Experiences from Learning to type in Dvorak

January 19th, 2009 Comments Off on Experiences from Learning to type in Dvorak

Screenshot from Linux software Ktouch. An imag...
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It’s over 9 months since I switched my keyboard layout to dvorak and I wanted to write about my experience with it for some time now.
i decided to give it a try after I read a comic book describing it’s benefits – an amazing comic book that is, published to promote this layout in public. dvorak was supposed to be easy to learn, comfortable for typing and heavily undersupported – specially if you require some weird characters for some weird languages like me. Luckily I am using open source operating system so I wasn’t to concerned about this. It took me a day to hack the keyboard layout and adapt the us-dvorak to support all the weirdness I wanted and started learning it.
I started using computers some 15 years ago, and were self-taught but very efficient typist. Often the system was not

John C Dvorak
Image by James the photographer via Flickr

fast enough to support my typing speed anymore. I don’t have this problem anymore.
I felt seriously cripled because all the typing skills gained over the years vanished completely. It took me a day to somewhat memorize the key positions, two weeks to type somewhat comfortably, but still get the “you’re slow” messages on IM, and after 9 months of intensive typing I still can’t say I’m efficient with it. So minus one for hard-to-learn.
It however does feel a bit more natural. It’s really hard to describe, but Dvorak was up to semthing with his idea of alternating hands as much as possible when typing. Plus one here.
Dvorak did make one little mistake – it put the letters ‘k’ and ‘x’ together, and I noticed I mistake them quite often, which I think is due to glimpses towards keyboard even when blind typing. Another interesting observation is increased number of mistakes with typing vowels. They are placed together in the middle row, and it seems the hand is not smart enough to differentiate between them efficiently.
For self-taught typists like myself it’s also important to finally force yourself to learn to use all ten fingers properly. It might be that this alone takes care of the previous benefit.
There is another important set of observations regarding the change – the social impact it has.
First, it’s geeky. I guess that’s positive, since if you didn’t want to be geeky we wouldn’t do such crazy things, and there are not so many geekier things you can do with your computer than changing it’s entire interface.
But, if you are geeky, there are good chances you will be hanging around with other geeks, that will sometimes want to borrow your laptop to do something fun, important or even urgent. While it’s a laugh fun for the first few seconds, if the issue is really important, your exotic layout can account for serious problems. It can be frustrating to watch your friend trying to rescue his web server from a terminal screen desperately looking for a dot.
Lastly, let’s say, that deciding to change the layout and retrain your brain takes courage. And going trough with it despite all the strange looks from others takes determination. So we could say that learning dvorak builds character. 🙂
I can’t recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone really, but I personally don’t want to go back. But I will totally understand anyone who decides to try it. 😉

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