use a softer keyboard if you can

This. I dislike mechanical keyboards largely for this reason. Apple's "modern" laptop keyboards (pre-butterfly) are the best I've ever used. For me, they have the right amount of pressure required and key travel to be able to type very fast (>100wpm) at very low effort.

> butterfly

Using this worries me so much that I'm just planting a ticking time bomb of RSI. I a slight ache every time I use it because you have to hit the keys so hard to ensure they register and the stop is so abrupt as paper thin plastic smacks against the metal.

Previous gen feels so gentle compared to it, and this is coming from someone who likes tactile mech keyboards.

because you have to hit the keys so hard to ensure they register and the stop is so abrupt as paper thin plastic smacks against the metal

I've heard others similarly complaining that the key travel being too low is like the feeling of running barefoot on a hard surface, and I agree --- on a good keyboard the actuation travel has to be very low to not tire the fingers, and a small tactile bump there is not bad, but the total travel should be relatively long and "bouncy" at the end to cushion the momentum of the fingers.

All rubber-dome keyboards are not alike either; some are stiffer than others, and some have higher actuation travel --- contrary to common advice, you don't have to "bottom out" a rubber dome switch if the inner membrane-actuating protrusion is long and "squishy" enough. Once it touches the membrane the switch actuates, but there's still a cushioning end-stop effect as the protrusion continues to deform.

Ever tried topre?

Topre are really nice, but for softer keys, Cherry MX reds are possibly even better.

Imho, this is were alternative layouts really shine: comfort, health.

Typing speed is an overrated fad (and in the worst cases an e-penis length contest) as in most cases when writing stuff (be it fiction, reports, code) your throughput isn't limited by typing speed.

Avoiding injuries on the other hand is invaluable.

saying it doesn't affect code writing speed is incorrect imo- after you've laid out your algorithm in pseudo code being able to quickly type it out is invaluable time savings. even if you try and automate it all away with shortcuts and refactors it still takes time to press those shortcuts for someone who's familiar with the keys and able to maximise their APM(actions per minute)

I have a similar anecdote, and I've decided that forcing myself to relearn typing was more important than the specific layout. I can definitely say that I was beginning to get some pain in my wrists, and since becoming competent in Dvorak, I haven't had any wrist pain.

Came here to say this. I'm 27, and 3 years ago started to get some pain in my hands when typing for extended periods of time. Given that I'm a software engineer, I'm likely to need to type for a very significant portion of my life. Barring new input technologies, I might be doing this in my career for another 40+ years. I switched to Dvorak to head-off future RSI issues, and it has made typing far more comfortable for me.

Through my 20years of typing and texting with terrible posture and exercise habits, and bouts of debilitating RSI where I immobilized my arm, and experimenting with Dvorak, I found that the main way to reduce my RSI symptoms was to stop hanging out in areas where people talked about RSI.

Even now, just getting into the thread makes my wrists tingle

Yeah, a lot of that seems to be anecdotal evidence. Similar to people claiming mechanical keyboards are better for your wrists, which I find very hard to believe, given how long is the key distance in such keyboards and how much pressure you need to press the keys in such.

> [...] given how long is the key distance in such keyboards and how much pressure you need to press the keys in such.

This very much depends per switch. For example, Cherry MX Red require far less pressure than Cherry MX Blue. There's also the issue of noise (which is annoying for other people, and allows for a TEMPEST attack).

Optical switches, such as the Wooting (2) require also less travel.

I'm disappointed that this article is no different from all the other articles on keyboard layouts that I've ever encountered and ignores non-English uses.

Obviously, a post written in English has no good reason describing a Norwegian-specific alternative to QWERTY, but it still manages to ignore half of the population of English-speaking people by not taking into account using multiple languages on the same keyboard.

I'm slowly losing hope that someone will mention whether there are any accommodations in Dvorak for French accents, how it affects writing German or whether it is worth the effort to learn and switch to Dvorak for English while using the Estonian layout for other purposes.

My experience isn't much, but as a Dvorak user I can say that I haven't had any issues with Icelandic. I'm on linux which has great compose-key combinations. I haven't used anything but default Dvorak on an American layout or ortholinear keyboard. Hope that helps a bit.

Why did you decide to switch? Are you typing much more of English than Icelandic? Are the two languages similar enough that what works for one is likely to work for another? Or was there an unrelated reason?

Do you think it made your life better? Would you recommend it to others, not necessarily using Icelandic? Are you using compose combinations to enter non-English letters (there's 8 [0], a significant number)?

Thank you for speaking up, your experience is so rare I consider it invaluable.

[0] https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Icelandic/Alphabet_and_Pronunc...

The situation is worse for non-latin-alphabet based languages, especially if the alphabet is not ~20-30 letters.

Some selected examples:

https://www.branah.com/korean https://www.branah.com/japanese https://www.branah.com/greek https://www.branah.com/hindi https://www.branah.com/tagalog https://www.branah.com/tamazight https://www.branah.com/sundanese https://www.branah.com/tibetan

I am not a speaker of many of the languages above. Thus, I think it would be great if native speakers share their input on the issues and what the optimal keyboard would look like in their mind.

In general, we are trying to shoehorn a language to an existing keyboard design and layout, that was designed for a totally different purpose and times. Perhaps, it is time we redesign the whole concept.

How can you claim it's worse, if you don't speak any of these languages?

My understanding is that Japanese is usually typed with an IME, and not a kana keyboard. I press exactly the same keys on my keyboard to get "taiko" or "太鼓" -- and I find Dvorak easier. (Japanese is even better about alternating vowels and consonants than English!) Kotoeri supports Dvorak just fine, and I assume other IMEs do, too.

The Deskthority list linked in sibling thread lists Norwegian, French, and German alternative layouts:


For German, there's Neo 2: https://neo-layout.org/, which is optimised towards German, English, Programming, and Mathematics (in that order). Its third layer, accessed using the caps lock key on the left or the key above right shift, contains all the symbols used by (non-esoteric) programming languages. I've been using it for well over five years now and wouldn't go back to QWERT[YZ] for any reason.

I think it depends largely on what OS you're sing. On macOS it's really a non-issue because it handles alt + whatever key remarkably well. Windows can be a huge pain however.

As a Dvorak user who regularly writes other languages, this little gem is my normal layout: `setxkbmap -layout us -variant dvorak-alt-intl -option compose:caps`. Now AltGr + characters around a, o and e in combination with just a couple compose keys (Compose, a, e for æ, for example) serve most of my Norwegian, German and very occasional French needs. Most compose keys are also really easy to remember, since they resemble the building blocks of the characters they result in.

There is bépo [1] for french users, I'm currently learning it (it's been 5 days and i'm still soooo slow). What's nice with it is that the special chars are on alt-grad + left hand which is nice for coding (thumb vs pinky)

[1] bepo.fr/wiki/Accueil

I now use Dvorak German Type II for more than 12 years.

Considering the author did not begin the Dvorak journey as a touch typist, their experience doesn't carry much weight with me.

I took the time to learn Dvorak (years ago), and I found it very much nicer for typing prose. However, I couldn't code with it (and I didn't try a code-focused version). Perhaps I should have tried different Dvorak variations to find one that was still better than QWERTY for writing while also being usable for coding.

I also tried a chorded keyboard (the BAT). With only a little practice I got to 60+ WPM (which isn't bad considering it's a one hand keyboard)... but it was just too laborious to code with since modifier keys and symbols took so much extra effort.

I'm still waiting for a neural interface... although if you give me a neural typing interface, then I'll want a neural visual interface so I'm not limited by monitors.

As an aside, why why why do people use the international keyboard layout? There is no possible way that it is more efficient given that two of the most used keys - left shift and (right) return are reduced in size and pushed further out of reach from home position. Worse yet, their lost space is taken by less frequently used keys. I cannot fathom why that design has remained popular outside the US.

> As an aside, why why why do people use the international keyboard layout?

Like you said, you'd prefer to keep the keys you need close to the home row. So when a language has extra letters (compared to English), you preferably put those letters in the three letter rows, and carve them space as needed.

> As an aside, why why why do people use the international keyboard layout?

That's like saying "why do characters outside standard English exist?". I honestly don't understand what you're complaining about. People use international keyboard layouts because they want to write another language than English.

UK and Netherlands use an international keyboard with a tilda ~ key where the return key should be, and a backslash key where the left shift should be.

To hit return requires actually moving the right hand to reach return. How often is that tilda needed? That is a poor trade.

Moving the shift key away is even worse, because it's a modifier key. Now you cannot press shift with your left pinky finger while also reaching several of the left hand keys.

> UK and Netherlands use an international keyboard with a tilda ~ key where the return key should be, and a backslash key where the left shift should be.

That is actually the original IBM PC XT layout from 1981: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IBM_Model_F_XT.png

Then in 1984 USA moved to their own layout with the PC AT: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IBM_Model_F_AT.png

But the rest of the world stayed with the original.

>> How often is that tilda needed? That is a poor trade.

That tilda is needed every time I need to access my home directory on Linux, and the backslash key is also a pipe key when you press shift - so I can use a pipe in command line using a single hand.

I actually come from a country with US keyboard by-default. Now, whenever possible - I switch to UK layout even on MacBooks. UK layout is actually wonderful for development.

I can obviously see though why one can ask why is it this way.

Seriously, are you suggesting that you reference your home directory so often that it is a more frequent need than hitting Return?

Every single command you type ends with return. Unless you are typing long paragraphs in a word processor with line wrapping, you will be hitting return once every 80 characters or less on average (much less in the case of commands). Do you really need to reference a unix home directory once every 80 characters you type?

But I do have a return key, don't I? I don't particularly care about the size of the keys since I will remember their placement anyway, by a certain time.

I do care about their placement, however - since that's where my fingers are physically limited.

Which left hand keys can't you reach while pressing left shift? (I can quite comfortably reach up to J column with my index finger, at which point it's about 50-50 which Shift to use if I have to navigate left-handed.)

Also, being used to it, I find a large Enter key more convenient than a wide one.

I will accept that adapting to a reduced width left shift is possible, but I cannot accept the suggestion that a taller return key has any value.

Unless you are doing something really "interesting", you should be hitting return with your right pinky finger. And assuming your other fingers are on the home row, your pinky finger has an easier reach to the US return key (on the left edge) than it would the international return key on the row above.

Now, if you suggested expanding the return key to exist where the { key does, then I could agree that it was an improvement. { is immediately accessible to a right pinky finger, and arguably { is less often needed than return - even in programming.

> As an aside, why why why do people use the international keyboard layout? There is no possible way that it is more efficient given that two of the most used keys - left shift and (right) return are reduced in size and pushed further out of reach from home position. Worse yet, their lost space is taken by less frequently used keys. I cannot fathom why that design has remained popular outside the US.

This doesn't make much sense for the UK keyboard layout, where I agree that the US layout is a bit better from a common use perspective. It makes more sense when you start looking at other variations of the international layout, though. Live in the Baltics? You're going to use the Nordic layout that has several of the most commonly-used letters with diacritical marks. The physical layout (number of keys, position of keys, etc.) are all still the same, so not only is it easier to manufacture but all a touch-typist needs to do is alter the software layout to be able to use any keyboard they happen to stumble upon.

> why why why do people use the international keyboard layout

speaking as someone who switched from DE_DE to US_INT_W_DEAD_KEYS it was to actually programming easier.

i did not need special german keys (äöüß) often while coding so having programming relevant `[]{}'\"|` at their expense, while still being able to access language specific symbols via dead keys, was preferable.

international layout also gives me the ability to type specific other-language symbols like `Øçµ` or special typography like `…‽¿` way easier compared to german

Sorry. So that's my blind spot... English-focused keyboard needs. When I encounter a UK or Dutch international keyboard, I find them almost identical to US keyboard except for a couple of keys; so the layout makes no sense to me.

For people who need more modifiers and accents, my experience is less relevant.

> return [is] reduced in size and pushed further out of reach

Actually, that's how the return key originally was on the PC/XT model F keyboard, except that it was only 1 unit wide on both rows. It actually changed in the opposite direction with the PC/AT, and largely only on the U.S. variants if memory serves. The non-U.S. variants retain the PC/XT's original double-row return key, and make it wider (and make the keys next to it narrower, down to 1 unit).

The ISO layout is possibly not more efficient, but, like QWERTY vs Dvorak, it's probably not so much less efficient that it's worth changing now that it's become some kind of a standard.

> Worse yet, their lost space is taken by less frequently used keys.

Which keys are these in my international layout and how often do I use them?

There are many different international variants, but I was referring to the one common in the UK and Netherlands.

Disagree with a lot here. I could touch type before switching to Dvorak, but it’s still been very much worthwhile.

Just trying out a single sentence in QWERTY now the difference is stark to me. My fingers move so much. With Dvorak I find there is much much less finger movement.

It’s not painless, but I’d recommend it to anyone who types for 8+ hrs a day. It’s not a small optimizations imo.

Also should say that the benefit is 100% ergonomic for me. I can’t type any faster now than before. I’m at exactly the same speed I’d say.

I switched about 10 years ago and can still touch type qwerty as well (and need to do so fairly often). I haven't seriously considered going back, but I don't know that there is even any ergonomic advantages much less speed ones.

I think the most relevant thing is that it might actually be worse for programming, both from the symbols and from qwerty-optimized hotkeys.

I use vim with most of the regular bindings which is designed as a combination of mnemonics (which are still fine) and qwerty layout (which obviously just end up in a random spot, though j and k happen to still be together but not in the home row).

It's certainly worse for programming if you use a semicolon rich language.

In terms of finger movement (i.e distance your fingers have to travel) I'd have a look at CarpalX that specifically optimizes based on this metric. Its best layout (QGMLWB) compares favorably to both QWERTY, Dvorak and Colemak as far as that goes.


The author was literally not the target audience. Unless you are already touch-typing, there won't be much of a benefit:

* all keys are equally easy to reach when you hover your finger 10cm above the keyboard while searching for a key

* you are moving fingers, hands and arms much more and with much more variety than when touch-typing, the risk of repetitive strain injuries is therefore lower

* you are typing much, much slower. Switching to dvorak is like buying an expensive pair of hiking boots for your daily 1 minute walk to the kiosk.

Last but not least, I know much more people who use a dvorak-like layout (as do I) - they adapt it to their needs (e.g.: as a lisp programmer I don't care about curly or square brackets, when I have to hack on other languages, I adapt my layout to make required special characters more easily accessible)

I've been using Dvorak since 2003 or earlier when I read this post by Matt Mullenweg of WordPress fame: https://ma.tt/2003/08/on-the-dvorak-keyboard-layout/ It's a night and day difference. Watching everyone from my doctor to my colleagues twisting around their fingers to use QWERTY is painful and I'm seriously typing this without even glancing at the keyboard

> I'm seriously typing this without even glancing at the keyboard

I mean... that is what touch typing is and you can do it on a qwerty keyboard as well.

> as a lisp programmer I don't care about curly or square brackets, when I have to hack on other languages, I adapt my layout to make required special characters more easily accessible

I find it fascinating that people change their keyboard layouts frequently.

For me, there seems to be plenty of mental complexity to contend with that adding n > 1 keyboard interfaces would overload my ability to work efficiently.

I’m also worried about having to set up something complex just to get to work.

What are your thoughts? I’m just curious how you think about these issues

It's just a few keys that change. If you stick to one layout per task/language, muscle memory will take care of that.

> I find it fascinating that people change their keyboard layouts frequently.

Me too. I have trouble just switching between Mac layout and others.

I’ve been using https://neo-layout.org/ for about 10 years, which is a keyboard layout optimized for German, English, Programming, Maths, in that order. It has many layers with conveniently located “special” keys.

Dvorak only rearranges the main layer. NEO introduces a bunch of useful ones.

Adopting an ergonomic keyboard layout doesn’t typically make you a faster typist, but it makes typing more pleasant.

It seems that most non US keyboard layouts suck really hard for programming, because the special symbols are in hard to reach places. Neo really fixes this by having a layer 3 that gives easy access to all important programming symbols. And with the layout it is also reasonably simple to write texts in various western languages beyond German and English.

Because Neo repurposes CAPS LOCK it is adviseable to have a ISO keyboard with 105 keys and not a ANSI keyboard without the second CAPS LOCK key. But I've also used Neo with ANSI keyboards in the past...

I used Dvorak for 5+ years. I eventually stopped for a number of reasons:

* Occasionally coworkers or friends will need to type on my keyboards and I grew tired of having to switch back and forth.

* Similarly, using someone else's computer would require me to type QWERTY anyway.

* I've been trying to reduce the amount of custom configuration I have to maintain and backup to the bare minimum.

* It didn't make a difference for me ergonomically. Typing for a long time still took a toll. I saw a much better improvement simply by occasionally changing my sitting position.

One time a coworker tried to prank me by posting a silly message to slack on my terminal (I don't usually use my work Mac so I forgot to log it off), and he was thwart d by Dvorak.

For me that seems to be the biggets downside. Colleagues occasionally need to use my setup (when looking at a problem together for example).

They already complain about me using a 60% board, so I can't imagine putting them through dvorak if they just quickly want to type something. :)

But also, I don't see a great advantage to dvorak. I type about 150WPM on qwerty / azerty and mainly use my keyboard (no mouse) so health concerns are taken care off by having a smaller board and no mouse usage. When I do use the mouse, I also have an ergonomic one.

So yeah.. I don't see the great upside but see potential downsides at work :)

I never really understood the obsession about WPM that some programmers have.

You're a programmer, not a court reporter. You don't need +200 WPM. You need to think before/during/after writing each one of the characters you type. And more often than not, you actually spend +5min of 20 lines of code, so your +200 WPM ability doesn't matter at all.

I type normally below 50wpm (just did a test which scored 54, but that is above my normal day-to-day rate), and I do feel constrained by my typing ability. More specifically not the rate I can spew up finished code, but the way I can't efficiently and naturally use computer (via typing) for sketching out ideas and overall as a tool of thought or an extension of my mind. Indeed I do often resort to pen and paper for that purpose which, in addition to being just plain quaint, simply locks me out of vast arrays of capabilities and tools I'd have on computer (org-mode etc).

There are also other ways I think faster typing speed can transform the way computers are used, for example being more comfortable in the cli, being more willing to write small simple throw-away code snippets, less reliance on tools like autocorrect and autocomplete, which in turn can give more freedom to experiment with more niche tools, and so on.

There's also the personal enjoyment factor. People that run long distances rarely need that skill level. People that sing for fun don't need to do it. It's great to push your abilities just for its own sake. Lots of us just enjoy it.

There is a big range between 40wpm and 200wpm.

Typing is a cost, a waste. After spending an hour thinking, I don't want to be stalled out by delays typing. I need to rewrite my code several times to get that clean bugfree 100 lines for the day. I want to write documentation, not just code. I need to write emails and chats too.

Just like I spend 22hours a day not commuting but still want my commute to be twice as fast

A chef doesn't need to be winning vegetable-slicing races, but being able to chop the veggies fast saves time for the meaningful work.

Also I admit I'm not really thinking before each one of the characters I type. It's not uncommon for my thoughts to be forming in my head at a pace more or less consistent with my typing, or even exceeding it, especially as it's not necessarily coding, but eg. code reviews, comments and clarifications in tickets etc. I will go back and review what I wrote of course, but it still feels more convenient if I'm able to lay it out quickly to begin with. And all the saved time adds up, at the end of the day.

linux torvalds doesn't touch type and richard stallman does. however they both use shortcuts heavily and have high APMs

On a similar note, let me say something which is sure to be controversial/unpopular on HN. I type with 2-3 fingers, and I can tell you that the "peckers" like me aren't missing out on much either. I can consistently type at 60-70 wpm, and that's after adjusting for typos. A big part of that comes down to me having memorized the keyboard layout, and not having to look at the keyboard at all while typing. I've also never suffered from RSI, and that might be a positive side effect of my hands being more mobile.

And I'm not an exception either: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typing#Hybrid

"The number of fingers does not determine typing speed... People using self-taught typing strategies were found to be as fast as trained typists... instead of the number of fingers, there are other factors that predict typing speed... fast typists... keep their hands fixed on one position, instead of moving them over the keyboard, and more consistently use the same finger to type a certain letter."

Would it be great to be able to type 100+ wpm? Sure. But if I have to dedicate all that time and effort, I'd much rather spend it on something else. Like learning a new technology or taking time off to pursue other interests. Besides, the amount of time I spend typing is a fraction of the amount of time I spend thinking. I honestly doubt that my 60+ wpm has held me back in any significant way.

> I honestly doubt that my 60+ wpm has held me back in any significant way.

I type 120 at max speed and I think that if I were to suddenly start typing more slowly tomorrow due to a freak thumb accident it would be a significant impediment to my ability to get stuff done. Most of what I do is typing on the computer (either coding, writing, or flying around in Emacs and organizing my life with org-mode). I'm a great note-taker in meetings because of my speed and because I can concentrate on the content of what people are saying instead of on the typing, which is fast and accurate without conscious effort. Moreover, slow typing would be extra friction between my brain and the computer, and there needs to be as little latency between these things as possible to get my thoughts and ideas out there unfettered.

Honestly, I think you should invest the time in learning to type properly. Yes, it does make a difference. Learn the finger placements and practice every day. Learn when each hand is appropriate for shift and space and practice it, alternating appropriately. Even minor stuff like that makes you a better typer.

It's not just about typing speed, it's about comfort. Touch typing on Colemak (and presumably Dvorak) feels much better and is less tiring than pecking.

What you mention is indeed the biggest advantage of touch typing: your hands are in a known position relative to the keyboard, so you don't have to look or think to type. How do you keep your hands in a fixed position if you only use 2-3 fingers?

> How do you keep your hands in a fixed position if you only use 2-3 fingers?

They don't stay in a fixed position. They are constantly moving around the keyboard. I can still do this without having to think or look at the keyboard. I can understand why/how this would slow down my typing speed, but I can still maintain 60-70 wpm despite this.

> it's about comfort

My hands have never felt uncomfortable when they are moving about slightly. Why should they? I can walk for hours and feel totally relaxed - in fact, that actually feels better than standing still for 15 minutes.

> They don't stay in a fixed position.

Okay, then I don't understand the point of the quote, because it is a counterargument to your style of typing.

> My hands have never felt uncomfortable when they are moving about slightly.

I used to peck, and now I don't, and I used to think that pecking was comfortable, and now I don't. The difference is night and day.

> Okay, then I don't understand the point of the quote, because it is a counterargument to your style of typing.

The quote is saying that even if someone pecks, their typing speed isn't necessarily impaired. I'm not claiming to be as advanced as other pecking-typists, but I can still achieve bursts of 80 wpm.

> I used to think that pecking was comfortable, and now I don't. The difference is night and day

My hands feel about as comfortable while typing, as they do while I'm lying down or doing nothing. I don't see how they can possibly feel any more comfortable than that.

> fast typists... keep their hands fixed on one position, instead of moving them over the keyboard

Interesting, I'm a fairly fast typist (exact speed varies on test, but I'm in the 80-120 range) who uses mostly my pointer and middle fingers on each hand, and my hands move all over the keyboard as I'm typing, especially my right hand.

I can type at 120 WPM, and it's not all that useful. I'd gladly halve my typing speed if it meant avoiding the occasional bout of RSI.


Read the Mind-Body Prescription, you might be surprised at what you learn. RSI is not something we should be afraid of in this day and age, with everything we know about the human organism.

mnm1 35 days ago [flagged]

Bullshit. That might work for some but in no way is it a cure or preventative measure for RSI for everyone. RSI is a real concern and often is caused by actual physical issues that need to be dealt with.

>Mind-Body Prescription

In this acclaimed volume, Dr. Sarno reveals how many painful conditions-including most neck and back pain, migraine, repetitive stress injuries, whiplash, and tendonitises-are rooted in repressed emotions (book description from amazon)

Excuse me while i chuckle heartily

Half-jokingly: it's repressed emotions that usually cause reactions like that :)

I haven't read Sarno's book but I've read the books by another prominent author in this genre, after battling stubborn health conditions for years without respite.

Addressing repressed emotions has been the thing that made the difference for me, without doubt.

Other things have been important too (diet, exercise, sleep, etc) - but none of that made a persistent difference without addressing the emotions, and none of those things were possible to adhere to consistently without also addressing emotional issues.

I know several people who have gone through a similar journey and all found that the emotional approach was the one that worked when others didn't.

And yep, we all know a lot about the placebo effect, thanks.

just goto a doctor and leave this newage stuff in the bin where it belongs. pain management is a different thing from pain alleviation.

Sarno was a conventional physician.

Nothing about his theories are "newage" or anti-scientific. Indeed, theories around pain must surely be less scientific if they rely on a dualistic notion of the mind and body being seperate entities.

Plenty of people visit mainstream doctors for pain conditions and are told that nothing can be done other than pain medication, which as we're now witnessing, can too often lead to addiction and death.

Whereas people who adopt the Sarno approach can and do achieve complete healing of the emotional and physical aspects of their illness.

If you actually have any expertise to add to the discussion please share it, otherwise, please step aside and allow grown adults to make their own judgements about what works for them.

you've gone into ad hominem territory and are claiming to be a grown adult, i'll let you go about your business but trying to claim it's not quackery will get you shot down in any forum. linking your medical and mental condition breaks down very quickly

There was no ad-hom. My point was that you're denying the judgements of grown adults about what is effective for them, and you haven't provided any insights with any expert backing but rather are just contemptuously arguing for adherence to what you consider to be mainstream orthodoxy.

Recall that this whole subthread began with your mockery of a method developed by a mainstream-qualified doctor that has helped thousands of people over many years.

The thing is, what you're arguing for is not even part of mainstream medical orthodoxy.

Mainstream medical literature linking chronic muscle-tension and pain to mental health is plentiful, along with the effectiveness of mainstream psychiatric treatments like CBT, and less-mainstream-accepted practices like mindfulness and meditation.






And here's a specific study on Sarno's technique:


I'm the first to concede that none of these studies are a home run. Human physiology is vastly complex and the factors leading to chronic illness and pain will inevitably be hard to isolate and different from one person to another.

But the plentiful supply of both anecdotal and clinical evidence warrants far more open-minded consideration than you're allowing for with your contemptuous dismissals.

This seems possible. Make more pauses and excercise. A good physiotherapist can do wonders.

I truly wish I never learned to touch type. The RSI issues are simply not worth it. I don't need to type fast to create software. That includes writing emails and such. I've adapted now to a slower workflow where I spend a lot more time thinking and a lot less with my hands on the keyboard/mouse and productivity has mostly stayed the same.

If you can touchtype, you have the option to spend more time thinking. RSI is generally not a symptome of touchtyping per se. Instead, there are usually some underlining issues like not actually touchtyping properly (for example too much force involved, I know nothing about you so these are not directed towards you), bad keyboard, or just generally neglecting breaks. Regards, 20+ years of daily touchtyping with zero signs of RSI (I never skip breaks which makes my eyes happier too, money is just imaginary but the one thing I really can't afford is losing my health).

I learned to touch-type in QWERTY first, and then Dvorak.

Currently, my speed with the latter is significantly higher (~60 WPM vs. ~90 WPM), but as DSK is my primry layout, that's possibly just due to the relative amount of time that I spend using them.

However, subjectively, using Dvorak feels nicer for me than QWERTY - temporarily using the latter feels like going back to a modeless editor after years of using a modal one (vim and emacs+evil).

Does anyone else get this feeling?

I feel the same. I don't have the memory of typing qwerty before I learned dvorak but I remember, after I learned Dvorak, how much more fluid it felt. Now it just feels normal. I don't currently touchtype qwerty so I don't have comparison.

I find it surprising that a person who does not know touch typing would be interested of Dvorak in the first place; I mean for hunt'n'peck the layout does not really matter that much so they could have not understood the relative benefit of Dvorak all that well, and on the other hand learning touch typing (in any layout) would be the obvious first step. But I guess there is all sorts of people.

If you are interested in something not QWERTY, Dvorak is not the only game in town, and indeed many more modern alternatives (such as Colemak-DH) are supposed to be better by almost any metric. Of course that also means you are going deeper in to the niche, and there will be even less support out of the box for those.

If you are European programmer and want a quick easy ergonomics win, consider modifying your layout to put punctuation etc to more US aligned positions, or wherever they would be convenient. I do recommend following the US layout though. The punctuation crazyness in European layouts is one of my pet peeves.

I was actually surprised by the level of support for Colemak, when I switched two years ago. OSX and Windows support it out of the box, even my Kinesis Freestyle Edge has a preset layout available on the website. The only real annoyance from the software side is videogames defaulting keyboard controls to WASD, but that’s hardly a significant issue. The real problems are on the hardware side; one has to either use blank keys or to hack something up. Even in the mechanical-keyboard communities there is no real attention for non-Qwerty users.

Colemak is awesome, btw. My hands and wrists feel even more relaxed than they did when I first switched to “split keyboards”.

I have been using Dvorak for a few years. I think learning the skill was one of the weirdest experiences I have had. I went all in and switched the keys on my Macbook to dvorak, and went all in.

It can be frustrating in a way comparable to recovering from a stroke. Emails which normally take 2 min take 10+.

Eventually, it gets better, you start to gain speed and typing becomes normal again. I do like it, it definitely seems easier/efficient to touch type.

Using other computers is not weird, I can easily switch the layout if I plan on spending any significant time on them. The worst part is standard keyboard shortcuts sometimes lose their intuitiveness. Like scrolling with 'j' or 'k', on dvorak they are not close.

Overall, it is a fun challenge. If you commit you can become proficient in about a month, and it's more comfy to type in. But if you think it will be a 'lifechanging efficiency hack' you will be disappointed.

J and K are next to one another? QJKXBMWVZ...

There are lots of keyboard layouts:


Isn’t the idea that your fingers travel less so it’s healthier for your hands?

If you end up with RSI, you might find you’re using your nose for input:


I've used Dvorak for ~10.5 years (currently on my MacBook, Model M, and Android) and I definitely don't regret it at all. Couldn't tell you my WPM offhand from either now or 10 years ago, but I type pretty quickly and have no issues touch typing.

I might not necessarily recommend it to anyone else unless you're bored or have a good reason to invest in typing more quickly, but I don't recall the adjustment being very painful aside from a week or two of slow typing at the end of the summer break before my sophomore year of high school.

The only real downside is that writing code on someone else's machine is a PITA. On the other hand, it's a good deterrent to others asking to borrow my laptop (no one ever does more than once).

I've been using Colemak for about 3.5 years. I think I was at 80wpm with qwerty and within 2 weeks I was up to 40wpm with colemak. Probably within a month or two I was back to 80wpm. I started using it for RSI reasons, but I'm not sure if it helped; I don't have RSI issues much anymore though. Biggest thing preventing me from switching again is VIM, I learned VIM right after I switched.

It took a really long time before my spelling adapted to colemak, I think 2-3years.

One of the nice things about colemak is that cxv are in the same position as qwerty so cut/copy/paste work the same, and the only special key that's moved is the semicolon.

I've been a colemak user for a number of years, which has similar pros and cons.

I would say that it is not worth it for most people to change. You could get a lot of the benefit of colemak, with none of the pain, by converting your caps lock key into a second backspace.

The benefits are that it is slightly more comfortable, and you'll have less people trying to use your computer. Also, prior to learning colemak, I had not been typing fully correctly, and learning it forced me to realize that I had been using the wrong fingers for certain keys.

The downsides are the pain of switching, and the likelihood that you'll actually forget how to touch type on QWERTY.

And unless you buy expensive new keyboards with native colemak support, then things like BIOS screens, virtual machines, and so on will likely switch back to QWERTY on you, without much warning.

But on the other hand, buying a quality keyboard is actually a solid investment, considering how much time people spend at the computer. Personally, I recommend a heavy mechanical tenkeyless board. Heavy so that it won't move around. Tenkeyless to save desk space and so you don't need to reach your arm far just to use the mouse. And mechanical because it is much nicer to type on.

I love Colemak and have used it for years. Typing with it feels absolutely great compared to QWERTY (mostly with less finger travel to reach common keys) but I agree that it's not worth the switch for most people. It took me about 2-3 weeks to be able to type functionally, and then about 6 months before I was as fluent as I was with QWERTY. Hardest part was remembering that the S key was moved right by one key - I kept mistyping S for almost a year.

I did try Dvorak before Colemak and really hated it. Not only was Ctrl+XCVZ a pain, I found that my left pinky got very strained because of the position of the L key which is a very common letter in the English language.

After learning Colemak, I tried practicing QWERTY occasionally to be "bi-keyboard" but I just could not do it. The more I practiced QWERTY, the worse I got with Colemak. So eventually I had to drop QWERTY. Now, whenever I use someone else's computer (usually just to do a small task), I have to hunt-and-peck and it makes me sad.

I’ve spent more years of my life now typing in Colemak than I ever did typing in QWERTY: I switched in about 2004 or so when I was touch-typing full sentences in the dark playing video games and my fingers started hurting even with a natural keyboard. After the switch, the hurt went away and hasn’t returned. I can still touch-type in QWERTY, but oddly enough it depends on the keyboard make and model and my familiarity with it. I often use Mac so on a Apple keyboard my brain expects Colemak, but on touch screens and Dell/OEM keyboards I expect QWERTY. It helps that if I’m having trouble remembering the QWERTY layout I can just look at the keys to remind myself, then I can pick it up again. As FYI, Colemak is now natively supported on Mac, Linux, mobile, but... strangely has never made it to Windows almost two decades later...

Uhm, last I checked Colemak was available in Windows, but maybe I misremember...?

Yes, but you have to download it.

I’ve been typing dvorak for the past three years. I can touch type and switch between dvorak and qwerty.

I program in dvorak (vim), but my typing is much faster on qwerty(80 wpm on dvorak and 100 wpm on qwerty).

I also need to type in korean from time to time.

Trying to fit this configuration onto any specific new machine has been a pain. I’ve used karabiner, ukulele and what not for mac, and autohotkey for pc. I forget what I used for linux, but that was also a pita.

So dvorak was useful in speeding up my qwerty, but tbh most of that time was not really for utility that I experience now, but rather for the enjoyment of honing my tools. (The work never ended up getting done :)

So take what you will, I just think thinking about things you take for granted and taking the time to reprogram your mind (and sadistically challenge yourself) is not such a horrible use of your time...!

Perhaps someone could develop a USB dongle that can convert between keyboard layouts.

There are keyboards you can buy which have a switch on them that can toggle between QWERTY, Colemak and Dvorak

I used Dvorak for about 5 years. Switch to it was hard. Stopped in 2008 when I got a nice Dell XPS laptop at work without approval to mod the keyboard. Soon after that switched back to QWERTY with all the other computers as well.

Main issues during this brief encounter:

- there was not a really big difference in speed, even after the training period;

- nobody was able to use my computer, having half of the keys blank also helped;

- it was very hard to use normal QWERTY that happened to be... everywhere; every coworker had it; or laptop you had for taking random notes.

On the same topic, but not with dvorak. I'm using a custom version of bépo[0] (kind of french dvorak, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#B%C3%89PO) since ~2009/2010, and don't plan to switch to something else anytime soon, but I wouldn't recommend anyone else to do switch if not to satisfy their curiosity (learning to create custom layout for windows, macos, and linux can be quite interesting).

> Dvorak was different. It forced me to learn to type properly, and eventually I did.

That was for me the main benefits. When I started with bépo I couldn't look at my keyboard, and even if I thought at the time that I wasn't looking when typing, as soon as a tried a different layout I could see how often I was really doing it.

But bépo isn't great for english and programming, so I had to do some modifications to have a good way to access [], {}, (), <>, =, w, etc. And now I spent so much time using this layout that I don't see myself moving to anything else. It just feels natural, and very comfortable, and I only remember that I'm using something special when I try to use a coworker keyboard or play some games that require keyboard shortcuts (which isn't something I do that often).

Also, there is one really cool, fancy benefit: I have a very quick access to weird characters such as «» (french quotes), … ("..." character), — (long dash), ÷, ×, and a bunch of other weird accents, greek characters, symbols, etc :)

[0]: if you're curious, see https://gist.github.com/dgellow/5915994 to see an xkb version. Config commented in french.

PS: I also have macos and windows version of the layout if someone is interested.

I switched back to mechanical keyboards (actual buckling spring from unicomp) at home, and a cherry mx brown (real cherry switches) at work. The only reason for the browns at work is it's slightly less noisy.

I hate every laptop keyboard I've ever worked on. The least annoying beyond the early 2010's macbook keyboards before they reduced travel. Now they're a bit worse imho.

I'd have a horrible time switching, and have tried a number of alternates. Ergonomic options, etc. What made the rsi stuff better was a simple, mechanical keyboard and being able to register a click without always bottoming out.

The layout of different options is from bad to horrible. Especially arrow keys on some keyboards. Worst was one where the up arrow was left of the right shift key. Changing is hard and the difficulty cannot be understated.

Dvorak reduces effort 25% over QWERTY [1]. I'm using QFMLWY, which reduces effort by 43% [2]. Unlike op, I'm very happy with my switch. It feels a lot more efficient and has greatly helped reduce wrist pains for me. The drawbacks are that it's difficult for other people to use my computer and that I've basically forgotten how to touch type in QWERTY, so am much slower there on the 1x/yr occasion where I have to use it.

1: http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/?dvorak

2: http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/?full_optimization

They have metrics of how good it is, but does it depends on the language being used?

Yes, it does.

If you want to learn how to touch type without changing your layout I can recommend getting blank keycaps, that very quickly got rid of my bad habit of looking at the keyboard to "make sure" the keys were actually where I thought they were when typing.

Also I think it's worth mentioning that the QWERTY layout was likely designed for transcribing Morse code which explains some parts of its layout.


Both the article and most of the comments here don't seem to touch the elephant in the room: There's no reliable scientific evidence for Dvorak or any other keyboard being any better.

Here's an article covering the flimsy evidence: https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/1999/04/01/t...

Is there a place for better keyboard layouts? Maybe. Show me properly controlled studies and I'll take it seriously.

Actually, the elephant in the room is that rearranging the keyboard map whilst still retaining the ISO 9995 parallelogram physical positioning is to entirely miss a major factor. (-:

Yes and no.

Turkish F keyboard is essentially a highly used Dvorak used equivalent and coincidentally Turkey often wins some of the most typing competions. This is not scientific evidence so to speak but our best bet to understand this is to analyze Turkish F keyboard.

I've used Dvorak for the past 15 years.

I have learned to touchtype qwerty at school and then regularly trained it for couple of years without much improvement at around 60wpm (yeah, I'm not very agile). Then one day I red a book (I believe it was Bill Gates "Business at the speed of thought") and decided to switch to Dvorak and use same methods I used to learn it at school. It took me a weekend and Monday but on Tuesday I was able to type Dvorak and couple of weeks later I plateaued at around 80wpm.

What I like about Dvorak layout is not that I can type faster but the feeling.

I've used Dvorak for 10 years or so. Dvorak has no benefits when it comes to speed. It's all about comfort, and there IS a very big difference. I use Qwerty too now and then, and you really feel your fingers darting all over the place to a much higher degree.

I'm not sure I would recommend it unless you convert sometime during your high school or student years. I converted in the last year of high school. I have a colleague that converted just a year ago though, so it is possible after starting work as well

I learnt Dvorak well after school years. The hardest part was sticking to it during the first couple of weeks of horrible typing speeds.

I mainly use QWERTY now because it’s convenient, but can easily switch back and forth.

I tried Dvorak last year and the theory was great but it was a right pain in the ass for programming and using programs keyboard shortcuts in general.

Then I tried Colemak and all was good in the world.

I have been using Dvorak for 10 years and I love it. I also type in three languages regurarily (English, Finnish and Japanese), and that would make it pain in the arse for anyone who doesn't have the energy to define their own layout.

Btw. I use a layout based on the Dvorak-⌘qwerty on Mac, which reverts the layout to QWERTY when the command button is pressed. That makes the keyboard shortcuts work better. On the other hand, it messes up some non-native apps, especially Java-based ones.

For some reason noone mentioned the best Dvorak variation for programmers - Programmer Dvorak.

It has symbols instead of numbers. And it's just perfect for writing both code and regular text.

If you are a programmer and want to learn to touch type - that would be the best thing to learn.


I switched to Dvorak in 2009, so effectively 10 years ago.

I don't generally recommend it to people, but I don't regret switching. It's never been a problem, other than discouraging me from learning Vim.

I learned to touch-type while learning Dvorak, and I can't type in QWERTY anymore, so I can't really tell how much of the benefits can be attributed to Dvorak vs touch-typing.

Cool article, I like honest reviews like this. I think a lot of people who learned Dvorak won't admit to themselves that it hasn't been worth it, because of the sunk cost (?) fallacy hindering objective self-reporting.

The thing with Dvorak is that putting all the vowels on the homerow for one hand actually turns out to be a bad idea. It's a classic example of a technical person trying to optimize something and actually making the thing worse. In Dvorak, one hand is flying all around the keyboard and making a wide variety of motions while the other is stuck in place, stiff as a board, typing at the homerow like a machine. You really can feel the difference after a day of typing like this -- the consonant hand feeling healthy with the vowel hand feeling cramped. If RSI were a real phenomenon then learning Dvorak would surely make it worse, but fortunately RSI is psychological so Dvorak and the expectation effect actually make it better usually.

QWERTY turns out to be a pretty good layout because of the mostly random location of the keys. It's actually a good thing. You want your hands to be moving, not staying in one place or they'll stiff up. Learning alternate layouts has negative net benefits and the worst thing is that because of human psychology, people who undertake the difficult (but useless) endeavor of switching layouts can't look at the results objectively.

There's a great site to compare how the typing spreads against keyboard layouts.


Personally I'm excited to try out Colemak and it's already supported on macOS by default too.

> Dvorak isn’t perfect, mainly because most computer interfaces have been designed around a QWERTY interface since their inception. For example, while on a QWERTY keyboard the adjacent shortcuts for Cut, Copy, and Paste can all be pressed with a single hand, Dvorak turns most of them into a two-handed affair.

In macOS, you can use the “Dvorak-QWERTY” layout to solve this.

Why not use Colemak to solve it?

His gist is Dvorak is faster than Qwerty only because touch typing is faster than hunt and peck. He cannot touch type in Qwerty so he has no grounds to make any claim as to their relative merits at all, and the only reason he seems to have written this article is to brag he can touch type Dvorak on a Qwerty keyboard.

I tried dvorak for a little while. Had the same impression as most. It feels good and many letter combos flow smoothy off the fingers. But no significant gains in speed.

I switched back to qwerty for the ubiquity. Despite having no grand design behind it, qwerty gets many things right by accident. Many common letter combos bang out nicely under qwerty too.

Dvorak fixed my RSI, and works very well for polyglot hackers after a few simple key swaps: https://blog.yourlabs.org/post/168827162258/dvorak-intl-code...

Forget Dvorak. I have enough trouble going back and forth between the US and UK/Euro QWERTY layouts!

For computer programming, a rarely mentioned advantage of Dvorak is that it makes typing underscores much easier. For lisping, hyphens. That's a great choice of a home row punctuation key.

I used to dread snake case before I switched to dvorak

I've used Dvorak for over ten years, but I think if you're concerned that typing speed is the bottleneck in 2019 then maybe you should re-evaluate your work. :-P

It's not about speed. The real story is in the comfort it provides long term.

Anyone try the workman layout?


I switched to Dvorak 6 years ago and my hands (mainly the external part) never hurt again.

I also created a layout to use my Apple keyboard on Windows. https://github.com/edpichler/Apple-Dvorak-on-Windows

I have a very similar experience with bépo (french dvorak-like layout).

Try typing "ls -l" on Dvorak. Not fun.

isn't colemak the new hotness anyhow?

Same journey for me. I went from using AZERTY without touch typing to QGMLWY with touch typing (http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/?full_optimization). I practised with https://thetypingcat.com/ and zty.pe. It took ~3 months@30m/day to get to 60wpm, then I made the switch and it took about a week to get comfortable using it everyday.

Some takeways:

- the keyboard layout doesn't matter that much, what matters most is touch typing vs not touch typing

- I still cannot touch type with azerty. The touch typing skill does not transfer to the other layout surprisingly. On mobile I use qwerty, but I don't type that much on mobile.

- On OSx, I use this horror of a script: https://github.com/pinouchon/keybest/blob/master/rewrite_c/a.... It works fine, except that some password inputs use the mapping, some don't, which is slightly annoying. On ubuntu, I use XKB. I made it work through days of digging the documentation, XKB is the most confusing thing ever.

- The QGMLWY mapping preserves ctrl-x, c, v, z so cutting and pasting is not an issue

- I re-learned ctrl+letter and cmd+letter hotkeys. I like them better with the new layout.

- I created a custom layer called 'gamma' for coding with the modifier on the 'm' key: with the following layers: "top: #[({<>})]^ middle: ;=:"'/_-! bottom: ~?$\&+*.,". For coding this is invaluable. For example, to type underscore, my fingers don't move, it's just simultaneous pinky+index while staying in home-row position. On traditional layouts or not-so traditional layouts (qwerty, dvorak, colemak), modifiers are all over the place and don't take into account special character frequency.

- I also have a 'alpha' layer for movement that I do use. I moved the shift and tab keys. I also tried moving backspace and enter keys but ended up keeping their original positions.

- One added benefit with messing so much with the keyboard is that when I need a new hotkey or a special mapping for a game (where the default bindings are stupid), I can jump to my script and create a special mapping for that game.

- One big downside is that whenever I switch OS, I have to redo my keyboard setup otherwise I cannot use the keyboard

- Like others have mentioned, a neural interface would be better

> On OSx, I use this horror of a script: https://github.com/pinouchon/keybest/blob/master/rewrite_c/a.... It works fine, except that some password inputs use the mapping, some don't, which is slightly annoying.

For macOS you can use Ukulele to create your own layout.


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