Is the Dvorak keyboard layout faster than QWERTY?

When I started on computers, one of the requirements my parent set upon me was that I learn how to type. We had an old Smith Corona typewriter in the home and an old “learn how to type” book from the 1970’s that I used to practice with. Fortunately, that small gesture paid off: today, I touch-type a solid 90-120 WPM with 95% or better accuracy. Considering that I probably spend a good 12-14 hours a day in front of a keyboard, it’s come in very useful.

My friend, [info]packardgoose, knowing my typing speed, asked:

What’s your opinion of the Dvorak layout? I’ve been thinking of switching just to frustrate anyone else who sits at my keyboard, but also because I have trouble getting upwards of 80 WPM, which as I understand is part of the design behind the QWERTY layout (time for the mechanical arms to strike and reset).

Here’s my response:

Dvorak doesn’t allow you to type faster; I’m convinced that’s purely urban legend. I’m pretty convinced that QWERTY is actually the most optimal layout for speed because it was designed to alternate strokes between hands evenly to optimize typing speed for mechanical typewriters. There are actually three Dvorak layouts: left-handed, right-handed and two-handed. For a two-handed typist, the left- and right-handed Dvorak layouts can’t possibly be faster than QWERTY, because there’s not enough alternation between hands. So, compare the two-handed Dvorak layout to QWERTY and I’m still betting that QWERTY is marginally faster at the upper end.

The gating factor for typing speed, I’m guessing, is greatly determined by the frequency of letters in the words being typed. Notice how the “e” and “i” in the QWERTY layout aren’t on the home row: the middle finger tends to be longer than the other fingers, so while hands are resting in the home row the middle fingers are naturally inclined to rest on the “e” and “i” — in English, those are pretty high-frequency letters. Two-handed Dvorak, on the other hand, places those letters where the “d” and “g” keys are — both on the same hand, and it puts the “e” in the home row under the middle finger, which isn’t the natural resting place for the finger!

Of course, my “natural resting position” in the home row is “awef-jio;”, not “asdf-jkl;”. Perhaps this is why I can achieve speeds of 120 WPM? I also shift predominantly with my right pinky and I spacebar mostly with my right thumb, but then, I’m right-handed.

I wonder if it’s actually possible to prove that one layout will ultimately be faster than the other when mastered? I wonder what the upper limit is in terms of typing speed for the QWERTY layout; I’ve been “stuck” at 120 WPM as my best speed for years now.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Comments

  1. I can do about 120 WPM, but it takes 6 hrs to fix the spelling mistakes

  2. And the debate goes on…. 🙂 Ten years ago, in high school, I was able to touch type on a QWERTY keyboard at 97 wpm… After graduating college and working at a keyboard for 8 hours a day, five days a week I began to develop pains in my wrists after short periods of fast typing. My typing speed fell to about 50 or 60 wpm on average – though I could still get up into the 80’s it was painful to do so, so I avoided doing it.

    Two years ago, I switched to the Dvorak keyboard (actually the dvorak layout for QWERTY keyboards which is slightly different) because I had read many many accounts of the layout relieving carpal tunnel pain. After two years of using it, I can say that I regained my former speed of 90+wpm, and I can do so without pain.

    Will everyone type faster on a dvorak keyboard than QWERTY? Probably not, but if you’ve lost a bit of your speed over the years due to pain, I recommend trying the dvorak layout for 6 months and see how much more comfortable it is to use.

    If you do decide to make the switch, you should know that it won’t be easy. In fact it is crippling for a month or two until you’ve adjusted to the switch. You can expect to start regaining your speed after about 6 or 8 months of continual use (i.e. not switching back and forth between QWERTY and dvorak but simply going cold turkey on QWERTY). After a year or a year and a half, I think that you will find that you are typing faster with less effort than you would on QWERTY – but that doesn’t mean that you’ll type faster overall.

    ALSO, don’t let people tell you its not good for programming…. while it is VERY awkward at first, after you get used to it, it is just as easy as QWERTY.

  3. I’m pretty convinced that QWERTY is actually the most optimal layout for speed because it was designed to alternate strokes between hands evenly to optimize typing speed for mechanical typewriters

    There is some confusion here: it is not QWERTY that was designed to alternate strokes between hands, it is Dvorak (the two-handed variety obviously). QWERTY was designed solely to move apart the type-hammers of common combinations of letters in an early model of typewriter – to prevent the keys jamming if those letters were typed too quickly in sequence.

    Because of this, typing in QWERTY tends to be “all over the keyboard”. Yes, QWERTY is fairly good with respect to hand alternation, but that is more by luck than by design. Don’t forget that when the QWERTY layout was invented in 1868, there was no such thing as touch-typing; and high speed typing was not possible – the early typewriters simply couldn’t keep up.

    However the Dvorak layout was specifically designed to alternate between hands as much as possible (in addition to several other design goals). That is why all the vowels are under the left hand, and all the common consonants are under the right hand. This results in much better hand alternation than with QWERTY – you only have to look at the figures:

    The overall left-right keystroke balance is somewhat better on Dvorak (47-53) than on QWERTY (57-43), although neither is very far from 50-50.

    But just look at the numbers of “one-handed words”. There are hundreds of common English words that can be typed one-handed in QWERTY, many of them quite long. Here are just a few examples: addresses, database, defeated, exaggerate, killjoy, opinion, pumpkin, recess, street, stewardesses.

    By contrast, there are only a handful of one-handed words in (two-handed) Dvorak – and most of those are no longer than four letters. They are all “high scrabble score” kind of words with relatively unusual letters – a few examples: apex, jeep, opaque, pipe, queue.

    I’m pretty convinced that QWERTY is actually the most optimal layout for speed

    Just think about this for a moment… if QWERTY really were the “most optimal layout for speed” it would be nothing less than astonishing. Consider the odds: there are over a million billion billion possible keyboard layouts (and that’s just counting the letters); what are the chances of Christopher Sholes (the inventor of QWERTY) stumbling across the single most optimal layout more or less by chance? Even if he had designed his layout with the express intention of aiding high-speed typing (which he didn’t) the odds against actually finding the very best one on the first go would be astronomical.

    For a two-handed typist, the left- and right-handed Dvorak layouts can’t possibly be faster than QWERTY, because there’s not enough alternation between hands.

    Well of course. Left and right handed Dvorak are intended for one-handed typists. The idea is to allow people with the use of only one hand to achieve a resonable typing speed (which would not be possible with either QWERTY or two-handed Dvorak). There is no sense in a two-handed typist using a one-handed layout.

    So, compare the two-handed Dvorak layout to QWERTY and I’m still betting that QWERTY is marginally faster at the upper end.

    Well the worlds fastest typist uses Dvorak. The “International Commercial Schools Contest”, a typing contest, tried to bar the use of the Dvorak layout in 1937 because it was “unfair competition”. Plus, as far as I know, every study that has ever been done to compare the speed of QWERTY and Dvorak layouts has found that Dvorak is faster (the only disagreement is how much faster).

  4. “[…] what are the chances of Christopher Sholes (the inventor of QWERTY) stumbling across the single most optimal layout more or less by chance?”

    What are the chances of life existing here on Earth? The answer is “100%” … because, there is.

    Even without intent for optimality, Sholes’s layout was the most natural given his constraints: the physical typewriter’s limitations, but also, the human factor of usability. If his layout was unusable, it wouldn’t have met his physical constraints (the typewriter basket would still jam) as well as his human ones (it would be difficult to type with).

    Statistically, could there be a more optimal layout? Sure. But, that approach ignores the human factor. Could there be a statistically superior layout that is still pleasant to use? Possibly, but, how much more superior? If only negligibly so, then it’s not really worth pursuing, in my opinion.

    Again, this could all be my internal bias because I’ve managed to learn QWERTY sufficiently well that it’s all muscle-memory now. If I’d started learning on Dvorak, I’m sure I’d feel differently. The interesting question would be, if I did learn Dvorak first, how much faster would I be able to type?

    I ask the question: did any part of the success of the QWERTY layout have to do with the way the majority of human brains are “wired” in terms of what’s most natural? A similar question might be: why is the common 6-string guitar tuning the way it is? Is it optimal? If not, why has it lasted so long?

    Thanks for the very enlightening response, Tom.

  5. I used to be an average QWERTY typer at around 60WPM not touch typed. I eventually decided to switch to Dvorak, and it really changed my typing speed. Right before the switch, I was trying to get touch typing on QWERTY. Once I switched to Dvorak, I was able to type in both but not nearly as efficiently on QWERTY.

    I think I’ve rewired my brain for Dvorak. Although I can remember to touch type certain words in QWERTY I still have to sit there and use QWERTY for about five minutes. I find that typing in Dvorak is definantly more pleasant. Typing becomes easier if you’re typing with two hands. My WPM shot up to 90-130 after switching. The only complaint I have is the difficulty of typing with just one hand on a two handed Dvorak keyboard. For that I switch it to QWERTY and type like that.

    Programming on the Dvorak keyboard, is a bit awkward, but you eventually get used to it.

  6. I switched te dvorak not many years ago. Only after a moth I was typing faster than I did on qwerty before,
    but I switched back because I had to type on qwerty when I was competing in programming (we couldn’t bring our own keyboards).

    This summer I switched back do dvorak again, because I worked a lot with answering emails, and my hands really took some damage. But the pain disapeared after the switch back to dvorak.

    And, fact: the world record in typing was made on a dvorak keyboard.

  7. yeah, my peak is also 120-ish on a QWERTY keyboard, i haven’t “touched” a DVORAK keyboard tho 🙂

  8. Pam Frisk says:

    In high school I typed 85 wpm on a manual Royal.

    15 years ago I was tested and was at 154 wpm on both an electric Panasonic and IBM typewriter.
    I have been typing 8-10 hours a day since then and have no idea what my speed is. I’m on a QWERTY.

    Does anybody know what the top speed is on a QWERTY?

  9. Just to let you know, my speed did dramatically increase when I switched to Dvorak. Sure, it took some time, but I currently type twice my Qwerty speed in Dvorak. I could never learn to touch type Qwerty. I tried endlessly, but it was like those stupid wall sits (you know, where you sit with your back against a wall and your quads kill you): sooner or later my hands would cramp, and the whole time it was uncomferatable. Everything changed with Dvorak. To this day I cannot teach myself how to touch type Qwerty (though I’ve thoroughly memorized the layout) and my Dvorak speed is double my Qwerty speed. In case you’re wondering, neither speed is any where near impressive. On Qwerty I max out at about 27 WPM, and on Dvorak I can reach about 55 WPM. I haven’t tried much to improve my speeed, mostly just accuracy.

    Also, the world’s fastest typist achieved her speed (212 WPM) on a Dvorak and types only on Dvorak. I think that says something about the fact that Dvorak is designed for faster typing than Qwerty.

  10. Altay: The Peters, Cortez Peters Sr. and his son Cortez Peters Jr., have made quite a name for themselves in the typing world. Allegedly, Cortez Peters Jr. may have beat Barbara Blackburn’s 212 WPM record, with 225 WPM on QWERTY.

    I say “allgedly” because the Wikipedia article cites no sources and I can’t find any source other than Wikipedia itself, so this may be false. But, it raises questions: is Barbara the world’s fastest typist, or just the fastest typist that’s been verified by the Guiness Book folks?

  11. I don’t believe what I am reading? Dossy, you have missed the boat…hopefully you can catch the next one once I bring you up-to-date. This is not a slam or intended to make you feel bad, but rather I am dissapointed in many that bash the gift Dr. August Dvorak had designed for humanity that ended up falling on so many deaf ears.

    To get the true scoop on Dvorak, read the comic (zine) on http://dvzine.org

    Also watch the following old video clips:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPfevKbJRmQ & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkMB5Q27nQI

    If you want to learn how to type Dvorak, goto http://www.gigliwood.com/abcd/

    There are 3 versions of the Dvorak. Simplified, left-hand, right-hand. Unless you are missing or have an extreme disability in either hand, do not use the left or right hand versions as they were primarily disigned for those with handicaps and/or disabilities (that is why there are not hand alternations). Dr Dvorak got the idea when a soldier came back from WWII missing an arm. That soldier was then able to type on the one-hand version at about 60 wpm.

    I typed on the QWERTY knuckle-buster, finger-tangler for over 20 years and developed hand stresses. Last July, I was fed-up and self-taught myself the Dvorak layout and have been typing it ever since http://www.gigliwood.com/abcd/ . It only took me 2 weeks to learn it and beat my QWERTY speeds in about a month or two http://www.powertyping.com/dvorak/typing.html. My hands immediately thanked me and have no desire to go back.

    For the QWERTY users… go ahead an continue to type on the ilogical, obsolete, Standard Keyboard of the 1870s as it obviously isn’t going anywhere anytime soon (even the inventor, Chris Sholes, even tried to change it), but don’t thrash an alteranative effective layout you know nothing about. Did you know that you can spell the word “typewriter” on the top row of Qwerty… how’s that for a marketing stunt?

    Common letter pairs were intentionally placed in awkward positions on the Qwerty as to prevent keys from jamming. The earliest typewriters did not have springs on the hammers and were gravity fed back in place. The original typewriters had no typists to slow down as it was only intended to be “hunt and pecked” on.

    Do we and our children want to continue learning the random unbalanced positions that were created in the 1870s or do we want to get with the times and type in a method that is more logical for the information age that is faster, more accurate, less fatiguing, and lessens RSI and other hand stresses such as corperral tunnel?

    There is no need to run out and buy a Dvorak keyboard as the first rule of typing is to not look at your fingers and to learn by touch. It is as simple as changing a setting in your operating system. Dvorak gained enough popularity in the 1980’s that it was officially recognized by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) an is in every computer… you just need to turn it ON!

    Hope this helps and is informative,

    Jim

  12. Jim:

    Every time I hear a claim of “I used to type QWERTY, but now I use Dvorak, and now I can type faster,” it’s never quantified by the actual typing speeds before-and-after.

    I agree that folks who have a hard time learning to type fast on QWERTY–that is, 90+ WPM–can probably learn to type faster on Dvorak. But, if you’re like me and already type 120+ WPM on QWERTY, switching to Dvorak is not likely to give me much. There’s a physical limitation to how fast your hands can press keys, regardless of where they’re positioned.

    I would like to hear even anecdotal evidence that someone who can type 120+ WPM on QWERTY switched to Dvorak and could exceed, say, 150+ WPM. I’m almost willing to bet that it never happens.

  13. Dossy,

    Interesting points.. but I do have the proof to back it up. I hope you did view the youtube links I provided (yes, I realize they are a bit dated). But the ultimate proof: Have you heard of Barbara Blackburn? She FAILED her high school Qwerty typing class. She then learned Dvorak a little later and types 170 wpm and she peaked at 212 wpm, placing her in the Guiness Book of World Records.

    After reading the DV Zine, viewing the video clips, and learning about Barbara Blackburn; if you are still not convinced, you are a tough sell.

    However, I will warn you that Dvorak may not be a smooth transition for a high speed keyer of your caliper and I do envy you regarding your speed. If you were to change, it would be a drastic change for the worse for awhile.

    If you did decide to change I would highly recommend doing it on a long vacation from work. At about week 2 or 3 your Qwerty speed would drop drastically and your Dvorak speed will not be that high. If you managed to tough it out and kept with Dvorak, you would probably meet and beat your speed and accuracy in about 2 to 3 months.

    With a high speed keyer like yourself, if you did transition, I think you would be able to achieve approx 160 wpm.

    However, with your speed as high as it is, if you decided not to switch, I would not blame you and respect your decision and would only aspire to achieve your rate of speed.

    As far as myself, with Dvorak I have gained 15 wpm over my Qwerty speed and am still climbing.

    Jim

  14. I just recently starting being an assistant coach to a college student, James Stone, who is currently transitioning from Qwerty to Dvorak. He is doing this as part of course project. He used to key 77-85 wpm in Qwerty 4 weeks ago. He is charting his progress on http://dma.sjsu.edu/~art106/jstone/dvorak/index.html and has been providing a documentary on his progress on youtube under the handle of JamesManOfStone. This is only a 10 week project and his results are quite interesting thus far. I am sure he will continue to improve long after his project is done.

    Jim

  15. Jim:

    The YouTube videos compare someone who can type 90 WPM QWERTY to an entirely different person who can type 157 WPM Dvorak. That’s not entirely fair: you can always find two people of differing skill levels–say, on the piano–is it fair to compare them?

    You can take the best left-footed surfer and compare them to the best right-footed surfer. Does it really make sense to say that whomever is the better surfer indicates that people of that foot orientation are likely to be better than the other? No, the only thing it really tells us is that between those two people, one is better than the other. Arguing that their particular foot-orientation or their style is what makes one inherently better than the other is a stretch.

    Regarding Barbara Blackburn, I can accept that she is an extremely capable typist on the Dvorak layout, however she’s an exception, not the rule. What would we say if a person who could type 180 WPM on QWERTY turned up at some point? Would that invalidate all the pro-Dvorak propaganda? There are talented people that the world hasn’t discovered and may never discover. Barbara is just fortunate in that she was discovered.

    Now, understand that I’m not blindly arguing in favor of QWERTY; ten years ago, I learned the two-handed Dvorak layout and had used it for roughly three months. I had reached a speed of close to 70 WPM using the Dvorak layout, which wasn’t better than my 90 WPM top speed on QWERTY at the time. I did stop using the layout because it just didn’t “feel right” for me. That could very well be the muscle memory in my hands creating a bias due to my years of QWERTY typing. Whatever the cause, I chose to go back to QWERTY and continued to gain speed until I peaked at 120 WPM.

    I can believe that there are people out there who the Dvorak layout feels “more natural” or “more comfortable” and enables them to ultimately type faster than if they’d continued with QWERTY. I also suspect that there are people for whom the opposite holds true.

    While the “science” behind why the Dvorak layout indicates that it “should” be superior to QWERTY, there’s a natural element of design where what is scientifically superior may not win in the marketplace or be attractive to people. Perhaps this is one of those cases.

  16. Dossy,

    I would like to thank you for allowing me to have this friendly debate with you. I think we have probably learned some positive things from each other and wish there were better documented cases out there. One point that seems to have come out of this is that it appears that one way of doing and learning things may not work for someone else and that some of us are wired differently to include thought process, retention, etc.

    I cannot help but wonder something though and would be hard to prove as we cannot turn back the clock and that is could it be possible that someone that types 125wpm on Qwerty be compared to someone that types 160wpm on Dvorak? Let me ask this a slightly a different way… If the above avg Qwerty typist that types 120wpm were able to turn back the clock and learn Dvorak, could it be possible they could achieve a 160wpm speed? Or vice-versa for that matter? Maybe the wpm may not be an effective way as to categorize an equal since there is another factor that is not common and that is the keyboard mapping layout.

    You had mentioned that you suspect there could be a threshold on how fast the above avg typer is able to press the keys, but if there is less finger reaches on a layout, could one conceivably press the keys faster?

    James Stone’s project should prove to be interesting. He has been experiencing similar situations I had encountered when I converted, but he and I have also encountered differences as well. Our methods of learning have been slightly different as well as our baseline Qwerty speeds. I also had a break from work and he had not. Some people also retain their Qwerty keystrokes and can easily switch and type between the two layouts. Others like myself (and so far James Stone so far) have forgotten, however, I suspect that it still is in our subconscience to change back if we really tried and wanted to go back.

    I suspect the two of us have very similar thoughts and questions. However, we both seem to be biased on our own preferred layouts.

    I, like yourself, would love to see quantitative unbiased research study report data between many individuals that have learned one layout vs. the other…or for that manner, those have switched from the one layout to the other.

    Here is something else you may find interesting http://www.typematrix.com/download/TypeMatrix-morph-promo-640.mpeg it will take awhile to download and is found on http://www.typematrix.com/ I have one of these and love it, but I dislike the imbedded 10 key.

    Thanks again for allowing me to have this friendly debate with you and the share of our knowledge with each other. I think overall our discussions have been productive.

    Jim

  17. There is a company out there by the name of keytime.com that is based in Seattle. The have been teaching and educating thousands to type for many years. They have all the documented evidence one would ever need and they can be contacted very easily. http://www.keytime.com/

    Jim

  18. “I’m pretty convinced that QWERTY is actually the most optimal layout for speed because it was designed to alternate strokes between hands evenly to optimize typing speed for mechanical typewriters.”

    Have you ever considered the home row of qwerty, like at all?
    a_dfghjkl;

    I mean, it’s just alphabetical order. With a spot reserved for the essential semicolon. As far as I can tell, the creator of qwerty just lay out a board in alphabetical order, and moved a few letters to the top row. (The bottom row is largely alphabetical order too, although it does contain about half the rejects from the home row). Which is fine, for the first typewriters. I mean, touch typing wasn’t even going to be invented for another 15 years.

    Now, do you really mean to say, that a board designed that crudely could possibly be better then a board designed with the english language and touch typing in mind?

  19. Alex: As I pointed out, I don’t position my hands in the traditional home row–I use “awefjio;” which fits most naturally to me. I have 4 of the 5 vowels in _my_ home row, two on each hand. I have “r” and “t” under my left pointer finger, quite common letters. “s” under my left ring finger also keeps it close. “n” is under my right ring finger.

    I have a very hard time accepting the _coincidence_ that the Sholes QWERTY layout has effectively dominated common typewriter layout for over 130 years by mere coincidence. There were other typewriter manufacturers at the time and alternative keyboard layouts. There have been alternative keyboard layouts since. Sholes’s QWERTY layout won, both against his contemporary competitors and all others throughout time.

    This can’t be mere coincidence. If there were an alternative layout that could be proven–through real science, not the hyperbole and rhetoric we only have today–to be superior to the QWERTY layout, someone would publish such findings.

  20. For the record, I’ve always been a qwerty typist, and have only just started dvorak this week as I was beginning to get the impression qwerty was holding me back (I am quite average at around 85-90wpm – with fixing errors as they appear). Started dvorak on monday, and am up to an embarrassing 38wpm, but enjoying the learning experience. (Probably a little bit above average for 5 days, but I’ve been using it almost continuously). At least the board layout is easy to memorise, if nothing else (easily memorised in 1-2 hours… qwerty took me a lifetime).

    I came across this page trying to decide if I should continue learning, and I have to say I did find your finger positioning an interesting point when read it. But I know it doesn’t apply to my own fingers. They fit quite comfortable in a line on the home row, and having a few cross a row vertically just feels awkward. Perhaps that the secret to mastering qwerty, I don’t know. But for myself it’s not at all natural, and would have to be learnt. Although that might just be my keyboard and/or fingers.

    Furthermore, if it is true that most fast qwerty typists are similar, then the layout is far from optimal. Keeping v, m and b on the bottom row is a large oversight, as no one is ever going to argue that a row jump is efficient (I hope). If this is the finger norm, then the top row should most definitely have letters in the middle.

    Finally, I don’t believe you’ll be able to find -anyone- that says it’s simply a coincidence we use qwerty. It’s really not that complicated. It was used on the first popularised typewriters. What corporation is going to buy more typewriters that have different layouts to their existing ones; any staff using the new typewriters would have to relearn, and for what reason? Remembering that dvorak, the first real alternative layout wasn’t designed til 75 years later gives qwerty a massive market penetration.

    And then it goes on. The designers of the first computers and word processors are hardly going to consider it their job to design a better keyboard, or cut off their market by pushing an alternative layout. I mean, no one is going to make money out of that. If the public wants to learn a different layout, they will. But no organization/government in its right mind would push people to change when what they’re using is fully functional. And now think to average joe. Or any computer illiterate friends or family you may have. If dvorak was -proven- that anyone using it will see exactly a 15% increase in speed and comfort, do you think that anyone that uses their computer once a week to send an email is going to be interested? I know my mother wouldn’t be, she dreaded every minute learning 2 finger typing on qwerty the first time through. To change the layout on her would be cruel.

    And realistically, I doubt the gains will be that high. Definitely not worth the push.

    Anyway, it happens all the time. Many great inventions and innovations never make it, simply because they’re not -that- much better. Sure, they might get a group of followers that’ll love the improvements, and preach about them to their friends. But it takes more then that to convince the majority of casual users who’s day job is not typing at a keyboard.

    Just to emphasis that penetration is key, and whilst we’re on computers, consider x86-64, a 64 bit extension on a 32 bit extension on a 16 bit architecture based on an 8 bit cpu. Even modern quad core cpus still have to support archaic segmented memory addressing, string operations at the cpu level, etc. Yet the majority of computers by far run on it. And again, that’s not because they happened to hit it right in 1978 when it was designed. Just simple market penetration.

    As for tests: how would you conduct a completely fair survey? It’s nearly impossible. You either need to take a qwerty typist, who’s likely been using it for years, and train them up on dvorak… or you find a group of dvorak typists and compare them to a group of qwerty typists. Both methods are inherently flawed. eg, Dvorak typists are self-selected as dedicated typists, as they at some point decided to change layouts to attempt to improve (whether or not they did is irrelevant). Again, most people wouldn’t bother. Considering that to do a proper statistical survey, particularly when double blind etc is impossible, you’d need thousands of people to draw any kind of conclusion. No one’s going to fund that.

    Oh well, sorry for the novel there. All good practice typing at least ;), consider that my 4c.

    – Alex

  21. I am actually surprised this debate is still going on in this blog. Anyway, I think this will answer and resolve this once and for all.

    When it comes to documented proof. Dr. Earl Strong destroyed all the documents from the U.S. Naval study because he hated Dr. August Dvorak.

    However, there is new documented unbiased proof of many thousands of individuals that have learned Qwerty and Dvorak (as well as one hand disabled people that have learned the Dvorak left and right handed versions). As stated in my prior post, KEYTIME IN SEATTLE HAS ALL THE DOCUMENTED PROOF YOU NEED! You just have to request it.

    As far as books go, Randy Cassingham’s book “The Dvorak Keyboard” and Dr. Dvorak’s “Typewriting Behavior” are really written well.

    Still ignorant individuals still like to refer to the REASON Magazine article and also “The Fable of the Keys”… “Fable of the Fable” as I call it. Both of those publications aren’t worth the paper they are written on because they were Dr. Strong supporters that were shooting from the hip.

    As far as those that attempt to convert to Dvorak… you have to give it a minimum of 6 months before it gives you bragging rights to bash it.

    Q. So where’s the proof?
    A. Contact Keytime in Seattle, WA.

  22. Jim: I understand you believe that there’s “proof” out there, but unless it meets scientific rigor and has been peer reviewed, it’s not “proof” – it’s just marketing hyperbole by some interested party.

  23. I found the Navy Experiment Report, it is obtainable from Randy Cassingham himself for $9. You can order it from him at http://www.dvorak-keyboard.com/dv-order.html He is going to make it available for purchase soon on Amazon.com in the near future.

    Thought you would find this of value. I personally have purchased it for myself. I guess Dr. Strong did not destroy everything.

  24. Edward Hou says:

    Dossy, I believe that the reason QWERTY is the most widely-used keyboard today is because it was, in fact, the best choice at the time — QWERTY was designed to minimize jamming on typewriters by placing the most commonly used keys far apart.

    I also believe that Dvorak is the much better choice for modern keyboards because we don’t have to deal with jamming; the issue now is how far your fingers have to travel, hand alternation, and other ergonomic concerns, and Dvorak defeats QWERTY in all of these categories. See this comparison applet for details: http://www.siteuri.ro/dvorak/

    Of course, these comparisons assume that you rest your fingers on the home row, so results will obviously be different if you rest your keys with the middle and ring fingers on a higher row, like you do. As for me, I rest my fingers on ASDF and JKL;, so Dvorak seems more natural to me. By the way, you mentioned hand alternation. Dvorak was designed with hand alternation (and several other ergonomic concerns) in mind, and has more hand alternation than QWERTY. For example, typing out Wikipedia’s article on the Tiger, 18.8% of the keypresses use the same hand as the previous keypress in Dvorak, while in QWERTY, 30.6% of the keypresses use the same hand as the last keypress. http://www.siteuri.ro/dvorak/SampleTextsResults/MarkTwain.html

    Ah well, to each his own.

  25. Edward: Thanks for adding to the discussion! Actually, I think hand alternation can decrease speed and accuracy–try typing the word “were.” Yes, it’s 100% left-handed, but if you type a word that requires alternation, you have to be careful not to press letters out of sequence. On the Dvorak two-handed layout, “were” alternates hands, starting with the right hand (w), left (e), right (r), left (e). If you want to type that at high speed, you risk typing “ewre”, “weer” or “ewer” – depending on if you jump the gun when alternating hands. However, on QWERTY typing “were” with just one hand, typing “were” is as simple as rolling your fingers from ring finger to pointer finger then back to middle finger – you can do that very rapidly with very little chance of error due to hand alternation synchronization failure.

    Granted, there aren’t too many English words that can be typed by rolling of the fingers on a QWERTY keyboard, but I can’t even find one that can be on a Dvorak.

    In English, every word has at least one vowel. Putting all the vowels under the left hand in the home row in the Dvorak layout is, IMHO, a huge mistake – it guarantees that every word must be typed with the left hand at some point. In contrast, the QWERTY layout puts “ae” on the left and “iou” on the right – a better balance, IMHO.

    In the end, it’s really not really important: I’m very satisfied with my 120+ WPM typing on QWERTY. I don’t see much benefit in unlearning all that muscle memory in order to learn Dvorak in the hopes that I might be able to gain another 10 or 20 WPM in typing speed, eventually.

    And, shy of the “famous” Barbara Blackburn, I haven’t heard of any other notably fast Dvorak typists. Are there any? Is there anyone out there highly proficient with the Dvorak layout who can do better than 120-130 WPM at 99% accuracy?

    • Hi, I am a former user of QWERTY, used it my whole life up until about 5 or 6 years ago. Some background info, I am almost 26 years old, started using computers at age 4 or 5 and typing. In my late teens a friend told me about the Dvorak layout, I dismissed all his claims for a few years, refusing to accept that QWERTY, the standard, could have any flaws… I mean… it was the standard after all and must be the best if It’s standard… I tried learning Dvorak, it was a hassle and as a teenager I didn’t have the patience… but when I was around 20, I gave it a shot again, after learning about the world record holders for typing speed having used Dvorak, and my QWERTY speed really not being much more than 60wpm, after using it for a good 15 years…. so I gave it a shot… 1 month later, my typing speed had exceeded QWERTY… I would like to comment on the word WERE… I have experimented several times, and I must say, I can type Were, faster with Dvorak, why? Because you are inclined to accidentally type werew using QWERTY, whereas with Dvorak, there is an alternation, and in fact I have tested this over and over and found it is faster with Dvorak. Also, when I went to College, I was forced (about 3 years ago) to learn to type fast with Qwerty, so for 8 months I gave up Dvorak, because my college degree required it of me, as I was studying IT and we had to have a minimum typing speed which was set highish… I only ever achieved around 55wpm in those 8 months… but I can type MUCH faster with the Dvorak layout as I discovered when I got pissed off over my speed with Qwerty… now, I use Qwerty AND Dvorak, as my job and university education facility require Qwerty to be used sadly… I type all my essays and papers and such with Dvorak though and I must say it is very fast. I find that Qwerty is too Awkward and uncomfortable to use, I always found that even before Dvorak… But I get great speeds with Dvorak.

    • Also, I wanted to add that I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome brought on by excessive typing with QWERTY… Whenever I use Dvorak I have no paid, and the inflammation in my wrists does not happen whereas my wrists become inflamed whenever I use QWERTY for any fair length of time. So Dvorak is not only faster, but more ergonomic and as such healthier in that it reduces the risk of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. And did I mention the world record holders for fastest typing use Dvorak? I mean, if that isn’t enough proof, what is?

  26. Great article! I’ve always used qwerty (I’m a college student) and currently maintain between 85 and 90 wpm, peaking at a little above 100. I wish I could type as fast as you (share you secret?)!

    I tried the Dvorak keyboard once but like you went back to qwerty; though perhaps it was my impatience. Also, it is a pain to change the keyboard format on each new computer you use. I often travel to several machines throughout a workday, so it would be far from convenient to change keyboard layouts to Dvorak for me and then back before I leave for my coworkers. Especially if I’m at a computer for only a few minutes at a time!

  27. Something domination the market doesn’t necessarily mean its the best option :\

    I don’t see why its such a necessity to talk speed when comparing the two… that’s not what the simplified keyboard was designed for.
    They can obtain comparable speeds, and its really only limited by the typist.
    The Dvorak, however, is designed to be easier on your hands. There’s less moving the fingers about and many words can be typed out on the home row.

    Full sentences like “The idea that nineteen studious Dadaists assisted Einstein is asinine” can be typed out using only the home row… which says something about its design.
    Obviously the QWERTY could never pull that off since it only has the vowel a situated on the home row.

  28. Macky Franklin says:

    Great debate here guys. Very interesting points of view. I’m writing this on a Dvorak keyboard after 3 days of using it and I admit that I’m still painfully slow. Basically everything I’ve heard suggests that Dvorak is faster once you learn it, so I’m going to stick with it to see how it goes. I admit that I only changed for the sake of getting faster in the long run as I’m quite comfortable on QWERTY…

  29. I switched to Dvorak about 2 years ago. Right before the switch, I could type approx 85 wpm on qwerty. I switched cold-turkey and it took me a lot longer to reach my qwerty speeds than I would care to admit (about 12 months), but it was a great investment for my hands! I’m a developer and type a good amount every day. On qwerty, my hands and fingers would really start to hurt after awhile – I think that is in part due to my parents having arthritis, a trait I’m afraid I’ve inherited. But I can now type on Dvorak all day without any noticeable fatigue. As for my current Dvorak speed, I’m now at 100 wpm – which honestly isn’t a huge improvement over my qwerty speeds, but hey… my hands don’t hurt.

  30. Ash Kayler says:

    I think the only way to solve this argument is for as many people as possible to list their typing speeds before and after the switch. 10 years ago I switched from Qwerty to Dvorak. 2 years ago I switched back to Qwerty. Here are my speeds:

    QWERTY 60wpm
    Dvorak 70wpm (after 6 months)
    QWERTY 60wpm (after 6 months)

    If you’re wondering why I switched back, it was because I had to take the GRE exam on a computer that would not permit me to type in Dvorak. Once I had retrained myself in Qwerty, I couldn’t face retraining again in Dvorak, just for the 10wpm.

    • Ash: You’re right, that’s the only actual meaningful measurement – one person’s performance before and after.

      It makes sense that Dvorak _should_ ultimately yield higher top speeds. Thanks for providing your data!

  31. I found Dvorak significantly sped up my typing speed. I first learned to type with Qwerty, and could only reach 60-70WPM max. About two years ago, I switched to Dvorak. After just one month, I was typing the same speed I had been in Qwerty. After that, I only got faster. On average I’m anywhere from 80-110WPM, though I did hit 118 WPM in one test. Yeah, Dvorak really sped up my typing life. And I’ve also found that it’s easier on my hands – doesn’t seem to be quite as much jumping around as Qwerty. I do like it ALOT!

    So to sum it up:
    QWERTY 60-70WPM (Before)
    Dvorak 80-118 WPM (After)

  32. well, i have only my personal experience to refer to, but DVORAK is definitely faster. there is one good reason for it: the layout was created by analyzing the statistical frequencies of words in the english language and putting the most heavily used in the best places. as such, your fingers have to travel less on average and therefore you are more efficient. more efficiency of motion means that less distance should equate to more speed. and i can testify to the effectiveness of the layout as well, i mean the keys along the home row on my keyboard are polished and those not along the home row aren’t. i was a bit worried that these statistics were gathered back in the 50’s and since the english language has changed so much since then, it would seem that dvorak might need to have changed as well. however, someone revisited this study recently and found that only one or two keys (and not those along the home row) might be swapped.

    so now for some “data”. back when i was on the shoals layout, i was typing at about 80WPM with about 85% accuracy. on dvorak (which i’ve been on now for over 10 years) i can get 130-140WPM with about 80%-90% accuracy. the reason the accuracy isn’t higher for DVORAK i feel is that when i’m trying to type that fast i inevitably make mistakes. however, if i type at my old QWERTY rate, my accuracy is much better and i use less effort.

    think what you want, but when i try to go back to QWERTY it’s like putting my hands in a blender. so my hands are much happier i made the switch. the only thing bad about DVORAK is that when i’m chatting with my friends i often bury them with text by the time they can catch up.

  33. ChappyHappy says:

    http://mkweb.bcgsc.ca/carpalx/
    http://patorjk.com/keyboard-layout-analyzer/

    IMO 10-20wpm is relative to different people. Some might find it epicly awesome, others go meh. Especially if changing the layout is a hassle. But I wouldnt convince your friend not to switch from qwerty. I’d encourage it and have it as a small test sample and see if it actually increases speed.

    I think comfort and effort is more important if it’s only a small wpm difference. Dvorak and Colemak is more logical for the hand and fingers. Distance required to move the fingers, repeated use of the same fingers, etc are important.

  34. John McVirgo says:

    On typer racer, a typing program on the web, the best players there all use Qwerty, and can supercede Barbara’s records. There is also the typist Mungoe on youtube who could type at 140 wpm on a mechanical qwerty, 160 electrical.

    The keys less common to type like zx are at the most difficult positions.

    The top 9, including space, most common characters can be placed under one finger at the same time as the rest – meaning you can roll many words.

    • I would like to add that Barbara could type 212wpm…. yet you cite these low 140wpm and 160wpm speeds in contrast?

  35. I’ve never used a Dvorak keyboard so I can’t comment on whether it’s faster than QWERTY or not. QWERTY is good enough for me though so I see no need to change. I have an old, standard layout, cheapo QWERTY keyboard that I’ve been using for years and I’ve managed to pull 140wpm with 100% accuracy on it before (on one of those online speed tests). Granted, I don’t normally go *quite* that fast, because my hands start to get sore after awhile, but I typically run around 80-100wpm I think.

  36. glen stewart says:

    umm…. does the ipad have the same Dvorak and ZWERTY and…. other alternative keyboards that we’re discussing here? I didnt bother to count but at quick glance it looks like theres like maybe 4 letters different on all of them… is 4 letters what all this fuss is about? why would someone write an article about this without a picture of all the “more efficient” keyboards out there

    • glen stewart says:

      whoa, nevermind, I just found a Dvorak online, doesnt look anything like iPad’s… apparently the iPad gives you the Dvorak option, without actually giving you the KEYBOARD. no right-click, no arrows, and now a fraudulent Dvorak… nice

  37. http://discovermagazine.com/1997/apr/thecurseofqwerty1099/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=

    Great article which explains why QWERTY is so commonly used, and tells you why it’s not better than Dvorak.

    • john mcvirgo says:

      “To overcome the problem of invisible jamming, Sholes applied antiengineering principles with the goal of slowing down the typist and thus preventing the second bar from jamming the falling first bar”

      Well, that isn’t true. He was only concerned about common pairings of letters being adjacent to one another on the keyboard. Have a look at “The Fable of the Keys” http://www.utdallas.edu/~liebowit/keys1.html.

      • Haruki W. says:

        Do you understand that you rebutted a claim by ACCEPTING it? The reason why Sholes separated combinations of keys was to prevent them from jamming.
        Also, don’t you dare cite “The Fable of the Fable” for a rebuttal. It was written by a “professor” called Strong, whose arguments are weak (pun intended) and biased, and since he hated August Dvorak, he BURNT FBI RECORDS.
        Besides, if you’re quoting someone as biased as him, it also means you are as biased and stubborn as Strong.
        Remember, “Till you can do better, do the best you can; once you can do better, do better.”

  38. Geoffrey Hughes says:

    I’m sorry “Dossy”, but both the original blog post and your subsequent follow ups are FULL of illogic and irrelevance. So much so that I had to write a (this) comment and just couldn’t let it slide. A lot of utter nonsense.

    If you can’t see why Dvorak is CONSIDERABLY better than Qwerty, then you Sir are holding a ridiculously heavy bias on your shoulders. A bias so big that it’s restricting your view. I shan’t begin to call you out on particulars as I simply don’t have the time (but moreso because it’s clear all opposing points of view are falling on deaf ears).

    I will, however, answer your question: “Is the Dvorak keyboard layout faster than Qwerty?” Yes. Indisputably.

    Good day.

    PS. I’ve never used Dvorak, nor has Qwerty ever beaten me up and stolen my lunch money (what I’m getting at is that I’m impartial).

    • Well said Geoffrey Hughes. I think that those who disagree that Dvorak is superior are merely responding largely in part due to bias. In fact, I had that very same bias for years, even when so far as to insist that QWERTY was better than Dvorak… of course, after a few years of one of my best friends telling me to try Dvorak. I gave it a shot. After a month I had it down, but because of school and such I gave it up. Then about 3 years ago from this day, I decided I would give a shot at it again, but that not only would I give it a shot but I would practice BOTH, so I could easily type with either… and now, I can, fluently. I can alternate between QWERTY and Dvorak with no issues and type damn fast. Faster with Dvorak I must say though. I’ve had work place training with QWERTY too, when I was at college and the best I could get with tons of practice was something like 55-65 wpm, and that was with a fair bit of mistakes, having correct said mistakes. With Dvorak I achieve much higher speeds than this. I can type almost everything my university professors say in lectures now with Dvorak. Let go of your bias, give it an honest try, and I think most will find, it’s rather advantageous to use Dvorak. It also reduces pain in wrists, which I always got with QWERTY, that I don’t get with Dvorak.

  39. Well said Geoffrey Hughes. I think that those who disagree that Dvorak is superior are merely responding largely in part due to bias. In fact, I had that very same bias for years, even when so far as to insist that QWERTY was better than Dvorak… of course, after a few years of one of my best friends telling me to try Dvorak. I gave it a shot. After a month I had it down, but because of school and such I gave it up. Then about 3 years ago from this day, I decided I would give a shot at it again, but that not only would I give it a shot but I would practice BOTH, so I could easily type with either… and now, I can, fluently. I can alternate between QWERTY and Dvorak with no issues and type damn fast. Faster with Dvorak I must say though. I’ve had work place training with QWERTY too, when I was at college and the best I could get with tons of practice was something like 55-65 wpm, and that was with a fair bit of mistakes, having correct said mistakes. With Dvorak I achieve much higher speeds than this. I can type almost everything my university professors say in lectures now with Dvorak. Let go of your bias, give it an honest try, and I think most will find, it’s rather advantageous to use Dvorak. It also reduces pain in wrists, which I always got with QWERTY, that I don’t get with Dvorak.

  40. Hi guys,
    I typed on a qwerty — a lot — for about a decade after finishing school, never breaking the 100wpm barrier. Then I had to have hand and wrist surgery (unrelated to typing).
    After the surgery, I couldn’t type on a qwerty anymore without nagging, distracting pain, so I switched to dvorak. I was up to about 90wpm in two to three months, and now my regular rate of typing is as follows:
    Emails: about 155 wpm
    More formal typing: about 140 wpm
    Typing tests (which use random words): about 110 wpm
    The typing tests drastically underestimate my speed because my brain doesn’t process nonsense combinations well — in other words, I type things that make sense a lot faster than I type things that don’t.

    So, overall, this is an increase of over 50% from my old qwerty speeds.

    I had the surgery on alternate hands, so I also learned to type the one-handed versions. (I sometimes use them on one hand while I drive with the other hand — don’t tell anyone. It’s still safer than using a cell phone while driving!)
    I can type about 55-60wpm on the right-handed layout, and about 40wpm on the left-handed one. Once you’ve learned one of these, the other is pretty simple: they are mirror images of each other, except for the annoying fact that “s” and “r” (two very common letters) are NOT mirror-imaged.

    So, basically, the deal is this: If any of you all get carpal tunnel issues, then it’s your own god-blessed fault for not switching to Dvorak (on which your fingers travel something like 1 inch for every 10-20 inches they’d travel on qwerty).

  41. Anonymous says:

    People can regularly hit 120 wpm+ on qwerty and the fastest I’ve been able to do on dvorak is 118 wpm. I just don’t see how I could really be any faster. Dvorak is more comfortable to use, but it seems that because dvorak uses all 10 fingers that you pay a top speed penalty because you end up having to use the slower pinky/ring fingers more frequently.

  42. (I won’t even comment on those who still believe in qwerty) Dvorak huh? You are more that 3/4 of a century behind… 😛
    Ever heard of Colemak? 😀
    use the “portal keyboard layout”, a less that one megabyte program, which is able to run Colemak or any keyboard layout you’d like in any pc just with a double click, no install, no anything…

    • Haruki W. says:

      About time someone mentioned Colemak! TBH, I’ve never typed on Colemak, but I’ve doodled around with one of my old keyboards so the keys are in Colemak position. I must tell you it’s comfortable, but not as much as Dvorak (with which I peak at ~80 WPM, avg. ~60 WPM.)
      I also researched the words that can be made out of certain letters.
      But I think Colemak is “half-a*sed” for a certain number of reasons:
      1) You have to extend your finger inward every time you type “the”, “that”, or anything with “h”. That, IMHO, slows me down.
      2) So many long words can be (and, moreover, have to be) typed with using only one hand, The most notorious I found was “Millennium”, in which in Dvorak it has 6 hand alternations. Still better than QWERTY though. But in Dvorak, except for “puppy”, a pain in the a*s if I’ve seen one, only about 60 words are typed with one hand. (The only R.H. words are “cwm” and “crwth”.)
      3) Punctuation is harder to reach. In Dvorak, the slash is located farther than the apostrophe because the apostrophe is more frequent than ?. Colemak is fine, but one thing p*sses me off: the hyphen. What infuriates me is that SQUARE BRACKETS are placed closer than the HYPHEN. It’s obvious that you use a hyphen more often that square brackets!
      4) I think this isn’t as valid as the other claims, but Colemak doesn’t come with every computer, like Dvorak does.

      Prove me wrong! I love intellectual conversations.

  43. Well, I have been training on Dvorak for 1.5 months now, and my speed is about 110wpm on average. I still go back to typing on Qwerty just so I don’t lose speed on it, and I can still easily reach 130wpm++.

    Honestly I don’t think either one of the layouts is faster than the others, I’m sure you’ll be able to reach higher speed from more practicing.

  44. Brian St. Pierre says:

    I type upwards from 140-170wpm on a QWERTY based keyboard. I prefer the Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate Mechanical Keyboard. I have been playing video games (PC Gamer) for many many years now though, so that’s probably why I can achieve that speed. (:

    http://10fastfingers.com/user/252034/

  45. Just wanted to share my experience here. Years ago (in the late 90s) I decided to learn dvorak. I’d never been a particularly fast typist and I wasn’t very fast on dvorak either. The experiment did not last because I took a job where I was using other people’s computers every day and it would have been pretty bad for me to have left one of those computers in Dvorak configuration, never mind having to set each one up (it wasn’t as common to have an easy default built-in Dvorak configuration in those days.) The big trouble for me was not getting used to the key layout for normal typing but instead getting used to the command keys (copy, paste etc.)

    I’ve always heard the advice that one ought to go cold turkey off of qwerty and anecdotes that typing on Dvorak might ruin my qwerty typing. I only spent maybe as much as two weeks solely immersed in Dvorak and then started going back and forth between the two.

    In a couple of weeks I went from a 20-25wpm barely-faster-than-hunt-and-peck typist to a 35-40wpm typist. But here is the really interesting part. My qwerty speed also increased that same amount. After that initial immersion in Dvorak my typing speed on both keyboards was faster than it had ever been—still not exactly fast but a huge improvement.

    I attribute this to the extra practice and attention and letting go of some old habits. It’s not magic and I never found that I typed faster on Dvorak than I did on qwerty, but the exercise of learning Dvorak did really great things for me.

    It’s not as surprising as people tend to think. When you learn to speak a new language you don’t forget your native language, and very commonly people learn things about their native language from the experience of learning the new language. Dvorak versus qwerty is in some ways just learning a new language with your fingers.

    Your mileage may of course vary. It’s easy to believe that the same practice would not help a good fast typist. But as a poor typist, a crash course in Dvorak did great things for me.

    (I have since completely forgotten all my Dvorak but I still do have my old Dvorak Model M.)

  46. I can’t speak for anyone but myself—but I’ve no doubt whatsoever that the Dvorak layout has GREATLY increased my typing speed and comfort.

    Like everyone else in my generation, I learned QWERTY in high school. I used it on typewriters, then computers, for over 20 years. I tested myself regularly; the best I ever did was 60–65 wpm.

    Then I learned about Dvorak, and it made such sense I decided to switch cold-turkey. (Typewriters had disappeared, and computer OSs had added the ability to select keyboard layouts, so there were no obstacles.)

    I didn’t bother switching keycaps or labeling my keys. (The whole point is NOT to look at your fingers.) I simply printed a small Dvorak diagram and kept it by the PC for whenever I needed it.

    Dvorak immediately felt more comfortable and natural. In two weeks, I’d zoomed past my QWERTY speed. I now type over 100 wpm, and have never regretted the choice.

    On the rare occasions when I must type a bit of text on a PC set to QWERTY and it’s not worth the minimal effort of switching to Dvorak, I’ve found I still remember QWERTY well enough to type without too much trouble. It’s not as inconvenient as suddenly having to use a film camera rather than a digital one, but that does seem like an appropriate metaphor. :?)

  47. I find it quite interesting that a lot of posters who did a lot better on Dvorak after having learned qwerty, keep on making the point that you cannot look at your fingers. Well, touch typing, whatever the keyboard, is just that: not looking at your fingers. I’m beginning to think that a lot who improved their speed on Dvorak were now finally and for the first time in their lives actually touch typing and not looking at the keyboard.

    I’ve often heard hunt-and-peck typists claim they can type as fast as a touch typist, which just isn’t true, unless the touch typist is extremely slow. Another drawback of hunt and peck is that you’re looking at the keyboard, and you won’t notice the typos right away. As I’ve been typing this post, I’ve made more than one typo, but since I’m looking at the screen, not my fingers, I catch the mistake right away and fix it. Which is also the huge advantage of this electronic stuff compared to typing on paper, as we all did back in the paleolithic.

    I’ve been touch typing on the standard qwerty board for well over fifty years now, type more than fast enough for my needs, and personally see no reason to switch. I also don’t experience the finger or wrist problems others mention.

    • Sheila, I think you’re right about all of that except for your characterization of touch-typing being an all-or-nothing proposition. Even those of us who were taught to touchtype at a relatively early age have years of ingrained habits—both good and bad. Going back to do more typing drills reinforces those. Hopefully the good habits are reinforced more than the bad ones but there is little opportunity to make real and substantive improvement.

      Switching keyboard layouts provides a way to build entirely new mental pathways around the activity of typing. You get to start fresh and learn to touchtype without the years or decades of accumulated habitual baggage. Once those new habits are well-formed, those habits can be brought back to QWERTY.

      Contrary to some people’s fears, it’s like learning a language. You don’t forget English when you learn French. In fact, learning multiple languages almost always enriches one’s understanding of and facility with one’s native tongue.

      I suspect that there may be some advantage to some layouts as opposed to others but I’m skeptical about most of the data out there. Like you, I’m certain that learning better typing habits accounts for the reported dramatic improvements when switching layouts.

      From my perspective however, that’s an argument in favor of learning new keyboard layouts, not an argument against.

  48. I was a fast QWERTY touch typist for years (~90 wpm). But 10 years ago, I switched to Dvorak due to severe wrist and finger pain. I was getting regular cortisone injection to ease the pain and at one point scheduled my wrist surgery but backed out at the last minute. I am so glad that I switched. Because all the pain that I used to experience with QWERTY is gone. I am a developer and have to type all day. I know that this article’s main point is a debate on speed. But cast aside which layout is faster, if you want to save your hands, you would do yourself a tremendous service by giving Dvorak a try. It’s much more natural typing in this layout. I now type about 90 wpm with Dvorak. I never work on my speed. It just came natural to me.

  49. I switched from QWERTY to Dvorak around 2000. I am a software developer by profession, and wanted to protect myself from carpal tunnel. In the process, I had about 2-3 weeks where my brain was rewiring and it was very difficult to type on either QWERTY or Dvorak. That was really obnoxious. But after that transition, I regained and slightly surpassed my previous typing speed fairly quickly. (I typed around 90WPM QWERTY, and now type around 105WPM Dvorak). I don’t make a lot of effort to retain qwerty, though if I think hard or watch the keyboard, I can still type in qwerty mode at a moderate rate (at least 40wpm).

    As a programmer, the symbols being in a different place for dvorak isn’t a big deal. It’s a little annoying that the standard cut/copy/paste key combos can no longer be typed one-handed (Ctrl-X/C/V). That’s perhaps the single biggest long-term annoyance of using Dvorak. I also use the old Windows standard (Ctrl-Insert, Shift-Delete, Shift-Insert) which can still be typed one-handed, but not all apps support that. Still not a big enough downside, in my opinion, to sway me back to qwerty.

    My wife also learned dvorak with me, and we decided after some debate to teach our kids as well. Only one of our keyboards around the house has the dvorak layout displayed on the keycaps; useful when learning if you need to “cheat” from the practice of touch typing. But that means that all of us in general have to touch type. Helps to enforce good typing practices.

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