Unless you are an ergonomics nerd you have probably never even heard of Dvorak. Dvorak is an alternate English keyboard layout invented by Dr. Dvorak in the 1930s, long before we were all hacking away at computers easily programmable with different keyboard layouts. According to Randy Cassingham, “the Dvorak design took about 12 years to perfect, and included extensive study of languages using the Roman alphabet (mostly English), the physiology of the hand, and practical studies. The Dvorak has the most-used consonants on the right side of the home row, and the vowels on the left side of the home row. Among other design features, it is set up to facilitate keying in a back-and-forth motion — (right hand, then left hand, then right, etc.)”
Whereas the logic behind the Dvorak design makes sense to typers today, the QWERTY layout was designed in the 1870s, before touch typing was even invented! So why do we still use QWERTY in the 21st century? One main reason cited by Cassingam is that typewriter manufacturers were set to switch their layouts to Dvorak when “World War II broke out, and the War Dept. ordered all typewriter keyboards be set to the most-common standard — Qwerty — and typewriter manufacturers retooled to produce small arms. By the end of the war, Qwerty was cast in concrete.”
But come on now. We have switched from horses to cars, 8-tracks to mp3s, and woodstoves to microwaves. The capacity to switch is clearly there, but what is lacking is the information. I myself had not heard of Dvorak until recently. When I took a typing class in 7th grade we learned QWERTY, not Dvorak. But now that you know, why not try Dvorak for yourself? I am trying to learn Dvorak and I will chronicle my experience here. So let’s get started. It’s as easy as 1 2 3.
Step 1. Change your keyboard layout to Dvorak (you can do this for free, right now! Then change it right back when you’re done practicing)
Step 2. Take a look at the layout (or print it out and prop it up in front of you)
Step 3. Start practicing!
Here are my first impressions after a short session of Dvorak practice: Learning to type all over again is frustrating! Learning Dvorak however, is going to be easier than when I learned to type with QWERTY 15 years ago. I was amazed at how many words I could type without hardly moving my fingers at all. When typing with Dvorak, your fingers are going on a leisurely stroll through the park, whereas typing with QWERTY your fingers are like a schizophrenic at a high school dance. I’m excited for the day when I can Dvorak 50 wpm…I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
I’d like to hear your experience with Dvorak, whether you’ve been using it for years or you just started yesterday.