I have been making an on-and-off effort to learn Dvorak for the last couple of weeks, the process of which I am chronicalling here. After a few short lessons I memorized the keyboard. I thought a good way to become proficient would be to just go about my normal typing tasks with Dvorak instead of QWERTY. This was a big mistake and led to my temporary abandonment of the project.
Accustomed to typing over 50 words per minute, chugging along at 10 to 15 WPM was torturous. When typing with QWERTY, I just think about what I want to say, and my fingers fly across the keyboard as if by magic…I don’t even really know what they are doing down there. With Dvorak, on the other hand, I have to think about each letter I am about to type, and then tell my finger to push down on the appropriate key.
Today I had a rejuvenated urge to try Dvorak again using a typing lesson program. The free ones I found on the Internet were fine to start, but I needed something a little better to keep me interested and motivated. I went to CNET’s download page to search for a typing lesson program for Mac OSX, and I ended up downloading a free trial version ($20 to buy) of Master Key, which is also available for Windows.
Master Key has drills for QWERTY and Dvorak layouts, as well as a typing game. The drills are made up of word generators designed to mimick real sentence structures. After completing a drill Master Key spit out a bunch of useful statistics like average WPM, error rate, accuracy rate, error rates per key, WPM per key and then organized my statistics in an ongoing log and graph. I was pretty impressed with the program and plan to continue using it.
After my second Dvorak drill I had an average WPM of 21 with an error rate of 5%. I was feeling pretty confident after that…learning Dvorak is within my reach and I will be a master of it in no time. I then decided to do a QWERTY drill to compare my results. When the letters first appeared on the screen, my fingers froze up. After just typing in Dvorak, my fingers were confused and didn’t know what to do. I just cleared my mind, looked at the words, and let my fingers do the rest. I realized that I don’t really know where the keys are in QWERTY…I don’t have a clear mental picture of the lay out like I do with Dvorak, which is so fresh in my mind.
Something interesting I noticed was that my error rate in Dvorak came solely from typing QWERTY layout keys instead of Dvorak keys. My error rate in QWERTY, besides constantly hitting the j instead of the h (from Dvorak), came from my fingers flying across the keyboard too quickly (typing teh instead of the).
Oh, in case you were wondering…my results for the QWERTY drill was 53 WPM with a 5% error rate. I don’t have too far to go after all.