Keyboard Hardware Dvorak vs Software Dvorak

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Which is better, keyboard with Dvorak layout builtin, or software Dvorak via the operating system?

There are advantages for both.

Hardware Dvorak Advantage

  1. Plug in keyboard to any computer and use right away. No need to change system preference.
  2. Your co-worker can type with another keyboard plugged into the same computer, or the builtin laptop keyboard.
  3. If you type Chinese. Now you can type it using Dvorak layout, which makes it more efficient. (assuming it's pinyin based. If you use character shape based Chinese input, it may be more or less efficient.)

See also List of Hardware Dvorak Layout Keyboards

Software Dvorak Advantage

  1. On Mac or Linux, you can use a layout of Dvorak with QWERTY shortcuts. Some people like this because they are used to QWERTY key shortcuts. Hardware Dvorak keyboard doesn't have this by default, you have to program the keys yourself.
  2. If you have a laptop and a external keyboard of hardware Dvorak, and you turn on Dvorak layout for your laptop, the external keyboard will now type gibberish. You don't have this problem if all your keyboards are software Dvorak.

Switching Between QWERTY and Dvorak

Using software Dvorak, you can easily toggle between QWERTY or DVORAK, by hitting a key combination in OS, such as Left Alt+Shift, or other keys you can setup, such as Caps Lock.

Using hardware Dvorak, you can usually easily toggle too, either by pressing a special key, or less conveniently by using a dip switch. It depends on the keyboard.

For example, on Kinesis Advantage Keyboard, you can switch by pressing special button progm+F3 for QWERTY and progm+F4 for Dvorak.


For example, on Truly Ergonomic Keyboard, you can set the keys so that when numlock is on, the keyboard is Dvorak.

Truly Ergonomic Computer Keyboard-207
Truly Ergonomic

For example, on TypeMatrix Keyboard, press fn+F1 to toggle Dvorak.


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