Why I use Dvorak

I’ve typed in Dvorak almost exclusively for 6 years.  I had never learned to type correctly in Qwerty growing up; I began to learn to type by looking at the keyboard, hunting and pecking.  Eventually I learned to touch type, but because I was doing programming I kept my right hand shifted to the right by one to more easily reach symbols like the braces and backslash.  I didn’t learn to correctly use the home row until years later.

The first time I saw another programmer use Vim I was very impressed by the speed at which he could make edits.  I wanted to learn more about this technology that allowed him to never take his hands off the keyboard.  Vim’s command mode requires shifting your right hand to the left by one, so this was awkward for me.  After forcing myself to use the home row and type in Qwerty correctly in insert mode, I started learning the shortcuts in command mode.

After a couple weeks I was much more productive, preferring to use Visual Studio only as a debugger and not an editor.  Even still, I was coding for several hours a day and getting pains in my wrist.  I remember my calculus teacher in high school mentioned Dvorak once as an ergonomic alternative to Qwerty, but I didn’t take it seriously.  Who would relearn how to type just to have to move their fingers less?  Well, at this point I had a problem and it looked like Dvorak was the solution.

After another couple weeks I had regained my typing speed in Dvorak.  I keep Vim’s navigation keys as hjkl in their Dvorak positions, and it’s been working fine for me for years.  Today, I type faster than I ever did in Qwerty, over 100 words per minute.  I’ve never had a problem with wrist pain since and am never going back to Qwerty.  Dvorak just works so much better for me.

Does my insistence on being different cause problems?  Absolutely.  I’m definitely slower in Qwerty than I used to be whenever I used someone else’s machine.  If someone wants to use my machine, I have to change the keyboard layout.  I’m known as the Dvorak guy.

I notice that good software engineers are often quick to point out the flaws in older technology and move to newer, better tools.  However, for some reason the Qwerty keyboard seems to be a bit of a sacred cow.  If you choose to stay with Qwerty I won’t think any less of you, the majority of the world is going to keep using it for a long time.  I don’t think I’m better than Qwerty users, I’m just different.  I had a problem and I found a solution, even if it’s a bit unusual.

To me, it seems obvious that putting all the vowels on the home row is a better design that the legacy layout designed to stop typewriters from jamming.  Have you ever noticed that the word TYPEWRITER can be spelled entirely on the top row of a Qwerty keyboard?  It looks suspiciously like it was designed to make it easier for salesmen to demo how to use a typewriter.

I don’t expect Dvorak to become popular until keyboards with reprogrammable LED displays on the keys become affordable.  Even then, maybe voice recognition will reduce our dependence on the keyboard anyway.

On my phone I keep the default Qwerty keyboard. Using Dvorak wouldn’t make sense there because I’m only using one or two fingers at a time. In fact, I quite like that the letters are a little farther apart when using swype. It does a good job of guessing what word I’m trying to write if I’m slightly off, and I think if all the vowels were too close together that would be much harder.

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