Dvorak Keyboard Layout

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

I tell you my experiences on this page.

The Dvorak Layout

The Dvorak Layout is invented in 1936, by Dr August Dvorak and Dr William Dealey. The Dvorak layout is designed for efficient typing.

It is a major improvement over the QWERTY Layout

dvorak layout heatmap 2024-04-28
dvorak layout heatmap 2024-04-28
qwerty layout heatmap 2024-04-28
qwerty layout heatmap 2024-04-28

Major features of Dvorak are:

Key stroke distribution

My Experience of QWERTY and Dvorak

I learned to type QWERTY around 1987 on a electric typewriter.

I worked as a secretary and data-entry clerk around 1991 to 1993. (using Apple Macintosh Classic and also typewriter)

My QWERTY speed was 90 words per minute , as certified on a typewriter by Temp Employment Agencies.

(90 words per minute is 450 keystrokes per minute. 5 keystrokes is considered 1 word.)

I learned to type Dvorak in the summer of 1994. I went cold turkey. It took 2 full months to become fluent. It was a VERY frustrating experience, because i keep pressing the wrong key every few seconds, due to muscle memory of typing on QWERTY. After 2 months, my speed is maybe 60 words per minute.

My speed for Dvorak is about 70 wpm for many years after that. It's slower than my QWERTY speed. I haven't typed as much as before, because i switched job from secretary to programer.

Now i type 90 wpm on Dvorak. I've typed on Dvorak for over 20 years now.

By the way, word per minute tests heavily depend on the type of text used. It can vary by as much as 20 wpm. [see Typing Tutorial, Speed Test, Typing Games]

Will Dvorak Make You Type Faster?

No. If you practice a lot as if in a speed typing competition, then your speed might increase about 5% of your top QWERTY speed.

Will Dvorak Reduce Typing Error?

No, not really.

Will Dvorak Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury?

A little.

Dvorak does increase comfort in typing. There are lots empirical evidence of this, from dvorak users.

Which is More Import, Dvorak or Ergonomic Keyboard?

Ergonomic keyboard is far more important for hand health. There are scientific evidence for this, and also lots empirical evidence from people with Repetitive Strain Injury posting online. (e.g. 20 years reading online blogs and forums. Look at slashdot, hackernews, reddit, geekhack, deskthority sites, etc.)


What is the Benefit of Dvorak?

Comfort. After I learned Dvorak, sometimes i have to type QWERTY in other people's computer, and the thing that jumps at me is that my fingers have to jump all over the keyboard.

What is the Disadvantage of Dvorak?

You'll be very slow when typing on other people's computer. For example, on coworker's computer, in public library. Also, other people won't be able to type on your keyboard. For example, your coworker, friends, family. If they need to use your computer often, you'll need to have a separate keyboard, or, press a keyboard shortcut to switch layout everytime you or other needs to type.

Will You be Able to Still Type QWERTY?

No, unless you regularly practice QWERTY typing.

Some people try to learn Dvorak while trying to still touch-type on QWERTY. Do not do this. This will make the learning MUCH painful and MUCH longer.

I relearned QWERTY after 5 years of Dvorak. My QWERTY speed is 20 wpm to 40 wpm, it just depends on the period, how much I have to use it. If i practice, am pretty sure it'll easily go up to 60 wpm in a week.

It is possible to master multiple layouts. See Speed Typing on Multiple Layouts (QWERTY, Dvorak, Colemak)

Problem with Vim, Emacs?

I live in emacs since 1999. At the time, i've already been typing on Dvorak for some 5 years. I do not see any problem using emacs.

I don't use vi much, so i don't know how it impact vi. However, there are lots packages that let you change keys.

Note, the vi' hjkl keys, on Dvorak it's worse.

I've read lots other Dvorak programer's experience using emacs or vi. Basically, there is no problem. Any key problem, can be easily solved by rebinding the problem key.

Myth of QWERTY?

Myth of QWERTY vs Dvorak Layout

What About Colemak?

Dvorak vs Colemak

What is the Most Efficient Keyboard Layout?

Should You Switch to Dvorak?

Ultimately, it depends on you.

Dvorak is more comfort, more efficient, but takes 2 months to learn, but inconvenient when you need to use other people's computer or in public.

How to Switch to Dvorak Layout

Just goto your Operating system's keyboard preference settings.

Dvorak Typing Tutorials

Typing Tutorial, Speed Test, Typing Games

Dvorak Key Stickers

Why No Blank Keycaps

Chinese Input and Dvorak

My Experience with Dvorak

rustom wrote:

Just curious Xah โ€” Do you use Dvorak primarily for speed or for RSI related problems?

Neither, but for nerdy obsession with design and efficiency.

I learned touch-typing on a typewriter in about 1987. For some reason, i am fascinated by typewriter. (at the time, personal computers are still rare.) The first typewriter i had is a electric one from the brand name Brother.

I started to use a computer in 1990, using the QWERTY keyboard. In ~1992, i worked for over a year at Graebel Van Lines, as a secretary with typing duties, including taking dictation from sales people or managers. (by this time it's mostly done on computer, the Macintosh Classic, but sometimes i was still required to type on a IBM Selectric in the office.)

My typing speed was about 400 keystrokes per minute (80 words-per-minute) with about 99% accuracy, as certified in temp employment agencies back then.

In 1993 (or maybe 1994) i switched to Dvorak. More or less due to my nerdiness towards better design. I don't have speed problem or RSI in anyway.

It took me about a month to re-learn touch typing, and 2 months to become somewhat fluent. It was a very frustrating experience, but i persisted.

My profession changed from secretary to programer, so i have not had any heavy typing needs as before. Due to lack of intensive typing needs, i recall that my typing speed have not reached my previous speed for many years. Though, one thing i noticed is that Dvorak is much more comfortable, with less typing errors. I recall this vividly, because occasionally i tried to type on QWERTY on other's keyboards or at library, the first thing that jumped to me was that my fingers have to do acrobatics.

(note: it's common to hear many Dvorak users report typing comfort, but not necessarily speed improvement.)

My first use of emacs is 1997, and in a few months i become daily user (living in emacs, as they say). (so, my emacs experience is all Dvorak) First 6 years of emacs using is exclusively text terminal based. In fact, as sys admin, i resisted installing X11 when a colleague wants it to run emacs. Didn't start to use GUI emacs till 2005.

When working as a unix system administrator starting in 1998, occasionally i have to type on other people's keyboards. So, i kinda picked up a bit of my totally forgotten QWERTY touch-typing skill. My speed on QWERTY is about 30 wpm, due to lack of practice.

Dvorak Layout

Keyboard Layout Design ๐Ÿ” 

Layout Efficiency