computer personal

Switching To Dvorak: Seven Months Later

Today marks exactly seven months from the day I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout.

Key Observations

  1. 72, 81 and 77 words per minute, clocked with three different one-minute tests on
  2. In home-row-only tests I took several months ago, I was already consistently over 100 WPM. The many common home-row-only words (those spelled with A, O, E, U, I, D, H, T, N and S) are remarkably comfortable and fast to type.
  3. It’s all about muscle memory. I can type my thoughts just as well as the next guy without looking at the keyboard, but can’t recite you the upper or lower row keys by memory. Interesting, huh?
  4. The pain in my left-hand little finger tendon is gone! More of this is likely due, however, to also switching my Command and Caps Lock keys in software.

Other Conclusions

  • I’m much, much better at hunt-and pecking in Dvorak–that is, staring at a QWERTY keyboard set to Dvorak in software and “sensing” where the right key are with my pointer finger alone. (Useful when typing a few words on someone else’s box.) This is hard because of #3 above, but learnable.
  • I can now hunt-and-peck suitably on my iPhone (QWERTY only) keyboard.
  • Typing QWERTY on a Dvorak keyboard is a lost cause. I have to stare at a secondary QWERTY keyboard to do so, because my muscles and mind have totally forgotten. (Again, see #3.)
  • Typing on a laptop keyboard feels better on your finger tendons, but just as uncomfortable on your wrists.
  • Sharing windows machines with others is awkward and frustrating. Let me know if you have a good system tray applet for quick-switching the whole system to Dvorak, because team-admining a windows machine requires a hellish amount of clicks to set the system-wide keyboard layout.
  • Apple is absolutely horrid at designing with ergonomics in mind. (In their defense, they obviously aren’t trying.)
  • I haven’t discovered the mental gymnastics that allows you to type in QWERTY when necessary. I can type my name and common passwords in QWERTY, but that’s about it, sorry. No hablo QWERTY.
  • Stuff that now sucks because they are built for a QWERTY layout: emacs, vi, <your_favorite_editor>, Aperture, some Java apps. All games now require new key bindings off-the-bat too.