Dvorak keyboard

Dvorak is so far ahead of qwerty that comparing the two is like comparing the performance of a new sports car to a sixty year old farm truck. I drive both and I’m not exaggerating at all.

I used to use qwerty but it took me only three or four weeks practicing an hour a day on the Dvorak layout to match my speed on qwerty and after a couple of months I’m faster and more accurate by fifteen or twenty words a minute. In six more months I expect to have gained another fifteen or twenty words per minute.:smiley:

Dvorak is a built in free program in all Windows systems since 98 or so and in all the newer Mac operating systems.It takes only a minute or two to switch over on an older Windows machine and only three keystrokes to switch back and forth on a late model Mac which is what I’m using these days.

Any body who honestly tries it loves it. :wink:

You can’t go by the results of any of the older published comparisons between the two layouts because they were organized and supervised by people with a strong vested interest in qwerty.:smack:

It’s time qwerty versus Dvorak is revisited in this forum.


LINK TO COLUMN: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/221/was-the-qwerty-keyboard-purposely-designed-to-slow-typists

Doing Dvorak on a Qwerty keyboard would seem less than optimal and finding a dvorak keyboard is difficult (for me anyway.)

Welcome to the Straight Dope Message Boards, Oldfarmermac, we’re glad you found us. For future ref, when one starts a thread, it’s helpful to other readers to provide a link to the column in question. Saves search time, and helps keep us (mostly) on the same page with no need to repeat information already in the column. No biggie, I’ve added the link at the bottom of your post, and you’ll know for next time.

That column was from 1981, when typing was different from what it is now and Windows wasn’t around to make Dvorak available. I’ll bring your post to Cecil’s attention, he’ll decide whether an update seems reasonable. There should certainly be more studies than there were back then.

Anyhow, as I said, welcome!

I would like to see independent studies comparing Dvorak vs. QUERTY, but I can’t seem to find any.

Do you mean Dvorak hardware? The only difference would be key cap labeling. And if you type well enough that Dvorak v. QWERTY makes a difference, you shouldn’t need to look at the keycaps anyway. :smiley:

In modern OSs, the only difference is selecting a different keyboard map in system settings.

As to keyboard devices that don’t use an operating system… did anyone ever make a Dvorak typewriter?

I type fairly well and that’s all I need to do. Switching to type fairly well on a different setup seems pointless.

I can’t bring any hard cites to this, but I was once interested in the supposed benefits of the Dvorak layout. Over those years of interest I came away with the conclusion that the advantage was largely theoretical, based on fairly primitive (Gilbreth-era) notions of motion study and worker efficiency and “proven” only in questionable studies. I seem to recall tests in which practiced typists could hit equivalent rates, over a long run, on either Q or D layouts.

From my own observations and thoughts, I think whatever advantages the slight optimization of Dvorak had went away when keyboards went to minimal effort - pounding a manual all day is one thing, flicking keyswitches is another. There is also far less need for typists to grind out material at the highest possible speeds all day, day after day. When I need to, I can still hit the 75-80wpm of my (electric/electronic) typewriter days… but since I don’t have to retype manuscripts and documents end to end, the only time I type that fast is when my writer-monkey is chattering that fast. Mostly, he dictates in short bursts, so I tend to type VERY fast in 10-30 second bursts. I suspect some very large percentage of keyboard uses these days are similar in their typing pattern. An optimized keyboard would contribute little.

And in any case, it’s a code-page switch away for anyone who wants it.

Now, if the shade of August Dvorak, or John Dvorak, want to come up with a highly optimized entry system for things like Netflix… I’m all, um, fingers.

I just think that squeezing out a few more wpm isn’t needed when I already type at 80-100 (depending on context).

About a decade ago I installed Dragon Naturally Speaking for dictating my daily logs and emails, and have loved it ever since.

I also use AutoHotkey heavily for text macros - for example I hit a “CTRL-SHIFT-I” key combination and a complete if-then-else structure with the curly braces and tabbing jumps into my text editor. I actually counted this once, it’s on the order of 60 keystrokes to produce the same thing manually with multiple cursor arrows and everything! Not only do I gain in speed, I conserve “think power” and can focus on the final result more.

From where I sit, both QWERTY and DVORAK are the farm trucks! :smiley: Whereas in comparison, dictation software and keyboard macros are like ordering groceries online.

All I ask is that everybody keep an open mind in the tradition of STRAIGHT DOPE .
Remember that any so called research is suspect if the motives of the researchers is suspect and that individuals who have spent many years developing their skills on qwerty are not, being humans subject to human failings going to give Dvorak a fair shake.

For sky daddy’s sake just look at the two side by side and take notice of the way the letters in most words are spelled using the home row Dvorak keys.

We are standardized on qwerty for absolutely no reason other than that we are still mostly stuck with inches, feet, ounces and pounds here in the US. Every body is reluctant to change,world wide from qwerty to Dvorak although it is obvious on the face of it that in is a far superior layout in every respect.

I have a sound education including numerous science courses and am quite comfortable doing any calculation in the metric system I still use the old system as a matter of habit for no other reason than that it is easy for me and that just about all the trades people I routinely work with refuse to switch.

I still think in inches and ounces after all this time.

I was a teacher once upon a time and held a professional license as such and I tell you this without a shadow of a doubt:

The average or typical educator is no more willing to admit that he or she has been wrong on a fundamental issue for a lifetime than a backwoods preacher is to get up in front of his congregation and come out in favor of evolution.

I doubt that there is single typing teacher in the entire US that has put as much as a hundred honest hours in learning Dvorak personally as I have.

I have no skin in this game, no face to lose, nothing to sell.

If you anticipate spending thousands of hours for the remainder of your working life typing you owe it to yourself to give Dvorak a fair trial which means an hour a day for a couple of months using a free online tutor.

It will be the most productive sixty hours you have ever spent but you may find that you need to make the switch abruptly while on vacation or summer break because touch typing is a muscle memory skill and making the switch this way may be necessary for some people.

For writing prose/text I can imagine that dictation software is very good but have software engineers tried using it to write code?

It might have made sense in the 100-page-per-day mechanical typewriter days. Every erg and therblig counted. There were dozens of keyboard layouts in the early days, all touted as best for one reason or another.

QWERTY just won by being (1) efficient enough and (2) not licensed.

My mind is as open as it needs to be to consider an issue that has absolutely nothing to do with me.

“Nothing to do with me” is not “because I don’t type”. It’s because I don’t have an efficiency or typing speed problem. Dvorak doesn’t solve any problem I have.

I don’t type non-stop. And a lot of the typing I do (unix/linux command line stuff) is so outside the realm of normal keyboarding (in terms of keystroke distribution and tendencies) that neither Dvorak nor QWERTY has any real impact. (Which layout gives better access to shift-numeral symbol keys, for instance? That’s a trick question. Neither does.)

So, advocacy of one keyboard layout or the other energizes me only in a purely academic sense.

And unless we return to a world where millions of people type nonstop all day for their paycheck, it will remain academic.

I’d venture that if there are any typing pools or transcription services out there, the typists are using computers and could switch to Dvorak if they prefer it. It’s been a routine option since the the earliest IBM PC, although it can be a bit esoteric to make the switch. (“There’s an app for that,” though.)

The rest of us can type fast enough for our limited needs to use the slightly less efficient but universal QWERTY. The argument for a universal switch to Dvorak is on a par with maximum optimization of startup code… which, yes, some programmers obsess over.

You may want to re-read my post where I specifically addressed software coding,… :slight_smile:

Going further, I also use another AutoHotKey script as an auto-complete utility - start typing a function name and the full function header comes up in a tooltip so I can remember the calling arguments. It scans the source files every time I run it so that the info is fresh. Saves oodles of time and avoids bug creation.

Hope this helps.

I’m seeing replies that amount to why bother I already know qwerty rather than actually quoting people who have put any thing approaching the effort into Dvorak that they have into qwerty.Multiple years of qwerty practice is not comparable to a few weeks of Dvorak practice.

Suppose that Dvorak improves your speed only five to ten per cent and you average four hours a week typing. You would save around a quarter of an hour every week for the duration of your working life and save yourself a lot of strain on your fingers and wrists as well.

After spending several hours searching I have found that most people who have made a serious effort to learn Dvorak have improved at least this much and only a few have not at least matched their qwerty performance. A good many have gained substantial speed , myself included.

I fully expect that I will within a year or so I will be typing at close to one hundred words per minute using the Dvorak layout. That will be about double what I could do after ten years of qwerty.

Here’s a link to an article that might be worth reading for any one interested in making the switch. It is by a Dvorak partisan but if you read it you will find that the people who champion qwerty also have skin in the game.

I think you are missing the point of the replies. QWERTY meets the needs of many people just fine; they do not type much, do not need to type quickly when they do, and do not intend to invest any time into learning a new technique that will not be necessary.

To return to your original analogy, a beat old farm truck is a better tool if you are just meandering along pot-holed or rutted roads than is an eighty-thousand dollar sports car.

Did you happen to see post #4? Do you have any independent studies comparing the two?

What do you do where typing twice as fast as anyone else is an advantage? What problems has such a fast typing speed solved for you? If I am on a message board, and I type twice as fast as I usually do, will the board allow me to post more often, and will others respond quicker?

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, the Dvorak was looked with keen interest. In speed typing contests, Dvorak keyboard users were usually the winners. Seeing the difference between a Dvorak user vs. a qwerty user was amazing. While a qwerty user’s hands were moving all over the place, Dvorak keyboard users’s hands seemed to float over the keyboard. It was obvious that Dvorak was a better keyboard.

The problem was infrastructure. Secretarial schools taught qwerty. Typewriters were qwerty. Typewriter manufacturers wouldn’t produce Dvorak typewriters unless there was a demand. Secretarial schools weren’t going to teach Dvorak unless there were typewriters to use. It’s what we would call the network effect.

All of this changed with the introduction of the IBM Selectric typewriter.The Selectric had a typing ball. Changing the typing ball and you have a Dvorak typewriter. By the mid-1960s, typing pools were filled with IBM Selectrics.

Now, think of it this way: If you were a secretary in the 1960s and 1970s, and you could type 110 wpm instead of a mere 70 wpm, you’d be that much better a secretary and could demand higher pay. And, all you needed to do was learn the Dvorak keyboard layout and get a Dvorak typing ball. According to the Dvorak advocates, it would take a mere month to learn. Yet, this never happened. Secretaries, even though it could me a great increase in their skill, and more pay, never bothered to learn the Dvorak keyboard.

And, to me that speaks louder than any study. Millions of people in the typing pools could have improved their work skills and improve their salary and job prospects and all it would set them back was a $10 typing ball for a Selectric typewriter. Yet, it simply didn’t happen.

In the 1980s, as computers started to take off, and new users were coming into the typing realm, again it was thought that the Dvorak keyboard would take over. After all, you could easily switch to the Dvorak layout in software. The Apple IIc Plus even had a switch on the computer to switch the keyboard from the qwerty layout to the Dvorak layout. Again, Dvorak did not capture the market.

It wouldn’t be hard to be more efficient than the qwerty layout – a layout specifically designed to scatter the most common key combinations around the keyboard in order to prevent keys from jamming. Yet, the Dvorak, despite its scientific design and several chances to break into the qwerty monopoly never made a dent in the marketplace.

I do not normally worship at the idol of the Free Market, but their are times when the marketplace speaks and speaks quite loudly. The Dvorak could have become, if not the dominant keyboard, at least not a small cultish niche surrounded by acolytes who know The Truth unlike those sheeple who use that blatantly inferior qwerty layout. It had its chance in the Selectric era. It had its chance with the birth of the computer. Yet, qwerty still dominated.

Could Dvorak be a better layout? Maybe, but not so much better that it was worth learning, and then attempting to find a typewriter you could use. It wasn’t worth it to the secretaries in the typing pools. It wasn’t worth it to those who were learning to hunt and peck using computers the first time they saw a keyboard.

And, what about the typing speed contests? Why are all the winners Dvorak keyboard users? Maybe if you are obsessed with being the worlds fastest typist, you’ll use anything that you believe will give you an advantage. It maybe just like a baseball player who insists on wearing the same threadbare, decade old, lucky underwear whenever he comes up to bat – you think it helps.

Or maybe it is better. If everyone is typing 125 to 130 words per minute, and using a Dvorak keyboard might push you up to 135 words per minute, it would make just enough of a difference between winning and being an also ran. However, for the secretarial pool typing a mere 60 to 75 words per minute, the 3.5% gain in speed, so you could type 62 to 77 words per minute just wasn’t worth the effort.

The Dvorak era has passed. Look on an iPad or the iPhone, try to find the Dvorak layout. It’s there in iOS 7.

Select English Keyboards from Settings->General->Keyboards, and you’ll see it there on the very bottom of the list below U.S, U.S. International, U.S. Extended, British, French, Spanish, and under Belgian (remember, we’re talking about ENGLISH keyboards), there is Dvorak, right above the Colemak, another keyboard designed to replace the qwerty and take over the world.