So I learned Dvorak.
After about 2 weeks of semi-regular practice, I learned the Dvorak keyboard layout. Time will tell if it pays off.
Prediction: it probably won’t, at least not in terms of sheer typing speed. But that doesn’t mean it was entirely a wasted effort.
Dvorak is touted to be faster and more ergonomic than the ubiquitous QWERTY layout, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why. The most used vowels and consonants are neatly arranged on the home row for the left and right hands respectively, and the other letters are thoughtfully arranged to minimize movement and discomfort.
Why isn’t Dvorak widely adopted?
Inertia. QWERTY is already the de-facto standard and almost universally good enough. Hardly any physical keyboards are available with a Dvorak layout (unless of course you rearrange the keycaps yourself). The few people that have heard of Dvorak are probably already proficient with QWERTY, making those that use Dvorak literally a niche within a niche. The same can be said for every other “popular” QWERTY alternative listed below.
And that’s to say nothing of the fact that many people will be stuck typing in QWERTY with some frequency anyway (on others’ keyboards and computers).
I used the site learn.dvorak.nl, which made it quite painless to learn the Dvorak layout. I agree with the approach of practicing actual words rather than the letter mashing technique used for teaching QWERTY.
I completed 2–3 lessons per day over 10 days, repeating each level until I was satisfied with my memorization and speed. After those plus typing this post, my Dvorak speed is 18 WPM compared to 78 WPM with QWERTY. To make matters worse, muscle memory from years of QWERTY makes my accuracy frustratingly poor.
I really wanted to switch to Dvorak as my primary keyboard layout, but the hurdle is just too great for me (and probably most people) as things stand.
My biggest problem is that common keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl+X, Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V) only make sense in QWERTY, and I don’t want to have to rebind them for every application that doesn’t follow the system keybindings (not that I want to go through the trouble of messing with the system keybinds either). MacOS offers the “Dvorak – Qwerty ⌘” layout, which switches to QWERTY while holding the Command key. Unfortunately the only ways to replicate this behavior on Linux (or Windows) are quite hacky; the one I tried briefly interfered with Cinnamon’s keyboard settings too much to keep using. I could have tried others, but since a custom keyboard with QMK firmware has been on my radar anyway, I will stick to manually switching layouts until I can implement exactly what I want in keyboard firmware.
There’s also a very annoying Cinnamon(?) quirk where some software reads keyboard shortcuts as if they were typed in the primary layout rather than the active layout. Handling layout switching in QMK firmware would solve this issue too.
Software issues aside, the process of learning a new keyboard layout (not necessarily Dvorak) revealed a lot of subconscious muscle movements I had come to rely on to type comfortably on a staggered keyboard. Needless to say, when/if I actually get around to the aforementioned custom keyboard, it will definitely be ortholinear.
- Wikipedia — Dvorak keyboard layout
- Learn Dvorak (learn.dvorak.nl)
- Learn Dvorak and other layouts (DitchQwerty.com)
- Dvorak with QWERTY hotkeys
- Dvorak with QWERTY hotkeys (Wayland-compatible)
- Dvorak with QWERTY hotkeys in QMK firmware