While writing a post to help people learn how to write articles faster, I decided to write this one. One of my points in that other article was to learn to use the Dvorak keyboard layout. I tried to briefly summarize what that was, but it would have gotten too far off track, so I decided to write this one up. In the interest of honesty, I must say, I don’t use the Dvorak keyboard layout. I wish I did. I wish I would have learned it, but I didn’t have the focus to do it, and I’m too set in my ways with the QWERTY layout. Old Dogs. New Tricks, and all that.
A Brief QWERTY History
In order to properly explain what the Dvorak keyboard layout is, you really have to quickly learn about the layout of the keyboard you’re typing on now. The normal keyboard layout is known as a QWERTY layout, because of the fact that the first 6 keys from top left over are Q-W-E-R-T-Y. The reason the keys were laid out in this fashion is because long ago when people were using typewriters there was a common problem for fast typists. When typing quickly, the arms would run into each other, causing them to become stuck so the typist had to stop, untangle the arms of the keyboard and then continue.
The solution they came up with was adjusting the layout of the keyboard in a way which would spread the most common letters out, and position them in a way which would help to reduce the likelihood of the arms getting stuck together. This keyboard layout was also chosen to intentionally slow down the typist by putting some common letters in areas which would require the fingers to move greater distances than keys which are less often used.
Yes, that means your keyboard is INTENTIONALLY designed to make you type slower!
Enter the Dvorak Layout
The Dvorak layout was initially designed in 1936 by a Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law Dr. William Dealey. The point was to allow typists to type as quickly and accurately as possible. Some things which were taken into consideration for this keyboard layout include the following:
- Letters should be typed by alternating between left and right hands to increase speed and accuracy.
- The most common keys should be the easiest to type.
- The most common keys should require the least motion of the fingers, and therefore be located on ‘home row.’
- The least common letters should be on the bottom row, as this requires the most motion and is the most difficult to reach.
Long story short those who learn to type using the Dvorak layout will be able to type much more quickly, and have fewer errors than they would using the QWERTY layout. The most significant down-side of this method of typing is, you have to re-learn how to type, which, I can tell you from experience, is very difficult. A study on this subject found that someone who can type 100 words per minute on a QWERTY keyboard will take approximately 1 year to get up to that same speed on a Dvorak keyboard.
There are many free programs online to help people learn to type using the Dvorak keyboard layout, and also stickers which you can purchase to put on your existing keyboard to change the lettering. You can get the stickers for a couple of dollars on Amazon. Here is a link to a variety of different Dvorak keyboard stickers, if you’re interested. DVORAK KEYBOARD STICKERS.
Changing Your Keyboard
If you want to give it a try, you almost certainly have everything you need already. Windows & Mac computers already have this layout built in (as do other operating systems I’m sure). Just follow these simple instructions:
Under “Clock, Language and Region” click “Change keyboards and other input methods”
On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click change keyboards
Find “United States Dvorak” (just press U and it will come up) and check it.
Click United States-Dvorak
MAC OS X
*I don’t have a MAC, so I can’t confirm these are accurate, but they appear to be.
Select System Preferences in the Apple Menu
Click the International Icon
Click the Input Menu tab
Find the box next to the Dvorak Keyboard
On the Input Menu, select Dvorak to make it the active keyboard layout